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Left, right, left. I repeat to my half-asleep self to make sure I don’t miss a step during our ascent of the first peak, Lion’s Head. It’s 7:15 am and Michaela, Zack, and I are quietly moving up this mountain in the dark trying to reach the top before sunrise. Secretly, we were each looking for absolutely anything to wake up from this nightmare.

Just a few hours prior, it’s 1:46 am on Sunday and a few of us are sitting around the fire in the living room contemplating life, drinking rooibos tea, and sharing funny stories. Soon, the conversation shifts as we begin discussing our plans for the day and the idea of the infamous 3 Peak Challenge is raised. The 3 Peak Challenge requires one to reach the top of the 3 key mountains in the heart of Cape Town in one day: Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, and Devil’s Peak. Everyone’s initial reaction is that of laughter and utter denial as this day-long challenge would require us to begin our ascent in less than six hours. As the laughter settles, the tone changes and a few of us begin thinking about how it might not be the worst idea. Without hesitation, one person stands up and says, “Fuck it, I’m doing it, I’m going to bed right now and I’ll see whoever wants to join me in a few hours.” The gauntlet had been thrown.

Little did we know that we would be soon embarking on this challenge while the rest of our group was sound asleep about to begin their day. From what we had read online and heard from our coworkers, this challenge took roughly 10-11 hours so we packed for the day with sandwiches, almonds, popcorn, and lots of water. As the day went on and we moved from mountain to mountain, we found ourselves occasionally engulfed in clouds, maneuvering behind waterfalls, or simply appreciating the unparalleled views. But some of my favorite memories included listening to Zack sing his favorite country songs that reminded him of his childhood best friends from his neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina and Michaela rave about how amazing her pb&j was at the top of Devil’s Peak while telling us about how much her younger brothers mean to her and how proud of them she is.

It’s now 3:30 pm and if you exclude our breakfast pitstop, then we successfully completed the challenge in roughly 7-8 hours. Just to brag a little, we were pretty proud of our time. But back to what I was saying. To be completely honest, I started this post thinking about how I could draw a parallel between the act of reaching each peak and some personal conquest or discovery I had. As I write to you now from the comfort of our home, still very sore, all I want to offer up is a reminder to push yourself. Try something new, especially when the idea is brought up at 2 in the morning, and wholeheartedly embrace making unforgettable memories with new and old friends.

You might be surprised with what comes from it. I sure was.