Legendary Yosemite climber remembered for lifetime contributions to climbing
On September 19, 2016 legendary Yosemite climber and mountaineer Kim Schmitz died in a single car accident while returning to his home in Jackson Hole from a river trip in Idaho. He was seventy years old and still guiding clients and sharing his love for the mountains on a regular basis.
Schmitz first came to Yosemite in 1965 and quickly became one of the leading climbers along with Valley legends like Royal Robbins and Yvon Chouinard. In 1967 he climbed El Capitan in the very fast time of two and a half days, a remarkable achievement for the late 1960s.
After perfecting his big wall techniques in the Valley, Schmitz brought his skills to the Himalaya. In 1977, he made the first ascent of Great Trango Tower in Pakistan’s Karakoram range, describing it as endless Yosemite-style climbing in an alpine environment. Its unmatched wall of 4,300 feet of pure alpine granite has earned it the title of “the biggest big wall.”
By the age of 54, Schmitz had had nearly 40 surgeries due to his accidents in the Himalaya and a serious fall while guiding clients. In 2015, he was awarded the Miriam Underhill Award from the American Alpine Club for his lifetime contributions to climbing. One of the most respected American climbers of his generation, Kim Schmitz is gone but not forgotten.