Marcus Schmuck, who died on August 21 aged 80, led the 1957 expedition to Broad Peak in the Karakoram; at 8,047 metres, the world's twelfth highest mountain; the expedition was revolutionary at the time and set the standard for future advances in mountaineering on the highest peaks.
Born on April 18 1925 at Maria Alm, near Salzburg, Marcus Schmuck was educated locally. He became an electrician by profession, but a climber by hobby, and his exploits on the vertical rock faces around his home rapidly earned him a reputation as one of Austria's leading rock climbers.
In the early 1950s the world's most famous climber was another Austrian, Hermann Buhl, who had become celebrated for his solo climb to the summit of Nanga Parbat, the world's tenth highest mountain. Buhl had attempted a blank chimney on the east face of Fleischbank, in the Wilder Kaiser, but had fallen; Schmuck climbed it - and it is still known as the Schmuckkamin. That climb meant that Buhl and Schmuck met; they became friends, and were soon arguably the most formidable team operating on Alpine rock. In 1956 they completed an ascent of the West Face of the Dru in the French Alps in one and a half days (the first ascent had taken many days spread over several weeks).
But Schmuck was looking for bigger challenges. He had already been to the Atlas Mountains and to Spitsbergen, and now wanted to test himself against the world's highest mountains. At that time only four of the 14 8,000-metre peaks were unclimbed. Shisha Pangma was in off-limits Chinese Tibet; Dhaulagiri, in Nepal, was difficult to reach and claimed to be unclimbable. That left two peaks in the Karakoram: Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak) was slightly higher, but Schmuck wanted to climb without local porters, and so chose Broad Peak, which was nearer to civilisation.
He asked Buhl if he would like to join him, and the two decided on a revolutionary approach. Not only would they do without porters on the mountain, carrying all the equipment they needed themselves, but they would climb without bottled oxygen. The two men set about organising their trip, Schmuck finding money, Buhl equipment.
So successful were Schmuck's efforts that they could soon afford to take a third person to help carry the loads. They chose Fritz Wintersteller, who had been with Schmuck on Spitsbergen. Then the Austrian Alpine Association agreed to sponsor the trip. The Association's money was invaluable, but it came with strings attached. They wanted one of their own men, Kurt Diemberger, to join the expedition and, most emphatically, they wanted Schmuck as leader, because Buhl had made himself unpopular after the Nanga Parbat expedition, breaking a contract he had signed. The ensuing row ended in the courts, and led to friction between the two men, though they still carried on with their preparations.
The expedition reached the mountain base in May 1957. The four men then carried equipment on to the mountain, establishing three camps. Today's climbers can carry everything they need for an expedition in one large rucksack, but in 1957 1,800 kg needed to be moved. Finally, the quartet set out for an attempt on the summit. Schmuck and Wintersteller, who were the stronger, reached a col below what was believed to be the summit first; but Schmuck, in an incident which typified the man, waited for Buhl, who was having an off-day, so that they could climb the last metres together. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented them from reaching what was believed to be the top, though Wintersteller and Diemberger did succeed.
Subsequently, when it became apparent that Buhl and Diemberger had made a secret pact to reach the top together, there was friction. As a result, when the Austrians climbed back some days later to see if the top they had reached was indeed the real summit, Schmuck and Wintersteller pressed on ahead, reaching the actual summit at 5.05 pm on June 9 1957. Diemberger and Buhl arrived later.
It was the most important climb of its sort on the world's highest peaks to that time, and it would be 20 years before anyone else attempted what they had achieved. By then, equipment had changed so radically that comparisons were almost meaningless. Yet despite this, the expedition was overshadowed by the death of Hermann Buhl a few days later on nearby Chogolisa. The climbing world paid homage to a fallen hero, rather than fully recognising a major achievement.
After Broad Peak, Schmuck went back to his job as an electrician. He applied for permission to attempt Hidden Peak, but the Americans beat him to it. He continued to climb as an amateur with friends, a style which suited his kind and gentle spirit. Later he organised and led commercial expeditions.
It is typical of the man that his efforts went into helping others to achieve their ambition of climbing an 8,000-metre peak - he never climbed another himself. He climbed at a high level until his sixties, and was going to the Karakoram and Himalayas until he was 75, when his doctor ordered him to stop, since the altitude was affecting his health. But he never lost his love of the mountains, continuing to walk and ski until a few days before his death.
Marcus Schmuck married his wife Heidi in 1945. She, their daughter and two sons survive him.
Further information at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk