After hours of searching through ice chunks and piles of snow on Shishapangma Mountain, searchers have called off an avalanche rescue mission to find American climbers Alex Lowe and Dave Bridges. The climbers were part of the 1999 American Shishapangma Ski Expedition in Chinese Tibet, which hoped to climb the 26,291-foot mountain and ski down it.
The avalanche struck while expedition members were scouting routes above the mountain's Advance Base Camp on Tuesday. Conrad Anker, who accompanied the two missing climbers, was thrown nearly 100 feet and partially buried by the avalanche, Expedition leader Andrew McLean told MountainZone.com.
After unburying himself, Anker, who suffered head abrasions and pulled shoulder muscles, immediately began searching for his expedition comrades.
"The best chance of locating our friends would be instantly, right after the avalanche, looking for evidence of them, a glove, a ski pole, something that you could dig out, but the enormity and the size of this avalanche precluded that," he told MountainZone.com.
Other members began searching for the climbers until nightfall. They continued their search most of Wednesday, giving up after 20 painstaking hours.
Lowe, one of America's best known climbers, mastered technical climbs around the world. Some recent highlights include: an ascent last August of Great Trango Tower in Pakistan, the first one-day ascent of Hunter's Moonflower Buttress in Alaska, and numerous first ascents in Antarctica.
One of the three cameramen on the trip, Bridges' reached many summits within the Himalayans, led an American K2 South Spur Expedition, and was a U.S. national paragliding champion.
For more information on the Shishapangma tragedy, visit www.mountainzone.com/climbing/99/shishapangma/index.html.