Why I Climb Mountains


For the last few weeks there has been a lot of mountain talk going on in the background of my life. Information is currently been sourced, emails are being sent back and forward and excited chats about all things mountains are taking place. This is how it all starts again… the planning, the preparing, the committing, then comes the training and the saving!

We are currently in talks about a three-year plan to climb three mountains, two of them part of our Seven Summits Journey and one as part of our training as the mountains we will be climbing become more technical and of course so much more exciting! It was a short while after we began to plan these mountain climbs that tragedy struck again in the mountaineering community and so close on the heels of the Everest tragedy.  Sadly the latest tragedy is on one of the mountains that forms part of our three-year climbing plan. It is devastating to read news of things that happen on the mountain and the loss of life that it takes. Yet again, it is a sobering reminder that what we love to do has high risks, although I believe risks are all around us, every single day, so in a sense it is not that much different. Mountains such as these  are so incredibly powerful and they hold so much immense and indescribable beauty that only those who climb them truly know and understand, yet Mother Nature can be brutal. Something we got to experience first-hand on Aconcagua earlier this year.

On Sunday, a skilled mountaineer that I follow on Twitter shared the news of 6 climbers who have gone missing on Mount Rainier, possibly swept off a ledge in a snow/ice/rock avalanche landing the team a horrifying 3,300 feet below. Equipment from the team was found at 12,800 feet and pings were located from all six team members on their emergency beacons at the base of a rock-fall at 9,500 feet. Reports say there is no viable chance anyone would survive a fall like that. The search continues but hopes of recovering the team may not be possible due to the risks involved.

It was just over a month ago I was chatting to Gordon Janow of Alpine Ascents International about all things mountains and we chatted about the tragedy that struck his team and their sherpas on Everest on that fatal day on 18th April. They lost 5 Sherpa in the tragedy. Now, this is another huge devastation for their team.

It is never easy hearing of these tragedies but with heavy hearts at the loss of more life on the mountain, life does go on and we will still climb. Many people have asked me over the last couple of years why I climb? They ask if the dangers put me off? Am I afraid? The questions keep coming, the answers sometimes hard to put into words.  Every time I step out of my house (and sometimes even in my house) I face every day dangers, it is a part of life. The dangers of climbing the mountains I climb are glaringly obvious but climbing mountains makes me feel more alive than ever. As for fear, it is always there and maybe that is part of the attraction, facing it head on, living my life to the fullest. Jeb Corliss, a professional skydiver and BASE jumper, has inspired me for a number of years now and earlier this year he posted a video and put this note with it.

“Dying in the pursuit of your dreams is not tragic. It actually may be the only way a person should die.

I always hear people say I want to die from old age laying in my bed. It always makes me think, really? All I have to say to that is go spend some time in an old folks home. Then come back and tell me that again.

For me, I hope I get to die standing on my feet with my eyes wide open facing my dreams head on fighting to turn them into realities. I can think of no better way to go into that dark night than in the process of living a life of true passion for what you do…”

His words have helped me describe to people why I climb mountains and this is now how I answer people. Despite the risk, climbing mountains makes me feel alive. It is my passion and just like Jeb says, living your dreams should be the only way you should die.

This video tells a story that puts so much into perspective. Over the last few years I have learnt that the reward of doing what makes you come alive far outweighs any risk.

Do what you love ~ And don’t be afraid to live your dreams!

To the fallen climbers who lost their lives on Mount Rainer a few days ago, may your loved one’s find comfort in the knowledge that you were doing what you love.

My Bumper Bucket List Just Got Longer!

A number of years ago a very dear friend of mine broke the news that she was moving to the other side of South Africa, to the concrete Jungle of Johannesburg, 1393km’s away. It was a bitter pill to swallow and just added to the number of awesome, amazing friends I now have scattered all over the world.

Yesterday, much to my delight, she arrived back in Cape Town for another holiday. There is just something special about friends who can be apart for so long and yet when they come together it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m blessed to have a number of friends like this. Needless to say, last night was spent laughing, oooh’ing and aaah’ing and chatting till the cows come home while drinking red wine of course!

It was while I was cooking dinner that my lovely friend disappeared into one of the bedrooms and came back holding a beautiful gift book bound with a blue ribbon. Holding a knife in one hand and a vegetable in the other I squealed while waving the knife and vegetable around, not quite knowing what to do with the items in my hand as she held it out to me saying “I have a small gift for you.”

There in her hand was a book called “Your Bucket List” and in the pages beneath the cover it details 150 Must-Do Experiences in Southern Africa. Cooking forgotten temporarily, the two of us poured over the book getting excited about all the new Bucket List items that are going to get added to my list.

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My beautifully bound gift with a whole lot more adventures to add to my every-growing Bucket List!

Before we knew it, our pinky fingers were entwined and we were pinky swearing on the bucket list item that we are going to do together. Because of future plans in both our lives that we are currently working on, we pinky ‘swore’ on a 5-year plan to tick off this bucket list item together and it was unanimously agreed, and I wouldn’t expect anything less, we are going ALL out on this one!

Honestly, there is nothing I love more than crazy friends who are right up there with you for an adventure of a lifetime!

I love that fact that in this book of 150 Must-Do Experiences I have already experienced a number of experiences listed but I am so excited to get busy with the one’s I have yet to complete. Some of the one’s I have already done are:

#12 Climb Lions Head by Moonlight

#26 Visit penguins at Boulders Beach

#44 Explore the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park

#55 Drive the Sani Pass

#66 See a rhino in the wild

#74 Get rocked at Sun City

#88 Have a drink at the highest pub in southern Africa (In Lesotho)

#93 Get to the bottom of the Fish River Canyon in Namibia (I did one better than that actually, I hike the whole freaking canyon!)

#147 Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

And who’s to say I can’t do them all over again! Plus there are so many crazy-exciting ones still to do and the great thing is in a little box at the bottom of each page it details an alternative if you are not able to do the main one listed. I can’t wait to get started on these new additions.

If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page.” ~ Mark Houlahan

A beautiful inscription written to me inside the front cover of the book will forever remind me of that moment Marlize handed me the book in my kitchen as I cooked dinner for us. Even more beautiful, scattered throughout the pages of the book are miniature gold-coloured stars ~ forever little reminders as they fall out and catch the light that life is worth squeezing out every drop of juice and living it to the fullest.

One thing is for certain, catching up with dear, old friends always seems to remind me that while so much changes in certain areas of your life, some things always stay the same.

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The beautiful inscription my friend wrote to me inside the front cover.

Thank you for my beautiful, beautiful gift my friend.

At the rate I am going, I am going to live FOREVER!

Here’s to adventure and my bucket list getting ever longer. :)

~ All Photos By Me ~

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