It’s not been a good month for climbers in Sichuan Province. Ok, that’s an understatement. It’s been a damn awful month. At the beginning of July, the body of accomplished twice-climber-of-Everest Christine Feld-Boskoff was discovered on the remote mountain peak of Genyan Massif, half a year after the body of her partner in mountain-climbing was found (we told you how the two prominent mountain-climbers went missing here and here). Boskoff was believed to have died in an avalanche. Then, only days ago, government officials announced the discovery of Lonely Planet writer Andrew Clem Lindenmayer, found dead at Riwuqie Peak, 4,600 metres above sea level. And these are not Sichuan’s only fatal findings – some simply only managed to make news footnotes, such as the uncovering of the body of a Japanese climber, who went missing 26 years ago.
The mountain range in Sichuan that both Lindenmayer and Boskoff hiked, Mount Gongga, is the highest in the province. Once part of Tibet, Gongga, situated in the West of Sichuan, has over 20 peaks above 6,000 metres, with the summit stretching 7,556 metres high. The range, known for its beauty, is also gaining notoriety for its treachery. Since 1957, 24 climbers have successfully reached its summit, but equally, over 20 have died trying. Lindenmayer’s father was apparently aware of the dangers. While expressing that it “was a pretty standard hike” for Lindenmayer, he nevertheless qualifies: “It’s known to be a trip where you need experience and common sense before you undertake it. This area is an extension of the Himalayas.”
This recent news begs the question: why do people climb? Any visit to the website http://www.k2climb.net/ alone reveals climbing’s dangers, with the words “horror” and “missing” appearing frequently. After all, on top of maintaining a steady step, climbers have to negotiate falling objects and unprecedented weather, to name but a few hazards, as the book/docu-film Touching the Void starkly highlights. For mountaineering ignorants, perhaps the words of the late Boskoff offers some incite into the allure of this sport, and in turn, the allure of Mount Gongga:
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….