Kyle, along with his climbing partner Scott Adamson, disappeared in late August while attempting Ogre II in northern Pakistan. After an exhaustive, close-proximity helicopter search of the mountain yielded no signs of Kyle or Scott, the extremely difficult decision was made to call off the search. Kyle and Scott are not coming home, but their spirit, stoke and smiles will live on in the hearts of many. We, the employees of Black Diamond Equipment, send our deepest condolences to the friends and families of Kyle and Scott—we grieve with you. We asked one of Kyle’s close friends and former BD employee, Andy Anderson, to write the following tribute in celebration of Kyle’s vibrant and passionate life.
On August 21, Black Diamond Ambassador Kyle Dempster and his climbing partner Scott Adamson headed out of their basecamp on Pakistan’s Choktoi Glacier. Their objective: the steep and imposing north face of Baintha Brakk II (6980m), also known at the Ogre II. Kyle and Scott knew the mountain well—a little more than a year before, they had been within spitting distance of the summit ridge when Scott took a massive fall that resulted in a broken leg and an epic descent that almost resulted in tragedy when an anchor failed just 90 meters from the glacier. Now they had returned to finish what they started.
Two days after leaving basecamp, on August 23, a major storm moved in. Kyle and Scott were not heard from or seen again. As the days went by, the hope of possibility slowly degraded into the despair of certainty. When the weather cleared ten days later, helicopter searches failed to find any trace of two of alpinism’s brightest stars, leaving an immense hole in both the local and global climbing communities.
At only 33 years old, Kyle was already a highly accomplished alpinist and had established stacks of difficult new rock, ice and alpine routes both at home here in Utah, and abroad. Kyle traveled the world in search of big new challenges, and his love for Pakistan, its people and its mountains ran the deepest—this expedition marked his seventh trip to the Pakistani Karakoram.
His profile as a climber continued to rise with each major new climb, but his humility and sense of humor remained steadfast. He was known for new routes on big imposing peaks, but Kyle loved everything about climbing. He was often just as psyched to go bouldering in Joe’s Valley or quest off on some wacky local adventure as he was about his next major expedition. Twice he was awarded the Piolet D’ Or, alpinism’s most prestigious award, but he never bragged or boasted—instead he used the golden ice axe to flip sausages at the Great White Icicle barbecue, an infamous annual tradition he co-founded that takes place two pitches up a local ice climb.
Kyle was not just a passionate climber, he was also a talented writer, and we talked often about different projects we were working on. Though he regularly asked for my advice or edits, Kyle’s writing was filled with a raw honesty and power of description that I admired immensely. Both on and off the mountain, Kyle lived life in a bold and energetic manner, and I looked up to him in a way I was never able to fully express.
It’s easy to think that some of the magic will be gone after climbing takes your friends away. Maybe we can’t bear the thought of tying back in for fear of being reminded of Kyle. But that’s precisely why we should continue climbing, continue pushing our limits and exploring that thing we know gives us immeasurable joy, even in the wake of it taking those we love.
We need to keep climbing because it reminds us of Kyle—it reminds us of his love for his friends and climbing partners, his passion for trying hard and exploring without any spray or fanfare, and his focused devotion to the mountains he loved so much. We’ll all take that love and energy with us wherever we go.
Rather than lament what could have been or what he leaves behind, we celebrate all that Kyle was and will always be—one of the most talented alpinists of his generation, a lover of adventure, a passionate follower of his dreams, and a true friend. Kyle, we’ll miss you more than words can do justice.
— Andy Anderson