Christine Boskoff hasn't been heard from since November after summiting the world's sixth-highest mountain. ...

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In the high-risk, male-dominated world of mountain climbing, known as much for egos as endurance, Christine Boskoff is known as a top alpinist and mountaineer who’s made a name for herself.

Her friends theorize she may have been trying for one more accomplishment after ascending a previously unclimbed route on the sixth-highest peak in the world — China’s Cho Oyu — when she and her friend, Colorado filmmaker Charlie Fowler, also an elite climber, disappeared last month in China’s Sichuan Province.

Their friends are deeply concerned, rallying search teams and working with Chinese authorities. Now elite climber Jon Otto is going to China to head the ground search.

Boskoff, 39, who lives in Seattle, is one of only a few women alive to have climbed six of the world’s 14 highest peaks. She was the first North American woman to summit the 27,940-foot Lhotse in the Himalayas, and she’s summited Mount Everest twice.

Boskoff, with her late husband, purchased Mountain Madness — the climbing school and guide service started by the late climber Scott Fischer, a close friend. Regarded as one of the world’s leading female climbers and successful guides, she files enthusiastic dispatches from mountaintops that fill the Mountain Madness Web site, such as this one from Oct. 3:

“We left for the [Cho Oyu] summit at 1 a.m. with our head lamps on. Our group climbed relatively quickly. … We had one of the best morning sunrises that I could remember. … After summit photos, we were ready to head down to the oxygen rich air below us. Once we arrived at camp 3, both Mark and Wolf flopped in their tent. Our goal was to reach camp 2, and Eric, Undi and I had no intention to sleep another night at camp 3 without our sleeping bags, so we took apart Mark and Wolf’s tent with them in it.”

Following the team’s climb to the Cho Oyu summit, Boskoff and Fowler continued on their own.

The last anyone heard from them was an e-mail Fowler sent Nov. 9 from Genyen, in China’s western Sichuan Province, saying that they intended to try “a 6,000-meter peak and a smaller one,” then travel back to Denver Dec. 4.

“Right now, I’m holding the thought that they’re OK,” said Jane Courage, Boskoff’s friend. “It’s like saying you’re going climbing somewhere between Mexico and Canada. There are a lot of options.”

Friends searching through Fowler’s computer files concluded that the two intended to head south to Dechin to attempt an unnamed, 6,509-meter peak, which would have taken them two days. Friends assume the two wanted to sandwich the climb in before catching their flight home.

“As soon as she’s back in the city she starts planning her next climb,” Courage said.

Boskoff runs some 10 miles a day for training. Climbing “makes her feel great and gives her a tremendous appreciation for her own strength and a sense of how insignificant she is in the whole scheme of life,” Courage said.

Boskoff grew up in Appleton, Wis., the only girl in a family of boys, worked her way through the University of Wisconsin and became an electrical engineer. But a career in the mountains was always her dream. She married Atlanta architect Keith Boskoff, 17 years her senior, in the Himalayas in 1994.”She likes to physically challenge herself,” said Courage, who has rock-climbed with Boskoff, including once when they climbed in look-alike Hawaiian outfits. “She’s like a sister to me.”

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com