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Bold Beyond Belief: Bill Denz – New Zealand’s Mountain Warrior

Author(s): Maxim, Paul

Copyright: 2011, NZ
Specifications: 1st, 8vo, pp.303, 26 color & 84 bw photos, wraps
Condition: signed, new

Bill Denz (1951-1983) was a New Zealand mountaineer who enjoyed a short but stellar climbing career which ended in an avalanche on Makalu in October 1983. Never a top free climber, Denz’s forte was climbing bold ice routes (often solo), difficult big walls and severe mixed alpine climbs. Denz began rock climbing as a teenager and started climbing big peaks in the Aoraki/Mt Cook area in 1970. During the next five years he completed many new routes, winter firsts and solo ascents in the region, including the first ascent of Mt. Tasman’s Balfour Face and soloing two extraordinarily bold lines on the South Face and Caroline Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook. Winter first ascents include the South Face of Douglas, the Sheila Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the North and South Faces of Hicks (all via new routes). In 1973 Denz turned his attention to the Darran Mountains where he was involved in the first ascent of the formidable Adelaide Face of Marian, which was the first climb in New Zealand to involve ‘big wall’ climbing techniques. During the next five years he put up over 20 new routes in the Darrans. In July 1983 Denz returned to the area to complete the first winter ascent of the severe South Face of Sabre.
Much of Denz’s final years of climbing were spent abroad. From bases in North America he completed ascents of 15 big walls in Yosemite and Alaska, including early repeats of Tis-sa-ack, Excalibur and Pacific Ocean Wall and the first ascent of Kichatna Spire’s East Face. He also made several first ascents of peaks in the Chugach Range. As a soloist he completed two expeditions to Patagonia (where he came within a whisker of claiming the first solo ascent of Cerro Torre) and in Nepal completed a four-day traverse over Kusum Kanguru (6369m), making the first ascent of the high peak along the way. Denz also ventured into Tibet (illegally) to attempt Menlungtse (7181m), in 1983. His inclusion on Peter Hillary’s four-person Makalu expedition was the first of a series of planned expeditions to attempt 8,000 metre peaks. His death at the age of 32 robbed New Zealand mountaineering of one of its greatest ever climbers

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