A Tribute to David Hiddleston
climber, guide, friend
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It happens all too frequently, a climber dies on a mountain. But when it is someone you know, have spent almost three months climbing together in difficult conditions, it hits close to home. Others were closer to Dave than I but his death hit me hard. He was a good guide and, more importantly, a good person. Please consider a donation to the Hiddleston-Scaife Commemorative Trust.

It was a lazy 2003 New Year's Eve morning when I read the email: David Hiddleston has died in an avalanche while guiding on New Zealand's Mt. Tasman. Dave was my guide on Ama Dablam in 2000 and on Everest the following year.
Dave Hiddleston on Everest 2001
Resting at the bottom of a deep ravine, we had summited Ama Dablam and were headed towards Ang Tshering home near Namche. Dave and I were in a good mood enjoying the perfect weather and our successful climb when he posed the question: "Have you considered Everest?"

With his broad smile and a twinkle in his eye, he set in motion two years of adventure. This was pure Dave. He had told me of his thwarted attempt in 2000 when he and Ang Dorge turned back at the South Summit. Safety was his primary concern and he was not going to take a chance on the summit ridge without fixed ropes.

We talked about climbing the big hill and what it took. I had no idea at the time that he would undergo surgery on both knees a few months later.

Arriving in Katmandu, I saw his familiar grin and we embraced like old friends. I asked him about his knees. Over the past six months, he had focused on rehabilitating his new and improved joints. A single objective was on his mind: summit Everest.

Dave Hiddleston in the IcefallOn the way to Everest Base Camp, we stopped overnight in the small village of Packding. Of all the thousands of climbers and trekkers that passed by this tea house year after year, Dave had become special to them and they to him. The Mother ran the show with her children helping. The teenage daughter had dreams of going abroad so Dave always brought pictures and books. He was helping her write her application for a visa and perhaps attending school abroad. Dave had become special to this family as he had to many others around the world.

Back on Ama Dablam, Dave proved his toughness and skill as a guide. A challenging Himalayan climb, our team of four clients and two guides had mixed experience. Only Dave and I had been to Nepal before. To no one's surprise, one of our climbers starting having problems during the summit climb.

With a skillful mix of "verbal motivation" and a strong hand, Dave guided the client down from the summit. A few days later, the client bragged of his success never acknowledging Dave's contribution to his climb much less to his survival.

Dave's father, John, had accompanied us to the Ama Dablam base camp. In quiet moments, he confessed his pride in his son but you could tell it all the time by the way he looked at Dave. And with the same glance, the father revealed the concern for his son's vocation.

An accomplished rock climber, extreme skier and high altitude guide, Dave had chosen a risky path in life. A path he embraced with a grin and a twinkle.

"Hip" stood on top of the world on May 16, 2002. His dream came true. He had summited as a climber and as a guide. He did it with style. While I wasn't there with him, I know he had a twinkle in his eyes and a broad grin on his face.