Editorial: Recalling climber's passion

By Mark Story

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It's dubbed the "Savage Mountain" for good reason.

  • Pakistan's K2 claims one life for every four successful ascents.

  • It stands at 8611 metres.

  • It boasts just a third the oxygen of sea-level.

  • It's claimed more than 80 climbers.

These risks weren't unknown to former Hastings mountaineer Marty Schmidt. One of the globe's acclaimed "peak freaks" is now presumed dead alongside his 25-year-old son and climbing protege, Denali, following an avalanche on K2 sometime over the weekend.

I was lucky enough to interview Marty, then aged 45, in September 2005.

Looking back at the clipping and photo of our interview, he was wearing a T-shirt with the words: "Geared for the vertical world".

His handshake won't be forgotten. For someone whose life and livelihood depended on fastening to rock, his grip crushed my fingers.

Over coffee in a Hastings cafe, his fidgety energy had to be seen to be believed. Looking back, I'm guessing it's because he was never quite content at sea-level.

Here was someone lucky enough to be in awe of his vocation.

"Climbing can be safer than walking down Queen St," he told me. "One person's risk is their passion - and another's poison.

"When I climb, or guide, or ski off an 8000-metre summit, the calling is the strongest. It's like ascending to the Moon without Nasa backing you up."

My favourite quote from the interview was: "There's no bullsh*t in mountaineering because there's no bulls living above 8000 metres."

Life gets simpler the higher you climb. Maybe that was the draw.

That said, I struggle to subscribe to the call to step into the void. What I find easier to appreciate is this father and son's unbridled lust for life. Such passion is universal.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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