‘This was her dream:’ A Mass. native died in avalanche while climbing Tibetan mountain

AUBURN, Mass — A Massachusetts native died after an avalanche struck a Tibet mountain over the weekend.

Gina Marie Rzucidlo was declared deceased by the Chinese Authorities on Monday afternoon, according to her sister’s Facebook post. Her family in Auburn was notified about the avalanche early Saturday morning and for two days they were holding out hope Rzucidlo would be found alive.

“We’re all devastated. We fluctuate between feeling numb and just crying,” Rzucidlo’s sister, Christy Lavallee told Boston 25.

The 45-year-old was climbing Shishapangma Mountain in Tibet to become the first American woman to climb the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters when a tragedy struck, according to a GoFundMe set up by Gina’s friend.

“This is something she had been working on for a few years now. It’s heartbreaking because she was so, so close,” said Lavallee.

Lavallee said her sister started climbing mountains several years ago, conquering Mount Everest in 2018. She says setting goals and achieving them made Gina happy.

“[She was] always smiling, always happy, a jokester. Definitely a jokester. She was a light. I’m sure if you’ve seen the comments on social media, it’s just how wonderful she was and an inspiration to everybody. I’m sorry, I’m going to get choked up. She was a special human being,” said Lavallee.

The Associated Press reports “avalanches struck Tibet’s Mount Shishapangma on Saturday afternoon at 7,600 (about 25,000 ft) and 8,000 meters (about 26,000 ft) in altitude, according to state-owned Xinhua News Agency.”

American mountaineer Anna Gutu and a Nepalese guide Mingmar Sherpa were confirmed dead on Sunday.

A total of 52 climbers from various countries including the U.S., Britain, Japan, and Italy were attempting to summit the mountain when the avalanches hit, the AP reported.

Activities on Shishapangma have since been suspended due to snow conditions.

Shishapangma is the 14th-highest mountain in the world, at over 26,335 feet above sea level.

Rzucidlo graduated from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester in 1999, with an Associate in Science in Criminal Justice.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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