My middle finger on my right hand is lifeless. The finger inside the glove is more like a piece of wood than part of my body. We are on 4,200 m, just below the shoulder on the 4,478 m high Matterhorn in Switzerland. I can’t hear Thomas over the howling wind and he can’t hear me complain about my finger or how tired I am, or that I am cold. He just pushes on. “Jawohl”. I think of you sitting snug below in the village, maybe looking up through the window towards the pyramid shaped peak towering above the valley. Are you thinking of me like I am of you? Are the boys chasing each other around the flat or are you walking down towards the center of town, over the glacial torrent tearing its way down from the snow capped peaks above. Continue reading “Second Attempt on the Matterhorn. A Mountaineering Report.”
The rusty 50 m long ladder sways back and forth under my weight. I gaze back at the cobalt blue water more 100 m below where a beam of sunlight dances across the surface. We are returning from a sneak peak into the bowels of mother earth and it was spectacular. I again strain to get a last glimpse of the water below and feel utterly at peace, suspended in space. Jolted back to reality by the creaks and groans of the ladder, I wonder if this old ramshackle piece of iron will hold my weight all the way to the top. Luckily I am also fastened to a jumar which easily slides up the safety rope, but still I feel uneasy. How many people have come this way to stare down at Harasib Lake, one of numerous underground lakes in northern Namibia? Those daring first explorers, who gazed down into the black depths, silently excited of what lay below. I try to imagine myself in their position, a terrifying but at the same time inspiring thought. I am ripped back to reality once more by water dripping from above. I look up through the darkness wavering under a thin sliver of sunlight from above. Water continues to drip on my hands, and I get frustrated, try to swing to the left and the right, but the dripping continues. I look up and realize that it is my own perspiration dripping down from my forehead. I am drenched in sweat.
Blood streamed down my face, over my neck and turned my shirt red. “What is going on” Deon shouted from above, no idea that a falling thumb size rock slid my middle finger open to the bone. Moments before, as he shouted “below” I put my hand on my head for cover an instant before the projectile hit me. We were forcing our way up Tooth Gully to the base of one of the most inspiring and difficult peaks to climb in the Drakensberg of South Africa. Devils Tooth. Continue reading “Devil’s Tooth: Third Time Lucky”
West Africa. The dark part of our Home Continent. A visit to Niger was my first job as a geological consultant with our own consulting firm, operating out of Namibia. I left home without any idea what to expect (which was probably the best) as I flew with a stopover in Dakar (Senegal) en route to Niger. I had to apply for my visa in Dakar and actually considered staying on board the plane to continue the journey to Washington D.C., where my fellow passengers were heading – I remember their looks of pity before I disembarked – “you have no idea whats out there – put on your dust mask and hold on for the ride into oblivion” – or at least that’s what the sleepy stares in the dark looked like. I was slightly freaked out stepping out of the plane into the coastal humidity that was Dakar at midnight. Continue reading “A (Few) Trips to the Edge of my Comfort Zone.”
Images of elusive, jagged, snow-capped peaks towering above a thick jungle canopy flashed through my mind when I first read about this mysterious mountain, strutting the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have always had a strange attraction to such seldom visited, remote and unrelenting places, and the Rwenzori and one of its host countries the DRC, definitely fits that picture. The DRC is one of the largest countries in Africa and endowed in mineral riches, but also hosts some of the longest lasting, most brutal civil wars on the continent fought by rebels whose hideout is and has been this very mountain range. Continue reading “Rwenzori: Mountains of the Moon. A Mountaineering report.”
I have asked myself too many times, “why would you want to endure subzero temperatures with a pounding headache at more than 5,000 m above sea level, while strapped to a 1 cm thick rope ,dangling above more than a km of air”. “Why would you leave your loving wife and beautiful boys to go and do something that scares the hell out of you every time you do it”. “Why risk your life and that of your climbing partner in an area so remote, ice laden and rock strewn that chances of surviving a fall would soon diminish with the quest to find your way to the nearest shelter”. I actually don’t know why. But I think, if you have the answers to these questions rambling about in your head during a period of utter isolation, you would probably not be in that spot at that time . Why do we endure terrible cold, dizzying heights and utter fear so far away from home. Are we searching for answers, searching for ourselves or just searching for a way to the top of this damn mountain? Continue reading “Asante, Mount Kenya: A Mountaineering Report”