Mountain guide

Passing Date: 
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bela Vadasz, who taught hundreds to climb and ski in the Sierras above Lake Tahoe, died September 15 after an apparent heart attack. He was 62 years old.

At age 3, during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Vadasz was brought to the United States by his refugee parents. The family settled in San Francisco, and spent holidays hiking in the Sierra. Vadasz attended San Francisco State University, and then, with his wife and climbing partner Mimi, he founded Alpine Skills International in 1979, operating from their hostel on Donner Pass.

Vadasz, who guided clients on five continents, helped to found the American Mountain Guides Association as a way to help Americans qualify for licensing by the International Federation of Mountain Guides. He taught mountaineering skills at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center near Sonora Pass, California, and to special forces at Camp Pendleton.  In 1990 he skied from 23,000 feet on Makalu in the Himalya.

He is survived by his wife Mimi, who will continue to run the guide service, and sons Tobin and Logan.

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