Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Climb every mountain

Last week I climbed Table Mountain in Cape Town.

Table Mountain is at the bottom of Africa and is over 1,000 metres above sea level. I read recently that it’s believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world, but I’m not sure how they know that and whether it’s true. While it looks flat on top, believe me it isn’t.  I first climbed it with my father and my brother when I was a little girl. We climbed not just up, but down again, in one day. My memories from that trip are hazy but one is that I was always lagging behind, and the other is that my father sustained me with pieces of chocolate.  When I climbed it two days ago I couldn’t face food, and I kept myself going for most of the way with water and the thought of a cold beer when we reached the cable car station.
At various stages of my life I have climbed this particular mountain again and again. And again. It never loses any of its magic.

There are a number of routes to take to reach the top, and the one we chose is called Skeleton Gorge. I say we because you should never climb a mountain on your own and, just as importantly, you need someone to set the pace. Someone who, when you feel like lying flat out like a lizard on a rock like my friend below, cracks the whip.

Skeleton Gorge is a ravine that ascends between two outcrops at the back of the mountain. And, basically – there’s no getting away from it – it’s straight up. It’s tough-going. One section is a rock scramble. In the winter, this bit is tricky because it’s often dripping with water. It’s summer now, of course, and it was almost dry. I don’t know if the ferns and grasses were grateful for the sweat dripping from my hairline. 

But it’s all worth it. The top is reached by overcoming a series of ridges, a series that has you fooled, that has you believing the top is over the next ridge, but when you reach that ridge you find there’s another. And another. And when you finally reach the top and look down on all below you as if you were King of the World, it’s a surprise. 

Why do we climb mountains? For some people it’s simply because they’re there.
But for me it’s about pushing myself. And where my thoughts take me as I put one foot in front of the other. As I look at nature in a new way.

Or heave myself over one more boulder. For me it’s about the challenge. And the exhilaration when I’m done. 

I like to think about my writing in the same way.  

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