Image: Three Americans killed on the Andes mountains
American mountaineers Kristen Yoder, left, her brother Dustin Yoder, center and Brennan Larson are shown in this combo of passport photos provided by Peruvian police.
updated 7/3/2006 7:50:27 PM ET 2006-07-03T23:50:27

A Peruvian rescue team has found the bodies of three young American mountaineers killed during an icy climb high in the Andes mountains, authorities said Monday.

A 15-member team located Kristen Yoder, 21, her brother Dustin Yoder, 23, and Brennan Larson, 24, on Sunday afternoon in a 100-foot-deep crevasse on the Artesonraju peak, said police Maj. Edmundo Vidal of the High Mountain Rescue Unit.

The bodies were being evacuated Monday in a long descent down the mountain that was expected to last into the night, Vidal told The Associated Press by telephone from the squad’s headquarters in Yungay, about 200 miles north of the capital, Lima.

The three climbers went missing last week about 2,000 feet from the 19,682-foot summit of the glacier-covered mountain in the Cordillera Blanca range.

Authorities said the three climbers were on a fairly treacherous route without a guide.

Vidal said the trio may not have used the proper safety techniques, “or it could have been an avalanche that swept them down.”

“Given their ages, 21 or 22 years old, I doubt they had a lot of experience,” he said.

Kristen and Dustin Yoder’s mother, Kathy Yoder, of Tucson, Ariz., thanked Peruvian authorities after arriving in Yungay on Sunday and was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Vidal said that three U.S. counter-narcotics helicopters were deployed over the weekend to assist in the search, but that they were unable to reach the bodies because of bad weather.

A U.S. Embassy official declined to comment, citing confidentiality laws that apply to American citizens hurt or killed outside of U.S. territory.

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