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Ray David Dykeman, 1932-1996



I first met Dave Dykeman after being invited to join a group of friends who were climbing Tehipite Dome in the High Sierra over the Fourth of July weekend of 1983. That was a very heavy snow year, and I was astounded by his skill with the map, compass, and altimeter as he led us through the snow-covered forest, utterly devoid of landmarks, to our planned campsite. I was very impressed and told him that he was one of the finest mountaineers that I had ever met. I soon became very grateful that I had given him such a high compliment so early in our friendship. The next day I became entangled in the “safety” ropes that we were using to facilitate our crossing of flooded Crown Creek during the late afternoon thaw. At considerable personal risk, Dave jumped into the stream and dragged me to safety on the far bank. Dave saved my life.

Dave went to Aconcagua, climbed Mexico’s volcanoes, summitted Mera in Nepal, climbed all 247 peaks on the Sierra Club Sierra Peaks Section’s (SPS) list, and had climbed 224 of these peaks at least twice. He not only finished The List, but he led, on scheduled trips, every single peak on the SPS list. Completion of the SPS list is noteworthy, but to have led climbers of all abilities to the summit of every peak on the SPS list was a tremendous achievement. Dave will be remembered for maintaining strong group integrity on his trips. He achieved this through example rather than demand. There was once a slow climber on one of his trips who considered returning to the trailhead rather than disappoint the group. Dave told him that the group would be disappointed if he turned back. He continued the trip, and everyone succeeded. Dave had it all: a talented accomplished mountaineer with strong people skills.

As one of its most respected leaders, Dave was soon nominated and elected to several management positions in the SPS, serving as its Chair in 1985. When the Sierra Club abandoned mountaineering in the late 1980s, he was instrumental in the creation of the California Mountaineering Club, and served as its third president. One of the duties of the leader of these organizations is to write a column to appear in their newsletters. Aside from the obligatory discussion on club policy, his columns frequently addressed risk management in mountaineering, telling the membership how to Climb Smart before it became a national slogan. And this makes his death hard to accept and understand. He was killed descending the northwest arête of Devils Crag No. 1 in the High Sierra.

Dave was born in Tacoma, Washington. He studied electrical engineering at the university level, yet he never graduated. Dave was one of those gifted “mustangs” who climbed very high in the electronics industry without a formal college degree. He spent most of his career at Litton Industries, designing electronic guidance systems for ships and aircraft. He was so skilled in this field that he had a Top Secret security clearance to design the inertial navigation systems for the United States submarine fleet. He also personally installed and tested the inertial navigation system in Air Force One. In May, 1996, Dave received the prestigious Silver Snoopy Award from NASA. The Astronaut Office gave this to Dave for his professionalism, dedication, and outstanding support that greatly enhanced space flight safety and mission success to the manned space program.