Tragedy struck last weekend with the news that world-class climber and guide, Marty Schmidt, along with son Denali Schmidt, were killed when an avalanche struck their camp on the Pakistani mountain K2.

Tributes to the father and son have been coming in from all corners of the globe. The Sydney Morning-Herald, Climbing Magazine, and Rock and Ice magazine all are remembering Marty and Denali. 3 News out of New Zealand, Marty’s adopted home, has been collecting memories from the many professional guides world-wide who knew the Schmidts well.

Marty Schmidt was born and raised in California, and grew up climbing the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. He enlisted in the Air Force in the early 1980s, already an accomplished climber, and earned the maroon beret of an USAF Pararescueman. He was stationed with the Alaskan PJ team, then known as the 71st ARS.

Marty’s sister, Barbara, found an old interview with Marty where he spoke of his military service, and passed it along:

At age 21, I packed up all my stuff and went to see a recruiter. In threedays, I was in the Lackland Air Force base. I went into the service for pararescue, which is land, sea, and air rescue. It is a hugely elite program. Thousands of Airmen start in basic training, and 1500 got to take the pararescue test. And basically only 200 passed it.

And then they work you. It’s an eight-week program. They work you beyond your blood and bones. The first week is called hell week. Those 200 people, in the first week, dropped down to 20. In the second week, the 250 went down to ten. We lost two more along the other six weeks. We graduated eight pararescuemen.

I heard in the very beginning that the honor graduate got the choice of where he wanted to be stationed. I graduated, and I chose Alaska. Whenever they needed us, we went. And this was a calling for me, even though it was service. In this time, I rescued 18 lives and had 25 assists.

Marty and Denali Schmidt

Alaska was to be Marty’s sole duty station, as he left the Air Force after 4 years to continue his guiding career, taking his son, Denali, along with him. Together, this father and son team became world-renowned as climbers and guides, tackling the world’s biggest mountaineering challenges.