Aconcagua Expedition?


May 24, 2006
Does anyone else remember this story?

The survivors of an abortive ascent of Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the Americas, were found in a state of shock, gibbering about a strange city on the mountain and being attacked by its residents. Many members of the expedition were missing.

Sorry to be vague. I’m sure I’ve read about this in the past in a couple of books or partworks. From what I can remember the story was always short on details - I can't help wondering if I've imagined it.

Have I made it up?


May 24, 2006
Prospect said:
Although the highest peak in S America, Aconcagua is actually a relatively easy hill to climb and thousands reach the summit each year...

Hence whatever key-words I try googling with Aconcagua all I get is expedition information. Some friends of mine have "done" Aconcagua and, apparently, found it disappointingly easy (masochists!).

I'm sure I've not imagined this story. The jist of it was that something peculiar had happened to this particular group and that their ramblings, although not necessarily taken seriously, were seen as an indication of some sort of weird experience.

I've a feeling the expedition in question was 1950's or earlier so I assume the mountain wouldn't have been as popular or accesible as it may be now.

Of course they could just have been suffering from chronic altitude sickness.


Back in the 50s there certainly wouldn't have been many expeditions to climb Aconcagua.

Don't think altitude sickness could explain their story because, so far as I'm aware, it doesn't cause groups of people to suffer the same 'hallucinations'. Mass hysteria perhaps?

Is it possible the story originated on another mountain but got 'moved' to Aconcagua in the process of translation?


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 16, 2001
Murder on Aconcagua

I wonder if anyone could shed some a more explanatory light on the solution, if any, to the mystery of two murdered mountaineers on Mount Aconcagua in Argentina in 1973.

I have ‘googled’ but find nothing more, and often less, than the ‘facts’ I have gleaned from an account in ‘Marvels and Mysteries of the Unexplained’ by Nigel Blundell and Allan Hall published 1988.

I've never heard of this mystery before and it seemed as though it should have an explanation. Anyway...

... a Brief Summary of the Facts.
• 8 Climbers set out to climb Mount Aconcagua in January 1973.
• The team consisted of Janet Johnson (teacher), John Cooper (engineer), Carnie Defoe (lawyer), William Zeller (police officer), Arnold McMillen (farmer), William Eubank (geologist), James Petroske (psychologist) and John Shelton (doctor).
• The hired a local guide Miguel Angel Alfonso
• At 5000 meters up the mountain Defoe and Shelton dropped out, suffering from frostbite from the severe winds.
• At 5700 meters Eubank drop out. The rest of the party decide to carry on.
• At 6350 Petroske showed signs of mountain sickness, he was In such a bad way that Alfonso (the guide) reluctantly decided to accompany him to the base camp.
• Alfonso and Petroske were then trapped at base camp for three days by the atrocious weather.
• On the third day Alfonso spotted figures in the distance and left the cabin intending to help them but was forced back by the weather.
• On the fourth day Alfonso managed to reach the figures and was surprised to find only Zeller and McMillen both suffering from frostbite. Both men were disorientated and incoherent but managed to explain that ‘Cooper is sitting near the paved road, near the trees’ and ‘Janet has been taken away by the women who came on mules’.
• Later that year an Argentinian climbing expedition found the body of John Cooper with ice-pick wounds to his stomach but had died from skull fractures caused by repeated blows to the head.
• Two years later the perfectly preserved body of Janet Johnson was found. She had been beaten to death.
• The police couldn’t establish any motive, Johnson and Cooper had no money and very little equipment. Suspects were few and far between, mountain bandits had never been heard of at that altitude.

Any thoughts?...Bueller?...Anybody?


I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Jul 19, 2004
Out of Bounds
This February 1976 newspaper article:,2292721&hl=en

... describes the situation after Johnson's body was located but before it was retrieved.

If you go to and enter "Janet Johnson" you can see some (but not all ...) the cables sent from the US embassy in Buenos Aires describing the progress of the search, the retrieval, and the family's wishes for the remains.