Sequoia 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.
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.
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.