Ray Genet: Tales from the High Peaks

Ray Genet was an American mountaineer. He is widely recognized as “Pirate” in the mountaineering world, with 25 successful climbs to the summit of North America’s highest peak, Alaska’s Denali (6,190m). Unfortunately, he died at 8400m S.E. Ridge of Mount Everest while descending.

Ray Genet: An Icon of Alaskan Mountaineering

Ray genet

Ray Genet was born on 27th July 1931 in Switzerland and raised in the United States. He is one of four children ( Herman Genet, Irene Buttram, and Russel Genet) born to William Francis Genet and Emma B. Genet.

It was in his mid-30s Genet began his climbing career. Though he had less to no climbing experience, he dared to participate in the first successful winter expedition to Denali’s summit in 1967. Denali lies so far north, at 6194 meters, making its condition harsh compared to higher Himalayan peaks.

The expedition included seven climbers, but Ray Genet and his climber partner Dave Johnston and Art Davidson became Alaska heroes as the first mountaineers to summit 20,320-foot Denali in winter. The success took time; it cost the expedition team over 42 days, battling winds, snowfall, and freezing temperatures.

On their way down, they were trapped by a week-long storm with a wind-chill temperature of minus 148 degrees. The expedition is described in “Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley,” a book by Art Davidson.

Since Genet has submitted Denali 24 more times, he made 3 to 4 trips a season and even brought dog sleds to a 14k ft camp.

Ray Genet’s Everest Tale

Ray Genet’s Everest Tale

On 2nd October 1979, Ray Genet was at the top of the world, Everest Summit, above 8848m from sea level. Soon, the victory turned out to be dread. While descending from the summit, Ray Genet and his fellow team member and wife of an expedition leader, Hannelore Schmatz, were forced to bivouac at 28,000 feet (8,500 m) as the night approached.

Staying long in the danger zone is a slow death. The Zone eventually clenched the two climbers. It’s not that their Sherpa guide: Sungdare Sherpa and Ang Jangbu, did not warn them. However, the two had already become exhausted and were barely walkable.

Additionally, Ray Genet was out of oxygen and failing fast, while fellow climber Schmatz was clinging to life using Sungdare’s oxygen bottle. As of being the first time on the top of Everest, both Sherpas realized that the descent was impossible in the dark, so they dug a shallow snow cave and spent the night in the cold.

But when the first warm rays of the sun hit the south summit of Everest the following day, Ray Genet was already dead due to hypothermia. Sungdare was severely frostbite, and Hannelore was almost out of oxygen again.

With the help of his Sherpa, Hannelore descended, leaving Genet’s body. Later, a few hours

below Camp V, Hannelore crumpled to the ground and slowly died.

The inscription on his cenotaph reads, “Let all who read this know that this man never said ‘I quit.'”

Genet’s Son Becomes Youngest Person to Summit McKinley’s Summit

taras genet ray genet

Taras Genet is the first son of legendary mountaineer Ray Genet and Kathy Sullivan. Reportedly, Taras was a two-years-toddler and the first blonde-haired blue-eyed baby carried by a Sherpa to Everest base camp. Taras and Kathy waited for Ray to come down from the summit, but he rested in peace up the mountain.

Following his father’s footsteps, Taras Genet submitted to Mt.Mckinley at 12 In June 1999, becoming the youngest person to climb Mt.Mckinley.

Genet’s son, Taras, runs Denali Earth eco-friendly vacations based at the family’s homestead cabins located in the wilderness on the south side of Denali.

Besides, Ray Genet’s grand-daughter, Q’orianka Kilcher, is a famous American actress, singer, as well as activist.

Mountaineers you might know:

Was Ray Genet’s Body Found?

Ray Genet’s Body disappeared bivouac at 28,000 feet (8,500 m). However, a note from him was discovered by Polish mountaineer Leszek Cichy, who made the first winter ascent of Mount Everest together with Krzysztof Wielicki in 1980.

Genet’s Note Read, “For a good time call Pat...’”


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