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Dave Pegg, Prominent Climber and Guidebook Publisher is Gone

posted by dpm on 11/10/2014

Dave Pegg, prominent climber and owner of Wolverine Publishing, has passed away at the age of 47. The details surrounding his death have not been made public.

Photo: Andrew Bisharat/Facebook

The shockwave of sadness that swept the worldwide climbing community hit hardest where Dave lived near Rifle, Colorado. Dave was the figurehead of Rifle Canyon where he was a fixture year-round. Almost daily, he’d make the 20-minute drive from his house in a 10-minute blur, techno-music cranked to eleven, then skid up to the Project Wall and cascade onto the scene with a wide smile in a mess of rope, duct tape, dogs, and kneepads. Dave was always guaranteed to have a partner; he knew everyone in Rifle and everyone knew Dave. The canyon will not be the same without him.

Dave began his tenure as the unofficial mayor of his beloved Rifle Canyon in 1996 when he moved to the States from Sheffield, England. He’d been a wizard on the UK’s gritstone where he authored many bold routes like Madman (E8) and First and Last and Always (E7). But he found his true love in the blocky limestone of Rifle where he settled in to become the quintessential sport climber, obsessed with projecting, nuanced movement, and multi-year battles with hard routes like the Gayness, his most recent 5.14 achievement.

When Dave wasn’t projecting in Rifle, he was scouring the Western Slope for new routes. Over the past few years he represented the region’s most prolific developer of sport routes, almost singlehandedly establishing new crags like Hogwarts, (he was quite fond of Harry Potter) and the Distillery in East Elk Creek near his home.

Dave’s passion for, and experience with, bolting led him to open the bolting equipment distribution website Rapbolting.com. He also worked extensively with the Rifle Climber’s Coalition—of which he was an early founding member—and organized the annual “Rendez-Spew,” a clean-up and rebolting effort in Rifle Canyon.

Establishing Order of the Phoenix (5.12+) at Hogwarts. Photo: Mike Williams

Dave’s greatest contribution to the climbing community, however, was as an author and publisher. He began his work in the States as an associate editor at Climbing magazine and penned his first guidebook to Rifle in 1997. “Bite the Bullet” was a thin, black and white affair with hand-drawn topos like many guidebooks were back then. It was funny throughout with an emphasis on the inanity of climbing. The opening pages defined “jessery, buttock-crack cams, goatee sprags, and clever-dick sequences.” Routes were described with picture symbols like a pumped forearm or a sandbag indicating that the reader should take the grade with a grain of salt. Although “Bite the Bullet” was perhaps the most indicative of Dave’s carefree, cheeky take on life, his later guidebooks displayed his other half. He was a shrewd businessman, an entrepreneur, and, above all, a solid professional in the publishing world.

Dave founded Wolverine Publishing in the early 2000s and quickly changed the landscape of climbing guidebooks forever. His first major publication was a collaborative effort with author Ray Ellington on a guidebook to the Red River Gorge. It had all the elements we now expect from a quality guide: full color action shots, essays written by prominent locals, digital images of the cliff face with the topo lines drawn in, and thorough, entertaining route descriptions. Over the last decade, Wolverine Publishing seized the reins as the leader in quality guidebooks releasing dozens of books to America’s most popular climbing areas like Smith Rock, Rifle, Maple Canyon, Bishop, Hueco, and the New River Gorge.

My personal friendship began with Dave in 2008. He was looking for an author for the New River gorge guidebook and somehow I ended up being targeted for it. I’d never written anything longer than a term paper but he convinced me over the phone that, together, we could do it. That week, I bought my first laptop and started pecking away. I spent the better part of the following summer as Dave’s apprentice in Rifle. He taught me how to do mundane layout tasks and on our off days he taught me how to kneebar and throw proper British wobblers at the crag.

When the New River book finally showed up at my house in 2010, I remember thinking how beautiful it was. It was a work of art, but very little of it was my doing. I’d provided the ingredients but it took a master chef to create the finished product. While the author’s name is on the cover, it was Dave, and his vision, that were the genius behind all of Wolverine Publishing’s books. Like Rifle Canyon, America’s guidebooks will not be the same without Dave Pegg.

Dave traveled extensively throughout the country, especially to the areas included in Wolverine’s library of guides. He made a point to visit these areas so that he’d have firsthand knowledge as he worked on the books, though I suspect it was just an excuse to go climbing. Because of this, Dave had friends everywhere. Hundreds of his friends throughout the country, and around the world, now mourn his loss.

As just one of Dave’s uncountable friends, it feels surreal to sift through the fragmented memories of such a special person. I remember his legs, always bloody from trying to milk a kneebar out of routes with no nipples, and laughing together one time in Rifle when he swore that he needed three knee pads to send a particular route. I remember bolting routes side-by-side at Hogwarts and admiring his ability to see perfection in imperfect stone. I remember his love for his favorite dog, Belatrix, and how he told me he cried when he almost killed her with an accidental choss trundle while bolting. But mostly, I remember his infectious smile, his kindness, and the love he showed toward his friends. He had plenty of it to go around.

-Mike Williams

Video link: In 2011, Dave reluctantly agreed to be in a DPM short about new routing in Rifle, Colorado. Listen to Dave explain the history of route development in Rifle and watch him climb on the Gayness (5.14a), a route he finally redpointed two years later. 
The movie is free to watch but you have to be logged in. Click the image for video.