About 4 years have passed since I decided to start Rock Climbing. While I was a Summer Camp Counselor in Rock Hill, New York, USA in 2005, I met up with Dale, someone who would ultimately influence the way that I view life in general. He continuously spoke of how important it was to be spiritually in-tune with life. After many yoga sessions, and general ramblings of the practice of mountaineering, travel, and some rather interesting nights sitting on canoes on the camp lake and rambling on about many different topics, ranging from spirituality, to adventure, to the birth of The Mad Traveller, I began to understand the importance of what he was trying to tell me.
Life is really an amazing thing. Your views change as you experience more things in life, and slowly, as life passes you by, you end up as the person you are. I’ve always believed that one should try as much as you can in life, but this just blew my mind.
Up until that time, I was focused on making as much money as I could and attempting to be a successful individual. I was, and in many respects still am quite involved in IT. Needless to say, after the many years that have passed, and many rather interesting, and somewhat odd jobs around South Africa, I’ve finally fallen into a great working environment, architecting some pretty complex IT Infrastructures for some noteworthy clients, with a rather decent set of qualifications gained along the way. Every job that passed me by I learned something valuable, and along the way, I began my climbing career and my route to my personal enlightenment.
Those who know me know that all I want to do in life is climb all 14 of the world’s highest mountains without supplemental oxygen. I dream about it all the time, and pretty much everything I do in life these days brings me closer to this goal.
However, there are situations in life that tend to steer you away from your goals. Strangely enough, when one is in a relationship that’s just not meant to be, you notice how little you’re doing to reach your goals. All your time and effort is spent on your girlfriend, or at least this was the case in my last relationship. There is no real ‘me’ time anymore. Alas, that came to an end rather recently. After finally pulling myself back together, I’ve found the way back to my ultimate goal.
Obviously, when attempting a goal the likes of mine, or anyone else’s for that matter, much time, preparation and training is important. Because I love climbing, it stands to reason that I would need gear to practice, and I would need a few climbing buddies to train with. So, I finally went and bought the gear I’ve planned on buying for years now. A Rope, 16 quick draws, a bladder for my hydration pack, a new harness and some new climbing shoes. It cost quite a pretty penny though. Climbing gear is not cheap, but it’s so worth the cost involved.
I’ll never forget the day I finally could afford my first little bit of gear. Initially, I started off with climbing shoes, a harness and a chalk bag. I bought the gear from Hikers Paradise in Centurion, Pretoria. At the time, I rode a little yellow scooter. It was light on petrol and more than sufficient for my needs. I took a little road trip to the store to buy the gear. I stared at all the gear, trying to decide on what to buy. Eventually, along with the assistance of some friendly staff, I chose what I wanted, then rode home as fast as the scooter would carry me. From there, I called Hannes, an awesome friend of mine who loved climbing. I told him I finally had some gear and we decided to go to the local climbing gym that day.
The Climbing Barn is really an awesome place to climb and meet like-minded people. I met Paul, the owner of the barn, and have since become good friends with him. I designed their new website as well (http://www.climbingbarn.co.za). After meeting up with some new friends I began climbing much more. Nico, another one of my good climbing friends, got me onto real rock for the first time, and we still climb together on occasion. Bronkies was the first place I climbed on real rock, and it really is a great place.
Sports climbing took hold of me for many years, and I’ve started Trad Climbing a lot more these days. Finally, I can see the path I need to take to get to climbing the big 14! My skills as a climber are growing, and my drive and passion for the sport is more and more intense each time I climb. I have a great selection of friends to climb with and we climb every weekend.
Slowly, as I teach my friends the skills I have learnt, I see how they grow. I find it interesting to see how something like climbing manages to change people for the better. I noticed it when I started climbing. It taught me to see my limits, and how to break those limits and push myself to higher limits. It taught me to face my fears, and how to accomplish great things. I can see how it’s affected my career by pushing me to places I thought would take me a while to get to. It has introduced me to some of the most interesting people I know. People who love life with a passion, and choose to spend their time pursuing what they love. Drive, determination, passion, ambition. These are the traits I see in the climbers that I know.
Someone once said to me that you can always spot a climber amongst a group of people because they always speak with their hands. Articulation is a big trait amongst climbers. Not only do we speak, but we feel the need to show what we’re trying to accomplish, especially when talking about routes. It truly is a sight to behold.
After a weekend of climbing with Tinus and Hannes, Tinus and I were sitting outside that evening drinking coffee. He was talking about a route he had climbed, and he began to articulate his movements on the route as we were discussing it. I had such a good laugh and knew immediately that the bug had bitten him. Needless to say, he gets rather excited about it all the time now.
This reminds me of a book I once read called “How to Rock Climb” by John Long. It’s a guide on essential skills for Rock Climbing. In the book there is a story about two characters, both completely different, Coco and Amos. The story progresses from them meeting at a beginners meet, then follows them on a trip through their climbing career. In a nutshell, the climbing bug biting, and then spending all their time climbing. It truly is awesome, and it reminds me of the path I have walked in my climbing career. I know that it’s just started, but it will be the one constant in my life until the day I die.