Bill Serniuk, aka 'Blitzo,' Dies from Cancer Battle


Blitzo in his natural habitat. Photo courtesy Locker Smith

8/22/13 - Bill Serniuk, a climbing photographer who went by the nickname of “Blitzo,” passed away early on August 17 after battling cancer.

Blitzo began climbing around age 21 and experimented with forms of photography in his teens. From the 1970s to early this year, he traveled around the U.S., visiting almost 40 states, photographing countless climbers and climbing spots. It wasn't long before he earned a reputation as a great climbing shooter.

Throughout his career, he was friends with and photographed some of climbing's most prominent figures, including Warren Harding, Dean Potter, Dan Osman, and John Bachar. He aimed for the most cutting-edge ascents, capturing many first ascents on film.

Fond of all historical climbing areas, Blitzo was a particularly significant presence in Yosemite. He loved the geology and landscapes of Joshua Tree, Tahoe, Colorado, and Wyoming. He also was one of the top three contributors on Mountain Project.


A shot by Blitzo of Cave Rock, Nevada.

Blitzo’s photos won dozens of awards, and his images can be found in many publications, including Climbing, Rock & Ice, REI, Mountain Tools, and Black Diamond. He photographed for and contributed to an array of guidebooks—mostly in California.

In addition to his passion for photography, friends remember Blitzo for his unique humor, encyclopedic intelligence, and vast knowledge and enjoyment of beer. He had an appreciation for music and terrible horror films. He ran the photography lab at Tahoe’s Caesar’s Palace, was buddies with Liberace and George Burns, once witnessed Dionne Warwirck pass out, and drank champagne with the famed Engelbert Humperdick.

One of Blitzo’s best friends, Locker Smith, recalls “Blitzo’s love for life (beer!), climbing, and photography was as huge as his personality was!”