BEIJING – The body of a U.S. climber missing for more than a month has been found on a remote mountain in southwestern China while a second climber is still missing and presumed dead, a rescue coordinator said Wednesday.
Christine Boskoff, a top female climber, and Charlie Fowler, a well-known climber, guide and photographer, were reported missing after they failed to return to the United States on Dec. 4.
"They don't know which body yet. The rescuers were told to take pictures without disturbing anything. They will go back up in the morning with shovels," said Arlene Burns, a friend of both climbers.
"The other body could be under the snow or could be connected by a rope," Burns said from Telluride, Colorado, where she was helping coordinate the rescue effort.
"We are tremendously sad they are not coming home, but they were doing what they loved," she said. "For these guys, they were there by choice, climbing beautiful, pristine peaks with someone they respected at the top of their skills."
Burns said it was too early to say what happened to the two, if they were hit by an avalanche, slipped or encountered some other problem.
"Whether they fell off the face or were swept off the face, we don't know," she said.
The body was found at the 17,390-foot level on Genie Mountain, also known as Genyen Peak, not far from the Sichuan border with Tibet. The mountain is 20,354 feet tall.
Burns said it was most likely the searchers found the body because something stood out in a blanket of white snow.
Boskoff's family was waiting to hear which body was found, said Paul Feld, her brother.
"I guess it's good in a way that it does bring closure if it is indeed them," he said, when reached at his parents' home in Appleton, Wisconsin. on Wednesday.
Feld said his sister never talked about dying, but the family knew she would want to be doing something she loved.
"She didn't need to say it," he said. "We knew that."
Unlike the case of the missing climbers on Mount Hood in Oregon, the search has been complicated because the two did not leave detailed plans and rescuers initially did not even know which province in southwestern China to search.
But a clue to their whereabouts emerged several days ago when rescue workers found a driver who had dropped the pair off near the mountain on Nov. 11.
Boskoff and Fowler told him they would climb the mountain and that he could meet them on Nov. 24 so they could pick up their bags, but they did not show up.
Boskoff has ascended six of the world's peaks over 26,000 feet, including Mount Everest. She owns Mountain Madness, a Seattle adventure travel company.
Fowler is an expert on climbing in southwestern China. He has guided climbers up Everest and climbed some of the tallest and most difficult peaks.
Burns said both climbers have homes in Norwood, Colorado.