I'm a writer for Harper's Magazine who grew up high on the slopes of Mt. Davidson. I have a long personal essay about my childhood on the mountain scheduled to appear in the January issue of Harper's and there are a few elusive facts I'm still trying to confirm.
I have a strong memory that in the mid-1980s a rock climber fell, possibly to his death, while trying to scale the cross. I watched the beginning of his ascent with a friend of mine, and I believe the San Francisco Progress, which I used to deliver, reported the fall the following morning. This would have been just before Easter in 1984, '85, or '86.
In the archives of the Chronicle I have found one mention of someone scaling the cross, no mention that I've yet found of anyone falling. On the web site of mtdavidson.org there is also a photo of a climb in progress (http://www.mtdavidson.org/mount_davidson_cross). In it you can see the pitons that used to run like a scar up the back of the cross. I believe those pitons were already there when my family moved to the mountain in 1976. I noticed last August, on my first visit to the cross in years, that those pitons are now gone.