On Dec. 4,, 2006, Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff missed their flight home from China. The Norwood couple had been climbing deep in a remote mountain valley attempting a new route on Genyen (20,354 feet), a beautiful sacred peak described as a “glacier-clad giant among a sea of proud rock spires.”
Friends and loved ones would eventually learn that two of Southwest Colorado’s, and the world’s, most accomplished climbers had perished in an avalanche some weeks before.
Climbing, especially at altitude, in hard-to-get-to places is a risky endeavor – and much the draw for people like Charlie and Christine. Most people who climb have lost someone to the sport. It doesn’t make it any easier, of course, but reminds us all of our mortality, the risks and rewards mountains pose.
Hardcore and humble, the couple was also known for their humor, generosity of spirit, commitment to youth, human rights, philanthropy and environmental stewardship. It is only fitting, then, that their memory would be commemorated permanently, and locally, by designating two adjacent unnamed 13,000-foot peaks in the Lizard Head Wilderness in the Wilson Range of the San Juan Mountains as Fowler Peak and Boskoff Peak.
In introducing the Fowler and Boskoff Peaks Designation Act last May, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said, “Naming peaks in their honor will give them a permanent place in the outdoors and serve as a fitting reminder of their extraordinary lives.”
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., announced last week that the companion House bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 409-0, and said, “Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff were outstanding mountaineers and advocates for our nation’s treasured open spaces …Their spirits … will live on in these peaks for generations to come.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said with this legislation, he was “proud to work with his colleagues to honor their memory and forever memorialize Christine and Charlie in Colorado history. Through the designation of these peaks, their legacy and life’s work will live on for generations to come.”
The idea to name peaks in their memory came from Charlie’s longtime friend and climbing companion, Steve Johnson of Telluride. The effort has been a decade in the making and also received the support of former Sen. Mark Udall, the U.S. Forest Service, Dolores and San Miguel county commissioners, The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, Colorado Mountain Club, Mountainfilm, Osprey Packs, Telluride Ski and Golf Resort and the Wright Stuff Community Foundation, among others.
In a recent call, Johnson talked about how by commemorating Charlie and Chris, the designations highlight the importance of public lands and give prominence to those who loved wilderness and recreation in the form of rock and ice climbing. He posited that maybe the designations will excite some young people to learn about and emulate them, and seek their own paths of adventure, environmental stewardship and service throughout their lives. Charlie and Christine would likely hope so. We do too.
Advocates are hoping for the passage of both bills in time for a celebration at Telluride’s Mountainfilm Festival in May.