Lowe Feared Dead after Avalanche in Tibet

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Bozeman, MT, Oct.6 (AP)--Alex Lowe, described by Outside magazine as the best mountain climber in the world, is presumed dead with another climber in a Himalayan avalanche.

A dispatch from the American Shishapangma Ski Expedition, posted on the Web site MountainZone.com, said the climbers were struck by an avalanche on 26,291-foot Shishapangma in Tibet early Tuesday.

Also missing and presumed dead was cameraman Dave Bridges. The search for both men was abandoned because of hazardous conditions on the mountain.

``I find it hard to believe that Alex could ever be killed,'' said Gordon Wiltsie, who climbed with Lowe. ``This is just a cruel reminder that the mountains are bigger than any person.''

Lowe, 40, of Bozeman, and Bridges, 29, of Aspen, Colo., were swept away along with Colorado climber Conrad Anker when the avalanche struck the climbers on the mountain's upper slopes, said Andrew McLean, the expedition leader.

Anker was ``pretty beat up'' but not seriously injured when he was found, McLean told MountainZone.com, an expedition sponsor, by satellite telephone.

The expedition had as its goal not only climbing Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world, but also skiing down it. Bridges was part of a three-man film crew.

Lowe was a celebrity in the mountain climbing community. He is on posters, in magazines and on television leading the way up slabs of granite. His 25-year career included climbs in five continents, and he twice reached the summit of Mount Everest.

He was called the best climber in the world in a March cover story in Outside magazine.

His is the latest high-profile death in the sport.

A rash of deaths on Everest in 1996 sent a chill through the climbing community. Eight mountaineers died on the 29,028-foot peak on May 10 alone, a tragedy described in the best-seller ``Into Thin Air'' by Jon Krakauer.

The following year, a noted Russian climber who survived the Everest tragedy, Anatoli Boukreev, died in an avalanche on the slopes of Mount Annapurna in the Himalayas.