Body recovery brings sense of relief to local school principal

Saturday brought a little more closure to Jacksonville resident Ginny Hicks.

That was the day Christine Boskoff's body was removed from the extremely remote Genyen Peak in southwest China where she and Charlie Fowler, Hicks' brother, died during an avalanche in mid-November.

"I didn't realize how heavy the weight was, knowing that Christine's body was not recovered yet," said Hicks, the principal of Griffin Creek Elementary School in Medford.

"I feel a sense of relief now, partly because I knew how heavy that has weighed on her mother," she added.

Fowler, 52, and Boskoff, 39, were nationally renowned high-altitude mountain climbers who died together while trying to find a new route up the 20,354-foot peak.

Found at the 17,390-foot level, Fowler's body was removed from the mountain in late December. But the retrieval of Boskoff, found nearby on July 3, was delayed until Saturday because of weather conditions.

Fowler's body was first taken to the Genyen Monastery at the peak's 13,000-foot elevation, then moved to Litang, the nearest town in the Szechuan Province, where it was cremated. Boskoff's remains were expected to take a similar route, Hicks said.

Boskoff's cremains will be flown to Appleton, Wis., where her mother, Joyce Feld, lives, Hicks said.

Hicks, along with her husband, Morrie, and mother Christine Fowler, 88, also of Jacksonville, hope to attend a memorial service for Boskoff in Appleton tentatively set for Oct. 20.

Hicks plans to bring some of her brother's ashes to have them buried with Boskoff. The two climbers had lived together for the past seven years in Norwood, Colo., a small town about 23 miles from Telluride.

Fowler, who also was a photographer and writer, was considered an expert on climbing in southwestern China. He had also guided climbers up Mount Everest and had scaled some of the most difficult peaks in the world.

Boskoff had ascended six of the world's tallest peaks over 26,000 feet, including Mount Everest. She was the owner of Mountain Madness, a Seattle-based mountaineering company.

"I'm happy that this is coming to an end," Joyce Feld told the Daily Planet, a Telluride-based newspaper. "I'll be at rest that she is taken care of properly."

The remains of Boskoff, who had three older brothers, will be placed in the family plot in Sheboygan where her father is buried.

Fowler, some 18 months older than Hicks, was the Jacksonville resident's only sibling. Most of his ashes will eventually be placed alongside the grave of his father in Shepherd Town, Va., Hicks said.

"He traveled the world when he was alive — he continues to travel the world," she said, explaining that his climbing friends from around the world have deposited small amounts of his ashes on mountains on Colorado, Canada, Scotland and on the top of Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet the tallest mountain in Africa.

Those recovering Boskoff's body were able to retrieve her digital camcorder, which apparently captured the beginning of the avalanche that took their lives, Hicks said, noting that her brother's camera has not been recovered.

"His camera bag was on his body, but it was empty," she said. "His right glove was off, indicating he was probably taking pictures at the time."

Meanwhile, the Charlie Fowler Climbing Film Award has been established by Mountain Films of Telluride and the Charlie Fowler Climbing Wall has been created in Norwood. Four of his photographs and his ice ax can been seen in the Norwood City Hall, and some 300 of his travel and adventure books have been donated to the town library.

"I feel really good about that," Hicks said. "A lot of good things have been established in Charlie's name."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at

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