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Charlie Fowler on the Diamond, Longs Peak, Colorado, in 1978. Fowler has
been one of America’s most prolific pioneers, with countless expeditions and
first ascents to his credit. He and climbing partner Christine Boskoff are
currently missing in Tibet. [Photo] Charlie Fowler collection

Renowned American climber Charlie Fowler and high-altitude mountaineer Christine Boskoff have gone missing in central-western China. The pair had been on expedition since the autumn, and had managed the first ascent of the oft-attempted Yala Peak in early October. Fowler had written an email on November 7 that read, “We’re in the town of Litang for a few days…. getting ready for one more trip into the hills. We just got back from attempting a peak I tried in ’96 doing a film. Didn’t make it that time due to complications with the film crew. This time the peak was a lot less icy (global warming?)… we got near the top but backed off due to scary conditions–thin snow over rock slabs. Had a blast climbing as far as we did, though. ‘We did our best with dying,’ to quote Chris. Now off to one more different area to try a 6000-meter peak and a smaller one, then traveling back doing the tourist thing.”

The pair traveled to Genyen, in China’s Western Sichuan Province, November 9 and were due to return November 25. Several files discovered on Fowler’s computer show that he had a clear intention to head south to Dechin to attempt an unnamed, 6509-meter peak. The hike into this peak would take two days from Dechin and is therefore a feasible objective given the amount of time they had left before their December 4 flight home.

When Fowler and Boskoff failed to return to the United States December 4, a cautionary note was raised among friends. In the time since, the concern has focused on developing a search team and strategy. American climber Jon Otto, who has extensive experience in the area, has been retained to lead the efforts.

The search leaders sent a team to Litang on December 14 to investigate the town for clues about the Americans, but found no information regarding any stays in local hotels. It is possible Fowler and Boskoff stayed with a family or in a farmer’s field; Boskoff had also cited a monastery at the base of the 6200-meter Genyen, so searchers are also considering this location.

The U.S. Consulate General has asked the provincial Foreign Affairs Office to coordinate a search with the local foreign affairs office and local police. They have sent two groups around the town of Litang to ask if anyone remembers seeing the Americans, and are checking with hostels, monasteries, bus stations, and the Litang Climbing Association. They have also requested more specific information about their travel plans and when they would have gone to climb the mountain.

As of December 11, the weather was reported as -10 degrees C, with no recent unusual weather activity. The chief of Zhangla, the last village before Genyen, was contacted December 9, but said that no climbers had been known to go recently to Genyen. The Sichuan Mountaineering and the Ganzi Mountaineering associations have also been contacted, but as no climbers had registered for a climbing permit, no information was forthcoming from this source.

A blog has been launched to provide information about the search:

All expenses associated with the Fowler-Boskoff search effort are at this moment not covered, so Telluride Mountainfilm has opened a new account under its non-profit umbrella to accept tax deductible donations. The account is titled The Fowler-Boskoff Search Fund. It is a Wells Fargo account and the account number is 1736253632. All checks should be made to Mountainfilm in order to qualify for tax deductibility.

Checks can be deposited at Telluride’s Wells Fargo drop box next to its ATM in the Wintercrown Building breezeway or at the Wells Fargo branch in Mountain Village. Checks should reference the account name and/or number.

Checks will also be accepted at the Mountainfilm office at 109 East Colorado Avenue (above The Toggery) or may be mailed to Mountainfilm, PO Box 1088, Telluride, CO 81435.

The Wells Fargo routing code for in-coming wires to the Fowler-Boskoff Search Fund is 121000248.

As friends wrote this morning, “Lets hope [Chris and Charlie] are happily seeking nirvana and drinking chang with Buddhist monks in [the monastery at head of the Genyan valley], waiting for the weather to break.

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