The real cost of gear

We live in a time of rentals
Every month I look at the mortgage repayment. It is payment for something I use but have not fully earned or fully own. In a way I am renting my own house. And I wonder to what else that applies.

This is certainly apparent with cars (often fancier than we can afford) and mobile phones. We are paying off something on a monthly basis. But then we can take that thinking to all products we purchase. Take a pair of Running shoes which costs R2400. They might last a year (more realistically I have half a dozen shoes going at the same time but let’s not complicate things right now) so actually you are paying R200 towards those shoes every month until you need to replace them.
And that cost has an environmental cost too. The more money I need to earn to buy my toys the more I impact on the environment.

I have worked with top brands in the outdoor game. The cost of gear is staggering but I wonder about the hidden cost on our environment. It is probably in proportion to what we pay at retail. What I mean is that the environmental cost of building a rocket is far bigger than building a car which is bigger than an energy bar. I know it is a huge assumption but bear with me.

What is the point of owning the most organic, sheep dog friendly, moisture wicking rain jacket if it does not last? Maybe a way of judging the cost of gear is to divide the cost by how many months you own (or use) said item.

I remember Alec bringing in an original MSR Model 9 stove 20 years after he bought it. All it needed was a replaced pump and it was good to go. The design has not changed much in the next 20 years either. Why? Because it works. The XGK is still the beast amongst stoves. The recommended retail price is currently R2999. By contrast your monthly repayment is around R12,50.

Contrast that to our phone technology that lasts 2 to max 4 years. A new phone iPhone costs between R5999 to R18999. The monthly payment is in the range of R125 to R 790. The difference is real.

I have t shirts that have lasted less than 6 months and jackets that are 10 years of regular wear. That difference is phenomenal. That cost too is phenomenal on our wallet and on the planet.

Obviously the impact of manufacturing is a factor but if the product does not last then the feel good effect from ‘clean’ products is just that.

Is it not time that we make decisions based on longevity rather than short term appeal?

I heard the following this week:
“It is only one straw, said 6 billion people”

Is it not time we thought differently?

Is it not time that we celebrate products that have smaller impacts rather than bigger?
This would mean we celebrate products that keep working, are easy to repair and do not go out of fashion.

I don’t want to go into made local and all the other enviro factors. I am purely talking cost to you and longevity. Sometimes increased cost means significantly increased longevity.

The complete list of safe trails in Cape Town.

I am amazed by how much chatter the question of what are still considered ‘safe trails’ gets. All of a sudden people are experts on ‘the rules of hiking’ and which routes are SAFE.

RULE NUMBER ONE: Let me tell you nobody has ever come to grief hiking alone. (Before you move on to pretty cat pictures in your feed hear me out and read on.) It is true!

Most Search and Rescue folk will agree that accidents are a combination of small ‘bad’ decisions. Let me rephrase that: “small sub optimal decisions”.

One of those could be walking alone, or wearing expensive jewellery or not taking a map or not carrying a first aid kit. These are not rules. They are decisions which potentially put you more at risk. Just like soloing the North Wall of the Eiger. The act is not the cause.

The real problem comes when we are not aware of the small decisions we have made and how they affect our present state. Right here and right now.

And our current state is in constant change and hence needs constant awareness and adjustment. Does my current pace mean I will be benighted? Does me going off the path here mean that a search will be exponentially harder? Dose scrambling down this cliff put me into another level of danger?

Decisions don’t add up. They grow exponentially and we forget that.

Just because I have never had a problem running alone does not make it safe. It is just confirmation bias.

By the same token just because somebody has been hurt on path x does not make it unsafe.

I have friends who carry. I am not one of them. I trust they know their art and are well versed. I am not.

I prefer to be aware of my surroundings and when I say ‘run’ you better haul ass RIGHT NOW.

My job as a guide is to worry so you don’t have to. My job is to constantly be aware of and assess myself, my group and our surroundings and the interaction between all three and how they change and constantly make adjustments.

This attitude is not unique to guides but should be all our attitudes on the mountains and elsewhere.


The year is under way and we hit the month of relationships. I used to dread February because it had THAT day in the middle with all the hype and red roses. 

At school I had no idea about this relationship thing. In fact I only had a real relationship until well after I finished my studies. I had no idea of how to go about this thing called a relationship. I just could not relate. But is that not the crux? 

Why do we connect with some folks and with others we have no connection? At work, with friends, with family, in romance?

Even how we relate to objects around us. A smart sports car can make us feel proud, jealous, guilty even disgusted. Same with a slice of cake. How does that happen? 

How we relate to actions. Our own and those of others. A run can make me feel energised or filled with dread. How does that work?

Is it maybe all about how we relate to our selves rather than how I relate to these external things?

Scrambling 101

So what is this thing called scrambling?

Basically it is the meeting ground between walking and rock climbing. Anything where you might need your hands, either for balance or to move you upwards can be called scrambling. 

“I am afraid of heights can I still do a scramble?”

Yes. Some scrambles only have short sections of technical difficulty with not much exposure. It all depends on the route. It is best to discuss that with your guide or team leader though. I have helped many people deal with their fear of heights. This builds huge confidence and is very empowering. 

What are some of the best scrambles on Table Mountain?

Lions Head is probably the most popular scramble. Most people don’t even think of it as scrambling but just as a path with some ladders and rock sections on it.

India Venster (directly below the cable car) is a very popular route. The rock sections are short and fairly well worn.

Kloof Corner Ridge is the classic mountain ridge with stunning views and significant exposure. 

Mowbray Ridge is one of my favourites. It takes the ridge line directly up from UCT to the summit of Devil’s Peak.

There are many more. 

How strong do I need to be?

Average fitness will get you through the majority of scrambles. 

What gear do I need?

Normal walking shoes and gear is best. I carry a rope and basic gear so that I can ensure the safety of the rest of my party. We don’t pull ourselves up the rope but it is just used as a precaution. The techniques used are also different to normal rock climbing. 

Where can I learn?

It is fairly easy to learn from a qualified guide. Scrambling is a bit of a specialist art. Climbers mostly just solo easier rock sections without any safety precautions so it is better to learn from guides or instructors who have had formal training in this area. It does take practice and great care. 

Why is my first coaching session free?

The other day I had to go and see a doctor, not something that I do regularly at all. However I had to do it.

In fact this was a specialist whom I had never met so understandably I was a bit apprehensive. I asked the secretary if I could speak to the Doc. Despite her assurances that he would, I never got the call. I guess time is money and all that.

More importantly however I was the patient and despite being assured that this specialist could help me I had some questions I wanted answered. I wanted assurance that what I was letting myself in for was the right thing – for me.

The day of the appointment arrived and actually it went well. This appointment was more like an interview. He assured me that he could help. The problem was I was already paying so to some degree I was committed already.

By contrast I would like my clients to be as empowered as possible. In many ways that is the point of my coaching. They are my clients and not patients after all! They are fully responsible for their lives and the success that they achieve. Life does not happen in my coaching room but outside in the “real world”. Yes I might have some valuable input which improves other’s lives but it is you who will have to implement and not me.

So from the start I endeavor to empower each client as much as possible. It is their choice to see me or not. It is their choice to see me as often and as long as they feel is beneficial. I believe they can only do that if they know what they are letting themselves in for. The best way to do that is to meet in person and do an introductory session. I get a sense of how I can help and my client gets a better understanding of how my process works. Simple really. My intro session normally lasts 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It is more of a getting to know each other session really.

2018: goals, visions, dreams and dissapointments

It is almost that time of year when we announce to the world (or anybody that will listen) our goals for 2018.Do you even remember what you promised yourself and your friends a year ago?

However come mid January every year these aspirations have often been long forgotten. Deemed unattainable.

What is going on?

Some of us have achieved the goal we set out only to fall into a slump afterwards. We are so used to this cycle that we come to expect it. But should it really be this way?

Rather than looking at the coming year (or any year for that matter) in isolation is it not more useful to see it as part of a continuum that we are on? If this is indeed the case is it not a good idea to have a common thread running through our actions (planned and otherwise).

So what is this common thread?

What is your common thread?

Is it not something greater than the individual parts? Perhaps a vision even?

Let me explain: If my vision is to be the best triathlete in the world then at some point I need to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. That has consequences like winning local races, getting a good training plan, watching my diet, buying a fast bike and finally getting sponsors to fund this whole lifestyle. I would need to do everything I can in order to improve for that is my vision. But I also have to start from where I am now and build from there. But more of that process here.

Contrast that to somebody who wants to have fun with friends and family. They might choose to drink that glass of wine, miss out on the intervals in winter to go on the group ride, support others in a race rather than win at all costs because those things are all important for their vision. They might even fit their family into their training sessions. They might get their kids to ride along on their bikes for their morning run…

Neither option is better or more desirable. What is very attractive though is seeing somebody follow through. We have all seen those people. I am not for a minute saying that you have to be one tracked all the time but being conscious of what you want out of a particular moment or day or year makes the difference. And how that fits into your overall plan or vision makes it super powerful.

Then the little goals that we set ourselves along the way are stepping stones on a deeper path. There is no reason to hit post ultra blues because it is one rung on the ladder. A ladder that continues until we die. So choose your vision wisely. Your vision will become the framework or lens you judge your actions and progress by.
This takes time. 

Life Coaching 101

I help people realise their potential.
I facilitate growth by helping people achieve their goals and dreams.

We all have goals and dreams right? But how many of us have the tools and skills to achieve these? That is where I come in.

We might even have things in our past that are holding us back. I can help you clear these up so that you can move forward with confidence.

Each one of us is unique and so my coaching is on an individual basis so that I can facilitate your highest truth.

How does it work?

The first session is free. This is a getting to know each other session. You and I work out if we want to work together. Then we schedule a few sessions and you present me with what is important in your life.

I believe life is simple. Often it is just us who complicate things. My sessions are simple. I stay away from jargon. My challenge is to meet you where you are at and walk beside you on your path. Maybe I am more of a guide or compass, giving pointers here and there. Ultimately it is your choice of how you implement these. Life happens outside of coaching and I have the biggest respect for that.

I coach in person in my office in Plumstead or over Skype if that is more convenient.

My background 

I am curious about the people around me. I am fascinated by how we tick. More importantly I am interested in how to help clients realise their potential.

I received great theoretical insight into human thought by completing a BSc in Psychology.

A Life Line course gave me more practical skills and insight.

Being invited to formal Life Coaching training solidified my understanding. Just as we continually develop so my learning continues.

Please call me on 072 285 9563 or email me to see how we can work together.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Below you will find some of my ideas and thoughts which might be of interest.


I remember it well. I was told I was no longer required. That she did not love me anymore. After many years. Years of being one. Now we were broken.The news hit hard.

I was angry. Just like that, after years together I was cast out. I packed my bags and walked out.

I swore under my breath, and sometimes not.

I wanted the whole world to know that I had been done wrong.

That I was right and you were wrong.

Of course I had a right to be, did I not?

But how useful was it for me to hold onto my rightness? How helpful was it? How did it help me to move on? I was stuck in a holding pattern of my own making.

The realisation came when a friend of mine said he was angry for me. “Wow” he was not even affected, hardly knew you and HE was angry!? Was that not my emotion? Was I not the one entitled to my anger?

It did not take me all that long to see this slightly differently. Maybe I had to use my emotion differently?

Emotions are very strong indicators. And so they should be. Anger is a strong emotion hence we better pay attention. But they are only indicators. Beyond that they are not very useful. Just like wishing the oil light to stop flashing is not very useful so is wishing that I was not so angry. Best use that indicator in a positive way and fix the problem and get to move on. That is maybe more helpful!

I came to realise that I was grateful. Grateful for being kicked out of the nest.

Grateful for being forced to fly.

The fit had not been right and we both knew it.

Two Trails, Three Runs – SPARC Trail Running Talk 12/12/17. My UTMB and TTR experience


In 1991 I pitched my tent in the same spot as far more famous climber from South Africa had done 8 years before. Chamonix is the birth place of alpinism and modern mountain travel. The view from Snell’s Field camp site at sunset up the Mer du Glas to the Dru was and still is inspiring. I did not realise that I would come back to these mountains to run many years later.

Picture2Fast forward to 2010 and I was standing at the start of the world’s biggest 100 mile trail run. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This was by far the biggest thing I have ever tried.

I believed that I could circumnavigate the highest peak in Western Europe, traveling through 3 countries and climbing almost 9000m in altitude in under 46h.

My sister and Mel flew out with me to act as my roving support team.

Imagine Cycle Tour fever on steroids.

This is the start line 1h before kick off.

Picture3Chamonix goes big for this event. Even the local chocolatier joins in the action and makes the course profile in chocolate and the medals for hopeful finishers.

And to much fanfare and Vangelis “Conquest of Paradise” we set off through the streets on our 166km adventure… at 4 minutes a km.

When I say the locals go big imagine my amazement when about 20 minutes out from the second refreshment station I could hear cowbells and the announcers revving the crowds. Running into the streets of St Gervais it was like the parting of the seas on Alp du Huez. I could not help but high five spectators and push back a tear.

I had serious doubts if I would even see my seconding crew.

A few km later the first real climb done and it is raining and dark as we run towards the quaint little chapel of Notre Dam. Suddenly a runner comes towards us on the dark and rainy single track trail next to the river. The only words I understand are “arete” and “avalanche”, then “cancel”.

Now what the hell to do 30 km into the biggest adventure of my life in the rain, in the dark and not knowing what is going on?

We carry on to the next town.

And just like that my dreams went out the window. I had to reassess why I was doing this.

Why I was driven to be the first saffa to do the UTMB, why I wanted more, longer, faster, higher.

It took a while.

Picture4But mountains have a way of drawing us in.

The next day we took the telepherique up to the Aiguille du Midi

I realised that what attracted me to this race in the first place was not the hype, the banners or the crowds in the towns. There was another way to experience this trail and that was to explore on my own terms.

Picture5So one early morning in July many years later I found myself in the same town square in Chamonix, way before anybody had woken up and I started my trail.

I had no cut off times and only a rough plan to do the UTMB route over 4 days. I carried emergency gear and lunch and enough water for a few hours. My plan was to run to lunch time, resupply in a town and then head up towards a mountain hut for the afternoon stint.

Picture6And so I found myself at Notre Dam just after lunch on day 1.

A big climb lay ahead to the refuge in Italy where I would spend the night.

I slept in dorm style accommodation, dinner was a three course affair and I could not resist waiting for breakfast before setting off the next day. This comprised of fresh rolls, coffee, cereal and fruit. Not bad for a mountain hut at altitude.

Picture7Day 2 I started up the road before any of the other guests and I climbed over the col in the distance.

I was well into Italy by then and I had climbed 2 passes over 2000m en route and then it was down towards this lake.

Picture8The views were spectacular.

In fact talking about other guests The UTMB actually follows the Trail du Mont Blanc. A hiking route which normally takes people 10 -16 days to complete. It was down to Courmayeur after this and then on to the Refuge Bonatti. I was gunning down some flowing single track when a hiking group stood in my way. They would not budge and actually signalled for me to stop. I did and they asked where I had come from and where I was going. I was still a bit confused until they insisted that I stop and have some Swiss chocolate with them. And they say the Swiss are not hospitable?

Picture9The pink church in Trient, in Switzerland is a pretty big feature on the route and I overnighted here for my third night. The day before was long and hard with 50 km and a long stretch of tar. It was the biggest day of the trip so far. During the UTMB race this is where the action gets real and racers start taking strain. I was no exception.

Picture10On day four I suddenly came across these carvings in tree stumps in a lush forest. The care taken was astounding. They were magical. Not much further along the path I came across two retired gentlemen with rakes. Raking the trail. They were not rangers, they were Swiss. It blew me away how the three countries I travelled through were so different, in food, in culture, in friendliness. Not much further I got lost with less than 30 km to go on my way to Chamonix. My foot hurt from the effort of the day before and I was over it.

My mission had been to enjoy the trail, explore blank spaces on my map and enjoy moving lightly across terrain. I accomplished all three of these so I hopped on a bus and drove back to Chamonix. In the end I had run all the sections of the UTMB either in training or on my solo circumnavigation trip. I was happy and I did not feel I had to prove anything to anybody. I got on a plane and came home.

Last August I was in Jonkershoek with Mel and I got a frantic message from my buddy Jacques who lives in Dubai. We had done some running together many years ago.

Anyway Jacques’ message was about the 6 day TransRockies Trailrun in the USA. We were both unfit and needed something attainable to get us motivated. The by line of “Summer Camp for trail running adults” seemed to fit.

Picture14So in August we rolled into Bueno Vista in Colorado to start our adventure.

The format is the same as the Cape Epic in that you need to run in pairs each day and cover the 210 km over 6 days. Distances vary between 24 km to 38 km per day.

Altitude is the real issue as you do not dip below 2200m for the 6 days.

Recovery would be key. I locked my nutrition plan down 10 months ahead of the race.

My eating plan consisted of a huge amount off protein in very specific portions, some carbs and no fat. It worked incredibly well.

I would need to have this perfected come race week hence I decided to stick with the program rather than change to a potentially better plan and not have this new plan dialed in come race week. Just like you train your physiology you need to train your gut.

Gu was a sponsor so my carbs were taken care of. As a result I travelled to the US with a rather alarming amount of protein powder hoping that the K9 units would not show too much interest.

Back to the TransRockies: Accommodation is in tents and all food and drink is provided.

I realised that this would be a completely different undertaking to what I had done before, that our team dynamics and personal strengths (and weaknesses) would determine success or failure.

This is Camp Hale where the 10th Mountain Division of the US army trained for WW2. This was our overnight for two stages.

Picture15This run was not too unlike mountaineering in that we spent most nights well above 2500m in altitude.

In climbing there is a hierarchy of rules:

1) Come back alive,

2) Come back friends,

3) get to the top. That is certainly what we did. I knew that I would have to be able to cover 20+plus km per day. Day after day after day. And that is what I trained.

All my training consisted of keeping my heart rate under 140 bpm. So that meant no speed work what so ever. It took a while but my body did respond.

It was uncanny but the first day I knew we were running too hard, everybody was. It was day one after all. After that my HR hovered around the 140 mark for the majority of the run. Our training approaches were polar opposites. Jacques would run longer when he had the time and when temperatures dropped to the low 40C in Dubai whereas I tried the back to back to back runs approach with not many pure recovery days. There would be a fair amount of walking and that we would have to do it 6 days in a row.

Picture16This is us descending from the famous Hope Pass at 3800m on day 2. This is the same pass that the Leadville 100 goes over twice!

Our mission from the start was quite clear. We were going to have fun and do the best we could. We managed one training session together in the lead up and we both were running at sea level. Jacques is a dive instructor in Dubai so training camps were not that easy to organise. The usual sandbagging of not admitting to having done any training was the norm. Even more so we were going to experience this journey together.

Picture17Some minor blisters were dealt with.

Peter van Ketz says that on all his expeditions his partner’s welfare is his top priority. Like in any relationship you need to look after each other in order to get the best possible result.

Picture18And the race went incredibly well. The route took us over high mountain ridges and this obligatory 1 km river section which was heaven on tired and hot feet.

We ended on the podium every night only because there were only three teams in our category.

In fact we ran with Miss Canada for a while. Well she did not wear a crown but our pace was similar so we spent some time together. Miss Canada because I forgot her name and called her that instead. She eventually pulled away when I asked her to sing to us on one of the long winding up hills.

Picture19The second last day was 36km and we were confident we could close on second. Suddenly, on the only technical stretch of the route, 12km from the end my partner screams and we are reduced to a walk. One badly twisted ankle and cramps in both quads.

Our day changed just like that and potentially our race was on the brink. Jacques dug deep. We borrowed some hiking poles and continued. We were concerned about taking pain killers or anti inflammatory’ s at altitude so Jacques sucked it up like a trooper. We were reduced to walking @ 16min pace down a dirt road towards the ski town of Vail.

That night Third Eye Blind was playing in town. I went for a walk and found a bench outside the stadium to take in the whole experience.

There was serious debate about or plan for the next day. I assumed that we were in for a long painful walk. And I prepared accordingly. I even packed in an extra top in case it would get cold at altitude. Imagine my surprise when we set off like a rocket train on the longest 38km day of the event.

There were some big climbs and it was predicted to be hot. Completely unbeknownst to me it is amazing what some drugs and determination can do. I was hanging on for dear life. On the first climb out of Vail I asked Jacques what the doctor had said the night before. His response of “It’s ok” did not give anything away. Then it dawned on me that he had taken some drugs to dull the pain. Bastard I thought. You could have told me we were going to be working hard today. 5km from the end I was overheating. I had to stick my head into a stream to cool down. Actually it was more like a muddy puddle. And just like that our roles had reversed. Jacques was looking after me and making sure I was OK.

Fortunately I don’t have a picture of us at the finish line because my cap and face was black with mud. Many ice-creams later we were returning back to normal and I could think again.

Picture21These three runs were very very different.

I do not for a minute claim that one is better than the other.

However the objective determines the approach, training, nutrition, result and ultimately the learning.

Unless I am incredibly clear on what my desired outcome is I am in trouble.

Many of our trails are there to be run every day. We don’t always have to travel across the globe to have adventures.

Thanks to Mark Seuring and all at SPARC, Drifters Extreme and Spar for making this evening possible.


Insert catchy title here

I recently read this article by James Clear. 

So if success is linked to grit then why do we spend all this time wanting to find our passion?

Why not develop our grit? Why not spend time developing our staying power?

Well maybe because we believe the short cuts we are sold.

If only we have enough talent, if only we discover our talent, if only we find the magic pill, if only…

And it starts with small things. Daily rituals that lead to long term gains over short term potential losses. It starts with brushing our teeth. And then flossing! Ah here is already the rub. Who misses out on this part? Then we make our bed. Once we can do that we can try to do square breathing for 32 days continuously. Then maybe we can move onto the important stuff. Oh but hang on is the really important stuff not developing grit. So floss every day. 

And finally for those who want the full research article to back this all up:

“… these findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but the consistent application of talent over time” Angela Duckworth