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A Climber We Lost: David Henkel, February 13

Each January we post a farewell tribute to those members of our community lost in the year just past. Some of the people you may have heard of, some not. All are part of our community and contributed to climbing.

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You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.

David Henkel, 45, February 13

“Climbing up just to go back down,” Dave Henkel once wrote on Instagram while climbing in Washington Pass. “It’s amazing how such a pointless endeavour can captivate you.” 

Dave was a carpenter who lived in Squamish, B.C. He showed everyone how to live life a bit differently. He was an unconventional, esoteric crag collector, keeping his own perspective rather than that of mainstream climbing culture. He was inspired by both the magnitude of the mountains and the simple pleasures in life. 

Dave Henkel. (Photo: Courtesy Dave Henkel community)

As a climber, Dave was strong and calculated, and he moved with a graceful precision. In introducing me to the mountains, he explained, “You’re learning a new kind of art, the art of quieting your fears and pushing through when your head tells you to quit.” Dave had a way of making you believe in yourself.

Dave constantly shared the magic he found in wild places. He understood the impact we create when we share our energy and love with others, and drew others to nature, adventure, and freedom. Often foregoing grades and guidebooks, he chose routes organically, wanting “to take small bites and deal with the struggles as they come.” 

His love for rock climbing took him all over the world, and his beloved Pika, “the greatest mountain dog ever to live,” was always by his side. They bagged peaks from Alaska to Mexico for eight years. Later, he would find Shiloh, who learned to navigate the talus and steep Squamish forest trails with him. He was familiar with this routine, in dogs and the rest of us: “Get to the crux, whine, hesitate, focus, and finally, execute. Next thing you know, scary becomes normal and the level goes up.” 

Dave died while we were snowboarding in Brandywine, Whistler, B.C. A class 1 avalanche was set off, and Dave said, “This is the mountain’s way of telling us it isn’t safe here.” We traversed across the mountain to the tree line. Moments later, another class 1 avalanche released from above and swept him into a heavily treed area. 

No matter how small or large the connection, Dave left a mark on our hearts. His lessons were simple. Enjoy life. Every moment is made for adventure and is meant to take joy in. People who touch our hearts like Dave will reside there forever. “Go to the mountains,” Dave would say. “Get small.”

—Natasha Plumridge

You can read the full tribute to Climbers We Lost in 2021 here.