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words by Guy Holwill
I met Dave in the early ’90s. He would have been around 18, and I was a few years older. Apart from sharing a love for climbing, we clicked because we were both highly opinionated and shared an odd sense of humour. Looking back, we must have been excruciatingly painful, but hey, we’re all allowed to be young once.
What was obvious from the very beginning was that Dave was someone who was enormously driven. When he did something, he did it almost to the exclusion of everything else. Some might say he lacked balance, whilst others would applaud his focus.
In 1993 we decided to take climbing seriously. We were competitive in everything we did whether it was climbing, dieting or playing pool. But somehow it remained friendly and constructive, with each of us driving the other to be more successful. We were both much better climbers for it. Dave was especially good at competition climbing. I’m not sure how many comps he won, but for a while he was winning everything he entered.
In 1995 we created an arbitrary, but very difficult, challenge that we called the Speed Day. The idea was simple, climb 30 classic hard sport routes across the Western Cape in 24 hours. My memory of how we hatched the plan is a bit vague, but it is very likely that Dave dreamt it up and simply talked me into it. He was probably the most persuasive person I’ve met – and literally impossible to say no to. I can still remember most of the actual day, probably because we planned everything so carefully and then pulled it off so perfectly. Neither of us fell on a single route the whole day – if we had done, we wouldn’t have made it. Maarten Turkstra came along for the ride and took pictures. The pictures were subsequently lost, but I can still remember the one of Dave and me eating a burger in Worcester after 16 hours of going flat out. As we posed for the pic we felt like conquering heros, but the pic showed two guys who’d just done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and were about to head back for another 5 rounds of having our heads knocked off. We finished the last route at 1.15 am and still had to drive back to Cape Town from the Cederberg. The whole thing was documented in the ’97 edition of Western Cape Crags – it has never been repeated …
Shortly afterwards, Dave got into a different competition – to be the first team to hang a ‘new SA’ flag from the top of the Taal Monument in Paarl. It took a few late-night trips, dodging the police and local security, but eventually, with help from Mike Hislop, he was the first to hang a flag from the top.
While Dave’s focus was on climbing, he studied medicine throughout this period. He certainly never got the attendance prize and probably wouldn’t even have passed if Kirsty Donald had not been there to help him along. That said, he passed everything and might be the first correspondence student to get through UCT med school.