Missing American climber declared dead after avalanche strikes Tibet mountain

A second climber who was striving to become the first American woman to conquer all of the world’s 8,000-metre peaks has lost her life on a remote Tibetan mountain, it was reported.

Over the weekend, Chinese state-owned media said that an American and a Nepalese mountaineer were confirmed dead on Sunday after avalanches struck high on the slopes of a Tibetan mountain.

Anna Gutu was climbing Shishapangma, the world’s 14th tallest peak, when two avalanches hit its slopes at elevations of 7,600m and 8,000m, killing the American climber along with her guide Mingmar Sherpa.

Another American climber Gina Marie Rzucidlo and her Nepalese guide Tenjen Sherpa were reported missing at the time. Both Gutu and Rzucidlo were racing to become the first American woman to summit all 8,000-metre peaks.

“The Rzucidlo family wants to share that Chinese authorities have declared my sister Gina and her Sherpa Tenjen Lama as deceased,” Christy Rzucidlo, sister of Rzucidlo, said in a post on Facebook.

She added that “China has halted all activity on Mount Shishapangma due to unsafe snow conditions and has closed the mountain for the season”.

Requests for search by helicopter from Nepal have been declined by the Chinese government, the sister claimed in the post. “We have been told the search for their bodies may resume in the spring once weather conditions are favourable.”

A total of 52 climbers, including those from the United States, Britain, Romania, Albania, Italy, Japan and Pakistan, were pushing for the summit when the avalanches hit, China’s Xinhua news agency reported. It seriously injured Nepalese mountain guide Karma Geljen Sherpa, who was escorted down the mountain by rescuers and is currently in stable condition.

Both Rzucidlo and Gutu were climbing separately with their sherpas.

Private estimates indicate that there have been more than 300 successful ascents of Shishapangma thus far, and fewer than 10 per cent of climbers who embarked on the journey have lost their lives while attempting to reach the summit.

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