Second American Woman Killed on Tibet Peak, Dashing Dreams of Setting Climbing Record

Chen Zepeng/Xinhua via AP
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Mount Shishapangma is seen from Baiku Lake in Xigaze, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on Sept. 2, 2023. American mountaineer Anna Gutu and a Nepalese guide Mingmar Sherpa were confirmed dead Sunday, Oct. 8, after avalanches struck the slopes of a Tibetan mountain, while two others remained missing, according to Chinese media reports.

BEIJING (Reuters) – A second woman hoping to be the first American female climber to scale all of the world’s 8,000-meter (26,246 feet) mountains has been declared dead on a remote peak in Tibet, according to her family.

China has suspended all activities on Shishapangma since two avalanches hit the mountain on Saturday, killing American climber Anna Gutu and her Nepalese guide Mingmar Sherpa, according to Chinese state media.

Fellow American climber Gina Marie Rzucidlo and her Nepalese guide Tenjen Sherpa were declared missing on the same day when avalanches hit the slopes at elevations of 7,600 meters and 8,000 meters as more than 50 mountaineers and their guides made their way up the peak.

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

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

The Tibetan sports bureau and U.S. embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Rzucidlo and Gutu were climbing separately with their sherpas in their bids to become the first American female to scale all of the world’s 14 peaks that exceed 8,000 meters in elevation. Shishapangma was their final summit.

Rzucidlo’s climbing companion, Tenjen Sherpa, was recently the guide for Norway’s Kristin Harila when they ascended K2 Pakistan in July, completing their final 8,000-meter peak in 92 days and becoming the world’s fastest climbers to scale all of the world’s 14 tallest peaks. Tenjen Sherpa and Kristin Harila summitted Shishapangma in April.

Chinese authorities started to allow foreign climbing expeditions to enter Tibet in 2023 after dismantling three years of zero-COVID restrictions that denied foreign mountaineers their chance to summit Shishapangma, which lies entirely in China.

On Saturday, a total of 52 climbers were pushing for the summit when the avalanches hit, including from the United States, Britain, Romania, Albania, Italy, Japan and Pakistan.

Shishapangma is widely regarded as one of the easier mountains of that height, known among climbers as the “eight-thousanders.”

To date, over 300 successful summits of Shishapangma have been logged, with under 10% of climbers who tried to reach the top dying in their attempts, according to private estimates.

That compares with the nearly 30% fatality rate for Nepal’s Annapurna I, one of the world’s most dangerous peaks.