Kim was with me in thought the day before his tragic avalanche accident. The air temperature and continuous drizzle was such that it made me think of avalanche. I dismissed the thought easily knowing that the man I had climbed with so often these past nine years was perhaps the most cautious and safe individual I had ever been with. In fact, it was his maturity which led to our eventual partnership. Despite his youth, Kim’s incredible athletic ability and boldness was tempered with intelligence. He knew that to survive in the sports he had chosen to release his energy, he had to use his head and inner feelings to escape death, all the while flirting with it.
Kim’s herculean physique was his most obvious physical characteristic, but the essence of the man was not his build, but his energy. In every activity he chose to do, he strived for excellence in technique and performance, then competed. Win or lose, Kim was comfortable with himself because trying was the real competition, not the results. He consistently gave what he learned back to others, teaching his skills patiently, adding that easy smile and laughter that made all the pain and fear worthwhile.
We were lucky for Kim to invade the sport of mountaineering because he could have been a champion in any one of a dozen sports he excelled in. Kim learned to ski at an early age, which led him to a brief career later competing on the National Freestyle circuit. But his real love was motorcross. He grew up with bikes and motorcycles and eventually raced for Team Yamaha on the National Motorcross circuit while still in his teens. Kim was also a regular competitor throughout the Northwest in cross-country skiing, sailboarding and bicycling.
Kim will be remembered by the mountaineering community for his ascent of Mount Everest via the East Face. I will remember him from our trips together to Makalu, Kangchenjunga and other Everest expeditions. Kim gave 110% of himself in every activity and to everybody. He touched many of our hearts as seen by the 800 or so friends who attended his funeral in Spokane.
I like to think Kim and I had a special relationship. It has been said that I was his mentor, but I have to disagree. If I had the pleasure of teaching him a little mountaineering, I benefited by learning how to touch and cry and express my emotions by living so closely with him. That was Kim—expressive, emotional, caring.
Perhaps those qualities were enough to endear him to us, but I think there was even more. It hurts so much to lose Kim because there was a little bit of each of us in him. He lived our dreams. Through him we could live on the edge and risk it all—without risking anything. Kim was a real American hero who shared that honor with everyone whose life he touched. Thanks Kim, for giving us a few precious memories to keep forever.