In the sport of high-altitude mountaineering, Chris Boskoff earned her stripes by simply shutting up and climbing.
On December 4, 2006, Boskoff, 39, and Charlie Fowler, 52, failed to return on their flight to the United States from China. After guiding Cho Oyu, Boskoff had joined Fowler and traveled to the Sichuan Province, in China, to climb 6,000-meter peaks. Both were exceptionally strong climbers, who survived even the most unbelievable scrapes with death, but when their e-mails stopped and they missed their flights, their friends and family began to fear the worst.
Funds were quickly raised for a search party, 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. Boskoff remains missing.
When meeting Boskoff, a strong, short blonde with a dynamic smile, you wouldn't imagine she was one of the most accomplished high-altitude mountain climbers in the world. And she was much like Fowler in that if you met her at a party, you'd have to pursue her like a dogged journalist to get much out of her. Although Boskoff was beginning to receive media attention for her climbing accomplishments, she was always understated and prosaic.
"I'm not into designer mountaineering, designer beer, designer friendships, or the big-bucks sponsorship deals," she said. "I simply want to push myself mentally and physically. I want to have fun, and for me that means the mountains.
Boskoff reached the summit of six 8,000-meter peaks, more than any other American woman: Mount Everest, Shishapangma, Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak and Cho Oyu twice. She also attempted the notorious 8,000-meter K2, in Pakistan, but was turned away by ghastly weather.
Christine Joyce Field learned tenacity and self-reliance at an early age. Raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, Chris became used to being a girl in a guy's world as she tried to keep up with her older bothers. She put herself through the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where she was one of only a few female engineering students.
"They used to rib me," she said. "You know, blonde hair and engineering. It was fun breaking the mold! "
After her 1991 graduation, she landed a job at Lockheed in Atlanta. In 1993, she took her first climbing course, and climbed her first mountain, Tariji in Bolivia. In Atlanta, she began climbing at a local indoor gym, where she met Keith Boskoff, a successful architect (and 15 years her senior), who swept her off her feet and into the world of climbing.
They married in 1997.
That same year, Boskoff became the first American woman to climb Lhotse. In December, the Boskoffs purchased Mountain Madness, which had been owned by Scott Fischer, who died on Everest in 1996. In January 1999, after a great deal of stress and struggle, and just as the Madness was beginning to turn around, Keith Boskoff died. Suddenly, the most emotionally supportive person in her life was gone, and Boskoff was thrown into turmoil. In private, she once admitted that the pain of losing her husband taught her more than climbing all 14 8,000-meter peaks twice could have.
Over the years, Boskoff grew exponentially in spirit and strength. She often talked about the mind-body synergy that hope, love, enthusiasm, drive and warm relationships create in one's life. She was an inspiration to many, a great love and friend to Charlie and she will be sorely missed.