Alpinist 42

74 Boldness, Genius, Magic: The Life of Bill Denz

Posted on: April 28, 2013


New Zealand alpinist Bill Denz follows David Austin along a rivet ladder during their link-up of Mescalito and the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in 1978. Five years later, Denz would die in an avalanche on the West Pillar of Makalu. [Photo] David Austin

Possessing an unusually high level of determination and risk tolerance, Bill Denz accelerated the course of New Zealand alpinism during the 1970s and early 1980s, climbing huge alpine routes in minimalist style, continuing through bad conditions and storms, often in winter and alone. Some climbers thought he was reckless. Others believed he was mysteriously invincible—until his abrupt death on the West Pillar of Makalu in 1983. Peter Haan, Paul Maxim and Dave "Zappa" Austin reflect on a great (and strangely lesser-known) alpinist who remained enigmatic to everyone, perhaps even to himself.

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