Connection to the Andes
On February 12, 2005 Ricardo Peña, a Mexican mountain guide residing in the US, made a remarkable discovery while exploring for the first time the Andes Survivors crash site. At 14,000′ in an unexplored gulley he found the coat and documents of Eduardo Strauch. Eduardo had put his coat on the plane’s overhead shelf minutes before the famous crash on Friday October 13, 1972. As the tail of the plane broke off and the cabin depressurized, seats, passengers and Eduardo’s coat flew out the opening in the back of the fuselage. Eduardo’s coat landed high near the impact point and remained there (most of the time covered in snow) for 33 years until Ricardo found it! Read the detailed account here.
In December 2005 with a grant from National Geographic Ricardo led the first successful expedition to ever re-trace the escape route done by Fernando Parrado and Roberto Canessa. This was documented in the April 2006 issue of NG Adventure magazine.
Read the detailed account here. National Geographic Expedition II In February 2006 Eduardo and Ricardo went back to the site sponsored once again by National Geographic and found the tail of the plane and brought Eduardo back for the first time to the actual place in the glacier where the fuselage was and where the survivors lived for 72 days. James Vlahos, who wrote the highly acclaimed article in National Geographic Adventure magazine for the first expedition, wrote an article for this second expedition which unfortunately did not get published. Here for the first time you can read Vlahos excellent article and see photos from this expedition! When Ricardo found Eduardo’s coat in February 2005 he was stunned by this discovery. Not knowing what to do, he decided to bring down Eduardo’s wallet and documents while leaving the coat at the exact place where he found it, with rocks over it. When Eduardo asked Ricardo for his coat, Ricardo promised him he would climb back there and retrieve it for him. As it turned out, Ricardo went back in March 2016 (summer in the southern hemisphere) to find the spot covered in tons of snow. He went back in 2007 and found the same. Finally in 2008, after a very dry spring and hot summer, Ricardo found similar conditions to 2005. During this climb he came very close to being killed by falling rocks but he persevered and found the coat, finally reuniting Eduardo with his coat after 36 years!
Every year Ricardo continues exploring the site and has made fascinating discoveries. See Latest discoveries. He has also helped with the making of many TV shows and documentaries in Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and the USA about the Andes Survivors including the latest major documentary by the History Channel: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash. On this documentary he did climbing stunt work, helped with the filming and appeared as an expert consultant. See behind the scenes on this documentary and other on our Documentaries Page.
The discovery of Eduardo’s coat and documents literally changed Ricardo’s life. He has now met and become good friends with practically all of the survivors. Eduardo and Ricardo have given lectures together in the the US, Mexico and Argentina. They have organized mountain trips together, not just to the site in the Andes but also to the Mexican Volcanoes and the Colorado Rockies, and are planning a Nepal trip together (to join, see expeditions). They have even hiked together to the summit of the highest “mountain” in Uruguay: Cerro Catedral, a beautiful, seldom climbed, little remote hill that is 1,686 feet above sea level! Their friendship has flourished throughout the years to the point that they have become practically family.
The ramifications of that serendipitous discovery have also affected a surprising number of people. Hundreds of people from all over the world have been able to meet Eduardo Strauch and many of the other survivors through the lectures and expeditions that Ricardo and Eduardo organize. Eduardo and Ricardo seem to create a very special environment where great lasting friendships are made and wonderful memories are created.
December 2012 | 40 Years
Roberto Canessa, Ricardo Peña and Fernando Parrado on December 22, 2012 in Carrasco, Uruguay at their 40th celebration of the end of the survivors ordeal.