SEATTLE – A snow-covered body found on a remote mountain in China has been identified as U.S. photographer Charlie Fowler, who disappeared several weeks ago during a climbing trip with the owner of a Seattle-based adventure company, friends said Thursday.
Helen Chung, a spokeswoman for adventure company Mountain Madness, said the body found Wednesday was Fowler's but she had no further information.
The company's owner, Christine Boskoff, a top female climber, was still missing and feared dead.
The two climbers were reported missing when they failed to return to the United States on Dec. 4. The search was initially hampered because they didn't leave details of the route they planned to climb.
Searchers eventually located a driver who had dropped them off near 20,354-foot Genie Mountain, also known as Genyen Peak, not far from the Sichuan border with Tibet. Local monks pointed them in the direction the two climbers had gone, saying they had stopped at a monastery on Nov. 12 and had planned to return in four days but never did.
On Wednesday, searchers high up on the mountain spotted a gray boot and blue gaiter sticking out of the snow.
The position of the body indicated the climbers may have been swept up by an avalanche, Mountain Madness director David Jones said. Friends believed the two would be roped together, and that Boskoff's body would also be found.
Employees at the company had been hoping the two would be found alive.
Ten years ago, Mountain Madness founder Scott Fischer died along with seven other people when a storm struck on Mount Everest — a tragedy detailed in Jon Krakauer's best-seller "Into Thin Air."
"We're all tense," company president Mark Gunlogson said Wednesday, his lips trembling. "We've been involved in this rescue for over two weeks. We've kept our emotions on the back burner. There's going to be a moment when we can let the emotional side of things surface."
For luck, employees strung Tibetan prayer flags across Jones' downtown Seattle office. Maps of Genyen Peak were posted on the wall. They had scrawled the names and phone numbers of search-and-rescue contacts, as well as other details of the effort, across a panel of dry-erase boards.
Boskoff bought Mountain Madness in 1997, shortly after Fischer's death. Gunlogson credited her with turning it into a company that now attracts 700 to 800 clients a year for guided climbs in Washington state and on Mount Everest.
Boskoff twice reached the peak of Everest and had summitted the tallest peaks on five other continents, but she preferred to explore the unnamed, unclimbed mountains of southwestern China, Jones said.
"It is the freedom, it is the challenge, both physical and mental, and the ability to go into places that no human has ever been. She's more interested in going to the edge of the map," Jones said. "The fact that she was in beautiful, pristine mountains, unclimbed areas, and climbing with someone she knew, trusted and loved — I think she would be happy with this as a way to go."