Climbers pay tribute to guide killed in Table Mountain fall

Cape Town’s climbing and yachting community gathered to pay tribute to climbing guide and geologist Ian Slatem‚ who died in a New Year’s Day accident on Table Mountain.

The 61-year-old was described as a “true adventurer” by fellow climbers and yachtsmen‚ about 200 of whom congregated for his memorial on Wednesday at the Mountain Club of South Africa clubhouse.

An experienced climber and award-winning guide‚ Slatem was leading two female tourists from Hong Kong up Table Mountain when the accident happened. One of the tourists was also killed.

Veteran sports presenter Jeff Ayliffe posted on Facebook this week that a “large piece of rock being dislodged” caused the fall‚ which killed Slatem and his belayer. An investigation is under way.

Ayliffe wrote: “Ian did EVERYTHING by the book. All systems were solid. The deaths were the result of a piece of fate that sadly are part of these sports‚ incidents that are unavoidable‚ unseen and just random life events.”

Well-known Cape Town climber and surgeon Charles Edelstein said Slatem was meticulous about safety. The guide did not hesitate to remind Edelstein to wear a helmet last year when he saw a photo of him climbing without one‚ he said at the memorial.

Slatem worked for Venture Forth‚ an established guiding company‚ and had his own guiding concern. He registered as a guide in October 2016 and won the Western Cape “adventure guide” Lilizela Tourism Award last year.

A geologist for more than 30 years‚ Slatem wrote in his LinkedIn profile that he had reinvented himself as a mountain guide. “I guide like-minded adventurous people up traditional rock climbs on Table Mountain and other Western Cape mountains (Cederberg‚ Du Toits Kloof‚ Montagu‚ Winterhoek).

“Table Mountain’s Africa and Fountain ledges and the Apostles are now my ‘office in the clouds’‚” he wrote. “‘Safety in fun and adventure’ is my new motto.”

Following the accident‚ Mountain SA editor Tony Lourens posted that Ian was “a kind‚ generous and gentle man‚ who I considered a great friend and climbing companion … I will miss your smiling face at the crags.”

Edelstein and many friends spoke about Slatem’s enthusiastic‚ generous‚ humorous and engaging personality‚ and yachtsman David Gerrard commended Slatem for the same positive qualities at sea‚ saying he had contributed much to the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

Slatem chaired the L26 Owners Association and provided leadership in the club‚ he said.

His close friend and former partner for 11 years‚ Rowena Bell‚ said Slatem was fired up by adventure and not a settling down type.

They hiked on Table Mountain two days before his accident‚ deciding at the last minute not to climb Arrow Final‚ the route on which the accident happened. Slatem’s pilot son Stefan‚ one of two sisters‚ Slatem’s girlfriend Jennifer Burger and other climbers who knew Slatem gathered at an informal memorial on the mountain on Saturday to remember him in his element.

The memorial opened and closed with poignant tunes on the bagpipes and during the tribute a friend played a Bach solo on the violin.

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