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Tibet: SHISHAPANGMA Mountain Glacier Releases Climbers from Icy Tomb
Too young to die, but they all knew the risksClick thumbnail to view full-size
"On Ice" for 16 years, pair finally found.
The Tibetan Mountain of Shishapangma is, at 26,335 feet, the 14th highest mountain in the world. Also known locally as Gosainthan, it's summit was the last over 8,000 peak to be achieved. This was not due to the mountain's difficulty, but its locality - completely inside Tibet, it was impossible to get permission from China to attempt to conquer the monster for many years.
It was eventually climbed a number of times by teams from many nations, in the process claiming 27 lives. It was targeted by those extreme sportsmen who like to ascend, or be transported to dizzying peaks and then ski back down. Shishapangnma was seen as having one of the best routes back down by Lowe, many miles of uninterrupted snow.
One of the greatest climbers of all time and certainly the fittest, was Alex Lowe. He and two fellow climbers, close friend and cameraman, David Bridges, along with buddy, Conrad Anker, were traversing a giant glacier at close to 6,000 feet in a 1999 expedition, when they heard an ominous rumble. Looking above, they saw the tumbled line of moving snow approaching. They seriously misjudged the direction of the huge avalanche and fatally stopped to snap pictures. Realizing too late that the torrent of snow, ice and rocks was heading directly at them, the three began to run.
Anker, who miraculously survived after being thrown 100 feet and severely injured, recalls seeing the other two hurling themselves into a crevass - or perhaps being swept into one of the yawning mouths that criss-cross the avalanche surface.
Although nursing lesions and broken bones, Anker was able to help the rescue party who maintained a ceaseless search for Lowe and Bridges for 20 hours without luck. They noted at the time that had the pair been equipped with emergency radio-beacons they might have been found in time to dig them out of what was a 20-foot deep covering of snow and debris.
(If the reports of their diving into a crevasse was true, they could not have been found anyway).
Shishapanngma (One meaning of its name is "Abode of God!")kept Lowe and Bridges clutched to its icy heart for 16 long years. Perhaps relenting after what was to the mountain a mere moment in geologic time, it revealed the bodies of the victims, still enclosed in blue ice, to two climbers from Germany and Switzerland on this April 27, 2016. The missing climbers, identified by clothing and backpacks, were, said their discoverers, partly emerging from the glacier.
It was long past time for their remains to be returned to their familes in the United States and proper burials performed.
Jennifer Lowe (Anker) married Conrad Anker in 2001 (he subsequently adopted her three children) and published a best selling, award-winning book, "Forget Me Not," about her late husband, the great mountaineer, Alex Lowe, who had many "mountain scalps" to his tally, many more difficult than that which claimed his life. He had also been responsible for rescueing others in trouble and was hailed by his peers as one of the greatest mountaineers of all time.
In this crazy sport of mountain climbing and down-mountain skiing, it only takes one mistake and even the greatest must bow to nature's implacable forces.