You know, I don’t think I ever really considered how transformative climbing a mountain could be. I’ve climbed two of the 3 main mountains in Cape Town now, Lions Head and Devil’s Peak, and I never even thought I would do one.
You see, I’m not an athletic person, nor do I particularly enjoy exercise or anything physical. So, climbing one mountain, let alone two, is a pretty BIG deal.
I have to tell you, these climbs have probably been some of the most stressful moments on this trip. Never have I felt more in danger of dying. Never have I felt more fear for myself and other people. Never have I felt so tired and hopeless. Today (Sunday) we climbed Devil’s Peak. There were so many points when I wanted to just turn back and tell everyone “Hey, this isn’t for me. I’m going back down.” There were plenty of moments when I slipped on rocks and jabbed my toes into stone or grabbed a handful of cactus. Up, down, up, down, it seemed endless – a near continuous repetition of “we’re almost there” ringing in my head as I was told by my peers, by other climbers, and by myself. I’ve never felt a fear like looking over an edge and seeing nothing beneath to catch you if you fall.
But I didn’t turn back.
Of course, I stopped at least 1000 times both ways, and I’m thankful for my friends who stopped and waited for me. But I never turned back. I thought about it, but at the same time, I told myself that I wasn’t a quitter. I wasn’t going to sit pathetically in the parking lot, waiting for the others to return. I was going to get my butt up that mountain and back down. So I pushed on. I tripped. I slipped. I yelped. I screamed. But, up I went. Higher and higher, we ascended the cloudy skies, the world no longer visible beneath us, engulfed in white wisps and shrubbery. At one point, about two-thirds of the way up to Devil’s Peak, I sat in the dirt and just looked out into the invisible world.
“You know,” I said. “This is kind of peaceful.” And it was. The muffled roar of the world and the breeze swept through the bushes and surrounded me. For once, I lost all of the fear and stress. I enjoyed the view. On and on, we kept going and going. Eventually, we reached the summit. The world was still gone, but I did it. I really did it. I was proud of myself. I joined my friends and sat down on a ledge. We pulled out our snacks, sandwiches, and water and we feasted. We sat in peace and camaraderie as we just looked out into the clouds, occasionally seeing the city beneath our feet when the clouds momentarily parted. I made it.
Up and at em’. It’s time to go back down the mountain. I really hope the sky clears. I want to see the city.