Searchers in a mountainous region of southwestern China found a snow-covered body Wednesday that might be that of one of two prominent American climbers missing for more than a month.
The body was spotted by a Chinese member of an international search team in a region called Genyen in Sichuan province, not far from Tibet. Searchers did not immediately dig out the body to identify it, although they said it was outfitted in modern climbing equipment, including blue gaiters and gray boots, according to a website set up to chronicle the search.
Searchers planned to return this morning to uncover the body and to see whether another was nearby, said Lin Li, secretary-general of the Sichuan Mountaineering Assn., which has helped coordinate the search.
Searchers fear the body is that of either Christie Boskoff, 39, or Charlie Fowler, 52, both from Norwood, Colo., who had been climbing in the area. The two are accomplished climbers. Boskoff, who runs a Seattle-based guide company, is said to have climbed more high-altitude peaks than any other woman.
They were scheduled to return to the United States on Dec. 4 but had not been heard from since about Nov. 9.
"We don't know if it's Chris or Charlie, or it could be that of another climber who died some time ago," said Arlene Burns, a Colorado-based spokeswoman for the search. "That's how these mountains are.
"It's most likely that it's Charlie or Chris.... And I would say if it's one of them, the other is probably connected or nearby."
The search website said that Dave Hillon, a U.S. consular officer in Chengdu, China, had notified both climbers' families.
Paul Feld, Boskoff's brother, said the family was "hanging in there" and awaiting more news.
"We're hoping that she's still alive, though I know that's probably not going to happen," said Feld, speaking from his parents' home in Appleton, Wis. "But my mom still thinks she's going to be coming through the door some day soon."
Burns said the body was on the steep eastern face of 20,000-foot Genyen Peak. In the last day, searchers had discovered that the two had stopped Nov. 12 at a monastery about a three-hour walk from where the body was found. The couple told the monks that they planned to head north and return in about four days. They were not seen again.
Times staff writer Sam Howe Verhovek in Seattle and Yin Lijin of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.