David Davies Passes On

Very sad news, I received a phone call from Dave’s brother Hilton.
Dave passed away at 10:30 on the 6th of  September 2010

There is a thread remembering Dave here where you are welcome to post your memories of Dave.

See also the comments below on this page.


There is a Wake for David at the Silvertree Restaurant, Kirstenbosch
Date & Time: The 14th of September at 6pm

Everyone welcome
Please Note: Entrance to the gardens is free from 6pm


David Davies

Dave (left) and brother John (right) in the Alps – 1982

21 Responses to David Davies Passes On

  1. Fran Sep 6, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Farewell David, we will always love you. You will be remembered for so much, least of all your brave fight. To Patricia, Luke and family, sincere condolences on your enormous loss.

  2. Andy de klerk Sep 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    Dave once told me a story about hang gliding in California. He found a thermal which started under a small cloud and he started climbing rapidly higher and higher. The cloud sucked him in but he kept circling and climbing up and up and up. Eventually, somewhere around 20,000 feet he reached the top of the thermal which was rapidly developing into a cumulonimbus thunderstorm and he flew out of the cloud which had a sheer vertical face that dropped down for at least 10,000 feet. He soared the edge of this cloud, staying aloft in the air with wild exposure looking down the face of the cloud.
    He said it was like climbing in the sky.
    Thanks for all the good times in the hills.

  3. Jeremy Samson Sep 7, 2010 at 10:01 am #

    Despite knowing this would come the news still left me winded. So sad. Your infectious laugh and complete belief in other people’s ability was like a breath of fresh air. You loved life and were loved by all. Feel so much for all those left behind. Love Jeremy, Stine and Sophie.

  4. Malcolm Gowans Sep 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Dave you always were an inspiration to me. I’ll remember you not only for your natural ability on the rock and the classic routes you opened but for the enthusiastic and energetic support you showed towards us younger climbers. You fed our dreams and helped us believe. I can still hear your laugh and will for a long time. Thank you!
    Love Malcolm

  5. Johnathan Gordon Sep 8, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    Bracing myself for the inevitable and always hoping for a miracle I find I’m still not prepared for the profound loss I’m feeling at Davey’s passing.

    He was, and will always be, my hero. Period.

    My sincere condolences to Hilton, John, Michael, Binky, Trish, Luke and Mr. & Mrs. Davies.

    Much love & so long Davey-boy,

  6. Keith James Sep 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Our meetings in the hills, across nearly 30 years, were sporadic, but always characterized by a rare and unexpected closeness, and always about much more than climbing, though in our passion for stone we were brothers. Though younger than me, Dave has always been for me one of the “lords of life” (D.H.Lawrence’s term), and a “mensch” , in the Yiddish tradition.

    We will carry your spirit with us, in the mountains, in our stories of you – brave and bold , gentle and beautiful.

    Hilton, John, always so special in Dave’s evocation of you, Patricia, gift of soulmate for Dave, Luke so intensely beloved to him – my love and condolences to you all.

    Keith James

  7. paddy Sep 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    Dave, Keith is right, you were a lord of life – with a smile. Many thanks for the excellent companionship – I wish there had been more of it.


  8. Ron Duff Sep 11, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Those members of The Ski Club of South Africa who knew Dave well will will sorely miss his cheerful face up Matroosberg. Whether messing around on rock or messing around in the snow, Dave was a true ‘man of the mountains’ and will always be remembered as such. We’ll miss him … but not as much as Trish & Luke … and Hilton (also a Ski Club member) … and the rest of the Davies family. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: “You did not go gentle into that good night, but neither did you burn and rage at close of day, no rage against the dying of the light. A man who caught and sang the sun in flight, and leaned too soon to grieve it on its way, you did not go gentle into that good night …”.

  9. Jacques Raubenheimer Sep 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    I was one of the guys starting out in climbing who was fortunate enough to make contact with Dave early in my climbing career. Although I never had the opportunity to share a rope with him, his influence on me and my climbing can still be felt–he set the example for us all. May every climber be inspired, not so much to climb as bold and hard as Dave did (although that in itself would be something to aspire to), but to love life and climb with as much fun as Dave did.
    We will miss you Dave, but your memory lives on.

  10. Theo Stock Sep 14, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    I remember David very fondly as the man with the perpetual smile, that could get the most amasing performance out of a Hang Glider. As a new Student Hang Glider Pilot right through to C- Grade I always admired the trmendous skill with which this man flew, and could relate the stories of numerous amasing cross-country flights.. In the flying community, the really hot pilots all had their sound-alike nick-names – Hilton (Hilltop Rabies), Chris Readman (Crisis Blueman), and not least David Davies (Raving Rabies)… Raving, we love you, and have many fond memories of flying with you and spending time round a camp fire at Dasklip, all those years ago – we will miss you.

  11. Christina du Toit Sep 14, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Dear David, thank you for still walking to my house for tea a few weeks ago. I will always remember your smiling face and optimistic conversations. We will miss you.
    Condolences to Trish and family.
    Love, Christina du Toit

  12. Shannon Law Sep 15, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Dave – a treasure of a human being.
    Some people just have a way of planting a big old smile on your dial and in your heart…… Dave, you were one of those people.

    Until we meet again… x

  13. Neels Sep 15, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    I didn’t know Dave that well yet some how I felt like we were friends… To me that speaks more of a man then anything he might have achieved in his life. Any person who met him surely felt the same way.
    I’m really sorry Patricia, Hilton and all his family I wish there was some way I could take on some of your pain and make it more bearable,

    Keep it strong Neels

  14. Matt Lloyd-Sim Sep 18, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    To Mr and Mrs Davies, Hilton, PG and families, our thoughts are with you all.
    There is little to say that has not been said by the many people whose lives David has touched – he certainly touched ours and will be sorely missed. Now I can remember his enthusiasm and encouragement and answer to any question re route finding – just climb up!!
    ours will always be a private universe – thank you

  15. Ian Ruinaard Nov 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    I met Dave hang gliding many years ago – bought a wonderful glider from him that he built whilst in the states …. I never managed to fly it to 1% of the envelope he could ….a real free spirt

    Rest In Peace


  16. Jasper Horrell Nov 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    A thought of David this evening, while walking on the mountain. We have not stayed in contact much in recent years and he readily talked about his condition earlier in the year when I bumped into him in his shop. So positive, friendly as ever, unphased by what life had thrown his way. A few months ago, saw a post by him on the sudden passing of a school friend, Bobby Woods, where he had expected to check-out first 🙂

    Time to google again. The expected news this time. Sadness.

    We flew hang gliders together, along with brother Hilton, now many years ago. Strength to you, Hilton, and to Dave’s family.

    One magical flight comes to mind in the Porterville area when we took off late and flew across the valley from Dasklip to Piketberg, so high that the sea could be seen. Then, back again, reveling in the unexpected valley release. The whole world was going up and smoothly too! Landing around 7pm. Just smiles all round.

    David used to act as a river guide on the Orange River. On one occasion, I joined as a helper. One evening we left the tour group below at the river and scrambled up out of the canyon, reaching the top just as the sun was setting. “Scrambled” is not the right word for David. Perhaps “eased” up would be better.

    Suddenly, the top, and it took our breath away. The world was still, the space vast and an indescribable joy permeated everything. A glimpse of the divine. Soaking it up for a few moments, then reluctantly descending in the fading light.

    Hang gliding, climbing, these glimpses. More to life than meets the eye.

    Stay so well, David.

  17. Roger Mitchell Dec 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I only ever did the easiest route on Lions head with David but he was a thoughtful leader and endlessly helpful.

  18. Mike Reid Jan 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    We shared the skies from 1985 until almost 2000 as Hang Glider Pilots throughout South Africa. His wry sense of humor & lightness of spirit were truly inspirational. Mike Reid aka “Ninja”

  19. Doug Pratt-Johnson Aug 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Hilton,

    Today is May 9, 2011 and I’ve finally gotten off my rear end to send this letter to you. I wrote it a day or two after David passed away. I have read this letter many times since I wrote and find it a bit unpolished and halting, but I wrote is with tears in my eyes thinking a lot about your brother. It came from the heart and I felt it was important to leave it in its original form. I had planned to send it to you asap so it could be read at his funeral/memorial, but I had the ‘africa 1’ email address and it kept bouncing back. I didn’t want to call John in Whiterock and bother him so I never got off my a$$ to get this to you in a timely manner. I managed to get together with John in March of this year when I was out in Vancouver visiting my dad and we had a really nice morning sharing coffee, stories and some tears. It was also the first time I had met Pippa and their kids. Anyway I always planned to get this to you – better late than never – and I wanted to thank you for making me so comfortable on the phone when we spoke shortly before David’s death. Strangely I felt as if I was talking with an old friend even though we’ve never met. Someday, and this is a promise, we will share a drink together and raise our glasses to toast David. John gave me some of David’s ashes and we both cried as we read your short note to him. I was an honour for me to receive those ashes and I am currently scheming for wonderful places to take David with me. Please feel free to share this letter with anyone (friends, climbing community etc…)

    Take good care of yourself,

    Doug Pratt-Johnson

    Dear Hilton,

    I was very sad on Sunday September 5th, 2010 to receive a telephone call from your brother John to let me know that David had passed away earlier in the day. At the same time I was also very happy that John had taken the time to call. This was not an easy task for him and I felt privileged that he had taken the effort to call me during what must be a difficult time for your family. I was lucky enough to have talked with David on the phone only a week or so earlier reminiscing about past climbs and good times spent together. We all knew he was in decline, but none of us knew when he would leave us.

    I first met David and John on the Bossons Glacier in Chamonix in the French Alps in June 1981. Over the next three months we shared some big climbs, consumed more than a few beers and became close friends. I believe that the summer of ‘81 was the first time David put crampons on his boots and held an ice axe in his hands. He was a very quick study. One month later the three of us found ourselves 1/3 of the way up the North Face of the Matterhorn. I had traversed too early to the central section of the face and led us into an area of steep, loose rock. David and John came up to join me at the belay which was a sling over a big flake and a small nut in a crack. As we were sorting ourselves out for the next lead the flake that I had slung pulled away, went flying down the face and all of us were left leaning on a small snow ledge held in check by only the one small nut. David took over the lead for the next couple of pitches and got us back on route. When it got serious in the mountains – David dialled into another power level. The North Face of the Matterhorn was the first place I would see him call on this strength. Two years later I would get to see the same David in action as we climbed the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California.

    I managed to keep in touch with David intermittently over the years. He visited me in 1984 and my wife and me again in 1989 when we lived in Vancouver. I had last emailed David about 5 years ago. We climbers are like that – we may not call our buddies that often, but we never forget them. They are some of the most important people in the world to us because of the big places we have been together. I had the good fortune to be in South Africa this past January and February and sent David an email from Durban letting him know I’d soon be in Cape Town. His reply was what I had hoped for. He was in town and wanted to get together. David offered us a place to stay, but we were already staying with my cousin while in Cape Town. Seeing David again was great, but I had not been aware of his medical battles of the past couple of years and was shocked to learn of his illness. Madeleine & I and David & Patricia got out for a hike and went for a meal In Hout Bay. A few days later we went for dinner at their home. I made a couple of trips to see the store in town and loved seeing old pictures of David, myself and John back when none of us had grey hair. It was great to be able to share a bit of time with my good friend again, even more so, since we knew his time here with us was limited.

    David Davies will be remembered forever by me as more than a friend. I would say more like a brother. We shared some big experiences in the mountains and he was always the cool, calm head that steadied the ship during the storm. So long old buddy. You will be missed!

    Sincerely, Doug Pratt-Johnson (Ottawa, Canada) Sept. 8, 2010

  20. Doug Pratt-Johnson Nov 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    November 4, 2011
    Hey Gang,

    It’s me, Doug Pratt-Johnson writing again. I got back from Yosemite Valley in California three weeks ago and felt it was about time I shared my travels and how they relate to this website. I had mentioned in a previous post that last spring John Davies had given me some of David’s ashes. I had not yet planned this trip, but did have some idea what I wanted to do with those precious ashes. I’m 51½ years old now (exactly one week older than David would have been) and am still pretty fit, but have knees that hurt some days and can run miles and miles on other days. The shoulders, hands, back etc… all have similar complaints, but overall the body is still running well. On this trip my climbing partner was 22 year old Hugo Charette (the same age as my middle daughter). Young and strong is a good way to go in choice of climbing partner. We had only booked two weeks for this trip so time was a bit tight and we wanted to get in as much mileage as possible while in Yosemite. It was a first trip for Hugo to the valley and he wanted to push our mileage as much as possible as well. I had never travelled with or been in possession of anyone’s ashes before and wanted to make sure that I got David’s ashes to their intended destination without being confiscated so I carried them in different bags. As I strolled through San Francisco international airport I had cleared my first hurdle and was in the U.S. It was 11:00 p.m. and Hugo and I finally got to sleep at 1:30 a.m. The next morning we got up at 5:30, I got the rental car and by 7:00 a.m. we were on our way towards the valley. I knew I could take David’s ashes anywhere, but I was hoping to take him somewhere special. It all depended on how I was climbing as I had not been to Yosemite in two years and had not climbed anything big in between. Hugo and I wanted to get on longer classic free climbs and maybe do a couple of short walls.

    First up was the West Face of Leaning Tower, then a rest day…..then after two nights bandit camping we finally got a legal site at camp 4 and late that same day found ourselves three pitches up the regular route on Fairview Dome in Tuolumme Meadows when it started to rain lightly. We went back to camp. The next day was a day of cragging at Reed’s Pinnacle, and El Cap base. Then we started a few days of regular exercise. I had told Hugo about my friend David Davies and my wish to bring David’s ashes up on a couple of routes and he agreed it was a great idea.
    Day one – Regular Route on Fairview Dome
    Day two – East Buttress on El Cap
    I had a small plastic bottle with some of David’s ashes on the East buttress with me. It is not a big wall route on El Cap, but is a totally classic free route. ( One pitch of 5.10b and lots of 5.8 and 5.9. , thirteen pitches in all) It was a perfect sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. When we got to the top I took out my small bottle of ashes and told Hugo I was heading off for a few minutes. I went into some of the tangled manzanita bushes on El Cap’s sloping slabs, lifted a few rocks and buried the bottle in a place where neither people nor the weather will ever find it.
    I am not one who is very fancy with language, but I wanted to say a couple of words to say goodbye to our friend.
    “David Davies-good climber, good friend, good man. So long old buddy.”
    Hugo and I had something to eat and drink and then made our way down the east ledges to camp 4 to have a big dinner and a bottle of wine. The next day we planned on mostly relaxing and doing a couple of single pitch routes or a shorter multi-pitch route. Sitting in the cafeteria having coffee we finally decided on the east buttress of middle cathedral. It was about 10:30 in the morning and a bit late to start an eleven pitch route, but we raced off anyway and roared up the first 4 pitches until we caught the usual line of people common on longer easier routes in the valley. We got down just as it was getting dark and had another big dinner in camp. The next morning we got up and carried the first of two loads that day to the base of Zodiac at the right hand side of the SE face of El Cap. I had climbed Zodiac twice before, but this time Hugo and I were hoping to climb it in a push. I had never done a wall in a push so this was new territory. We ran into Ammon McNeely at the bridge that afternoon and got some good encouragement and tips from a guy who holds more speed records on aid lines on El Cap than anyone. The next day was a complete rest day. The following day we hiked up to the base and started climbing the route at 9:30 a.m. I wanted to rush and get a good start, but was not climbing smoothly. I popped a cam hook on the first pitch and took a 20 footer. I was sure we were going to bail, but figured we would keep going for now as Zodiac is easy to bail from until the 7th or 8th pitch.
    I had another small bottle of David’s ashes with me and wanted to get high up this route (or even complete it). I wanted to take his ashes to a special, hard to get to spot, but was not sure I still had what it took. At times during that day and the ensuing night I wasn’t always sure which one of us was carrying the other up.
    As the day wore on we got better with short fixing and our speed was increasing. The sun was just going down as I reached the top of the 7th pitch. There were two Swedish guys working at freeing Zodiac bivied there and we had seen them taking lead falls a thousand feet off the ground. It was wild to watch. Even more wild was watching them rappel down a 100 meter rope from near the top of the 10th pitch back to the top of the 7th pitch, all the while hanging free in the air about 15 feet out from the wall. As I set off on the 8th pitch I mentioned that it was amazing watching them work the free moves and crazy to see them rap the 100 meter rope. They told us they thought we were crazy to be heading off to climb through the night. Now we were getting psyched! Caffeine pills were consumed a couple of times during the night and we were making steady progress. At about 6:30 the next morning just before dawn I was leading the 12th pitch when I heard a flutter of material and a yell. I tensed up for a second and then thought is must be a base jumper and the fluttering sound must be the pilot chute. Hugo was belaying and saw a basejumper in a wingsuit fly by us super close to the wall. (we found out the next day it was Ammon McNeely. He had flown by us specifically to yell encouragement) The stars seemed to be lining up for a good climb indeed. It had been a long night, but with the sun now coming up we started to “wake up” as well. It was about 9 or 10 in the morning when I finished leading the 13th pitch and arrived at peanut ledge, our first ledge since the top of the 7th. The sun was warm and we were feeling good. I quickly hauled our light bag while Hugo cleaned the pitch.
    I don’t know if I’ll list all the routes that David did over the years on El Capitan, but I know these ones for sure. 1983 was the Nose with me, then the Shield, Mescalito and Zodiac(I think there are probably others as well.) I knew that David had been on peanut ledge and it is a special place only three pitches from the top, and with incredible views. One could easily basejump from here. While I was alone in the sun I took out my small bottle of David’s ashes. I had been thinking about this the whole time we were on the route. There is a crack at the back of peanut ledge that runs diagonally up the wall. I took the top off of the bottle and carefully sprinkled David’s ashes in the back of that crack. I know that I always remember the spectacular spots on the walls I’ve climbed and feel that I often leave a small piece of myself at those places. I’m sure David felt that way about these places as well and now was my chance leave a bit of him on that gorgeous ledge. I said the same simple words I had said at the top of the east buttress – “David Davies –good climber, good friend, good man. So long old buddy.”

    We still had to get up the final three pitches, but for me the important part of the route was over. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A few hours later as we were packing our stuff up on top for the east ledges descent, Hugo was going through the top of haul bag, saw the empty plastic bottle and looked at me in a questioning way. “Peanut ledge” I said. He smiled.
    We were both kind of stoned when we got to valley floor as we had been awake for a day and a half, but we still had two things to do. Large pizza, Check! Hot shower! Check! The next day the weather started deteriorating and it rained for two days. Snow lined the top of El Cap. The weather was perfect our final day in the valley, but we wanted to wait a bit before getting on the rock to let the sun dry things out. After a relaxed coffee at the cafeteria we headed down to the bridge at El Cap meadows.
    If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, then you know where the “bridge” is. It is a great meeting place where climbers hang out and have a beer, pack their haul bags, and leave their cars as they head for El Cap(not necessarily in that order) It was a cold morning, but the sky was crystal clear. It was fun to spend a bit of time at the bridge visiting with friends and just hanging around. There were a number of tourists as well there that morning always inquisitive, asking questions. I still had a small bottle of David’s ashes and had one more thing I had to do. I walked out to the middle of the bridge where I could be by myself and slowly sprinkled David’s ashes off the bridge and into the Merced River. Once again I said my simple words “David Davies-good climber, good friend, good man. So long old buddy.”
    My trip was now complete. Hugo and I headed off for a day of free climbing. It was all gravy now. That evening we drove to a friend’s home in Modesto for a superb dinner. The next morning it was off to San Francisco and flights home.
    I’m signing off now David. I hope you enjoyed our trip!

  21. Dan Costigan Jun 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Hi I used to climb with John Davies we were good friends but lost contact when he went to Canada. If you have any contact details I should appreciate receiving them

Leave a Comment/Reply/Review