Wendy

You sat in the middle of the room. Surrounded by people. A guru to us all. Many considered you a dear friend. Wrapped in your blanket on this sunny day. There were too many. I stood outside. I felt something was wrong. Only got to touch your shoulder as you sat there princess like. All the fuss going on a round you for your 70th. It was a Saturday.

Later when all the cake had gone a handful stood around.

You got up from your room. The birds were calling you, you said.

And then you were gone. I heard the news on Monday. There would be no class, no follow on. No weekly gathering. Everything had changed. You were the glue to the whole gathering of a week  ago. And now the glue was gone.

I danced with the bears when they scattered you in Tokai.

I thank you for shining the light.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Where is scene 2 in the rooi koppies?

I switched off my GPS.

It would not lead me to where I wanted to go.

Speed bumps and traffic, high double fences mark the privileged.

I drive on. I will know it when I get there.

The road deteriorates to a dust track. The privileged do not travel here.

I skirt Wonderkop and there it is. smaller than I thought. nothing to indicate that 34 died here. There seems to be no time to contemplate that here. dwarfed by the towering. Lonmin.

On the outskirts of everything there are the Rooikoppies. The white crosses have been removed. ground burnt. soil hard. I drive on and as suddenly I cross the Hartebeespoort dam wall to another world.

Swanlake, Aloes, Diepsloot, Sandton, Veranda Panda swirl in my head. What reality am I returning to?

(Originally written a year ago, now is as good a time as any to post it.)

My parents did not name me Leo. I chose it.

Well actually that is not quite true. It is short for my Christian name which none of my friends could pronounce. A good friend once introduced me to people in California and turned to me “do you mind if we call you Leo?”

I just nodded.

And so my life was changed. For the first time in my life I managed to avoid that awkward moment just after introductions when you have to say your name three times so that strangers can make sense. In the end everybody nods in embarrassment and the conversation moves swiftly along. Or worse it dies right there.

This got me thinking about names and the stories they could tell.

tm-scan

Table Mountain at last light

In rock climbing the first person to climb a particular route gives the route a name and proposes a grade. The second climbing route I did was Right Face named so after the obvious way up the right hand side of Table Mountain. Obviously there is a Left Face too. Our aim was to one day progress to climbing on Africa Ledge. Named after the shape of Africa in the ravine.

There is obviously Africa Face, Africa Cracks, Africa Nose, Africa Crag etc  As we progressed through the grades so we progressed through these names.

dsc01825

El Capitan – The Nose is the shadow line up the centre

Overseas I climbed in Yosemite. What a more imposing name than El Capitan? The first route up the captain: The Nose. The obvious line up the prow in the middle of the imposing wall. Every party climbing the route finds their own adventure, finds themselves in a way and finds their story. Stories to be told around the campfire later.

I travelled to Utah to hang out with cowboys and climb this tower called the North Sixshooter. Utah desert is famous for crack climbing. The sandstone walls are completely void of features so you have to stuff your hands, finger, arms, anything that goes into the crack and hope that it sticks. It is absolute war. A single rope length can take every bit of energy that you have. There is a route there called The Jane Fonda Full Body Workout. Go figure.

As I progressed I wanted to open routes too.

I went back to Africa Ledge and made Africa Lunch. You see it was on Africa Ledge and my friend Tinie made Out to Lunch the same day.

resized-mary-quake

Mary on the not so scary first pitch of Quake

On Fountain ledge there is Magnetic wall and this little wavy route called Quiver. We did a very very scary route called Quake. The nasty jumble of sharp rocks at the base will chop you in half if you fall off in the wrong place. There is also a video game where you kill lots of bloody monsters by the same name. Hence I thought it was appropriate.

I had just been dumped by a long time girlfriend. We were climbing on the Lower Arrow Buttresses. You have Robin Hood, etc… I made Shot to the Heart. Not a route of great beauty but necessity.

We once again progressed and moved to the bigger cliffs.

Yellowwood Amphitheatre in Du Toits Kloof had Armageddon Time which was the bench mark route and the 1977 classic Time Warp meandering up the centre of the wall. We put up Prime Time up the middle of the wall.

Somehow I think a name gives a route a certain destiny. It gives it a certain place in history and that is where the story starts. Same with people. If we don’t like a name then we should be able to change it. Change it so that we can tell the story we want the world to hear. Tell our story.

milner-3

Automatic for the People

We developed this cliff in the heart some enchanted mountains. The first route to be put up here is called Automatic for the People. You can fall off the very first move and off the very last. In between are 250m of overhanging climbing that are hard and world class. So not automatic at all and certainly not for the people. But the theme was set to REM songs. What followed was The Great Beyond and finally we brought some Lou Reed into the mix. After 11 weekends of preparing the route we put up Magic and Loss. For every bit of magic there is an equal bit of loss. Andrew prepared a route but broke his leg before he could climb it. He called it “Bury my heart at wounded knee”. We got permission to open the route as Andrew would be off climbing for the whole season and I suggested “White men can’t jump”.

So if your story is not to the way you want the world to hear you then maybe start again.

My name is Leo.

Thank you.

Spring time is here.

This is the season for insurance. Somehow it always happens. Somehow despite previous experience I always get caught out. No other season is like it. Summer is summer, it is hot and sunny and we know to put on lots of sunscreen when we go out. Winter is wet and cold and we accept this and layer up. Autumn is different too.

The weekend forecast looked good so I took out insurance. I put on sunscreen for our early morning ride. I hesitated with the windbreaker but put it on more as an afterthought as I stepped through the front door. I should have known. Cruising along the Red Road to Blouberg the double rainbow was a sure sign but I did not pay attention. It was pretty while it lasted. My partner has been pounding the power so I was happy to sit in and enjoy the cruise.

Minutes later the skies opened and not in the way I wanted. “Oh this won’t last” I thought.

My riding buddy kept pushing the pedals. It was time to put our heads down and pretend to be Dutch hardmen. Luckily he was wearing a bright coloured top and so I could see him. I could vaguely make out his back wheel too. My glasses were the only things keeping my eyes open from the spray from his back wheel. Stinging with sunscreen by this point. It was a fine balance of sitting outside the wind and getting soaked you see. I knew which one was worse so I sucked it up.

There was always the advantage that I did not need to drink at all. Just open my mouth.

At moments like this my shoulders ride up and I want to withdraw my head like a tortoise.  Luckily this did not last too long. He called the turn around saving me from begging.

As we entered the café filled  with warmduschers – all dry, having the big breakfast on the small ride we could hold our heads high in the knowledge.

Today is indeed another TUEsday*

This piece has been brewing in my head a while.

I hoped it would go away during the Olympics. I watched only one race (can’t remember which one) on the interweb the next day.

Why bother you ask?

I just don’t see sport as sport anymore. It is entertainment. In the same class as watching the Kardashians or whatever is on trend at the moment. I have no problem with that. I even like it. But it holds little interest beyond. I used to follow it more intensely. I even tried to emulate the actors in the sport.

So what has happened? I am disillusioned.

Disillusioned by the top sprinters, yes that one who wins every time, the guys and girls running the 10 000m, the TDF. I just can’t bring myself to believe that they are clean, that this is sport. More importantly that this has anything in common with my runs or cycles with my mates on any given weekend.

So what is the solution?

Treat the shows we watch on TV as shows. Exactly as that: choreographed, scripted, well executed but no less entertaining or intriguing than when we believed. The only difference is that I can no longer see it as real.

I don’t believe that all pro’s are dirty. Far from it. I pity the clean ones for I believe the rules have changed and they were asleep at the time. The clean guys have had the rug pulled out from underneath them. I fear there is no turning back. For the tide is far too great.

There can be no doubt about that. It is no longer an approach of who wins by being clean. It is who wins by not getting caught. Whether it is pushing up to the line as Sky would like to call it. Or cutting a corner on a switchback and thinking it is ok. Or worse thinking you won’t get caught. And maybe that is the tragedy.

  • Thanks to the Secret Pro for this piece.

No Fear

no fearThe first thing I see is a FB message that my oldest friend is safe.

“Safe from what?”

That means others are unsafe – in danger.

Only then do I find out another city is under siege. Not by a gunman outside a Mac Donalds but by fear.

This is the fuel in New York, Philadelphia, Paris, Mombay, Nice, Muenchen.

This has to stop.

“Violence is not outside it is within”Swami said.

So to the fear.

I had a poster of Dan Osman doing the crucifix high above the Valley floor.

No Fear was the brand. I stared at it for hours wondering how he could have no fear.

Now I realise that is is within us – this fear.

We create it and we have the choice not to.

 

 

 

“When is enough, enough?” Ian asked

I close my eyes in the crowd, in that town square, in that time. Vangelis is playing – Chamonix town square at the start of UTMB

I can still feel the tears now, many years later.

The point of life is to grow and to have fun. If you can have fun while growing then all the better.

So we need to push and do bigger, and better, and further, and more dangerous, and push the boats further from shore…

Or do we?

We confuse doing with growing.

Doing is busy, doing is filling our day.

Growth is deeper.

Growth stays with you, doing does not. This is the acid test.

Growing is internal. You probably have nothing to show for it, nothing to tweet about.

Only you will know the difference.

So when you tackle your next adventure is it to grow or to do?