Dave Waggoner, a mountaineering warrior and the inventor of Alien cams, died of cancer on October 7, at age 53, in his home in Laramie, Wyoming.
Dave was my brother and he dedicated his life to climbing. His miniaturized flexible-stem cams changed the nature of climbing protection. Seeing the limits of existing gear during the 1980s, Dave was determined to create something better. Working late nights in our garage, we started making the original units later dubbed “Aliens.” At that time he had no money, was sleeping on the floor of his shop with his big black labrador and often worked until midnight. Dave’s unique invention was awarded two U.S. patents.
Dave was talented, as tenacious about climbing as he was about inventing. The day after he got out of the Navy he was excited to join us for a route on East Animas in Durango. My buddy Greg and I, who had been climbing every day, both gave the crux a try and fell. Despite not having climbed for three years, Dave tied in, got to the crux, and went right up it!
One of our favorite traditions was climbing Castleton Tower the day after Halloween when everyone else was nursing hangovers. We also liked climbing the Watch Crystal (5.10d) in the middle of winter when everyone else in Durango thought it was too cold. Shiprock, the intimidating and remote sandstone formation in New Mexico, was always an exciting spring expedition. My trust in Dave was complete — enough to take my five-year-old daughter, Summer, with us down the upper Dolores at high water.
Dave loved adventure and his work. He also cared dearly for the planet and helped set up the Wyoming Wilderness Coalition. Dave was self-taught — he never took a math class, never had any formal training, yet year after year crafted and improved his beloved Alien cams. He cared for climbers everywhere and those who used his gear. He will be deeply missed by his father, brothers, family and many others around the world.