I wish someone had told me I can climb mountains

“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so.

This week’s post is by Colin Ford.

Last week, the CN&CO team climbed Table Mountain, ably and expertly led by our resident mountain expert, Blake Dyason. We went up the Camps Bay Pipe Trail and overnighted in a hut generously provided by the Cape Province Mountain Club (of which Blake is a member).

It was fun and exhausting and challenging and interesting and beautiful! But it also highlighted some life lessons for me. Here are a few of them:

Everyone has their own abilities. Some of us found the climb really challenging, while others breezed up like they were going for a Sunday stroll. But everyone supported each other to make sure we all made it to the top.

Grab every opportunity you can! Not everyone gets invited to stay on top of Table Mountain overnight. It was a rare privilege and one that I will always remember.

Sometimes you have to hold on, even though it hurts. Blake told us about a certain type of bush called a climber’s friend. It’s incredibly prickly, but also really strong. He said we should grab onto it if we felt like we were falling off the edge. Even though it would cut our hands to shreds, it would be strong enough to support our weight. “You’ll end up with cuts on your hands, but at least you’ll be alive,” he said.

Life’s not necessarily better up in the clouds. The day we went up it was wet and cold and dark up there. But we were sheltered and safe in the hut we stayed in and kept warm and dry next to the indoor fire. It made me appreciate my life on the ground, where the sun shines 99% of the time.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. No matter how slow you may be going, just keep going! We took two hours to get up. Blake can do it in 45 minutes… and that’s ok.

Acknowledge your achievements. I am super-proud of what we accomplished as a team, and what I accomplished as an individual. My legs hurt like hell for a few days afterwards. But it was a small price to pay to be able to say, “I’ve been up there.”

Focus on the task at hand. I let my eyes wander for a few seconds while walking and ended up flat on my face, wedged between two rocks. I got a few bruises, and learnt a valuable lesson.

But also stop and look around every now and then. We made regular stops, both on the way up and the way down, to take in our (beautiful!) surroundings and learn some lessons from Blake (who is truly a superb and knowledgeable guide). Like, did you know there was once a railway line on top of the mountain? And that there are five dams up there, which collectively supply 10% of Cape Town’s water?

Life is about creating shared memories and telling stories. Many of us have known each other for 20 years or more. We’ve done some crazy shit together and lived to tell the tales. Last week we made more memories, and I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead…

Colin is our resident wordsmith. He can write absolutely anything and loves to read, too. He even has his own book club.