Adventures after the Storm

“Always remember to play after every storm!” ~ Matty Stepanek

Over the last two and a half years I have become quite accustomed to people looking at me as if I have gone completely mad! This past week was no different. As everyone was battening down the hatches in Cape Town for what was predicted to be an epic Cape Storm rolling in, I was busy getting my hiking gear ready for the day after the mighty storm. Extreme cold, snow on the high mountains and the possibility of more rain forecast for Saturday, our chosen hiking day.

Most think we are completely looney to hike in the rain or when it’s so cold but truth be told it’s the best time for us to be out there training for the high-altitude mountains we are going to be climbing. Living in Cape Town we don’t have the luxury of training in the snow or extreme cold conditions so when it gets cold by Cape Town standards, you will find us out there on the mountains, training. However, one thing we never compromise on is safety and it always comes first even before we head out – conditions are checked and incoming weather is checked.  Climbing mountains for me has never been a question of risk taking. Rather, it is the pursuit of beauty, excellence and a quest for self-knowledge.

The epic Cape Storm that hit us on Friday was in true Cape style, but it was nowhere near as severe as they had been predicting. By 8pm that evening the gale force winds had died down to nothing and the rain was a light drizzle before stopping completely, with only the occasional minute-lasting downpour in the early hours of the morning. It was going to be cold with all the predicted snow around the high mountain tops but it was looking good for our hike.

Judi, my trusty hiking partner come rain or shine, has of late nicknamed me her “partner in climb.” It’s nice to know that no matter what the weather she’ll be there saying “yes” to heading out with me. In the 25 minute drive it took me to get to the mountain I got to experience various different weather outbursts, something Cape Town is famous for ~ in just one day in Cape Town you can get to experience all 4 seasons! By the time I arrived at the mountain I had driven in glorious sunshine, then as I got into town the wind started howling and the heavens opened up with a heavy downpour and as I arrived at the mountain, sleet was beginning to fall! It was going to be an interesting day on the mountain but I was ready.

Another beautiful start to our climb, the mountain awaited.

Another beautiful start to our climb, the mountain awaited.

We headed up just behind the Lower Cable Way station and steadily climbed up the path. Once we reached the contour path, we turned left and headed towards Platteklip Gorge, our chosen route to go up. Not even a few rain showers along the way could dampen our spirits as we walked.

Reaching the contour path, with dark clouds looming in the background, making the scenery dramatic.

Reaching the contour path, with dark clouds looming in the background, making the scenery dramatic.

The cables for the cable car going up, disappearing in the mist up the mountain.

The cables for the cable car going up, disappearing in the mist up the mountain.

On our way to Platteklip Gorge.

On our way to Platteklip Gorge.

The trail often flooded with water, found us skirting around the edges or stepping up onto little ledges to navigate our way around without getting our hiking boots soaked. Reaching the Platteklip Gorge turn-off, we took one look at the route going straight up, then at each other and decided to completely ignore the turn-off. It was easy to do as we are climbing it again next weekend with some of our Aconcagua team mates as one is coming to visit us from out-of-town.

Judi getting high around the flooded pathways.

Judi getting high around the flooded pathways.

Instead we continued on and decided to hike out towards Oppelskop. The path was incredibly beautiful as it always is in winter. The mountain side is lush with green fynbos and pretty little flowers and with the rains, the puddles in the path sparkling like diamonds whenever a few rays of sunshine poked out from behind the clouds.

The waterfalls along the way were something else, and there were many to be crossed! With all the rain we have had this winter already they were beyond spectacular, like strings of diamonds gliding down the mountain side. Our adventures found us crossing over gushing waterfalls, precariously balancing on tiny parts of rocks that just broke the surface of the water, we found ourselves walking under them, over them and even through them, with each waterfall more beautiful than the last.

Magnificent waterfalls making our views along the way.

Magnificent waterfalls making our views along the way. This one we crossed under and straight through, so much for not getting wet again!

At one of the thundering waterfalls, it was so loud you couldn’t hear each other talk. Then we had to cross it while trying to find a tiny piece of rock jutting out to step on as we crossed. Judi crossed first and shouted something and pointed to a rock. With the noise of the waterfall I didn’t hear so shouted back for her to repeat. She did, I still couldn’t hear so she pointed with her trekking pole to a rock right in the middle of the gushing water. Here I was thinking she’s pointing out the rock for me to stand on when in fact she was pointing out the rock I shouldn’t stand on as it was incredibly wobbly! Oh well, too late she cried as I stepped across straight onto the wobbly rock!  Luckily, with years of ballet and balance behind me, I didn’t land up in the water!

Thundering waterfall! This waterfall was so loud it was hard to hear each other talk.

Thundering waterfall! This waterfall was so loud it was hard to hear each other talk.

The waterfall crossing where Judi pointed out the loose rock, which I mistook for the perfect rock to stand on! Haha!

The waterfall crossing where Judi pointed out the loose rock, which I mistook for the perfect rock to stand on! Haha!

Along the way there were many places along the path with patches of ‘ice-balls’ that just weren’t melting. This is supposed to be unusual in Cape Town, let alone lower down on the mountain slopes, but it is becoming something we see more and more frequently as the weather patterns get more severe. It was while we had stopped at one of the spectacular waterfalls falling right over the path to take some photographs that the dark clouds began to pour over the mountain top again and suddenly the heavens opened once again. Luckily we had just passed a rock overhang and so we quickly traced our steps back and took shelter under the overhang, which was perfect for a little snack break and a nice hot cup of tea! It was while sipping on our tea waiting for the downpour to pass that the rain turned to hail and little balls of ice pelted down from the sky! We were truly getting a show from Mother Nature today!

The 'ice-balls' that we found all along the trail that just weren't melting.

The ‘ice-balls’ that we found all along the trail that just weren’t melting.

Taking shelter in the overhang as the rain poured down.

Taking shelter in the overhang as the rain poured down.

Stepping out into the sunshine between the rain downpour and the hail downpour!

Stepping out into the sunshine between the rain downpour and the hail downpour!

A ray of sunshine and the dark clouds loom in the background again.

A ray of sunshine and the dark clouds loom in the background again.

The downpour passed and the sun’s wonderful rays returns again and we continued on our way. We headed up onto the higher path and then walked across but decided to head to Oppelskop from the lower path so headed back down again when the path allowed. More beautiful waterfalls to cross and a little forest to walk through, the views across the city with the dramatic skyline was a feast for the eyes.

Looking back.

Looking back.

Reaching Oppelskop we didn’t quite make it to the top. The path, which is already mostly hidden, had been practically washed away in the storm. We followed what we could of the path but eventually when we reached the rock scrambling part, the rocks were slippery and any hand-holds of branches were not reliable with all the water that had washed down the mountain side. Eventually, we decided to turn back and once back on the lower path we stopped to enjoy the sunshine and some lunch!

Glorious sunshine when we stopped for lunch at Oppelskop.

Glorious sunshine when we stopped for lunch at Oppelskop. You’d be forgiven if you thought this was taken on another day but this is what I mean by 4 seasons in one day in Cape Town!

Just as we were packing up the stormy clouds were gathering again and before we knew it the rain was beginning to fall once again. Judi said I tempted fate as I had stripped my jacket off and was going to walk down in just my fleece as the sun was so lovely and warm. But just a few drops of rain came down as the next shower of rain passed over the city in front of us.

But the glorious sunshine didn't last too long for the dark clouds were looming again.

Still the same day, the glorious sunshine didn’t last too long for the dark clouds were looming again.

It was another amazing day on the mountain that had us walking from one end of the mountain right to the other end, crossing waterfalls – over them, under them and even through them, climbing up and climbing down and then heading all the way back again.

We arrived back at the car at 3pm after having spent most of the day on the mountain. I felt invigorated, alive and renewed. There is something truly magical about climbing mountains; it can’t be put into words for it is something that should be experienced by the soul!

Next weekend we take on our favourite, ‘torturous’ route, Platteklip Gorge and the spectacular views from on top of the mountain with some of our Aconcagua team mates. I for one can’t wait to get back on the mountain again!

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~ All Photos By Me, Except for the Ones of Me (Thanks Judi) ~

A True Queen of Courage

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Today, sixteen years ago my best friend, Emma Walker, was called home.

She is the inspiration behind my blog and my Seven Summits mountain journey that I am currently on, so it is only fitting on the day we lost her, that I remember her and honour her memory. She courageously fought a life long battle with Cystic Fibrosis, an illness for which there is no cure, yet.

Every day thoughts of her fill parts of my day and on days like today when I remember her and honour the part she played in my life, the memories flood in.

This morning I was sifting through my old photos, laughing at all the memories we shared. There are so many. When we were teenagers we often used to head into town on weekends and almost every time we were there we climbed into one of those old photo booths that takes your passport photos in a strip of 4 and we’d squeeze in, pull the little grubby curtain closed, slot our money into the money slot and then the two of us would scramble onto the tiny swivel chair, falling over each other and we’d begin to pull funny faces as the camera began to snap away. Then we’d do it all over again. One strip for Emma, one strip for me. We used to laugh so hard I have no idea how we even managed to stay on that little swivel chair without falling off. Then we’d climb out and wait for our strips of 4 photos to come out and when they did we could hardly stand up straight we were laughing so hard at the photos that we held in our hands. I cherish these memories now.

While paging through my albums I also came across a bunch of photos I took in my matric year at school. The sight of my old school uniform brought another memory flooding back. At the end of Standard 7 (Grade 9) my parents decided that for Standard 8 I would go to a new school. I hated the thought of leaving my friends behind and more so my very best friend. It was near the end of the December/January school holidays that I got my new school uniform. I hated everything about it and couldn’t believe I would have to wear this awful uniform. I will never forget the day Emma came around to my house and I opened up my cupboard and showed her my new school uniform, hoping she would commiserate with me. Instead as I pulled back the cupboard doors and there in all it’s horrid glory hung my uniform, Emma stood there and burst out laughing. She laughed so hard the tears streamed down her face, and she had a coughing fit between laughing fits. She was practically rolling on the floor she was laughing so hard and for a good five minutes she couldn’t look or even speak to me without bursting out into a fresh round of hysterical laughing. She though it was the funniest thing ever and the most awful uniform! I wanted to die knowing I would be heading off to a new school in a few days time in that awful colour uniform without my best friend by my side. I told her that her laughing wasn’t helping. She just laughed harder.

I can’t remember exactly but it was a day or two into the new school year that I got a phone call that afternoon from Emma catching up on the days news as we used to see each other daily and if we didn’t see each other we talked on the phone, most days we did both! Then she said to me, “Guess what?” and I asked excitedly “what?” What she said next I never expected in a million years, “I start at your school tomorrow!” It was the last thing I expected her to say and from that moment on I don’t know who laughed harder at the idea that now she would too have to adorn that awful coloured school uniform with me!! It was the best news ever even if we had to wear that awful uniform, it didn’t really matter anymore for I had my best friend back by my side again!

I wish I could share some more photos of us together over the years but my computer crashed again back in March and I am yet to replace it so I am relying on my phone to post this and so I have used old photos I already have on my blog.

Just this afternoon as I headed home after spending the morning walking around a market in the glorious winter sunshine with a dear friend laughing at all the old junk we saw and the memories it roused of years gone by (I think Emma would approve!) I saw the front page of this weekends newspaper. It had a picture of the Stormers rugby game on the front page. I though it was a bit odd they made the front page of the newspaper even though they won, they haven’t been playing that well but I though their win might be the reason. I picked up the paper and turned it over to read the caption under the photo only to see the words “Cystic Fibrosis” as part of the headline and the article that accompanied the picture. How fitting for today as I remember my best friend. You can zoom in on the article below to read what it’s about but it made me smile as I read how Richard Burger, a 15 year old with CF, is now campaigning to get our local rugby team to wear armbands in support of Cystic Fibrosis awareness.

I have known many people who have fought cancer and some who have lost their battle. Cancer can be cured if caught early enough. Cystic Fibrosis can’t. It’s a lifelong battle that too often robs lives far too early. There is no cure and many don’t know what Cystic Fibrosis is or how courageous the people who are born with it are. If I could have one wish everyday, I would wish for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis and I pray that one day soon as many who support cancer, will support Cystic Fibrosis too.

I will continue to raise awareness until the whole world knows what Cystic Fibrosis is and I will continue to raise funds to support those living with this illness that has no cure and I will keep raising funds to support research so that one day we can turn CF into Cure Found. I am not a scientist so I can’t discover a cure but I can do everything in my power to support the scientists who work daily to find that cure.

To my best friend, Emma, I miss you every single day. Sometimes I am so selfish, so greedy and so spoiled. How can I ask for one more day with you, when I have already been so blessed to have had so many?

I miss you and all the silly nonsense we used to get up to. I miss all the laughter we shared. Now I hear you in the quiet. I feel you when I’m alone. I can no longer see or touch you, but I remember your amazing spirit, and it brings peace to my soul. You inspire me everyday, to live.

I often look to the stars and think of you, knowing that you are just there
on the other side.

You were a true Queen of Courage.

Remembering and missing the best friend I ever had, Emma Walker, called home today, 16 years ago. 24/07/1975 – 18/05/1998

To Janice and David, Emma’s mom and dad and to her sister, Tracy so much love to you today and every day.

If you would like to make a donation to The South African Cystitis Fibrosis Association who supports three regions in South Africa, Cape Town, Johannesburg and KwaZulu Natal, please click here.

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