Man vs Mountain – Home Court Advantage
There I was, standing atop the 669m tall hunk of spiky rock known as Lion’s Head. My first 70 minute long hike rewarded me with a breathtaking 360 degree view. The whole group was filled with joy and pride after completing such a climb and were now entitled to cashing in on the countless photo opportunities the peak offered. Looking from the summit I could see the entirety of Cape Town, its coastline and beyond it the endless blazing blue of the Atlantic ocean. While I was taking in the sights, I let my mind go blank for a while. I felt overtaken with an instinctive appreciation for my surroundings and the profoundly inspiring sights nature has to offer us.
While looking at the ocean I took a seat on a nearby rock, dropped my backpack on the ground and put my hands behind my head, tranquility. However, the large compartment of the small backpack was filled with many unnecessary items which I had due to my perpetual inability to pack light. Unfortunately, my poor prioritization resulted in the bag taking on quite a spherical shape, perfect for rolling down hills. Fast forward a few moments later, and the bag is now barreling down the top of the mountain at a staggering speed while I quietly stood in the same spot, waiting for it to hopefully get stuck on something. Proceed to everything going wrong as the bag bounced off every rock that could have served to stop it and ended up flying off the top of the mountain. Standing mute and now in slight shock, I found myself recounting the contents of my bag. Upon quick realization that my backpack contains my bum bag with my passport, phone, wallet and even my dad’s watch, I was swiftly overcome with a rush of panic. I started heavily debating looking over the edge. Thankfully, Karina, a fellow IEP member, was standing right by the edge and happily informed me that my bag had snagged on a tree branch by the side of the mountain rather than forever being lost to the South African wilderness.
One enormous sigh of relief later, I was at the brink planning my route. It didn’t seem too hazardous. Looking over the steep side of the mountain, in my head I heard my mother persuading me to leave my backpack to the dassies. However, there were many steady-looking edges I could plant my foot on that I decided to go for it.
Down the side I went, one foot after the other, my hands shaking in search of sturdy rocks. I heard a quiet voice in my head warning me of a prospect of a missed step. I tuned the internal pessimist out, the prospect of a lost passport pushing me forward. As I was inching closer to my bag I felt increasingly confident in my step. The gravel scraping against my palms started feeling familiar. The firm feel of rocky edges beneath my feet reassured me, I was almost at the branch. Once in line with my bag, I gauged the distance and reached for it… no good, it was too far away. Heaving a sigh of frustration, I concluded I had to keep going down the mountain so I could reach my bag from underneath. Luckily, the rapport I built with Lion’s Head neutralized my fear. A few steps later and I was at the root of the tree. After almost slipping on the steep patch of damp grass the tree was growing on, I was able to reach my bag.
I quickly slung it over my shoulder and started making my way back up the side of the mountain. The rush of adrenaline from successfully climbing down filled me with confidence on the way up. While looking up the tall side of the mountain, there was no trace of fear in my eyes. I was ready for a rematch. With my grip steady and my steps swift, I was flying up the hill like an agile spider monkey. “How’s it going Jovan?” I heard Rob checking in on my endeavor. “I’m killing this climb man, I’ll be right back up!!” I replied boastfully. Just as the final word passed my lips, I grabbed onto a loose ridge and pulled. I felt my grip detach as a big chunk of rock ripped off and went flying by me, shattering on the hill below, the pieces falling into a ditch. “Geez, the hills have ears too,” I thought to myself, my heart pounding in my chest. After taking a deep breath, with shaken confidence, I kept going up. With my trust in the mountain now crushed, the final few steps were filled with uncertainty. I glanced up only to meet the encouraging gaze of my fellow hikers. I was almost at the top. Just as my body came over the edge of the mountain, I met eyes with Rob. “Man, fuck this pointy rock” I said to his laughter. The mountain, however, was still listening and with my last step to safety I smacked my knee on a jagged rock below me. A flash of searing pain went through my body as I let out a yell. The mountain had the last word. While I was on the ground, holding my knee in pain, I heard Rob say with his smug British grin, “Never fight the mountain Jovan.” Every ounce of my being hated to admit it, but he was right and the lesson was learned. Never battle nature on its home court.