Anna Gutu, an American mountaineer, and Mingmar Sherpa, a Nepali guide, died in avalanches Saturday on the Tibetan mountain Shishapangma, according to Nepali and Chinese media.
At the time of the avalanches, 52 climbers from the U.S., Britain, Japan, and Italy were attempting the mountain’s summit, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.
Several climbers remain missing, including American climber Gina Marie Rzucidlo, and her Nepali guide, Tenjen Lama Sherpa. Notably, Tenjen Sherpa had recently broken the record for the fastest ascent of the world’s 14 highest peaks with Norwegian climber Kristin Harila. He aspired to be the youngest individual to ascend them all for the second time, but an announcement from his expedition company suggests that hope is running out for his safe return.
Rescuers have already recovered the bodies of Gutu and Mingmar Sherpa, ExplorersWeb reported. Several other climbers were injured, including Kami Rita Sherpa, Mitra Bahadur Tamang, and Karma Gyalzen Sherpa, according to The Himalayan Times.
A Close Competition Cut Short
The two American climbers — Gutu and Rzucidlo — were competing to become the first American woman to climb all 14 mountains over 8,000 m. With no previous experience climbing in the Himalayas, Gutu was close to summiting all 14 in 6 months. Shishapangma remained the only mountain left to climb.
Rzucidlo, from New York City, described herself on Instagram as an “American mountaineer” and a “High Altitude Fashion Queen.” After summiting Cho Oyo earlier this month, she only needed Shishapangma to complete all 14 peaks.
Shishapangma, at just over 8,000 m (26,247 feet), is the world’s 14th tallest peak. It’s widely considered one of the easier mountains of that height, known among climbers as the “eight-thousanders.” Summiting the 14 mountains, all of them in the Himalayas, is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in alpinism.
However, modern methods of ascending the mountains, including fixed ropes and helicopters, have been questioned by some of the sport’s most legendary climbers. Several climbers told ExplorersWeb that the atmosphere on Shishapangma was thick with competition, as many other climbers — not just the two U.S. women — also vied for records.
More importantly, rescue helicopters aren’t available in Tibet, ExplorersWeb noted. That means all rescue attempts must be done on the ground with climbing teams.