A Swiss climber who found the long-lost bodies of a renowned mountaineer and his cameraman on one of the world's tallest mountains says it took days for him and his climbing partner to realize whom they had found.

Mountaineer Ueli Steck said he and David Goettler were attempting to climb China's Mount Shishapangma and saw the bodies on a glacier at a height of 5,900 meters (19,350 feet) when they were making their attempt to scale the peak a second time this season.

It was only when they got back to base camp after a failed attempt did they think they were the bodies of Alex Lowe and David Bridges, who were swept away by an avalanche in 1999 and had been attempting to climb the world's 14 highest mountains.