A tragic incident on a remote peak in Tibet has claimed the life of a second American woman striving to become the first female climber from the United States to conquer all of the world’s tallest mountains. China has imposed a suspension on all activities on Shishapangma after two avalanches struck the mountain on a fateful Saturday, resulting in the deaths of American climber Anna Gutu and her Nepalese guide, Mingmar Sherpa, as reported by Chinese state media.
Another American climber, Gina Marie Rzucidlo, along with her Nepalese guide, Tenjen Sherpa, were declared missing on the same day when avalanches struck the slopes. The Rzucidlo family received the devastating news from Chinese authorities that Gina and Tenjen Lama had been declared deceased. Requests for helicopter searches from Nepal were declined by the Chinese government, with the search for their bodies potentially resuming in the spring when weather conditions permit.
Both Rzucidlo and Gutu were pursuing individual climbs with their Sherpas, aiming to be the first American women to conquer all 14 peaks in the world exceeding 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) in elevation. Shishapangma was intended to be their final summit.
Tenjen Sherpa had recently served as the guide for Norway’s Kristin Harila during their ascent of K2 in Pakistan in July, completing their final 8,000-meter peak in just 92 days, establishing themselves as the world’s fastest climbers to conquer all 14 of the world’s tallest peaks. Tenjen Sherpa and Kristin Harila had successfully summited Shishapangma in April.
The Tibetan Sports Bureau and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing did not provide immediate responses to Reuters’ requests for comments.
Chinese authorities had begun permitting foreign climbing expeditions to enter Tibet in 2023, following the dismantling of three years of zero-Covid restrictions that had prevented foreign mountaineers from pursuing their summit attempts on Shishapangma, which is situated entirely within China.
On the day of the tragic avalanches, a total of 52 climbers from various countries, including the United States, Britain, Romania, Albania, Italy, Japan, and Pakistan, were pushing towards the summit.
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Shishapangma is considered one of the more manageable mountains among those exceeding 8,000 meters in height, often referred to by climbers as the “eight-thousanders.” To date, over 300 successful summits of Shishapangma have been recorded, with fewer than 10% of climbers attempting the climb meeting with fatal accidents, according to unofficial estimates. In contrast, Nepal’s Annapurna I, one of the world’s most treacherous peaks, boasts a nearly 30% fatality rate among climbers.