On May 15 Marty Hoey died in a fall at 26,200 feet on the north face of Mount Everest. A day or two later, she would have stood a very good chance of becoming the first woman from this country to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
For over ten years, Marty actively climbed, principally as a professional guide on Mount Rainier and Mount McKinley, but also to further ranges. She climbed Pik Lenin during the 1974 International Climbers Exchange in the Pamirs and participated in the 1976 Nanda Devi expedition. On the latter, she was forced to withdraw before reaching the base of the mountain due to an intestinal disorder that nearly proved fatal. She was determined to perform well on Everest, spurred on, she freely admitted, by the acute disappointment that lingered from the Nanda Devi episode. The fact that she was selected to be in the first summit team on Everest confirms her exceptional performance prior to the accident.
Marty was a remarkably fast and strong climber, one who quickly dispelled any macho notions that women cannot meet the standards of their male counterparts. On a training climb to Aconcagua before we left for China, it was Marty’s tremendous drive that mainly accounted for an ascent by a new route on the mountain’s east side.
But for more than her sheer ability as a climber will Marty be remembered. She touched all those who knew her with a rare warmth and grace. As Lou Whittaker eloquently expressed at a memorial service we held for Marty at Base Camp:
Marty will always be remembered as a beautiful young person. She left us that way and as long as we live, all of us will age and sicken, but she will remain healthy in our minds as she was on this climb. We’ll always think of Everest and Marty.