This is a letter I wrote shortly after Derek's demise on the Steck Salathe

A Letter on Derek Hersey

Derek was a great friend of mine. Recently, as Derek, Brad White, and myself drank bottles of Scheafs at a Zion picnic table, he named me "Chief Punter, USA". Coming from Derek, who noted himself as the chief punter of the planet, it was a fine honor indeed.

Years before, I met Derek in Yosemite, when he was still living in Manchester. He told me that if ever in England, to visit his home town crags based out of Stony Middleton. A year later, in 1981, I took his information to heart, and found myself hitchhiking from London to a spot difficult to find on even the larger scale maps. Arriving at the small village and seeing nothing but a pub, a cafe, and a few quiet homes, I was sure that I was on a wild goose chase. Eventually, I did discover the crags, later ran into and climbed with Derek, and had a fine climbing holiday.

A few years later, Derek and I climbed the Nose on El Capitan. We were Team Stink. I had just spent 7 days on Iron Hawk, and with no shower inbetween, went up on the Nose with Derek. Derek at the time had strong bonds with living in the dirt at its finest, and hadn't bathed for weeks. "Dirty Derek" was his apt nickname. We had a skimpy rack, and had forgotten to bring any extra carabiners, and we had a great time finagling gear yet ascending steadily and stinkily upwards.

The last conversation I had with Derek was wise words of wisdom which did much to solve unanswered questions. My climbing partner Brad Quinn and I, both bachelors at the time, had coined our mantra for the spring Zion climbing season, "climbs before gals". When we asked Derek what he thought of our mantra, he replied after a few thoughtful strokes of his tuft of beard on his chin, "Well, I'll say this: climbing can kill you, but women can destroy you. There's a big difference, y'know," in his unique British ascent.

We'll miss you, Derek.

--John Middendorf

Below: Derek in the Rock House tree house, Springdale.

Author's note: I lived in this tree house, now demolished, for a whole summer while climbing in Zion.

Below: Derek on the entry boulder, Zion NP.

 

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