Cape Town climbing community mourns one of their own

2018-01-03 16:34
Sixty-one-year-old Ian Slatem lost his life after a tragic rock-climbing accident which took place on Table Mountain on New Year's Day. (Supplied, Facebook)

Sixty-one-year-old Ian Slatem lost his life after a tragic rock-climbing accident which took place on Table Mountain on New Year's Day. (Supplied, Facebook)

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Cape Town - An avalanche of poignant messages expressing shock and sadness over the unexpected death of experienced mountain climber and sailor, Ian Slatem, have flooded social media.

A highly experienced geologist by profession, adventurous 61-year-old Slatem was officially credited as a mountaineering guide in October 2016 - something he described on his LinkedIn page as his "new re-invention".

The various mountains he had climbed and which he guided like-minded enthusiasts up, was described as his "office in the clouds".

Slatem lost his life after a tragic rock-climbing accident which took place on Table Mountain on New Year's Day, while he was guiding tourists up Arrow Final - a traditional route used to climb up the natural wonder.

On Monday, more than 800 people were left stranded on Table Mountain for more than five hours when the cable car, which is usually used to transport them up and down the mountain, was diverted.

The cable car was being used to assist rescue personnel to access climbers who were reported to be dangling from ropes about 150m below the upper cable station.

'Gentle, soft-spoken and always smiling'

The exact circumstances of the accident are unknown. However, News24 previously reported that an inquest docket was opened by the Western Cape police department after two bodies were removed from the mountain in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Mountain guide and editor of SA Mountain magazine, Tony Lourens, told News24 that he met Slatem through climbing in the late 1980s. They became friends.

Lourens described his friend as a "lovely guy", who was gentle, soft-spoken and always smiling.

He said Slatem had been a climber since the 1970s, and he had one major near-death accident in South America, where he fell through a hole and broke both legs.

Lourens did not know of any other major accidents.

"The climbing community is a rather small and close-knit community, and Ian had been climbing for over 40 years. So, he was known and loved by almost everyone. He will be sorely missed by all of us," Lourens said.

From his social media platforms, Johannesburg-born Slatem appears to be a thrill-seeking adventure lover with an intimate knowledge of nature and its beauty.

"His passion for nature and the mountains he knew so well was [infectious] and, with his thorough approach to everything he tackled, combined with a cautious nature, this accident comes as a great shock to all who knew him well," said one Facebook user, David Hudson, who appeared to have known him through sailing activities.

Slatem, who was a member of Cape Town's Royal Cape Yacht Club, was also an avid sailor and was skilled in the art of the measuring of yachts to determine their handicap in races, according to Lourens.

"He is big into sailing, which is the other side of his life… He had a great knowledge about the stars and constellations - probably because of his sailing - and it was fascinating to listen to him talking about this around a camp fire."

The experienced climber, whose father, Ron Slatem, was also a climber, was divorced and is survived by a son, two sisters and a girlfriend, Jennifer Burger.

Slatem was one of two people who died following a dramatic rescue mission on Monday night. The other climber was believed to be a 29-year-old female foreign national.

Their third climbing partner, also a woman, was understood to have been administering CPR to one of the climbers at the time of the incident. 

She was rescued from the mountain between 22:00 and 23:00 on Monday and was taken for medical treatment.

Slatem and the other climber's body were removed from the mountain shortly after 05:00 on Tuesday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  table mountain  |  accidents

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