In August 2017, I climbed to the place where Otzi Iceman was found. This is about the oldest intact human body ever found, thousand years older than the great pyramids in Egypt. Read more in the text.
Otzi finding place map
The word Otzi (Oetzi) comes from Ötzal Alps in Austria. But the exact place where the body was found is in fact inside the Italian territory, at 3210 m above the sea. The border line follows the ridge between Similaun and Fineilspitze (Punta di Finale). You can see it here on the map, the body was 91 meters on the Italian side.
The Otzi Iceman story – 5000 year old man found in ice
It is best that you see this short video first, to get some idea:
Now, if you want more details please see this longer video, trust me it is worth the time. This is a fascinating crime story more than 5000 years old, which still waits for a full conclusion.
Many peculiar details in Oetzi Iceman story
Everything related to the Otzi is a gold mine for researchers. The body is a cultural treasure, no surprise that they had a dispute about where to keep it; it was found 100 yards (91 m) from the border line in the Italian territory. So the body is now kept in Bolzano in Italy, in a specially built museum. See just a few more details:
- He had a nicely built copper axe which was a complete surprise. It shows that Stone Age men were able to make copper 1000 years earlier than it was believed until the body was found. History books had to be rewritten.
- Here is something for hikers and backpackers: he had a sort of a backpack with a wooden U-shaped frame!
- His shoes were from leather and cords, and with grass inside (for insulation).
- He was 5 feet 2 inches (157 cm) tall.
- He had brown eyes, and his genome structure is similar to people from India.
- He had 50 tattoos on his body.
- Killed by an arrow, his death was quick as an important blood vessel was damaged.
- He once suffered from Lyme disease. This is the oldest trace of this disease ever identified.
- He had heart disease. So this illness is not a problem of modern men only.
- His blood vessels are the same as in a 21st-century man, with some cholesterol issues.
- He has lactose intolerance, but this is typical for the Stone Age humans; and this develops by age.
- He was perhaps pursued by somebody; the precious axe was not taken, but the arrow was taken from his back. Perhaps the killer wanted to hide the identity? Taking the axe would be the same as announcing the crime, such objects must had been rare.
- But his stomach was full, not typical for a man on the run, and he had a balanced meal with grains and ibex meat.
How was Otzi preserved
These are high mountains, it can be sunny but you can have snow in any season, literally. So the body was probably dried quickly in a sunny day similar to what I had, and then there was a snow storm which buried it for another 5300 years. Layers upon layers of snow were accumulated through millennia and turned into ice which pressed the body on the rock below.
This pressure was such that the stomach moved into the chest and they could not detect it easily. But all remained preserved, including the food he had the day when he died.
How old is Otzi
Well, the body is 5300 years old, but at the moment of his death, he was in his forties. He was in a quite good shape, with leg muscles that showed a person used to hiking in such a terrain. But his hands were soft, so most likely he was not a farmer, a hunter probably.
My trip to the Otzi Fundstelle – where the Iceman was found
I spent a sleepless night in the car on a parking in Vent. It was raining all the night, but the rain was not a problem, I love its sound. The problem was my headache. It looked incredible but this was an early sign of the altitude sickness. This was surprising in view of the altitude, the village is below 1900 meters above the sea level, and I have been over 4000 meters in the past without any symptoms.
But this thing is unpredictable and I described it in my earlier text about Vilaflor – Parador tour on the Tenerife island. Anyhow, in the morning, the car was in ice, it was cold, but the sky was clear, my headache was not over but I decided to go.
The plan was to get to Punta di Finale (Fineilspitze, 3514 m), note it is frequently written as Finailspitze which is incorrect. On the way up is the Otzi Fundstelle, so you guess, a great plan for a day tour. This all is a part of the Schnalskamm group of the Ötztal Alps with Wildspitze (3774 m) being the highest mountain in the range.
I knew the lower part of the route from Vent till Martin Busch hut, I was there before, see my another text here.
After Martin Busch hut there is a sign for the Otzi finding place, the route splits to the right from the route to the Similaun hut. This is around 2600 meters above the sea, you cannot miss it. It goes over a small ridge and then gets in the valley below the Otzi’s place. So when you get there, go to the left and cross the boulder area, there are cairns to guide you and the usual marks are available as well.
My altitude sickness was not becoming better, I felt dizziness all the time but I was still walking fast enough to pass two girls from Germany who were on their hiking trip through the Alps. Their backpacks were heavier than my own so their progress was slow although they were clearly in a far better shape than me.
I learned they spent the night in the Martin Busch hut and were going to see the Otzi place and then turn left to the Similan hut to spend the night there before continuing to Italy in the south.
We passed each others a few times, but at the end, they left behind and I arrived at the Otzi’s place alone and had a proper rest above the stone monument erected on the spot where the body was found.
Later, I continued to Punta di Finale but I vomited and felt really bad, could not believe what was happening to me, have been at much higher elevations many times in the past. Sadly, I had to accept the fact that Punta di Finale would have to wait for some other day. This was it, I had to return back to Vent. You can imagine my mental state.
The Otzi’s place
They found the body in 1991, and it was just appearing from the retreating glacier. But the problem is, the place is bone-dry; it is hard to imagine they found it in the ice just 16 years ago. The ice disappeared completely.
Although I was so confused and sick all the day, I was trying to reconstruct what really happened there 5300 years ago. The whole valley from Vent rises very slowly and in an almost straight line, and it goes towards the Similaun pass where now the Similaun hut stands. Vent is at some 1800 meters above the sea and the pass is at 3000, and the distance is probably 8 – 9 kilometers, so you get some idea. See the map above.
Nowadays, if you go that way, you will have a few meters over the bottom section of the Similaun glacier, see the picture below. So it is easy to understand that 5000 years ago the glacier was far longer and it represented a huge obstacle full of crevasses for anybody who would approach it from the north along the valley.
So for somebody who was trying to escape from those who were chasing him, the only and logical direction was to go to the right following the route which I passed that day.
Going to the left was not an option because of the fast and deep water spring which you have to cross and the glaciers and very high peaks that are above.
No doubt glaciers and snow were on the right as well, but the terrain is such that it was probably far easier to walk over it.
But after reaching the highest point of his chosen escape route, the Otzi man had found himself on the edge of the cliffs on what is now the Italian side of the range. So this was a dead end, no exit and those who were chasing him were coming. We see now how it ended up, but we still do not know all the details. This was a one-way climb for the unlucky Otzi-man, a sad story.
These are high altitudes and you will feel it even if you have no symptoms of altitude sickness as I did. But this is just a walk-up tour, so you can do it in any hiking boots or shoes. I always recommend using waterproof footwear, so if you need something of the sort, please visit my page about boots and shoes.
The route is long, so you will need a lot of water. If you carry it, it will add a lot of weight in your backpack. But water streams are everywhere around, those are high Alps so this is typical. You will be crossing many of them, and if you have a water filter, no need to carry a big amount of water at all. I had my Pure2Go purifier with me and I used it, you can see it in the picture.
Note also that the Martin Busch hut is on the way up so you can have a lunch there if you wish and do not want to carry it in the pack.
So I did not make it there, could not get to Fineilspitze, sometimes we have to accept what is inevitable and confront out weaknesses. But the mountain will always be there, so there may be yet another chance. However, I did have a great day, I hope you can realize this from the text. The story of the Otzi Iceman from the Alps is fascinating.
Thank you for reading my text. I love to hear from you, so use the comment box below. Have a nice day.