MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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January 5, 2017

Remembering Chris Boskoff

Hard to imagine it was ten years ago that Christine Boskoff and Charlie Fowler died in the remote mountains of Tibet. On a recent trip to Nepal, Kili Sherpa and I reminisced about her, how they met, which was a series of coincidental meetings in random places in the Everest region, and our amazement of how time flies.
 

2016 was a year full of such markings of time; it was ten years since Chris passed and twenty years after Scott died on Everest. Perhaps overshadowed some by Scott’s legacy and larger than-life personality, Chris also led her life to its fullest, somewhat more quietly I suppose, but no less remarkable. She was at the time considered the premier female high-altitude climber of the world, with no less than six ascents of 8,000-meter peaks.

And as much as she began to shun the limelight towards the end, which for so many reasons had already sent her in a trajectory of fame, she chose to climb for herself, in more of the true spirit of mountaineering; that of self-discovery, psychical challenge, immersion in the natural world, and a connection to mountain cultures. It was a life to be noted! Thinking about you Chris.

Posted by Mark Gunlogson

 

Please take the time to read some accounts of Chris below and some stories of the drama that unfolded with her and Charlie’s disappearance.

 

 

 


 

In Remembrance

From Mark Gunlogson, Mountain Madness President (written in 2007)

On Dec. 4th, 2006 Christine Boskoff, owner of Mountain Madness, and her climbing partner, Charlie Fowler, were scheduled to return from a personal climbing adventure in the Sichuan Province of China. When they didn't, it was with great concern that our office began the effort to determine their whereabouts, an effort that ultimately led to Genyen Peak. Once there, the search and rescue team found Charlie's body at the base of the north face. Christine remained missing until the summer, but a recovery effort then was hampered by poor weather and rock fall hazards to the recovery team. In September, with improved conditions for the recovery team, she was recovered and her remains cremated in China for return home to the U.S.

Despite Mountain Madness' loss, and that of those that became acquainted with Christine through the company, we continue to thrive. Our company history, that includes both Scott Fischer and Christine, is one filled with vibrant personalities that lived life to its fullest! Being involved with the day to day rigors of operating a guiding business, my interactions with Christine, and Scott (I first began my business forays with the company in 1993), were characterized by a roller coaster ride of successes and challenges - familiar terrain, of course, in any business environment. But, unlike other industries, the adventure travel business has unusual tasks - take for example satellite phone calls into the office from high on some peak in the Himalayas to check in on the financials and report on daily activity on the mountain with our climbing team. To this Christine was no stranger. Her last reports can be read from her dispatches on Cho Oyu, a trip she successfully led prior to meeting Charlie for their vacation. But, the behind the scenes calls were of a different nature.

Christine's dedication to Mountain Madness was as genuine as her drive to climb at her best ability. From her home in Colorado to the slopes of Cho Oyu, she’d call in to check the pulse of the company and check in on clients out there living their dreams. What she continued to find was a thriving guiding company that, driven by her vision, was becoming a global industry leader known for delivering quality services to you.

For many, her success as a female climber will stand out as an inspiration and serve as a role model - my daughters included! But for others, the inspiration lies not directly in her success as a climber, but in her decision to follow her dreams. Leaving a well-paying job as an aeronautical engineer, Christine discarded convention and took a chance that would not only lead her to the highest peaks of the world but offer her a vehicle to share her passion - she purchased a high-risk business with low margins and frankly, a lot of stress at times. A labor of love for all involved, we have, however, recently enjoyed the best years in the company's history. Sadly, Christine will not be here to enjoy what has become the brightest outlook for MM ever. In the end though, what she leaves behind for all, is a viable company named Mountain Madness and a vision to follow - to get out there and follow your passion!

 

Chris on Vinson. Mountain Madness collection


 

Story by Jane Courage

On December 4, 2006, Christine Boskoff and Charlie Fowler did not return on their flight to the United States from China. Chris had met up with Charlie after guiding Cho Oyu, and together they had traveled to Sichuan, China, to climb a few 6,000-meter peaks. Although Chris was an exceptionally strong climber, when her e-mails suddenly stopped her business partner, Mark Gunlogson at Mountain Madness, and best friends started to worry. Chris always kept in touch. The last e-mail Gunlogson received was November 8; she sent an e-mail that same week to me and admitted to being “ready to get home” and “feeling tired.” In a phone call to her mother she said she hoped to come home early.

Funds for an on-the-ground search were raised quickly, and on December 27, searchers found a body buried in the snow at 5,300 meters, about three hours above the Lenggu Monastery in the Genyen region of China. The following day it was confirmed to be that of Charlie Fowler, 52 at the time of his passing. He was swept away in an avalanche and Chris, meanwhile, remains missing.

In 1999, I introduced Charlie to Chris and the sparks began to fly. They climbed non-stop and were together more often than not. After Charlie introduced Boskoff to his hometown of Norwood, Colorado, she felt an instant connection with the locals and land. Norwood is small town and friendly, and offers exceptional year-round climbing and skiing. Chris was in heaven.

Seattle, where Mountain Madness office is located, had never been a good fit for Chris. It was big, wet, clogged with traffic, expensive, and sorely lacked small-town friendliness. That said, Chris’s commitment to Mountain Madness and climbing in the wildly rugged North Cascades kept her well connected to the Northwest. Although the beauty and outstanding climbing opportunities of the North Cascades held great appeal to her, she began to divide her time between Seattle and Norwood, but Norwood became home.

Although Chris was receiving media attention for her climbing accomplishments, like Charlie, she was always understated about them. At one point, she considered going for all 14 8000-meter peaks, but after Ginette Harrison died on her fifth 8,000-meter peak, Chris reevaluated her desire to climb all 14. “There are so many great unexplored lower-6,000-meter peaks to climb. Those seem like the most fun to me – not to mention all the great rock in Colorado!” she’d say.

Chris summited six 8,000-meter peaks, including Mount Everest and Cho Oyu twice each. She attempted to climb K2 (the second highest 8,000-meter peak, located in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan), but the weather was horrific that year. She was also the first woman to climb Lhotse (the fourth highest).

Chris was born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, and spent her childhood years keeping up with her older brothers. In high school she excelled in sports. She put herself through the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where she was one of a very few female engineering students. After graduating, she was hired by Lockheed in Atlanta at age 24. “I began climbing the wall at Lockheed,” she laughed, “and then realized that I could climb the walls at the indoor gym in Atlanta.” There, she met Keith Boskoff, an experienced climber, successful architect (and 15 years her senior) who cherished her. Keith took her to Ecuador, where they climbed on the country’s high-altitude volcanoes. Shortly thereafter, Chris quit her job, married Keith, and committed to climbing full-time.

I met Chris in 1997, just after the Boskoffs purchased Mountain Madness. At that time, “The Madness” was in dire financial straits. It took a significant amount of money and tenacity to get the company up and running again. Then, in 1999, just as Mountain Madness was beginning to turn around, Keith Boskoff suddenly died. It was a tragic death and it shook Chris to her core. His death changed Chris in profound and positive ways, but it required tremendous introspection.

Before Chris went missing, Mountain Madness’s success and her personal relationships were the best they’d ever been. Ironically, when Chris died, she was as happy, confident and as balanced as she’d ever been. Her emotional maturation was mirrored in her climbing – she began to feel, on a deep level, a synergistic mind-body connection, and it inspired her to be the best person she could be in all areas of life. There were many other things that drove Chris to climb. However, moving through life with grace, gratitude, humor, and humility had become Chris’ greatest commitment. Without these things in place, Chris understood she would hold herself back. Chris was many things to many people, but if nothing else, Chris defined “Make it Happen”. By Jane Courage

 

At Everest base camp during one of her two ascents of the mountain. Mountain Madness collection


 

Christine Feld Boskoff Climbing Resume

Seven Summits 

Mount Everest
Vinson Massif
Mount Elbrus
Carstensz Pyramid
Aconcagua
Mount Kilimanjaro

Asia

K2 – South Face/ Highpoint 6900 m.

Broad Peak – West Rib, High point 7700 m; Pakistan Summit

Kawa Karpo – Southeast Ridge/ Shipton Tilman Grant, Reconnaissance of the KawaKarpo Range Tibet Fall ‘01

Cho Oyu – West Face / Expedition Leader/ Three members summited. Tibet Fall ‘01

Shishapangma – Southwest Ridg -Summit. 8046m; 26,397 ft. Tibet Fall ‘00 

Everest – Southwest Ridge / Expedition Leader/ Summit. 8848m; 29,028 ft. Nepal Spring ‘00 

Gasherbrum II- West Ridge / Expedition LeaderSummit. 8036m; 26,360 ft. Pakistan Summer‘99

Expedition Leader of an 11 member team. Filmed a one-hour documentary, “Ascent of G2” for the Travel Channel.

Makalu – Southwest Ridge, highpoint 7300m;23,878 ft. Nepal Fall ‘98, turned back due to high winds. 

Lhotse - West face - Summit. 8511m; 27,940 ft. Nepal Spring ‘97, First North American woman to reach the summit.

Cho Oyu - West face -Summit. 8201m; 26,906 ft. Tibet Fall ‘96

Broad Peak - West Rib -Summit. 8051m; 26,400 ft. Pakistan Summer ‘95

Ama Dablam - Southwest face -Summit. 6858m; 22,501 ft. Nepal Fall ‘94

Kang Yatze - Highpoint 5785m; 18,974 ft. India Summer’96, turned around due to avalanche conditions.

Jilliper North - Standard/ Summit. 4800m; 15,685 ft. Pakistan Summer ‘95

Ganaio - Summit. 5427m; 17,800 ft. Pakistan Summer ’95

Africa

Mt Angor – South Face

Summit. 5,216m; 17,057 ft. Morocco Winter ‘99

Mt. Kilimanjaro – Heim Glacier & Shira Plateau

Summit. 5895m; 18,726 ft. Tanzania Winter ’93 & 97

Mt. Kenya – Shipton’s Route 

Summit. 5,199m; 17,057 ft. Kenya Winter ‘93

North America

Mexico Volcanoes, North Cascades, White, Rocky, and Sierra Mountain Ranges.

South America

IIlamani - Standard 

Summit . 6,6498m; 21,313 ft. Bolivia Spring‘93

IIlampu – West Face 

Summit. 6,363m; 20,870 ft. Bolivia Spring‘93

Huyana Potosi- East Face

Summit. 6,120m; 20,074 ft. Bolivia Spring‘93

Pequeno Alpamayo - East Face

Summit. 5,330m; 17,482 ft. Bolivia Spring‘93

Illusion- Standard 

Summit. 5,240m; 17,187 ft. Bolivia Spring‘93

Chimborazo – Direct Route 

Summit. 6,310m; 20,703 ft. Ecuador Winter ‘96

Cotopaxi - Standard 

Summit. 5897m; 19,348 ft. Ecuador Winter‘96

Illiniza Norte & Sur – Southeast Ridge & Northwest Face 

Summit. 5126m & 5263 m ; 16,818 ft. & 17,268 ft. Ecuador Winter’96

El Altar – Southwest Couloir

Highpoint 4,975m; 16,100 ft. Ecuador Winter ‘96

Europe

Mt. Blanc – Gouter Route /Summit. 4,807m; 15,771ft. France Summer‘00

Matterhorn – Hornli Ridge Summit/Solo. 4,479m; 14,691 ft. Switzerland Summer’00

 Chris on the summit of Everest

On the summit of Everest. Mountain Madness collection


 

Why climb?

By Christine Feld-Boskoff

I climb for many reasons. The freedom to be me, the adventure, the individual challenge, and the cultural friendships and experiences are all reasons. I also look forward to nature’s serenity and tranquility in the mountains, because they are innocent and I am at peace there….

Developing my competitive spirit

I was raised in the mid-west town of Appleton, WI, as the youngest of four children and the only girl. Playing sports with my older brothers gave me a tenacious spirit. Coupled with my father’s work ethic and his encouragement to pursue whatever I wanted, I soon found this philosophy spilling over into other parts of my life.

I went to school for Electrical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin and worked my way through school as an engineer at Rockwell Avionics in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I also discovered that flying intrigued and excited me, so, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree, and my pilot’s license. After school I took a three-month vacation biking and traveling through Europe before starting my work career at Lockheed Aeronautical Systems in Atlanta Georgia.

Getting the climbing bug

It was an outdoor clothing catalog that first captured my imagination and sparked my interest in mountaineering. A picture in the catalog showed a climber who had topped-out on a summit in Alaska with a blanket of clouds below him and the sun setting before him. From that point forward, I had a dream to be a climber.

In the Bolivian Andes, I climbed my first mountain, 17,000-foot, Tarija. After Bolivia, I organized ice, rock, & alpine climbing trips to Africa, Ecuador, Mexico, Europe and North America. I enjoyed climbing in the U.S., but my passion was traveling & exploring third world countries. My first trip to Asia was in 1994 where I climbed Ama Dablam, a 22,500 foot mountain.

Why 8000-meter peaks?

Eight thousand meters (26,000 ft) is the standard that mountaineers measure themselves by, because there are only fourteen of them in the world. To better understand them I read Reinhold Messner’s book, All 14 Eight-Thousanders. In it he depicted his accounts of suffering, close encounters with death, and his exhilaration with life. I wanted to understand and feel these emotions myself, so in 1995 I went to Pakistan to climb my first 8000-meter peak, Broad Peak. After being successful in Pakistan I decided to do other 8000peaks

What are my achievements?

I have taken part in eight 8000-meter expeditions. I have been successful on six including Mt. Everest. I am owner & CEO of a guide company called Mountain Madness, Inc., and have climbed and trekked in Asia, Africa, North & South America and Europe. In 1999 I successfully led an expedition to Pakistan to climb the 8000-meter peak, Gasherbrum II that was featured in the Travel Channel Documentary, “Ascent of GII”.

What are my future plans?

This fall I plan to guide the 8211-meter peak, Cho Oyu in Tibet. I will also lead a trek into the Annapurna region to benefit a non-profit organization, “Books for Nepal”. Late fall Charlie Fowler and I will be attempting to climb the highest peak in China, Kang Karpo of Yunnan province. Tentative plans also include an exploratory trip to the southern icecap in Patagonia.

 

Everest base camp. Mountain Madness collection


 

Seattle's Christine Boskoff: Mad about mountains 

One of the world's top female climbers offers insight into what drives her to dizzying heights

Monday, February 25, 2002

By KRISTIN DIZON, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

If she succeeds this summer, Christine Boskoff will be one of a handful of women to have climbed K2, a 28,250-foot mountain with a dangerous reputation.

Boskoff, who owns Mountain Madness, an adventure travel and guided climbing business in West Seattle, is one of the premier female alpinists in the world. She and 30 guides take clients on 70 to 80 adventure-filled trips a year, including a $59,000 per person Everest expedition. Boskoff is the only living woman to have climbed six of the world's fourteen 8,000-meter peaks -- Everest, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum II, Lhotse, Shishapangma and Broad Peak.

Boskoff, 34, took over Mountain Madness in 1996 after her friend Scott Fischer, who started the business, was killed in a widely publicized disaster on Everest. She left behind a career as an electrical engineer working for Lockheed Aeronautical in Georgia. Boskoff, a pilot, led a team that designed software for a lighted control display for the C-130J, a large military cargo plane. Her husband and business partner, Keith Boskoff, died unexpectedly in 1999, leaving a vacuum that is difficult for her to talk about.

Her training for K2, which is on the Pakistan-Tibet border and which she'll attempt in June with partner Charlie Fowler, includes three to four sessions a week of indoor rock climbing, one-day ascents of local peaks such as Rainier, Shuksan and Baker, and running up and down Mount Si with a heavy pack several times a week. Once focused on climbing the tallest mountains, Boskoff is now looking toward the unclimbed ones. She's enamored with eastern Tibet's dramatic river gorges, vegetation and gracious people.

 

The Post Intelligencer recently engaged her in a question-and-answer session.

How did a girl from Wisconsin get into scaling mountains?

"You know when you do something and you say, that's it. Well, that's what climbing was for me. From the first time I got to the top, I was hooked. ...

"High-altitude mountaineering is probably about 70 percent mental. A lot of climbing up there is not as technical as when you're climbing lower. And a lot of it you do on instinct or experience. I have a really good attitude. I love what I'm doing ... and I'm fast. I think that's the key to high-altitude mountaineering -- getting up and getting down quickly."

People climb mountains for different reasons. Why do you climb?

"The No. 1 reason is just being outside and close to nature. You feel that oneness with it. Sure, there're other reasons -- to see different lands and to push myself to the very maximum. But I think nature gives you this balance in life and I feel really at home when I'm out there climbing in the middle of wilderness. ... "If you can weather out a storm and put your boots on when it's minus-40 and push yourself to get to the top of these things, you carry that back to your everyday life. You learn how to persevere, to be tenacious and to not give up."

How does your family feel about what you do?

"They're from Wisconsin and they really can't digest what I do. ... They're supportive, they think it's great and they're excited when I send them articles, but I don't think they really grasp what I do."

Do they worry about you?

"Yeah, they worry quite a bit. I tell them that it's a safe mountain. I try to tone down where I'm going. If you tell them it's a death-defying mountain, all they're going to do is worry. So I figure if I tell them it's a nice little secure, safe mountain, they don't worry as much. And then I call them from base camp and just let them know I'm OK."

You're climbing K2, a very dangerous mountain. Do you still want to be the first woman to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks?

"Nah. K2's always been something I wanted to climb. And outside of that, I don't really have a desire to do any more. I might want to do Makalu -- the west ridge. But really my true love these days is climbing in China and doing first ascents over there and exploring some of the valleys. It's incredible. On my last trip over there in the fall 2001, we'd go to villages where these people have never seen a Westerner -- a round-eye. And it was so, so great to see that. ... "The 8,000-meter peaks are going to be there. And I'm starting to lose the appeal for it. I want to climb at lower elevations and climb harder, more technical routes. ... And I like to be the first and not the 256th."

What's your guilty pleasure?

"Uhh. Sushi? Diet Coke. I love Coke. I'll give it up and I'll get these headaches. I'll go for months to China and the thing I crave most is Diet Coke. As soon as I get back to Hong Kong, that's what I want." 

Do you want to have children?

"Not right now in my stage of life. I would have to make serious commitments to that. I really feel that if you have kids, you should devote all your time to them. That should be your No. 1 job and right now my No. 1 job is Mountain Madness and climbing. If I were to ever have kids, I'd do really moderate, safe, guided climbs and I'd give up the whole extreme climbing."

What's the closest you've come to death, on a mountain or otherwise?

"Well on I-5 the other day ...," she jokes. "We had a storm on Broad Peak for five days. Pretty much, I didn't know if we were going to make it or not. It was really blowing -- greater than 100 mph winds. The tent was flattened on our face and we were using ski poles to hold it up. And I thought for sure the poles would break or the tent would rip."

Is there anything you'd regret if you died climbing?

"I think the key, at least in my life, is living the moment. It's like right now. And it's not 'I should have done this and I should have done that.' Because when you're dead, you're dead. Life is really for the living. You can't bring your life with you when you die. No matter how many medals you own and how many peaks you climb, it's not going to mean anything to you when you're six feet under. ..."If I die today, I don't think, 'Oh, I should have had 2.5 kids and the minivan.' I'm really content and happy with who I am today."

Climbing is largely a male-dominated world. Have you had to adjust or change to be part of that?

"I grew up with 3 older brothers, so that helps. I'm kind of used to the culture and I've always had guys as friends. I find that if you're focused and have a great attitude -- I'm really strong and can climb with the guys -- that they accept me as I am. ..."Being a woman is kind of to your advantage sometimes because they're willing to help and encourage you more than (other) men. But I do find sometimes, when you outclimb certain men, they get upset and give you excuses why they're behind. Or sometimes you get criticisms that are unjust because of your female status. You're going to get that. ... I was an engineer and I saw that, too. So I just weed out that stuff. ..."But I see women who sometimes use it as a crutch as to why they don't perform well. Sure, biologically, there're things that limit women, but I think we have a lot of good qualities where we can outperform men. "It's like rock climbing -- some of the best rock climbers are women. And sure, they don't have the same upper body strength as men, but their technique and the way they move on rock are so much better. And they're more flexible. And that applies to mountaineering. We burn fat, versus carbos, and I think women can go a lot longer at altitude than men can."

Let's say I, with no training or experience, want to climb a big mountain like Cho Oyu with Mountain Madness. How do you decide if I get to go?

"First, let's back up. Let's just take a six-day glacier mountaineering class and see if you even like it before you spend all this money to go to Cho Oyu to climb it and to fail. First of all, you're going to be a risk to everybody on your team and everybody on the mountain. ... I see a lot of people going up too quickly and they don't really know what's involved with an 8,000-meter peak. ... So I always recommend that they do lower-altitude peaks and work their way up to Cho Oyu. ..."And so many people, they just want to go from no experience to climbing up Everest. And they're losing out on that whole process of growing and learning the skills to climb safely and successfully."

How long will you keep climbing?

"For as long as I can or until nature finally says, 'Hey, that's it.' Or my body is just too decrepit. I just love the diversity, the excitement, the always-changing environment of running the business and climbing. I wouldn't give it up for the world. I don't know what I would do. ... That's me. That's who I am.

Chris with Scott Fischer and other expedition members on Broad Peak in 1986. Scott Fischer photo


 

Accomplished US Climber Christine Boskoff’s Remains Return Home

Recovery Crew Remove Body from Peak in Southern China

 

Seattle, WA - Sept. 27, 2007 – The body of one of the country’s foremost female climbers, Christine Boskoff, was removed from Geny