Castro Valley Climber and Son Die on K2 Ascent PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 01 August 2013 15:15


The peak of K2, on the Pakistan-Chinese border, is the second highest mountain in the world at 28,251 feet and considered to be the most difficult and dangerous to climb.

By Terry Liebowitz

Castro Valley Forum

World renowned mountain climber and Castro Valley native Marty Schmidt and his son Denali were killed in an avalanche on Friday in an attempt to scale the summit of K2 on the Pakistan-China border.

Marty Schmidt was 53, and a 1978 graduate of Castro Valley High School. He made his home in New Zealand. Denali, 25, had recently graduated from art school in the Bay Area and had a promising career as an artist.

The pair had successfully made it to Camp 3 on the mountain in spite of the bad weather and heavy snowfall, planning to assess their chances for a final push to the top on July 28 or 29. They were alone on the mountain as other groups of climbers had already turned back.

“I think that they took the view that the retreat from Camp 2 was a little bit premature,” British climber Adrian Hayes told the BBC. “The conditions were bad and I think they acknowledged that but they wanted to go up to Camp 3 to check it out themselves.”

Hayes was one of those who abandoned the attempt on K2 over the weekend.

“Marty was extremely proud of Denali, and Denali looked up to his father greatly. They climbed together... and they died sleeping together, which is such a tragedy,” Hayes said.

Marty and Denali had planned to be the first father-son team to make it to the top of the treacherous K2, known as the “Killer Mountain,” the most dangerous of the world’s mountains. They were last heard from on Friday, climbers at base camp said.

At an elevation of 28,251 feet, K2 is second-highest point on earth after Mount Everest and is considered by most experts to be a tougher climb than Everest.

Together since early June, Marty and Denali climbed Broad Peak, the world’s 12th highest peak. This warm-up climb was to get them acclimatized and ready for K2.

Marty started climbing as an 8 year old in the Bay Area and by 15 was guiding clients on rock climbs and cross-country skiing. He  guided and climbed the Seven Summits (the seven tallest mountains on each continent) including 34 summits on Mt. Aconcagua in the Andes, 29 to Mt. Denali in Alaska and two to Mt. Everest. Marty regularly climbed without the aid of bottled oxygen.

During his last visit home in March, Marty gave a standing-room-only talk at the Castro Valley Center for the Arts. He told the audience, “I’ve climbed a lot of the world’s biggest mountains, but K2 is the one I respect the most.”

080113n3Marty had attempted two other summits, having to turn back each time due to severe weather conditions. Next year, Marty had planned on making the more difficult Chinese-side K2 ascent and filming the expedition.

“I want to show the world what it’s like – like going to the moon without a NASA rocket,” he explained.

Marty leaves behind his wife Giovannina Cantale of New Zealand, his daughter Sequoia, parents Mathilde and Leo of Castro Valley, and siblings Leo, Doris and Barbara.

Marty’s mother, Mathilde, said that she could take some solace knowing that Marty died doing what he loved to do, elated to be with his son.

In an earlier interview this summer, Marty commented, “I love to climb with Denali. It’s so much fun. We have a great time for three months. Not many fathers get that kind of time with their grown-up sons.”

Marty and Denali’s bodies will remain as part of the lore and landscape of the mountain. The family has not decided upon memorial plans at this time.

CAPTION: Marty Schmidt (right) and his son Denali died while attempting to be the first father-son team to scale the K2 summit.



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