First-Person Report on K2 Deaths

Marty and Denali Schmidt.

Marty and Denali Schmidt. Photo courtesy of Chris Warner /

8/9/13 - Australian Chris Warner, the climbing partner of Marty and Denali Schmidt, who were killed by an avalanche on K2 on July 26, has written a first-person account of the events leading up the deaths of the well-known New Zealand–American guide and his 25-year-old son. Warner had climbed nearby Broad Peak with the two Schmidts as a warm-up for an alpine-style attempt on K2. All three had climbed to Camp 2 on K2 in late July, but deep snow on the mountain convinced most climbers to descend, and on the morning of July 26, Warner decided to go down as well, while Marty and Denali Schmidt continued alone to Camp 3.

"Both Marty and Denali were in the same frame of mind," Warner wrote in his report. "One did not convince the other to go up; they were both motivated and prepared to assess the conditions and turn around if need be."

That night, Marty Schmidt radioed to base camp to say he and Denali had climbed through waist-deep snow to reach Camp 3 at 7,200 meters (23,622'). They were tired from the effort and uncertain whether they would continue upward or descend the next day. On July 27, Schmidt did not make his scheduled morning radio call, nor did he call that night. The next day, July 28, Warner asked two Sherpas who were already at Camp 2 if they would continue to the higher camp to check on the Schmidts. That evening, the Sherpas reached the camp and discovered that a huge avalanche had swept the area clean, likely killing the Schmidts as they slept on the night of July 26-27.

"[Mingma] radioed into his leader, Lakpa, and said that there had been a very large avalanche with a scar about 400m wide," Warner wrote. "He found a BD [Black Diamond] axe and BD crampons that matched the type both Marty and Denali had been using. There was no sign of them or their tent."

Warner's full report has been posted at the website of Peak Freaks, a U.S.-based guide service for which Marty Schmidt frequently worked. (He was not guiding on this trip.) Daan Dijkstra with the New Zealand gear company Macpac, one of Schmidt's sponsors, introduced Warner's report by writing, "I know many of you have wondered how this could happen, especially to such an experienced and strong team as Marty and Denali. Chris' words provides first-hand information, and I hope you'll find them as valuable as I did."

A memorial for the Schmidts will be held this Sunday, August 11, at Bear Valley Lodge in California. Information can be found here.

Source: Peak Freaks