Earlier in July, the body of one of the world's greatest mountaineers was found in China seven months after she disappeared with her climbing partner whose body was recovered in late December. Both are believed to have died in an avalanche.
Christine Feld Boskoff. Charlie Fowler. They were among the most accomplished climbers on the planet. Among their families and friends, the sadness about losing the pair runs as deeply as the altitudes they climbed were high.
Boskoff's death took so long to be confirmed, she could become forgotten to people who never knew her, to people who should know about her strengths and skills. Few will ever take on the challenges she made her own.
Christine Feld Boskoff was an unassuming daughter of a Midwestern community that is just beginning to know her. A memorial service will be held there (Appleton, Wisconsin) in August sometime after a crew is able to safely bring her body back from China's Sichuan Province where it was found July 3 in the Genyan Massif near Tibet.
Boskoff was perhaps better known in climbing villages around Nepal and Pakistan than she was in the United States, she once said. Her talent was world-class. Her humility was too. Her disappearance prompted letters from congressmen and rewards by the U.S. Embassy in China. Her final e-mail message to friends came in November from the town of Litang.
She claimed that she a mediocre athlete at sea level (Rock and Ice magazine, January, 2004. ) Tell that to her three older brothers who played childhood games of tackle football with her and saw her as an excellent athlete.
What she did most commonly was talk about people she met in her travels instead of boasting to people about her climbing. Once, not long after her first Everest summit, Boskoff went climbing in British Columbia.
"Some of the guys there who were climbing -- they were hitting on her -- and one of them asks what she did. She had just done Everest. She owns Mountain Madness and she tells them she works for a travel agency," her friend Chris Favour told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Running a business, she once said, was harder than climbing mountains. (www.rockandice.com January 2004) She and her late husband, Keith Boskoff, bought Mountain Madness, an adventure guide travel service and mountaineering school based in Seattle, from the estate of Scott Fisher who died in an expedition to Everest written about in Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. (www.mountainmadness.com)
Boskoff, 39, lived a life of superlatives.
She was America's leading female alpinist, the only woman internationally to climb six of 14 peaks that measured 8,000 meters: Gasherbrum II, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Broad Peak, Shishapangma, and Everest (twice), and the record holder of unexplored first mountain ascents.
She often spoke of mountaineers' ethics to help others in trouble and about the responsibilities that come with climbing - personal, human and environmental. She fought for the rights of porters and sherpas and was a role model to many she befriended and guided. She volunteered with the International Mountain Explorers Connection.
Boskoff presented slideshows to thousands of people to promote the need for education for girls and for Room to Read, a non-profit organization, where she was known as a "selfless board member." Room to Read will build and dedicate a school in her honor in Nepal through memorial gifts.
Chris Boskoff sometimes climbed in the dark -- before the sun melted the ice or to avoid other weather extremes. She was attracted to the hardships of climbing, was an engineer who loved and memorized the lines of the mountains, and was a pilot who didn't need to fly to reach grand heights.
She also worked with the Central Asia Institute, based in Bozeman, Montana, to bring girls' schools in the Karakoram Region of Pakistan with Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea.
Mortenson signed a copy of the book with words of praise about Boskoff for her mother, Joyce Feld, who lives in Appleton anticipating the return of her only daughter's body. Their lives were so different, according to Feld. Her active daughter crowded more things into her short life than she has in her long life, she said proudly.
While the daughter had the courage to climb, her mother has the courage to wait.
Joyce Feld has spent the months since her only daughter's disappearance expecting news -- first with hope that Christine would walk in the door of the family home and eventually with relief that her body was found -- passport and camera nearby -- and would come back home.
Chris Boskoff's body is covered with stones for preservation and protection from the elements until the recovery is completed.