Two rival mountaineers racing to set new record killed in Tibet avalanches

Anna Gutu and Gina Marie Rzucidlo were attempting to become the first American women to summit the world's 14 tallest mountains.

Two climbers competing to become the first American woman to summit the world’s tallest 14 mountains have been killed by avalanches in Tibet.

Anna Gutu and Gina Marie Rzucidlo were both scaling Mount Shishapangma, their final and lowest peak, when two avalanches struck the slopes on Saturday afternoon – at 25,000 and 26,000 ft.

A total of 52 climbers from various countries including Britain, the US, Japan, and Italy were climbing the mountain when the avalanches hit, Chinese news agency Xinhua said.

Ms Gutu and her Nepalese mountain guide, Mingmar Sherpa, were confirmed dead on Sunday.

Another sherpa in her group was injured and airlifted to hospital in Kathmandu, according to expedition company Elite Exped.

Ms Gutu pictured with record-breaking climber Nirmal Purja. / Credit: Instagram/nimsdai

Initially, Ms Rzucidlo who was travelling in a separate team, was declared missing along with her guide Tenjen Sherpa.

Confirming the worst in a Facebook post on Monday, Ms Rzucidlo’s sister Christy wrote: “Through tear-filled eyes and with an enormous hole in my heart, I type this post that I never thought I would have to make.

“The Rzucidlo family wants to share that Chinese authorities have declared my sister Gina and her Sherpa Tenjen Lama as deceased.

“China has halted all activity on Mount Shishapangma due to unsafe snow conditions and has closed the mountain for the season. Requests for search by helicopter from Nepal have been declined by the Chinese government.

Tributes have poured in for Ms Rzucidlo, who was on the final challenge of her record attempt. / Credit: Instagram/ginamarierzucidlo

“We have been told the search for their bodies may resume in the spring once weather conditions are favorable.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out and kept us in their thoughts. We appreciate every prayer that was made hoping for a miracle.”

Paying tribute to Ms Gutu in an Instagram post, record-breaking climber Nirmal Purja wrote: “My Dear Anna. Your talent was an inspiration to see. Your legacy will always be as one of the strongest and best mountaineers – You shine bright over the peaks.

“We were on the same mountain on the same summit push – I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. Thank you for being my sister, my friend. I will always remember you Anna, words can’t even describe how I feel.

All climbing activities have been suspended on Mount Shishapangma by Chinese authorities. / Credit: AP

“You had a wonderful positive impact on the Nepalese community – you donated to give kids a better education at Khumjung Secondary School, and raised thousands to help Guide Yukta’s village school in Laprak – your legacy is talent and kindness.

In a statement, Elite Exped wrote: “Anna – Your light, your heart and your positivity were a force to behold. You inspired everyone around you and brought joy to so many. Rest well beautiful heart.”

Paying their respects to Mingmar Sherpa, the company added: “You were such a bright force, so talented, experienced and strong on the mountain. With such a huge smile and positive can-do attitude. We will miss your laugh.”

Tenjen Sherpa, 35, was also among those killed. / Credit: AP

Climbing activities on Shishapangma have since been suspended by Chinese authorities due to snow conditions.

Shishapangma is the 14th-highest mountain in the world, at over 8,027 meters (26,335 ft) above sea level.

October is a popular time to trek the Himalayas as it’s after the rainy monsoon season, but experts have cautioned that climate change has increased the risk of avalanches in the region.

At least 120 people in the Indian Himalayas were killed by avalanches over the past two years.

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