An Interview With Mountaineer Sequoia Di Angelo

Sequoia Di AngeloSequoia Di Ange­lo did­n’t real­ly dis­cov­er her love for moun­tains until after los­ing her father and broth­er (Mar­ty and Denali Schmidt) in a trag­ic K2 acci­dent. Since then, she has tak­en on the moun­tain her­self to search for their remains, which even­tu­al­ly devel­oped into a pas­sion for every­thing outdoors.

THE CLYMB: How big was climb­ing in your life as you were grow­ing up?

SEQUOIA DI ANGELO: Climb­ing was very promi­nent in my life grow­ing up. My father was a moun­tain guide so was con­stant­ly on expe­di­tions or plan­ning them. When dad was home he would teach rock climb­ing to the local schools, so my broth­er and I were always exposed to climb­ing in some way. I moved away from home very young and rebelled against it. I nev­er saw myself as a climber. It was­n’t until the loss of my father and broth­er that I even began to explore the out­doors and even­tu­al­ly fell in love with climb­ing myself.

THE CLYMB: Were you always active as a kid? What kind of sports/outdoor activ­i­ties did you enjoy

DI ANGELO: Yes. I just love being out in nature, whether it’s ski­ing or run­ning. As long as I’m play­ing in the moun­tains, I am happy.

THE CLYMB: What was your first “big” climb as an adult?

DI ANGELO: Good ques­tion. My next climb always seems to be the one that is big­ger than the last.

Sequoia Di Angelo

THE CLYMB: You lost both your broth­er and father on K2 in 2013. Did the tragedy change the way you feel about climbing?

DI ANGELO: Yes. Pri­or to their deaths I had no inter­est in climb­ing, it was my father’s pas­sion, which he shared with my broth­er. They would con­stant­ly encour­age me to come climb with them, but there was no intrigue for me. After their deaths, my life changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Ven­tur­ing into the out­doors start­ed as a way for me to con­nect with my father and broth­er, but since then my pas­sion has grown a life of its own. Most who explore the pow­er­ful moun­tains of this world will tell you that it is hard to step away once you have expe­ri­enced what they have to offer.

THE CLYMB: Can you tell our read­ers about the trip to K2 to search for your fam­i­ly’s remains?

DI ANGELO: My trek into K2 was a phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al chal­lenge that evolved past my own fam­i­ly, as the remains I buried did not belong to my fam­i­ly members.

The trek was 18 days and it was intense. There was no actu­al “climb” involved; how­ev­er we did go past Base Camp of K2 to Advanced Base Camp in order to retrieve remains that were washed down in an avalanche.

At that stage in my life, I was not in the phys­i­cal con­di­tion to com­plete a trek of that inten­si­ty. I had also nev­er been to that alti­tude before (around 18,500ft). My book “Jour­ney of Heart; A Sojourn to K2” dis­cuss­es my body’s chal­lenges, the process of grief on that adven­ture, as well as what it’s like to be a young west­ern woman alone in a coun­try like Pakistan.

THE CLYMB: What makes K2 so dif­fer­ent to oth­er mountains?

DI ANGELO: K2 is con­sid­ered the “Holy Grail” of moun­taineer­ing. There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons for this: weath­er, avalanche risk, and tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty of the climb.

My father was always drawn to K2, not for the rea­sons list­ed above but because of the spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of the moun­tain. It is a very pow­er­ful mountain.

Sequoia Di Angelo3

THE CLYMB: You recent­ly went back to NZ after many years. What moti­vat­ed the trip back?

DI ANGELO: After climb­ing in Nepal last year, I felt like I was emo­tion­al­ly ready to face going back to New Zealand. The rea­son I say “emo­tion­al­ly ready” is because New Zealand is where I have all the mem­o­ries with my father and broth­er grow­ing up and it was hard for me to think about fac­ing those.

THE CLYMB: While in NZ, you’re tak­ing on an adven­ture tour that involves climb­ing, bik­ing and more. What’s real­ly in store dur­ing the trip?

DI ANGELO: The tour began with a climb of Mt. Aspir­ing via the North West Ridge. My climb­ing part­ner, Ian Bur­gon, and I began with an ear­ly Alpine start to make a suc­cess­ful sum­mit by 10am. It was a beau­ti­ful climb and a great first sum­mit in the New Zealand moun­tains. Sum­mit­ing my first NZ peak was mon­u­men­tal for me, because this is the coun­try where I was born.

My adven­ture tour con­sists of bik­ing from Christchurch to Auck­land and stop­ping for some activ­i­ties along with way: kayak­ing in Taupo, a bungy jump and a few oth­ers. The cycle part of the tour will be approx­i­mate­ly 1,200 miles. This will be my first solo adven­ture, ful­ly alone on my bike as I cross the coun­try. Just my tent, stove, and some yum­my snacks. Adven­tures like this, is what that I con­sid­er good soul food!

THE CLYMB: What’s next for you? Any par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges you’d like to take on?

DI ANGELO: In Octo­ber I will be attempt­ing an ascent of Ama Dablam in the Himalayas. Ama Dablam sits at 6,812m in the Himalayan range of Nepal. It’s known to be incred­i­bly tech­ni­cal with mixed rock and ice climbing.

I first saw Ama as I was trekking into the Khum­bu Val­ley last year before climb­ing Island Peak. As soon as I saw Ama, I knew I want­ed to climb it. This year’s expe­di­tion will be unguid­ed and a big tech­ni­cal chal­lenge for me. It will start with an accli­ma­tion trek into Ever­est Base Camp, fol­lowed by an ascent of Lhotse and then head for an attempt of Ama Dablam. The total expe­di­tion will be approx­i­mate­ly a month.