Mountaineering experts say it is highly likely that Marty Schmidt, 53, and his son Denali, 25, were killed when an avalanche crashed through their tent while they were sleeping on the South East Ridge of the mountain.
New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said today that the pair’s chance of survival was “tragically slim”.
“Even if they weren’t caught by that avalanche, they’ve been up at that height, 7400 metres, for almost four days, which is very difficult to survive,” he said.
The Schmidts were part of a group of 21 climbers who left base camp on July 24 with a Sherpa guide, making it as far as Camp 2.
But with bad weather closing in all of the climbers except for Marty and Denali abandoned the climb.
The two men pressed on up to Camp 3, radioing their position on the evening of July 26. However, they have not been heard from since.
Friend Daan Dijkstra said that a Sherpa has discovered some of the men’s equipment near Camp 3.
“One of them [a Sherpa] reached Camp 3 and he found the remains of a large avalanche. He found some hard wear, some crampons, an ice axe, which indicates that they were probably not physically climbing at the time – they must have been asleep in their tent when the avalanche hit,” he said.
Mr Dijkstra said that Marty would have been aware that the conditions were not ideal for climbing.
“He was a very sound mountaineer, well respected. He was aware that when you go into the mountains, especially at that altitude, that you run a certain risk but God he loved them and that kept drawing him in,” he said.
The search for the men’s bodies has been called off.
Mr Dijkstra also told ONE News about the close relationship between the father and son.
“He was so proud of climbing with Denali. Every time when I talked about this expedition he raved about Denali and his abilities and how special it was to share his passion with his son,” he added.
Marty’s daughter Sequoia Di Angelo has also described her sadness over the deaths of her father and brother.
“It is with great sorrow that I confirm the tragic deaths of my beloved brother and father, Denali and Marty Schmidt. May their spirits rest in peace and their smiles never be forgotten.
“Mother nature I guess has a mind of her own. My father and brother were two of the bravest souls, they were so proud of New Zealand,” she said.
Similarly, Adrian Hayes, a British climber at K2 Base Camp, said that the deaths were a tragedy.
“Marty and Denali – who were great people that we all got to know very well in the close knit community of K2 Base Camp – were very well known, highly experienced and extremely strong mountaineers, the last people many would expect to be killed on a mountain,” he said.
Marty Schmidt was born in the United States but moved with his wife and two children to New Zealand in 1988.
He worked as an experienced freelance guide and had scaled Mt Cook at least 25 times.
His son Denali joined him on their last expedition shortly after graduating from San Francisco Arts college.
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