This touches a nerve with me because just as I was getting to bed last night, my Facebook notifications lit up with lots of links to a friend, Marty Schmidt, who grew up across the street (our parents still live there) in Castro Valley, CA and was in my Boy Scout troop. I found my challenges and peace of mind on the trail, but he found his in more technical and harshly beautiful places. He went into the USAF with the intention of going into SAR. By finishing first in his class, he got to pick his assignment, went to Alaska, climbing Denali while on leave and upon discharge, guided Denali in the winter while commuting to New Zealand where he raised his family.
Then he went on to guiding Everest, doing alpine style, self-supported trips for more capable clients while doing his own more cutting edge climbs. He was last on Everest with clients last month. His 25-year-old son met up afterwards and they were on K2 hoping to be the first father-son team to summit. They remained in Camp 3 after a storm and, all signs indicate, were swept away in an avalanche yesterday (or maybe the word got out yesterday?).
There are consolations - the things you tell yourself which are perfectly true like, "They were doing what they loved.", "Marty was so active, alive and enthusiastic about everything he did, he fit many lifetimes into his 53 years." and "We've each lost a son, but his pain and awareness of that was for seconds or less." Still, I didn't sleep very well last night.
Is "trying to the first xxxxx" akin to "hey, guys, watch this?" as potentially one's last words? The other person I knew who died in the Himalayas, Marty Hoey, was trying to be the first US woman to summit Everest.
Not my cup of tea, precisely because of the danger and that there are such significant risks you can minimize only so much. But I'll queue up for the cables on Half Dome or walk past hundreds of people on the Bright Angel in GCNP, so I'm not going to fault someone for doing that at 25,000 feet.