4 Surprising Tips from Navy Seal Training for Surviving Sacred Seclusion

Almost half the worlds population is under some form of ‘stay at home’ order. By definition, anytime we’re ‘forced’ to do something, it’s harder than if we’d chosen it. We do have a secret weapon though to defeat any obstacle in our path: the ability to learn.

Why not learn from the best then? Listening to an interview with retired Navy Seal Andy Stumpf recently, he shared some insights into Navy Seal training new to me. As trainee and trainer, he’s uniquely positioned to understand what it takes to make it through.

Navy Seal training or BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) is some of the most grueling in the world – it’s difficult to find definitive numbers but it looks like only 6% of men that enter this training complete it. Considering there’s only about a 3% difference in physical capabilities, there’s clearly something else that separates those that complete the training – from those that drop out.

I’m immediately drawn in by his humility as, while trying to make sense of the corona situation, he states:

‘I’m not an expert at all, uh – probably on anything in my life. But one thing I have experience in, is surviving and thriving in high risk situations with high stress… the most dangerous thing you can do, is lose control of your emotions or let your emotions take over your decision making cycle’

‘We need to start talking about we more than me’

That is the sentence that perked me up and primed me for the wisdom that followed.

Here are the 4 biggest lessons I took away from his chat

  1. Focus on what’s in your control

The training’s designed to teach recruits to let go of things outside of their control and to focus on what’s within their control.  

Things outside my control right now is the virus and government responses. Which is probably why you reading this at home. No real choice there; but we do have choice over how we decide to view staying at home.

‘I’m being forced to stay home’ versus ‘I can stay safe at home’ is a vastly different mindset.

Did you notice the title? I used ‘Sacred Seclusion’ instead of Lock down. Language is important and I loved that term I heard yesterday.

While at home we have the choice to consume 4000 extra calories or find innovative new ways to exercise at home. It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch movies all day, but it’s just as easy to choose to learn a new language, start researching how to build an online business – write that book you’ve always wanted to. It’s in your control.

I suggest using the time you’d normally commute to work as your time to build a new habit.

As Mandela lived – ‘use your time wisely, you have a limited time on earth’

PRO TIP: Break the ‘difficult’ goal into the simplest action it takes to start. The scary prospect of writing a whole book becomes easy when starting with ‘write a sentence’. Starting an exercise regime becomes ‘get dressed in active wear and do 1 sit up’.

2. Keep your world small

Photo Credit: Spec Ops Magazine

This resonated with me because it’s what I used to complete my challenge to climb Table Mountain in Cape Town every day for a year. I was forced to think of a way that didn’t overwhelm me. A whole year?? Yeah that can freak me out a bit. One day at a time – step by step? I can manage that.

Put yourself in the shoes of a student in BUDs. You’re in a constant world of pain with no idea of what’s coming next. I can only imagine how debilitating that must be when day one is hell – and there’s another 179 days ahead. You’re just trying to survive.

It was as an instructor that Andy saw the story arc of what was happening and why they did this – it’s a physical test for sure: but they’re using the body to test the mind.

When guys quit as a student they disappear. As an instructor he was able to question them.

‘Why? You said this was your lifelong goal it’s all you ever wanted to do. Why?’

‘I got overwhelmed’

They did the opposite of keeping their world small.

There’s two ways to look at BUDs: it’s 180 days; or a sunrise and a sunset – 180 times. Think about how quickly our world changed and how many weeks have passed already. At the time of writing this its April already. You can keep your mind strong by adopting this principle.

The ultimate test in BUD’s is ‘hell week’ and this is where that principle gets drilled down even further. Already four weeks into training, it starts on Sunday evening and ends Friday afternoon with only 2 hours sleep on Wednesday. Most guys who quit, do so before Tuesday.

‘Don’t look at it as five days. Just make it to your next meal – they have to feed you every six hours.’

Stacking six hours on another six hours and focusing on the next meal – no matter how much pain or cold you’re in – gets you to that next meal which is a reprieve and mental reset to continue.

Makes sacred seclusion look like Christmas every day!

Stressed, tired, hungry, hypothermia, exhaustion induced hallucinations – these extreme conditions allow the instructors to strip away all the layers of ego, revealing who has one important quality.

3. We over Me

Photo Credit: New York Post

This is tested immediately, everyone’s assigned a swim buddy you can’t be more than six feet away from at any time. Suddenly, you’re ordered ‘go swim!’ and forget about the buddy dashing off. That inevitably leads to being punished for leaving him behind and the buddy gets punished too.

They’re being taught there’s penalties for forgetting him and other people suffer consequences by the way you act.

Slowly but surely – two weeks builds ‘we’ and not me until it becomes ingrained. BUD’s is not about finding the fittest men alive; it’s about finding the ones that can work together as a team. You don’t want to be in the most high pressure stressed environment second guessing the person next to you.

Right now we’re in a ‘we instead of me’ training camp – only we’re separated in our homes.  We’re seeing how important our own actions can be, when collectively done together. Imagine what other social challenges we can collectively tackle when combining forces like this? Some people want to put out petitions to government to open up alcohol sales again while others are turning their homes or businesses into factories to make protective gear for health care workers.

Do they feed the Navy Seals alcohol? Here’s another important component about staying home we must learn from them:

The BEST Me, Empowers We

I agree that the training is set up to ingrain a ‘We’ mentality – but the truth is it’s done in conjunction with developing the best me. They’re not mutually exclusive.

This is the philosophy I follow – How do I develop the best Me to serve We?

No matter how we feel – we’re all in this uncertain time together. Some only allowed to leave home for groceries. Some at home but allowed to move freely, some are terrifies about where their next meals coming from not being able to work but essentially our home has become our world. We’ve all just entered our own BUD’s training, except it’s not voluntary.

So what if you flip it round to pretend this is voluntary?

Next, let’s be positive expecting the best but preparing for the worst. Say this ‘home time’ lasts until June 30 – that’s 77 days away at the time of writing – or sunrise and sunset; 77 times. The days wrack up just as quickly whether we do something – or nothing.

Great news though – all you have to think about is today.

Meditation, Exercise, Learning, Researching, whatever your new habit. All it takes is a decision to start and incorporate it into your daily life. Then suddenly you’ll find yourself 22 days into a habit of meditating five minutes every day; exercising three weeks in a row – and feeling better equipped to handle stress.

Resilience is your ability to get bent and come back better than before. What a wonderful opportunity this is to apply that resilience to your goal from a digestible perspective – and you’ll be well on your way to achieve an insane amount.

Can you ignore the big and focus on the small? And not get overwhelmed no matter what the news says? The best you is exactly what We need.

4. Make it a Priority

A habit you prioritize is kept through consistency. Even the fittest Navy Seals can go off the rails once their service ends.

It’s far easier to build smaller daily consistent actions than try a couple big sessions a week. Just think about the reverse – we pick up weight at a rate unnoticeable because we slowly but surely do less and less, and eat more and more.

Our lifestyles pre coronavirus have been put under a microscope. We have the time now to objectively evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Then the plan we put in place should be for a sustainable lifestyle, so if you’re training during your usual commute to the office – don’t give it up when you start again. You’ve built the habit, now keep making it a priority.

While many of us will experience the pain of losing a loved one and cannot be ignored – the rest of us are being given the gift of using our homes as a cocoon.

I hope you emerge a magnificent butterfly.

Feeling Overwhelmed by the Coronavirus? 6 actions to help you break out of the fear loop

PHOTO CREDIT: www.asianefficency.com

This is something that effects all of us. We’re in this together. You’re reading this because it feels like we’re waiting for ‘the storm of the century’ to make landfall, and you don’t know which weather station to believe. It’s unsettling – and that’s why I’m focusing on the mental aspect of this to help minimise the stress you’re exerting on your body.

Let’s be honest – this isn’t the first time the media have focused heavily on feeding us a diet of fear. Even before this it was easy to feel overwhelmed wasn’t it? We have more access to problems all over the world every minute of every day than ever before. While Coronavirus is top of mind for everybody, I invite you to think about how this plays out in other ways keeping you in a fear cycle of ‘Oh no! What’s next’ – so you can start to be proactive and make better mental wealth decisions for future events.

Right off the bat the first action is a must when the information coming at you is fear based.

ACTION 1: Get Informed

That means listening to reputable sources, in the coronavirus case – it’s organisations like W.H.O (World Health Organisation), scientists and medical doctors that have educated knowledge.

Case in point – take the time to listen to the two videos included at the end of the article. One is from Dr Mike tackling the media’s poor coverage and how they’re spreading misinformation. It highlights how out of touch the media really is, while providing sound alternatives.

The other video I highly recommend is Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm. The beauty of his podcast format is you get 90 minutes of discussion instead of trying to create click bait headlines or a five minute sound bite to keep viewers tuned in. This man is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology.

He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. That’s credibility to take seriously.

Genuine concern about this is fine – panicking and acting irrationally based on misinformation is not. Listening to the experts feeds the next action.

ACTION 2: Take the Wheel of your mind

Understand that all the negativity in the world and external factors are outside of our control. Focusing on what you can do will empower yourself. If you’ve practicing to action one, then you know your actions are driven by facts and not fear. Rather know the worst case and how it effects you and what you can do – than listening to uneducated rhetoric causing you to panic and create unnecessary stress in your body.

Yes, this is a highly contagious infectious disease. Yes people are dying. Yes there are other diseases killing more people. The reality is no matter which way you slice statistics, it’s still a disease we dealing with. Are you being proactive in life or reactive? That brings us to the next action.

ACTION 3: Develop Healthy Habits

We live in a world where disease is all around us. Just in the last 20 years we’ve had SARS 2003 – 813 died (https://www.who.int/csr/sars/country/2003_07_11/en/) ; Bird Flu 2005 – 415 died (https://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/2020_01_20_tableH5N1.pdf?ua=1) ; Swine Flu 2009 – 203 000 deaths (

https://www.livescience.com/41539-2009-swine-flu-death-toll-higher.html) and Ebola 2014 – 11 325 deaths (https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/2014-2016-outbreak/index.html) are just a few.

Look at these facts based on the information we have available – bear in mind as this spreads, this can change.

This isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last, but worrying is like a rocking chair – it keeps you busy but it doesn’t get you anywhere. A better focus is how to strengthen what you’re naturally born with – Your Immune system.

You can immediately start by adding things like garlic, ginger, broccoli, turmeric, spinach and citrus fruit to your existing diet. It’s also time to take stock of behaviours like:

  • Smoking
  • Are you exercising? 
  • Are you maintaining a healthy weight?
  • Do you drink alcohol in moderation?
  • Are you sleeping enough?
  • What are your hygiene habits? How often do you clean your hands?

As important as physical health is what are you doing to boost your mental health? Pay attention to how much negative news takes up your day. What would happen if you replaced that with uplifting stories of what people ARE doing or new things to learn yourself?

Don’t know where to start? Sign up HERE for my 11 day course to guide you and help build a ‘power hour’ of productive healthy habits.

ACTION 4: Practice Gratitude

Expressing gratitude daily has been proven to boost both your immune system and your nervous system. You can say this out loud gargling through the foam as you brush your teeth. That’s two minutes twice a day giving you an opportunity to express gratitude for what you have in the morning, and what happened that day at night. Bonus points for writing them down!

Check out Dr John Demartini’s explanation on the healing properties, especially when dealing with trauma.

The important part of expressing Gratitude, is that you’re alive now. If the thought of catching this virus scares you to death because you want to do more, that’s where the next lesson comes in.

ACTION 5: Take Action!

If you were faced with death tomorrow, what would you do?

I wouldn’t want to spend it trying to do ‘stuff’ – I’d make sure I spent every waking moment with those that matter most to me. That sobering thought should make you look back and think ‘yep, I’ve been doing my best to do what inspires me’ and not ‘oh shit there’s so much more to do!!’

Write. It. Down. You don’t need permission to do everything possible to make it happen. Experience the beauty in this world, take risks so that whatever next ‘catastrophe’ the world throws at us – not only are you mentally prepared but you’re already living your best life.

ACTION 6: Get Involved

It might not particularly apply here unless you have medical experience and are in a high contamination zone, but if a particular news story overwhelms you – I’ve learned the best way to turn that into a powerful force for inner peace and fulfilment: is to get involved.

There is no such thing as too little. Volunteering 20 minutes a month is not measured by your time – but by the impact it has on the person / animal / cause you’re passionate about. Tying back to lesson two, asking ‘how can I help’ creates meaningful dialogue with those closest to you about solutions, instead of moaning. It gets you searching for people already tackling the problem near you, instead of following the rabbit hole trapped in a fear loop. Imagine being involved in drastically changing the course of someone’s life? How would that feel compared to the hopelessness of reading another depressing article?

If you’d like to explore this further but not sure where to start – why not sign up HERE for our ‘Take back your power: building purpose’ course.

Breathe

This is serious, but we’re all in this together. Let’s be sensible about our decisions. If you’re sick, stay home. If it persists – see a doctor. If you have unhealthy habits that put you at risk, start converting them into healthy ones. If you have pre-existing conditions that put you at risk, avoid public gatherings.

Help out the elderly and people suffering from pre-existing conditions that are most at risk of this. Use this as a positive reminder of what’s most important in life.

And focus on that, every day going forward.

Turning Dreams Into Reality ~ What the Grand Canyon Can Teach You

Life’s greatest experiences lie on the other side of overcoming challenges

We all have dreams and aspirations, but not all of us turn them into reality.

Born with varying degrees of opportunity, circumstances and resources – they act as unique challenges to overcome in order to realise our dreams. One thing we all possess though, is the capacity to make a decision to change our circumstances.

Wanting to do just that, I stumbled across Jim Rohn. As they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. His video ‘ How To Set Goals For The Life You Want And How To Actually Achieve Them‘ details the power of writing down your goals. Goals are broken down into career, personal development, the things you want, the places to go (my focus today) and the people to meet. The aim: to tick them off and keep adding new ones. This gives you something to aim for and celebrate as you accomplish them.

This was in 2016; The Grand Canyon was 18th on my list. 3 years and some change later, words on paper become a link to one of the greatest days of my life.

This is by far my longest post, but just as the Canyon isn’t described as ‘Little’, so too would a 5 minute read do this an injustice. Get comfy as I take you on a journey.

The purpose is to develop your power by building a habit of listening to your thoughts and desires, writing them down, and taking the next step to make them come true.

If you want to 'cheat' - scroll to the bottom and see which lessons resonate with you, and apply in your own life.  

Nothing could prepare me for the Grand Canyon. Nothing.

Firstly, I need to give you some context into why this dream metabolising into reality is so meaningful.

The Grand Canyon is our third stop in two days as we embark on an epic road trip organised by Jessie. Covering 1 215km (755 miles) across Nevada, Utah and Arizona from Las Vegas to Phoenix with nothing but the best nature has to offer in between.

One epic road trip

Today’s our most adventurous by far. It starts with a 3am wake up to watch the Springbok rugby team play England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan. It’s worth it – we beat them for our 3rd title, becoming the only team never to lose a final. You must understand though – 18 months prior we were probably at our lowest point in history. Two men’s leadership is what turned it around: The coach, Rassie Erasmus and our inspirational captain Siya Kolisi. Together they transformed a team at it lowest into the worlds best in record time.

It happens to be at the last place with WiFi to watch! We’d driven to Bryce Canyon yesterday from Zion, arriving as the sun kissed the horizon goodnight in a clear sky leaving in its wake a trail of colours melting into each other.

It’s November 2nd – and it’s freezing.

Sunrise is at 7:57 and pumped full of adrenalin there’s zero chance of going back to sleep, Jessie and I grab breakfast mercifully open at 6am. It’s all working out perfectly, giving us an hour to find a spot overlooking the canyon to enjoy the magic of sunrise.

We… are totally unprepared. The car says -11° C (12° F). The heater’s full blast but eventually we have to bite the bullet and leave our sanctuary, immediately my bodys like ‘what what WHAAAAT?!?!’

We’re 2 700m (9 0000ft) above sea level with the landscape dropping away from us. It feels like we’re on top of the world.

A cloudless sky is dotted with the final specks of stars, holding on for dear life to be seen. The horizon flickers with orange and yellow gradually burning the lilac sky as the sun is reborn.

Even the monotone dark shadow of the Canyon starts morphing into lighter shades revealing jagged monoliths rising out of the valley, as if protecting the ground running away from the rims edge.

Whatever pain we suffer thanks to the cold for this – it’s worth it. I’d balanced my phone close to the edge supported by a rock to ensure a steady time lapse video. Nature puts that adrenalin to use, a breeze picks up and blows my phone over the edge. Thankfully, I anticipated this and before Jessie even knows whats happened I’ve dived across grabbing it on its bobsled ride down. Barring almost losing my phone down the cliff, I hope this is a sign of what’s to come.

You’ll see it fall over the edge at the end 🙂

We head south across the Utah border into Arizona, spending over five and a half hours in the car covering 500km (311 miles) so we’re both thankful it’s autumn as the midday sun beats down through our windscreen.

My first clue to how unprepared I am for the sight of Grand Canyon should’ve been at Horseshoe Bend. I don’t ever recall seeing pictures of it before googling the Grand Canyon on this drive. It grabbed my attention amongst the plethora of pictures, but it never crossed my mind to check where it is.

We’d quickly stopped at Lake Powell to walk across the bridge admiring the dam wall and the river gorge. It’s already impressive, at 305m (1000ft) the Chrysler building would be devoured with just 14m of the spire visible.

It certainly gets my juices flowing, but we’re completely oblivious to the fact that Horseshoe Bend is 10 minutes away. Sometimes not having everything planned out leaves space for beautiful surprises.

The flat fifteen minute walk up to the edge does its job to erode any expectation. Geography taught me about horseshoe bends as part of river ecology, who knew I’d see THE Horseshoe Bend. Eventually the river will cut through the bend creating an oxbow lake. Just a couple more millions years I guess, it’s only taken 5 to get here.

Everything ‘missing’ below us – is thanks to the tireless carving skills of the Colorado River.

That. Blows my mind.

I’m not afraid of heights, but standing on the edge certainly gives my stomach butterflies. A boat making its way upstream to visit a group camping on the riverbank helps add scale. It’s breath taking – what an unexpected treasure!

The next three-hours is a mixture of flat lands quickly morphing into majestic twisting mountain passes. Huge shadows in the distance usually reserved for clouds reveal deep cracks in the earth – as though an earthquakes ripped it open.

Finally, we turn off the freeway towards the Parks South Rim gate. The lengthy journey’s been building my excitement to fulfill a dream born 15 543km (9 658 miles) away. Much like the walk to horseshoe bend, the drive into the park is unassuming dense with trees either side.

And then it happens.

‘Navajo Viewpoint’.

I might look calm but inside I’m like anyone ten seconds away from meeting their hero. My eyes are teased with snippets. Stepping through the trees the true scale slams into you as though opening a door to a flooded room.

It’s the kind of beauty worth traveling from distant galaxies to see. It stirs something deep inside.

One thing’s for sure, the word ‘Grand’ doesn’t do it any justice.

To put the scale into perspective – the distance from the rock of Gibraltar to Africa’s nearest point is 14km (9 miles) which is almost 4 kilometers (2 miles) LESS  than the widest gap between the north and south rim and instead of flat like the ocean textured with colour and millions of years of craftmanship. This chasm easily fits one and a half Table Mountains from Cape Town. The late afternoon sun caresses every undulation for the shadows to act as guides for our eyes.

The top of the cake is the whiteish Kaibab limestone, which gives way to a sheer wall of Coconino Sandstone of similar colour. Next the rock changes outfit to a redder colour as first the Hermit Shale dazzles your eyes before the Supai Group takes over the baton. Now it’s the Redwall Limestone having a turn before the red shade is replaced by the grey Mauv limestone. We’re getting closer to the Canyon floor as an infusion of the green, purple and browny red layer of Bright Angel Shale hooks our attention. Tapeats and Great Unconformity layers add some yellow before the lowest layer currently dancing with the river, is Vishnu Schist, a dark grey granite.

These are just a taste of the 40 layers that combine to create one of the most jaw dropping inspired moments of my life. How amazing Jessie and I are both in our 40th year seeing it for the first time together.

I’m grateful it’s so quiet too. The perfect soundtrack for this view is silence, instilling grandeur usually reserved for mountains.

In this moment, nothing but love and peace exists.

Under the Canvas

We’re still 50 minutes away from our ‘home’ for two nights, enough time for the stirred waters to settle.

We’ve already hiked 15.5km (just under 10 miles) in Zion and Bryce Canyon’s 4km ‘quickie’ was the equivalent of scaling the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (61 flights) racking up 5 hours on our legs. We have all day Sunday to explore so we’re eager to chat to the staff to figure out what our best options are to maximise our time.

Enter Krocky, a Canyon expert and nominee for ‘Best First Impression Ever’.

Table Mountain taught me the importance of asking an experienced local the right questions. There’s already a handy guide describing route options detailing distances, elevation drop/gain, time it’ll take and difficulty levels as you can see below. My point is made with this line about attempting a rim to river hike:

If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger.

Really fantastic way of clearly describing the options

Fitness: I’ve been training like a demon possessed in San Francisco in preparation for my next challenge averaging 150 flights of stairs per day over anything from 2-3 hours. That’s almost doing Table Mountain up and down every day. As for Jessie? I watched her fly across 10 time zones and smash 6 consecutive climbs up Table Mountain. I’m not worried. She’s a machine.

Expertise: Our backpack will have food, water, space blankets, a torch, a backup charger for the phones, maps of the routes, emergency numbers, warm clothes and snacks for good measure. With sunrise at 6:52 and sunset at 17:30 a start latest 8:30 gives us a 9 hour window to finish; excluding a 30 minute twilight bonus period.

The weather looks perfect, so my biggest concern is time.

Krocky patiently listens to our detailed explanation of what we’ve done through his experienced lens of a Canyon veteran. To his credit, he’s not outright telling us not to go all the way down – he makes sure we’re being realistic about our capabilities, which I respect. I’ve seen too many people unprepared on Table Mountain putting others lives at risk not to take this seriously.

“Just so you know – when I hauled ass, I took 3 hours to get down to the river on the South Kaibab trail. It’s 4700ft drop in elevation you’ll need to climb back up, so if you do this it’s going to be one heck of a day”

Krocky had our full undivided attention, we’re grateful for his time. I quickly calculate 3 hours 30 minutes down gives us 5 hours and 30 minutes to climb up including time for breaks. I know we can climb Table Mountain in an hour – which although shorter in distance is far steeper than the Grand Canyon.

So far so good. Plus my intuition isn’t sounding any alarm bells.

“Now South Kaibab has no water on it at all – it has two bathroom stops but no water. So if you come back up that way you’re gonna need enough water to get home. You’re lucky, November’s probably the best month all year to do this. Don’t be fooled though it could be snowing at the top and 75° (24° Celsius) at the river. Use loads of sunscreen.”

We’re starting at the coldest time of the day, so if we’re warm with enough space in the backpack to shed layers later – we’re golden.

“Now if you do make it all the way down – and again I’m not recommending you do – but if you do, I highly recommend coming up the Bright Angel Trail which will finish at the Grand Canyon village. Depending on what you decide, leave your car there and catch the park bus across to the start of South Kaibab trail. Not only does this route have water points, but essentially you have a river / stream running next to you the entire time. If you run into any rangers by all means – DO NOT tell them your going all the way to the river”

Boy am I glad I ended our hike early on Friday to leave some extra gas in the tank for the legs! Krocky gives us a knowing grin.

“Be safe out there and enjoy the Canyon – you’re in for a treat”

He wasn’t lying.

A Day Steeped in Awe

Some ‘technical difficulties’ with the fire stove in our tent means we got smoked out. Opening the ‘window’ and ‘door’ flaps wide open in freezing conditions to clear it isn’t ideal. It’s only the next day, after sharing with reception what I thought was my poor fire making skills, that the manager himself checked it out and finds that the chimney’s blocked. Unfortunately, after a long day I wasn’t thinking straight which means no fire – and sleeping in freezing tent.

Jessie ends up putting on all the clothes she’d laid out to get dressed in the morning. Long johns, thermal socks, an extra t shirt and about three more layers of jackets – and she’s still cold under our duvet and blanket. I’m envious when I wake up getting changed in the cold.

We’re on target happily sipping coffee and tea warming our hands enjoying a Canyon sunrise. I don’t have the superlatives to express how warm my heart is absorbing the view.

Our plan’s simple: take it as it comes. Our intention is clear: we want to reach the river. If either isn’t sure about making the trip back in time – we’ll immediately turn around.

Under the Canvas are fantastic. They clearly listened to Jessie’s reason for our visit, a pre birthday card and drink waiting for me in our tent. Experiences are not just about what you do – it’s where you stay. Krocky set the stage for how everyone would treat us and after our phenomenal dinner – are disappointed we leave too early to enjoy breakfast. They have us covered though, we’re able to choose a packed lunch prepared fresh before we leave. Our stomachs are incredibly happy about this as both our meals are delicious. After filling our water bottles, we still buy 3L spare. It’s not predicted to be that warm, but rather safe than sorry.

We’re ready.

Parking at the ‘end’ (in case) we wait for the first bus to collect us, only two other  women with almost zero leg coverage with us. Madness! Not just any women though – trail runners. Seriously fit trail runners. They’ve completed Iron Man. Okay that explains the madness.

“You’re running it?? All the way down to the river and back up Bright Angel Trail, wow that sounds insane. How long do you think it’ll take?”

“Uuuuuuum, about 9 hours?”

Jessie and I share a look. Same route. Same hopeful time. Only we’re not running.

“How far down are you guys going?”

With Krocky’s words ringing in my ears I casually respond, ‘Oh we’re don’t know, just gonna see how we feel and decide as we go”

“Yeah that’s a good idea”

It would’ve been fun to see their faces if we told them the truth.

Once the bus drops us off, they set their watches and disappear over the rim. I’m not put off by their estimates, their time doesn’t make sense. If we hadn’t spoken to Krocky we’d probably panic. Although, I’ve learned from my runs up and down mountains in Cape Town that sometimes running wears you out so much, that the difference between power walking and running/walking can be a few minutes. Granted that’s over smaller distances but still. Maintaining a good speed power walking versus burning myself out trying to run is also far more enjoyable. Either way – we’re positive and ready to rock!

We start 3 minutes off our planned time filled with excitement and anticipation. That is, until this sign 7 minutes later:

They don’t mess around with the warning sign, do they?

“Don’t be like Victor!”

I can’t help but laugh. Especially as Jessie points out it’s not a red shirt he’s wearing! Ouch….

It seems a bit extreme, but I guess it’s here for a reason.

We quickly start understanding the scale.  Dropping down we’re able to compare the thin layer on the far northern side to whats around us. That thin line is about a 10-story building and puts the thicker lower layers into perspective, only 445 story’s to go.

Even though we start in freezing temperatures, I’m happy to be in the shade cast by the rims edge. It’s going to be a loooong day, the less we’re in the sun the better. It’s almost an hour before we emerge out of the shadows and need to shed layers.

It’s so unusual climbing down a ‘mountain’ first. It’s completely foreign to me. The path’s wide enough for mules to transport goods and people down to the Phantom Ranch which has basic rooms and only open April to October. Krocky suggested their restaurant to visit – although it will add another 40 minutes to an already arduous hike. Still, it’s good to have options.

The mules follow the opposite route, only going down Bright Angel path and up the South Kaibab trail. We’d see quite a few groups of people using this option, needing to step aside and squeeze against the cliff as they pass. Once all our warm clothes are off and in the backpack, I kind of feel like a mule myself. I laugh thinking about a mule seeing me and saying ‘I’m glad I’m not you buddy’

This trail is predominantly along the ridges, constantly giving us panoramic views to marvel. It takes us 40 minutes to reach our the first reference point on the hiking guide: the majestic vantage point aptly called ‘ooh aah’.

It’s like being on another planet. A cloudless sky highlights the stark contrast of the grey, brown and red layers capped by white icing. Can you imagine being one of the first European explorers arriving here? Crossing the great plains to suddenly arrive at this? No one back home would believe them.

Now you just type ‘Grand Canyon’ in Google and hit images to see every picture linked to that tag word ever taken. It’s not the same though. I’m grateful for that otherwise what would be the point of traveling?

There are precious few that understand what it means to connect to this place more than a day trip. There are 6 Native American tribes, Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Novi and Zuni in this region that see it very differently through a myriad of lenses. A place to be feared and respected. A harsh land but a place of opportunity. It’s inspired centuries of cultural expression. It’s sacred to them. A holy site. They share history, but more than anything, they call it home.

Kaibab is a Paiute word and means “Mountain Lying Down,” their term for the Grand Canyon. Much of the hiking trails are based on the old migration paths used by the Native Americans for centuries as they followed the rhythms of nature, and even though this route was made in 1924 – imagine what it must have been like doing this hundreds of years ago. Climbing down commands your respect and full attention and adds to the appreciation of this landscape.

Snaking along the ridge, a vast ‘plateau’ roughly halfway down is sprawled below us. It’s like a plain I imagine reams of wild animals roaming as they forage on the sparse vegetation.

Skeleton Point is our last stop in the ‘be careful’ range before dropping into the red zone. All you can do is marvel at the ‘mountain ranges’ towering above you in every direction. Natures Colosseum. It also means we’ve descended 640m and traveled 4.8km (3 miles). Next is The Tipoff a further 500m down and the equivalent of climbing down Table Mountain to sea level and already 100m back up.

Only we still have another 330m to reach the river.  

The Colorado river looks deceptively close, the turquoise green line meandering between the V shaped jagged cliffs. An Australian couple are nervously contemplating whether they should turn back. I’m grateful for Jessie’s machine like powers; we’re feeling great after 2 hours 20 minutes – comfortable we’re on track to beat sunset.

Less assured, they ask us our plans. We share Krocky’s advice, but they have no food and no warm clothes. Deciding to go the whole way, we pair up and get to chat them for the next 30 minutes down to the river. Sharing where we’re all from – they congratulate me on our win yesterday which is a nice surprise. I’ve become accustomed to few American’s knowing rugby let alone follow the World Cup. They’re on a epic journey themselves, taking three months off to do a road trip in a camper van up the west coast finishing in Canada.

Being over the river on the Kaibab suspension bridge is mind blowing. If this was Horseshoe bend, the cliffs looming above would be the rim. Now that’s the plateau with another entire ‘mountain’ to climb above that.

This is all from erosion. EROSION!! It’s astounding. It’s one thing for existing mountains to change over time thanks to weathering and gravity – this is just erosion?? Okay I suppose gravity must be given some credit too. This is an amazing display of what is possible with patience and time, never giving up and being persistent.

I wander if the dams have impacted the erosion by disrupting the natural cycles at play?

Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to create national parks and protect the endless beauty on display. He said it best:

“I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

Only One Way: UP

Used to the sheer drop on Table Mountain, this climb’s  been far gentler and manageable, with pockets of steep sections zig zagging down. In contrast though, we’ve traveled 12km (7.5 miles) versus Platteklip’s 2.1km direct route. It’s taken us 3 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds. I’m comfortable we’re within the range to enjoy a reasonable pace. I’ve had experience climbing up Table Mountain in the dark, so even IF we take longer, I know it’s far safer than if the reverse were true. You’re always stable as you place your next step to stabilise and pull yourself up.

Nevertheless, we cross back over the river on Bright Angel suspension bridge – choosing a shaded spot to eat our packed lunches, fueling the legs for the tougher second half of the journey. We watch a river raft party navigate some rapids, careful to avoid the swirling whirlpool below us.

With a moment to chill at the river, I finally grasp the Victor warning. If this was summer? I’d never make it back up in the heat of the day. Granted – with mid-summer sunsets at 19:48 you have time to start later. I’m sure there’s great places to swim for a couple of hours, but even if there’s shade – the stifling heat radiating out the Canyon must be unbearable. If I ever do this in summer, it’ll be with a night’s stay at the bottom enabling a 5am start for both to beat the heat.

The path follows the river for about 2km before it sharply turns left turn at another toilet station – now with more water to refill. So far, I’d say Krocky’s descriptions have been spot on.

This path is completely different. Climbing up the cracks of the Canyon we’re always dwarfed by towers of rock above us, the only view is what the isn’t obstructed ahead.

TIP: If you only have time or the capacity to see one trail: Pick the South Kaibab Trail and take loads of water.

Both are completely different experiences, but to truly experience the vastness and magnitude of the scale you’re a part of for a moment in time – is inspiring, humbling and its own rite of passage to appreciate.

There are few places that make me feel ‘home’, filling me with deep inner peace and gratitude for the beauty I’m given, wanting only one thing in return: respect.

The Grand Canyon joins Iceland, The Karoo, Table Mountain and Yosemite in my top five.

The perfect day to explore the Grand Canyon

Reflections

The stream means this route is greener and lush with vegetation, even hanging gardens as plants cling to the rock walls as though they have suction cups for roots. The contrast is incredible, and I’m reminded the most important aspects that make today possible:

  • My strong legs that work
  • My healthy body
  • My eye sight
  • Our timing
  • My girlfriend Jessie

On the way down, we’re always aware of what’s coming. Now, it feels like we’re being tormented as each layer above feels like the rim – just to have more cliffs above that. At one point the layers so thick I have to do a ‘pano’ pic just to get it all in. It feels daunting after already completing 800 vertical meters. The never ending tease of another false summit dwarfed by the next challenge.

With an extra 20kgs (44 pounds) on my shoulders, my legs, knees and ankles are managing better than expected – my shoulders and back on the other hand are taking serious strain. Again – I’m eternally grateful for the time of year, as most of the climb happens in the shade. The lower trajectory of the sun allowing the rim to protect us. I’m doing my best to keep a steady pace, constantly monitoring the time to make sure we’re on track. Every now and again seeing glimpses of the Australians further back. They should be okay.

I’m extremely grateful that Jessie’s able to do such extreme things and we’re able to enjoy the conversations that flow while doing these types of things. Today’s talks center around all the emotional challenges that we’ve gone through in our lives and what we’ve learned.

Today’s been a beautiful way see the Grand Canyon – but more importantly FEEL it too. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of nature than up close and personal on your own steam. I now understand my souls calling early in life to make this a ‘must see’ experience in my lifetime. All thanks to Jessie spoiling me for my 40th.

I know I’ll be back.

While I’ve tried to convey what this experience means to me – I can safely tell you that nothing will ever do it justice until you experience it yourself. All I ask – is that you give yourself as much opportunity to explore and watch time evaporate. Don’t cram this in, make it a priority. I believe you’ll leave it with a deeper appreciation for life.

After 7 hours and 39 minutes and 20 seconds covering 27 km (17 miles) – we’re back on the rim. A full hour ahead of schedule with ample time to enjoy a bar snack and well-deserved beer before watching the sun set over this sacred place. The perfect bookend to an unforgettable day.

What a way to celebrate my last Sunday as a ‘thirty something’ year old.

We get back in time to hear Krocky’s tales of the Canyon as part of his unorthodox quiz night, his smile relieved as much as it is congratulatory.

‘Krocky, is this ‘Victor’ sign really necessary’ I say bringing up my picture.

‘Oh yeah! In Summer there’s at least one person every day like that’

There you go. Don’t be like Victor – speak to Krocky and get the best advice for the experience of a lifetime. Although sad to be leaving, we’re given a new dream to reach for as they hand us their ‘passport’ to get stamped at their other locations: Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier Park, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains and Mt Rushmore all great places – but that’s not enough so they’re adding Acadia, Yosemite, Sonoma, Catalina Island and Joshua Tree to the list.

Again – we’re ready! We’re excited to meet each ‘Krocky’ to maximise our experience.

What. A. Day. Now it’s time to cap it off  under the stars, under which even the Grand Canyon is dwarfed.

How does this apply to you as you carve your own life through layers of challenges?

  1. Keep room for spontaneity in your life, the room will always be filled with unexpected treasures.
  2. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will always give you bonus opportunities to enjoy.
  3. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you can. Be realistic about matching your capabilities with what’s required.
  4. Never be too proud to seek council from someone more experienced than you.
  5. Respect nature.
  6. Be prepared. More information makes better decisions resulting in more enjoyable experiences.
  7. Do less in a day with more intention, and the experiences will create profound memories instead of tick boxes you forget like boxes in the garage.
  8. Always be grateful for your experience and timing. Always
  9. Become an ambassador for these oasis of beauty

Goals linked to experiences, enrich your life beyond measure

~ Andrew Patterson

Learning Perspective

 

365 Ubuntu Climbs PerspectiveOne of the gifts bestowed upon me this year comes in the form of perspective.

It’s easy to make snap judgements on what I see or hear; because let’s face it – most things I comment on (socially, politically, environmentally) are based on my own experiences and beliefs.

I’d like to share some mind shifts I’ve had through dedicating a year to climbing the same strenuous route up Table Mountain – Platteklip gorge (a route most people detest) every day.

I’m going to relate them back to the three organisations its supporting: Habitat for Humanity; One Heart and The Sunflower Fund.

  1. Don’t you get bored doing the same route every day?

Stuck in a hospital room

When you understand peoples behaviour reveals who they are, then you realise this question gives me an insight into what the person asking me is going through.

The short answer is the mountain and climb are different every single day. However,your mindset determines exactly what the outcome will be. Instead of saying “You’re doing this for a year?” I say, “I’m only doing this for a year”.

First statement creates struggle; second one generates gratitude – and all with one word.

It goes deeper than this, which I discovered when I was constantly asked the question and realised I needed to think deeper about it. I realised boredom is a lack of appreciation for the gifts you have every day. Your health, your legs, your eye sight.

Just ask a Leukaemia patient who’s not just stared death in the face, but upon receiving a transplant must face up to three months of solitary in hospital to reduce risk of infection during a vulnerable time.

Three. Months.

No outdoors. Limited interaction with friends and family. Now let’s talk about boredom and whether they would trade that room for a chance to climb a mountain every day.

  1. ‘Bad’ weather as an excuse

drowned shacks

I use inverted commas there because I no longer believe there’s bad weather; just bad preparation.

I’ve climbed in all kinds of treacherous weather ranging from heat waves to bitter cold; insane winds reaching 100km/h to torrential rain. Sometimes these can be combined.

The reality is: my challenge lasts 2-5 hours (depending who’s with me and weather conditions) and then I get to go home to secure flat that’s warm and dry.

It’s over for the day.

For the thirty million South Africans living in informal houses, every storm brings with it the panic of what will happen to my home. Flooding is most often a cause from torrential rain and the first family member home from work will start ‘emptying’ the water from their shack and attempt to dry what little items they have.

Wind means there’s potential for other homes to become missiles and your homes relentlessly battered on the Cape Flats by the wind. Until it stops – there is no respite.

shackfires

We can throw in fires on the mountain. These may mean having to choose different routes, but in an informal settlement can devastate thousands of shacks. All because one person may have been reckless causing many to lose every single item they own. The mountains vegetation and life will recover and so too will most people – but the people have nowhere else to go.

Not knowing how to read; living in poverty and time before a donor is found – are all 24/7, 52 weeks a year challenges until help and empowerment are given.

  1. I Can’t leave Cape Town

 

Klapmuts primary school 365 Ubuntu Climbs talk
Children at Klapmuts primary at the handover where I had the privilege to speak about what I’m doing and why

It’s true that committing to climbing every day means I’m ‘stuck’ here. Most people we are helping can’t ever leave Cape Town; never mind just one year.

This was highlighted to me when visiting Klapmuts primary where the principal and teachers explained most children have never seen Stellenbosch (15km away) and if they do – exclaim how big the buildings are. At most they’re seven stories high.

I love that on their school hall walls they have four murals: The Sphinx; The Statue of Liberty; The Sydney Opera house – and Table Mountain.

By helping teach these children to read they have a chance at an education and a chance at going there one day. And that – is priceless.

  1. Pain and Fatigue

I’m adding this one even though it’s not part of who we support because it’s such a valuable lesson.

My legs and body having no day off was always the great unknown. Becoming fixated on the pain and weariness of my legs on each climb is easy, and then I was taught a lesson by a special man.

Lifa broke his neck playing rugby and decided the doctors were wrong when they said “you’ll never walk again” – he’s slowly but surely taught himself to sit upright; then stand; and now walk with crutches. This man is beyond special.

Having successfully navigated Lions Head up and down with friends he wanted to climb Table Mountain. The people at Petro Jackson Fund had met me and sharing my story suggested getting in touch. He did – and only because he’d made it up Lions head, did I entertain the idea.

On climb 145 we made it to the Waterfall and due to time constraints – had to deliver the bad news we were turning around. We’d never make the cable car in time and going further only risked more chance of complications to climb back down. Repeat – time was why we wouldn’t make it. Remember, he’s climbing with crutches – and with more time I believe he would’ve made it.

Lifa Rock climb 145 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Lifa’s rock is the one in line with his head – yes he got up there!

For two hours I watched the human spirit in action with determination and smiles to match. I named that rock he sat on after him and every time I go past it, I think of him and I’m reminded that whatever pain I have in my legs – it’s something he and others hope to be able to experience one day.

His achievement fans my flames and that pain and fatigue reminds me what a gift the ability I have is, to do this every day.

 

  1. Graffiti on the Mountain

Bonus lesson.

On climb 106, I started for a late afternoon climb, with enough time to see the sunset. Within fifty stairs, I saw the first of fourteen rocks spray painted. Not tiny things – entire boulders with the last reminder two thirds up.

It was disgusting and hideous to think that someone could do this. I was trying to contain my anger when something completely opposite occurred. I had two missed calls for the Safety Mountain Tracking people.

Andrew, we have a hiker in distress on Smuts track and you’re the closest – can you help us?

At this stage I was at my fittest and still feeling fresh, so I was able to climb the rest (a little more than halfway) in thirty minutes and then trail run along the eastern table to the highest point, Maclears beacon, and then down smuts track to where the five people were with two SANParks rangers.

Thankfully, because this would be crucial later.

The helicopter was unable to land on the incline and so rescue teams had to carry the woman down. I’d stupidly taken my torch out my bag thinking there was no need for it. How wrong I was.

The ranger asked if I could lead the four people back down Skeleton gorge but with fading light and no torches, I suggested radioing the cable station to ask to wait for us. They agreed and the safer option along the top was what we took. Before setting off, I saw one friend removing the woman’s jewellery and phone; it was only then I realised she’d passed away – a heart attack.

Fading light climb 106 365 Ubuntu Climbs
The cable station sits alone (middle) in the distance as I race to the distressed hikers

Life and death climb 106 365 Ubuntu Climbs
View south as I race along

Those spare minutes gained earlier enabled us to navigate the climb back up to the top table in twilight safely. Along the top, we passed two rescue teams thankfully with spare lights for the final stretch in darkness. Darkness wasn’t what made this the most difficult walk of my life though.

The four friends were in a complete state of shock and showed immense gratitude when we finally arrived back down safely.

At the bottom, I was no longer thinking about the graffiti.

Final understanding

I used to misconstrue having something that others; like legs that work, or opportunities, or money, as something to feel guilty about.

I’ve subsequently learned guilt is wasted energy. Instead I now do two things:

  1. Appreciate what I have even more
  2. Use my gifts/opportunities to empower those born into more challenging circumstances than my own.

The choice is ours.

See you on the mountain.

perspective quote 365 Ubuntu Climbs

Andrew Patterson has climbed every day in 2018 to raise money for three incredible organisations. To be part of the change you wish to see in the world head over to http://www.365climbs.com and add your voice to become part of the Ubuntu Family

Taking Stock of 2018

Table Mountain Panoramic 365 Ubuntu Climb summit

It’s December – and for many that means a downhill slide into holiday mode; a panic for many parents about what to do with children on holiday and navigating the busy malls for Christmas presents.

To me, it represents 11 months of successfully achieving what I set out to do in January: 336 successful climbs up Table Mountain out of 365 with no injuries or any illnesses worth speaking about and 29 days to go…

I cannot begin to express my gratitude enough for my healthy body and legs – even though it’s something I do before every climb.

November’s a wonderful birthday month for me as well many friends and family; all Valentines Day babies methinks.

I’d always known my birthday was 56 days away from the end of the year but never calculated that meant it was the 309th day of the year.

This year I turned 39. You can’t script things like this and has been the type of amazing synchronicity experienced all year to remind me how special this year was meant to be.

And not just on one or two days – but all of them.

Sunset climbing back down 365 Ubuntu Climbs Cape Town Table Mountain

Looking back – Before you look Forward

I invite people climbing with me to take a moment to look back down the mountain; to appreciate for a moment how far they’ve come and what they’ve already accomplished.

Goals are great. They give me a direction to work towards and purpose in some cases. I’ve learned that climbing mountains gives me opportunities to learn valuable life lessons, one of which is – that the end goal and view at the top is not the be all and end all. Its about learning to value beauty in each step as much as the view at the top.

It can be a hard slog no doubt – but no one ever said you had to do the whole thing in one go. We’re allowed to stop every now again and look around.

That’s what I feel like I’m doing now with climb 337 looming. Stopping and looking around at whats come before me.

People have experienced snippets of what I’ve been through but as with most things in life, until experienced for yourself you can never truly understand.

The closer I get to the end now the further away it feels; I haven’t had a day off all year.

A wall of cloud on the summit of a 365 Ubuntu Climb Table Mountain
These kinds of majestic gems await me on some of my summits

Daily Thinking for Final Stretch

I learned when I get closer to the top and/or the bottom, my tendency is to want to ‘just get there’. This is how accidents happen. When I try push my already fatigued body and mind, I lose focus and start thinking about the end instead of the next step – so I’ve taught myself to maintain the same steady pace no matter how close to the end and excited I become.

I need to do just that for the next 28 days.

With immense excitement looming it’s hard.  When your girlfriend (who lives in San Francisco) is flying in under 2 weeks time and your whole family will be coming down from Johannesburg around Christmas time to support me; the mind has plenty to distract you with.

Distracted is dangerous, just look at car accident statistics – an estimated 52% happen within 8km of the home.

I sat with my performance coach around what data we’re going to measure this last month that can be used to analyse my efforts when I’m done. Heart rates, sleeping, emotional state, physical state you name it. We can compare these stats when I’m fresh again next month and do speed tests on the same route.

This is the most dangerous time now, these next few weeks. Keep the mind strong.

These words from him are valuable – particularly that I’ve fallen twice in ten days in exactly the same spot on the way down. Luckily just caused a stiff ankle nothing sprained.

It happens that quickly.

Distractions are compounded by every person you meet asking “whats next?!” and “what are you going to do on January 1st?”

At least the second one is easy to answer: I’m doing my 366th climb in a row and my last solo climb. This is to take stock of what I’ve accomplished in 2018 and how many people we – you and I – have helped by donating time and money to those living in appalling conditions.

Fulfillment comes from walking your most authentic path; Significance is when you can align that to empowering others in the process.

Its interesting to me how people’s reactions have flowed since having this idea.

1st Phase: That’s crazy, why on earth would you want to do that for a whole year?

2nd Phase: (usually only hear this much later on) you’ll never finish

3rd Phase: Oh you’re going to miss this when you not climbing anymore

4th Phase: Whats next??

(sidenote – asking what’s next is expected from someone who’s asked all the relevant questions and understands the persons current feelings and state of mind)

Lessons from these Questions

Very few people are ever willing to sit with someone in their pain or discomfort and challenges. The reality is no one is on this planet to save anyone else. Not when it comes to how you think and what you choose and how you act.

  1. Stop projecting

Recognising that all my responses are based on my experiences and what I would do in that person’s situation.

  1. Ask questions

Listening to understand means asking questions to learn where someone is right now.

  1. Think about the present

Its always easier to say than do but getting a gauge of where someone is right now based on what has happened, is far better than trying to play crystal ball and predict what someone’s future will be. The future is made up of tons of ‘right now’ decisions.

  1. Not my job to convince

Whether my project, religion, Politics, diets, exercise regimes – you name it. It’s not my jobs to convince people whats right for them. It’s my job to hold people accountable to learn to think for themselves and use what they know in action of service to others. What good is it knowing something great and keeping it all to yourself? Significance…

  1. Empathy and understanding

Understanding what someone is going through from their perspective means I can learn why they do certain things or behave in a particular manner. Just because something seems illogical to me, doesn’t mean its very real for them.

Misty Cable car Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs
We don’t always see where we going – but taking action every day means we’ll get there eventually

Final thoughts

One of the greatest things I’m doing, is learning from other’s behaviour. Sometimes most of these things appear innocent and not detrimental to others. And maybe it isn’t. But is it not worth behaving in a way that helps someone in your life feel completely supported and safe to share their current state of mind?

We live in a world fraught with enough pain and negativity – its time for each individual to start evaluating if they feeding that; or if they shining a spotlight on where all the beauty in this world lies.

I know what I’m choosing

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 and raising money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (Education) and The Sunflower Fund (Leukaemia) by inviting people to sponsor R1 per climb. head over to http://www.365climbs.com to be part of the Ubuntu Family.

Andrew Patterson 365 Ubuntu Climbs Table Mountain

 

5 Essential Lessons for any Challenge

Orange Breasted sunbird2 climb 272 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Sunbird (male) quietly surveying the city below                      Photo Credit: Natalie du Preez

As I sit here I can’t believe nine months of the year have come and gone.

Thirty nine weeks have rocketed past and being in an extreme challenge like this, climbing Table Mountain every day, brings with it extreme learnings.

Observing  how many people focus, even 277 days into my challenge, on what could go wrong and ‘negative aspects’ – weather, injury, sickness, ‘stuck in Cape Town’, you name it, it’s been said.

It’s the perfect mirror of life.

Few think about all the positive aspects – seeing the mountain in every way imaginable; the phenomenal views from my office; the personal growth; the extraordinary people I get to meet; and the conversations that brings with it.

Ignoring the difficulties I face would be fool hardy. It’s important to understand all the aspects of a challenge including difficulties – just don’t focus on them.  This reality of potential dangers was given to me when Gert, challenging himself to climb Table Mountain every day in September, sprained his ankle badly with just five days left. It can happen that quickly.

My focus cannot waiver for one second.

What a Week

This year, last week was the second longest amount of time spent climbing the mountain – but because of the extreme weather differences; my toughest to date.

Thankfully, I only had two solo hikes and five amazing groups to pull me through. Not just any groups:

Top of Table Mountain Heritage DayMonday: two special men, Bulelani and Siyabonga, started a tour group called Corner2corner tours and arranged a group to climb up on our National Holiday – Heritage Day. Not just hike up though – clean the mountain too. They believe the mountain gives us so much that they wanted to give back to her. It was 30 degrees at 11am and after a bitterly cold month, a bit of a shock to the system. Everyone made it up and we walked off with three full bags of rubbish removed.

VML Foundation Day climb on day 270Thursday: VML, a creative agency worldwide with offices here in Cape Town, have a yearly day to volunteer with various organisations – I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. This day was windy, icy cold, wet and downright miserable for a tricky ascent and descent. This usually deters people, but fourteen amazing people came and challenged themselves for the benefit of others. They had wonderful smiles, never complained and helped each other get down safely. Real team spirit.

Family climb 271 365 Ubuntu ClimbsFriday: I’m blessed with an amazing family and Aunty Di and Uncle John have been terrific with their support. Having seen them (they live in Durban) in February they promised they’d be back in September and would join – this was the day. After loads of rain, they were treated to the spectacle that is Table Mountain with rivers in full flow and waterfalls galore; even paths become water features. Their spirit and tenacity to get up adds to my memories of people who’ve pushed their limits; and chatting about all their holiday ‘s overseas is how I get to travel this year: vicariously.

Climb 272 365 Ubuntu ClimbsSaturday: a fellow blogger for Future Females and friend, Natalie, joined with her husband. We had a hot day again; thankfully with a breeze. My legs were taking strain, and they were happy to stop often and get pictures (picture above is hers!) much to my weary legs delight. Hard to fathom the previous 4 days were all cold and wet, and tomorrow is going to be even hotter…

Tibetan Monks on top Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs

Sunday: Lisa, Amanda and Alice brave a 06:30 start – always impressed by people willing to do that on a Sunday. Its Amanda’s birthday too! We start early for two reasons – on hot days sunrise hikes equal avoiding the heat and we have the privilege to host four Tibetan Monks, an astrologer and a healer all the way from India at the top. It felt as if the monks were already at the top and hauling me up step by step as we ‘rushed’ to ensure we didn’t keep them waiting. Thankfully we made it up in time meeting them at the cable car. This experience would never have happened without this challenge happening and my good friend Nicci connecting us. Something I could never have predicted.

Although I’m not a practicing Buddhist – I resonate with their desire for peace and love to permeate this planet – the reason they’re here, creating colourful sand mandalas.

Experiencing another belief and cultures ritual and respect for nature and our mountain was beautiful. Seeing them in their robes and prayer flags flapping in the wind was soothing and even though I had no idea what they were saying in prayer – felt at peace.

Being the end of the month too I chose rock number nine: a physical representation of another month completed.

I was originally keeping these but before meeting the monks, had the idea to rather take them all back at the end of the year and create a memorial pile on the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail. Hearing him speak about releasing attachment reinforces the idea.

Geshe wished to hold it and shared some beautiful words with me about what I’m doing. Though our time was brief together, it was reminded of quality over quantity.

What Can You Take Away from This?

As I said extreme challenges bring extreme learning and realisations after this week some are becoming ingrained in me:

  1. Focus on today. Even the toughest week came to end and the same is true for great weeks. Simply focusing on today’s climb means I give it every opportunity to become one of the most memorable ones.
  2. Lose attachment. Weather, health, mementos, even people. Things can change so quickly and holding on to something keeps you rooted in the past. A perfect follow on to point #1 because this keeps you grounded in today and what you can
  3. Find the flow. This has been one of the unexpected challenges of the year. I had grand designs of what needed to happen and what I needed to organise; yet the best experiences have all come from allowing the climbs to happen with whomever is supposed to join. Set your intention of what river you want to use, and let it take you where it needs to. Stop trying to control everything. This becomes the difference in creating meaningful experiences as opposed to a bucket list tick box exercise.
  4. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone’s in a rush: to find a partner; to be successful, to be first, to get up the mountain. All this means is you miss the opportunities along the way to see the beauty in each step, in life. Why do people burn out? Feel disconnected? We’re rushing to this appointment while making the next. Slow down. If I’d come out the gates trying to do every climb as fast as possible my body would’ve shut down months ago. My legs may be fatigued – but my heart and soul are energised.
  5. Gratitude is not important; its essential. Every climb starts with gratitude for my health, my legs that work and are strong enough to do this every day; my eyes to see the beauty around me and my mind that is actively learning every day from this experience. Gratitude for the mountain being so close to where I live and providing me a spiritual path to walk every day and always teaching me. It takes less than five minutes to show gratitude and once you start? You realise all the ways you’re blessed. Family, partners, friends, their support, and it helps spot the greatest beauty in the tiniest moment. Beauty is not one big thing – it’s an endless string of moments.

 

See you on the mountain

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town every day in 2018 helping raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (teaching children to read) and The Sunflower Fund (increasing the donor database for blood diseases like Leukaemia) To donate visit http://www.365climbs.com

A Week to Remember

365 Ubuntu Climbs Halfway view
After several days in rain and poor visibility – this greeted me on my halfway hike

Week 27 sees me starting on a memorable day – exactly halfway.

182 days behind me.365 Ubuntu Climbs halfway mark

182 days ahead of me. 365 Ubuntu CLimbs halfway mark up

Half way rock’s where my moment takes place (albeit that I must hike back down due to strong icy winds.) It snowed up top this morning but due to constant waves of rain predicted I chose the drier afternoon. After three days in the wet, I can safely say I loved being dry and having a view up top as well. Hard to believe I’ve climbed the equivalent vertical kilometers of 37 Mt Everest’s and raised R226 000. I’m very proud of what has been achieved with the help of all of you.

Interesting thought is that in life, we have no idea of when halfway will be. At any moment we could have less days ahead of us than we’ve got behind us.

I celebrate with two of my favourite ladies – Lisa and Jessie – at Mykonos in Sea Point. My brain still doesn’t compute that I’ve done 183 days (at that point) which is the equivalent of thirty-seven Mt Everest’s. How appropriate too then, that they’ve both done the most number of hikes; Lisa 19 Jessie 13 (at the end of her week here from San Francisco)

There isn’t enough paper in the world to talk about how special these two are and how they define support. Perhaps a chapter dedicated to each in my book is needed.

Wednesday Bonus

Joined by Carrey and her son, the four of us including Jessie on her second consecutive day, end up chatting to a tourist wondering if he’s on the right track.  William is from Holland and three days into his month-long visit.

We welcome him to join us instead of hiking alone. I’m rewarded with his tales of why he chose South Africa and that he spent a month in Nepal the previous year. I might not be able to travel this year, but with all the tourists that have joined me thus far? I feel I’ve been to many distant lands.

At 24 this man already is far wiser than his years.

Sharing his experience of acclimatizing to Nepal’s food, culture, altitude and being alone reminded me of my trip to Iceland and the value of traveling alone. His plan is to get tattoos from each place that speaks to what he learned while there.

His Nepal tattoo is incredible.  Just the story on the tiny village it was done in would be enough. Written in Nepalese, its one of their beliefs: Everyone you meet is superior to you in some way.

Gold nugget: In writing this I’m making notes to do my best to listen (not hear) more to understand what people share instead of just trying to respond with what I already know.

We head to Mojo market for a drink to chat more. San Francisco, Cape Town and Leiden only needing one beautiful thing to connect: our travels.

William enjoying the view on 365 Ubuntu Climbs Hike 185

Non-Profits versus For Profit companies

Jessie, who’s also involved in empowering others around the world by building schools with an organisation called Pencils of Promise, and I head to my dear friends 40th. I pick empty seats next to gents that own a gift store in Cape Quarter called Baraka. Incredibly, this happens to be the store where Jessie bought me gifts last year before she left.

Conversation was great all night and later that evening, one’s whole demeanour changes at the mention of my project and raising money, due to one question: ‘how do I know where the money’s going?’

Excellent question!

Simple answer: always ask – reputable non-profits won’t have any issue sharing all their info.

It’s something I’m trying to instill with people this year; to do their homework. Habitat for Humanity, The Sunflower Fund and One heart are all registered Non-Profits as well as certified with SARS (South African Revenue Service) to provide donors with Section 18A’s – a document that allows you to claim your donation back from the tax you owe.

What’s more interesting though, is where the discussion went after we answered his question. He wasn’t satisfied that not 100% of funds raised always goes to said causes. This baffles me. If 80% of funds raised goes to the cause and 20% to administration costs which allows the organisation to help people, isn’t that great? (Disclaimer here – check with each individual organisation what their percentages are – some guarantee 100% of donations go to their cause)

Why is it we so quick to judge where and what the money’s being used for with non-profits; and yet have no problem with business practices of For Profit companies?

There’ve been some serious abuses of money management in Non-profits, but there’s been just as many cases of fraud and unethical business practices in for profits.

Whether you donate money or buy from a company – is it not fair to say we know both have running costs?

Jessie put it beautifully when she said, ‘we vote with every dollar we spend’.

My wish is we’d hold more companies accountable for their business practices. We forget we have the power. If a company still tests on animals – everyone choosing not to buy their products because of that means they’re out of business.

When faced with deciding whom to donate to, here are some tools to help you separate the cheaters from the world beaters:

  1. Ask for Financials. Reputable companies will have these available for you.
  2. They are vague. Perhaps their websites don’t give too much information about what they do, how they do it, when they started, who the Directors are etc – but that could mean they inexperienced and simply use it as a funnel supplying emails and contact details instead. However, if making contact via these channels is difficult and vague, trust your gut as it will certainly alert you.
  3. Any organisation should be able to supply you with references for what they do. If a charity builds homes; ask for details of where and who received it. Again, if people get uppity with you on the phone to supply this and your gut sounds alarm bells – You have the right to say no. It shouldn’t be difficult to get info like this.

 

I said it twice already but its worth telling you again. Trust your gut.

The reality is we live in a society where scams are something to watch for, but just because one woman cheats on you doesn’t mean the rest will.  If you hear about a non-profit being ‘dodgy’ don’t paint all of them that way.

Be vigilant.

Ask questions.

Vote for a better world with how you spend your money.

See you on the mountain.

If you’d like to invest in 365 Ubuntu’s Project, please click on http://www.365climbs.com and you’ll be kept up to date with who we empower. Stay tuned for our delivery of books to help teach children to read coming up this month at two schools.

Renaissance Guy Andrew Patterson

Hiking and Life’s Connection

Highs and Lows of Life and hiking
Even reaching the top of a hike doesn’t guarantee a view

Week 25 – The parallels of life and hiking

First up – special thanks to Wings Herbal Synergy for sponsoring me with supplements to keep my legs and body in the best health possible. Amazing because they didn’t want a big announcement about it, they are doing it simply because they believe in what I’m doing and want to help. Huge respect to them for that.

Whether hiking or living; you’ll experience highs and lows. The only difference between the two: hiking generally starts at the bottom for you to climb up.

Some days though, you can start extremely high. Recently though, my day started as close to the bottom as you can get with the news of my dear friend Joshua’s death.

Week begins with high and low

Monday the 18th is my grans 94th birthday and Joshua’s funeral in Melbourne. It’s one of those crazy days where you feel two opposite emotions simultaneously.

My gran and family still live in Johannesburg and this is now the longest I’ve gone without seeing her. She’s unable to travel so I’ll only see her again when I’m finished with climbing Table Mountain 365 times this year. I miss her.

Speaking to her before my hike, I can hear the sparkle in her voice as she sat comfortably in her new chair that had arrived earlier. A comfy lazy boy with massage function. Its great to hear her voice and it always leaves me incredibly grateful that at age 38, I have the privilege to speak to her still. Especially on a hard day like this.

Memorial hike

I promised Joshua’s mom and brother I’d hike at the same time his funeral and wake took place so in some small way, I could be ‘present’ from across the oceans. Fittingly, the weather is glum and overcast, almost as if the weather was mourning with us. I took a candle with me to light and sit with his rock. I picked up one on the day of his death to honour him. High winds meant the cable car wasn’t working and I hiked back down.

I chose to sit quietly on Ubuntu rock with the candle fluttering next to ‘Josh’. Amazingly – Ubuntu rock had not a breath of wind for the candle to burn uninterrupted. There we sat. As if inside a cloud, on one of the most recognised mountains in the world. Honouring a beautiful soul that now lives inside all of us that knew him.

He had endured such tragedy this year and I will forever be grateful for his incredible support for my project. I take solace knowing that he found some peace.

With the last quarter of the hike left, the biggest rain drops I can remember since running around in our garden as a child, descended on me. I tried to capture it in a photo to no avail. Felt like the last perfect send off to Josh. Lifting my face up, I felt rain against my face for the first time. Usually the peak of my cap and hood of my jacket serve to shield my face. It was the type of experience I would have jumped on to Whatsapp to tell him about because I knew he’d appreciate that.

Fittingly, the 365 Ubuntu Climbs shirt he wore with such pride went with him.

We all miss you my friend.

My friend Joshua crook supporting 365 Ubuntu Climbs

A break in the weather

In 34 days I’ve only had a view from the top 13 times. In the past 11 days, once. One of the greatest lessons to date is understanding that there’s no bad weather; just bad preparation. Thanks to Cape Union Mart and their brand K-Way – I’m prepared, and I’m kept warm and dry which translates into safe.

The rain pants in particular, are amazing. The day Josh passed I made the mistake of not wearing them and a serious downpour happened in the first twenty minutes. Now they’re on even  if there’s a remote chance of rain.

Rain is glorious news and I get excited every time for it. We’re in the grips of one of the worst droughts Cape Towns had in a century. Our dams collectively, have just squeaked past the 40% full mark. This is why I said at the beginning of the year I hope to hike in rain for 200 days.

You’re probably thinking “Whaaaaaaaaat?!?! Hiking in the rain is dangerous surely??” I think the mountain is more dangerous on clear warm days than on windy rainy days; because people think it’s a playground and don’t pay enough attention and respect to the mountain. Many rocks are slippery even without being rained on. Being in nature requires presence, in every moment and step. I believe injuries come from two things: fatigue and lack of respect.

Even today as I start my 176th hike this year, I pretend it’s my very first one. Every step is closely monitored, and I even check to see what rocks have changed position, look loose and are cracking open/off.

It’s a gift being on the mountain around the time of these storms passing through. To see the mountainside alive and water flowing in the most unexpected places is phenomenal. Summer hikers would walk past without ever thinking twice about a waterfall. What a privilege to get to experience it in every way.

My latest understanding

I was given an opportunity to speak to the South African Property Investors Network (SAPIN) again on day 171 having spoke on day 73. This gave me a unique opportunity to gauge who’d heard me speak then and whether they thought I’d be back having not missed a day on my quest to complete 365.

I admire their honesty, pretty much all of them said no.

I always knew most people would think that way and the only way to build trust is to keep doing what I’m doing. People watch your actions more closely than your words – and rightly so.

I’ve come across many talkers proclaiming to support, and they disappear into the distance like a tumbleweed blown across the desert floor.

These talks give me a great opportunity to share the purpose of climbing a mountain daily: to show the power we have as individuals and collectively when we stand together.

Why donate money at all? Well – having been involved in various projects since my high school days with King Edwards and their KESFAM drives, I can tell you there’s nothing like seeing the gratitude in the eyes of those you empower.

Just because we’re not responsible for others suffering, doesn’t mean we can’t be part of the solution to help them.

I don’t believe in charity – that involves keeping people out of their own power. Working with Habitat for Humanity; One Heart and The Sunflower Fund means we collectively empower those we help to take ownership of their lives.

Empowering those without the means to empower themselves now.

Speaking on Wednesday I realised that most people look at themselves as a Mt Everest of donating. In other words, it must be large sums of money to be meaningful. What they don’t realise is that even Mt Everest isn’t just one mountain: its made up of thousands of individual stairs from base to summit; each stair as important as the next.

Think of yourself as a stair to someone else’s Everest.

If every South African gave me R1 – we’d raise R56 million.

If 50 000 Capetonians donated R30 a month (not even 2 coffees) we’d raise R1.5 million a month

Ask the 2.5 million people in the UK that didn’t bother voting on the Brexit issue if they still feel their vote wasn’t important.

Our power lies in our collective efforts. Don’t ever say “I can only give….” Because your act of giving has the potential to change another human beings’ life.

Just ask each of 365 Ubuntu Climbs donors whether they thought they’d:

  • Add 20 people to the donor registry and potentially save 20 fathers, 20 mothers, 20 friends lives impacting all their families, friends and colleagues;
  • Help two of the largest primary schools in the country teach thousands of children to read and track the children’s progress
  • Help 10 families improve their living conditions to feel safer, warmer and drier.

And we not even half way yet.

Final thought for the week

My 300th climber to join me was Iona this past Saturday and her takeaway was Ubuntu rock and the accumulation of love that makes the walk into a prayer of love, hope and connection.

It was the first time I’ve asked for feedback like that and what an incredible answer to get first up.

Why? Because its what this is all about summed up perfectly. Life’s shorter than you imagine, don’t waste it living in fear. I promise you – I’ve never been more inspired by how much good there is in this world with all the people I’ve met thus far and through all the donations received.

I’m grateful to each and every one of you. Creating a better world requires active citizenry. As Gandi said – be the change you wish to see in the world.

Try it – I’ve never been more fulfilled in my life.

See you on the mountain

Andrew Patterson is hiking Table Mountain every day in 2018 (175/365 completed thus far) to build homes; teach children to read and build a database for Leukaemia. To become part of the Ubuntu Family (ubuntu is the spirit of humanity and compassion towards one another) head over to http://www.365climbs.com share your contribution.

It Comes in Three’s

 

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Devils Peak (left) Table Mountain (center) Lions Head (right)

Even the most Iconic mountain in the world is part of a trio.

The culmination of April see’s us complete a third of the year.

As I write this, I’ve completed 122 consecutive days hiking up Table Mountain. This gives me a unique opportunity to explore the 3’s that have followed me through the experience to date.

3 MONTHS WITH 3 FULL DAYS HIKING

When I was training last year, my thoughts wandered to “but what happens when people who join aren’t as fit and take an extra 1-2 hours longer?”

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had plans to have cut off points and politely excuse myself as I continued without them.

Thankfully, sense prevailed.

I quickly realised on the mountain the value of the conversations and an old army saying (even though I never went) rang true: leave no one behind.

The important thing to realise here, is when I was on my own that’s exactly what it was about: me.

When 365 Ubuntu Climbs started, the focus was no longer on me; it was about the people we can empower. Building homes; building a database for Leukemia; building childrens minds by teaching them to read.

The irony is that even with the slower hikes, the longer months (January March and April) have still only yielded a full 3 days of hiking (and some change).

This means everyone who joins has invested in our idea with both time and money.

That deserves every ounce of respect. These are perfect examples.

Craig, having traveled with work almost two weeks away from home, was delayed for three hours on his flight back the night before our planned hike from Durban (2 hour flight): and still joined at 06:30 on a Sunday morning. No excuses.

Jessie, flew half way around the world from San Francisco to support me and hike up seven times in eight days; including the very next day after landing. No excuses.

Lisa, has hiked up with me 13 times; early mornings, cold, and on the second windiest day of the year to date. No excuses.

My sister Caroline, has adrenal fatigue and an under active thyroid. Truth be told, probably should never have climbed with me. Her commitment, willpower and sheer determination to support me pushed her up that mountain. She made it up on day 62. No excuses.

Each of my family members that hike up with me get to choose a rock to represent them. This I keep on Ubuntu rock (13% of the way left to go) and with about 50 stairs left till Ubuntu rock and utterly exhausted – she chose what is now lovingly referred to as ‘MF Rock’. Yup – that’s exactly what MF stands for.

It’s this type of commitment you can’t foresee when you have ideas and why it’s so important to follow your gut when an idea sits well. It’s why doing what you love can only bring you rewards you never dream of. Seeing others put themselves outside their own comfort levels in aid of others? Priceless.

3 TIMES WATCHING THE FULL MOON RISE ON TABLE MOUNTAIN

A blue moon is when we have two full moons in a calendar month.

I watched on the 31st January (second full moon in Jan and first Blue moon month of 2018); the 31st March (second blue moon month in one year – hasn’t happened since 1999 and won’t happen again until 2037) and on the last day of April: the end of my first third of hiking up Table Mountain 365 times (which is why this is even more appropriate)

I’ve wanted to watch the full moon rise at the top of Table Mountain since day one, but my first time relentless wind meant the cable car wasn’t working and I had to hike back down, so watched on my own half way down Platteklip Gorge to avoid hiking in the dark –  where I found my January rock.

       January’s second full moon     April Rock, March, February and January Rock               

March fell over Easter Weekend and I was joined by two special people, Jaclyn and Avril. What I love most about being accompanied up is the fascinating conversations shared about each others experiences in life.

Up top was insanely busy. Intent on not waiting in a mammoth queue, Jaclyn and I hiked back down to my previous spot where, in the ever increasing icy wind, we sat mesmerized by the full moon rising into the dark sky. Our journey to Winter responsible for the darker moon rise.

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The moon peaking its head behind the corner of Table Mountain as we sat huddled about 2/3 up

The 3rd one, Monday the 30th April, was finally at the top. With perfect weather conditions to catch the cable car down, Imogen and I (having lost 3 of our companions) settled up top to enjoy this natural wonder. With the sun setting even earlier, unaware people left around sunset (18:05) and missed the spectacle of seeing the beautiful full moon rising like the sun, while darkness shrouded us above the twinkling city.

April full moon
I truly wish you get to experience this in your lifetime

3 RAINY DAYS IN ONE WEEK

I always knew this was coming.

Like mid year exams looming in the distant future.

I’m exceptionally happy about the rain. We desperately need it – our dams are collectively sitting at 20% full. I’d be happy to hike in 200 days of rain – its all about mindset and dressing correctly plays a massive role in this.

I’ve been blessed to have Cape Union Mart (a South African outdoor, hiking, camping – gear and equipment store) come on board as a sponsor. This means they’ll help me stay dry, warm and safe. It was serendipitous that our meeting happened the day before I hiked up in complete mist (which is as good as being in fine rain) and the week before it rained three times.

The rain means the mountain transforms into a winter wonderland of sound and sight as waterfalls appear in places summer hikers would never conceive of. I consider it a great honour to bear witness to these changes that happen hourly as water collects higher up and rushes towards the ocean, as if in its own ‘rush hour traffic’.

This was highlighted on my second rainy day hike when, after a thunderstorm hit us between 3 and 5am, I expected a bigger rush of water at the start of the hike. Strong winds up top meant the cable car wasn’t operational and so I hiked back down; frozen hands dreaming about the gloves I’ll get from Cape Union Mart for just such future days.

wintery pic
Yep – the exit is down… down Platteklip Gorge!

Thankfully, my parents sponsored me a proper K-Way rain jacket last year already. When it started raining on the way down I was even more grateful. Well, I say rain, but I didn’t see any water falling to earth. It was more like precipitation seated in Airline Cloud traveling up Platteklip gorge. It was blowing directly into my face. Already warm from ascending 760 vertical meters and on my way back down I felt life flowing through me as life happened all around me.

Every step was as careful as though stepping onto thin cut glass. My Barefoot hikes perfect training for this as I become completely mindful in every step, and lost to anything else happening.

I’m alone on the mountain and I feel absolute peace. Bliss. Gratitude.

Some tourists have started hiking up (with appropriate gear, which is a first) and have just made it to half way as the rain and wind picks up. They turn back wisely, and I see them up top the mountain on day three – ironically also a misty and cold day with rain.

Day three the cable car, however, is working and cold soaked hikers fill the wifi lounge huddled around coffee cups.

Mervi, all the way from Holland with her husband, had heard about me through a friend and pushed on through the rainy bit to experience Table Mountain in a way most people avoid. Her smile at the end echoed her understanding of what she had just achieved.

Once again, the weather had been incorrectly ‘predicted’ and rain slammed into our faces  at the top. Having hiked back down the previous day my heart sat heavy at the prospect of the cable car being closed. This wasn’t in the script for Mervi’s hike up and, conscious of time, hoped it worked for them to do more exploring in Cape Town. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem and we were able to enjoy a fantastic lunch at The Roundhouse where they spoiled me.

Here’s to the next 122 days

For the first time in my life, I’m creating my own adversity instead of waiting for it to happen to me. Reading this and my previous blogs this year gives you a snippet into the support I receive to make this possible.

I’m not doing this alone.

This happens because of my family, close friends, new friends and even strangers messages on social media’s support. Together we understand that this is about a greater purpose: empowering those without the means to empower themselves (yet)  – this is how I’ve climbed over 366 000 stairs.

Never underestimate the power your positive words of encouragement has on the recipient.

Ever.

This post is dedicated to all the people that have donated and the 215 people that have hiked up with me to date. Together we are making Madiba proud.

Inspiring-Nelson-Mandela-quotes-A-winner-is-a-dreamer-who-never-gives-up

Andrew Patterson has embarked on an ambitious project in 2018 to climb Table Mountain 365 times. This is all in aid of raising money and awareness for three organizations:
  • The Sunflower Fund – building a database for Leukemia
  • Habitat for Humanity – building homes for those living in poverty
  • One Heart – helping under resourced schools teach children to read.
To pledge your support and invest in this project visit: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

 

 

2018 – Start the Way You Want to Finish

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We’re already a week in to 2018 and boy has it kicked off in style.

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My very first step

The saying ‘the longest journey always begins with the first step’ has never been more appropriate for me than 04:33am on January 1st when I began my year long journey to make a positive impact for those born under more challenging circumstances than us.

What that saying never talks about though, is the support that others will give you on that journey. I had the absolute pleasure of being cheered on by my mom and Aunty San via my sports tracking app Endomondo as they were both awake in support and incredibly; met by this amazing human being at 04:15 before I started:

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What a legend – David Thompson (left)

To have somebody: Meet me. In the dark. On New Years day. At 4am in the morning.

Thats special.

It meant I started the journey of a million stairs with miscued high fives (it was dark okay!) massive hugs and sleepy smiles. In my book – I couldn’t have asked for a better start.

Why start so early? I hear you asking… well, I felt it was perfect way to begin 2018; watching sunrise at the top of the mountain. It would’ve been easy to go out partying sleep in and hike in the afternoon; but this is a year of focus and dedication and you should always start with your best foot forward.

I wasn’t even guarenteed with a view of sunrise as we were blessed with rain the previous day. As the light of dawn started to illumiate my path above, I saw Platteklip gorge, the route I’ll be taking every day for a year, blanketed in mist at the top. A mystical sight, but not boding well for a sunrise view.

I arrived up top to the mist having cleared – then reappearing below me – and the clouds above Table Mountain dancing in the wind. They parted for just enough time to allow me the opportunity as our first sunrise of 2018 appeared. All alone at the top, the same feeling I’d experienced the previous year in Iceland washed over me.

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We have the most incredible home

My first summit was complete. 1 down. 364 to go. (check out my blog here to read more about my 2018 challenge)

One week in and I already have donations coming in from around the world:

– ICELAND: I met Huni at JT Foxx’s Mega Success conference in November where he promised to support and has already followed through and I have no doubt will join me on some hikes later in the year too. He’s another amazing human being that I have no doubt will feature in more blog posts.

– NEW ZEALAND: Melanie Davey, whom I’ve never met, took the time to email me the most incredible letter of support and appreciation for my project. Words that reminded me how powerful they can be and that we need to be more mindful of what we say to others: and ourselves.

USA: Greg and Therese were hiking up on the Thursday with their daughter before the headed back to Denver a couple days later. They’d been chatting to my friend Achmat, a man who completed 131 Table Mountain climbs in 2017 and did 7 hikes in a row last week too. Walking up to them I was greeted with massive smiles and they wanted to know more about the purpose behind the 365 consecutive hikes. Upon hearing my desire to build homes; help teach children to read and increase the database for leukeamia they hunted me down on the net and found my blog to get in touch and pledge their support too.

If you haven’t guessed it yet the support has gone from a snowflake to a snowball the size of my hand getting bigger with every step I take.

6 January 2018

Enter my coach, Karel Vermeulen. We’ve only just joined forces but already his influence on my business ideas and suggestions for 365 UbuntuClimbs is being felt. All people who donate and/or help me increase the reach on social media to hit our audacious target are invited to climb up with me on one or more of the climbs; it’s a great way for people to be part of it more than just donating. They’ll forever be in history as they’re remembered in day X of 365.

Karel lets me know he’s planning on joining me and invites his friends to join on the morning of his birthday. Due to rain we move it forward to the Saturday morning instead. I’m doing videos up top every day and after we’d finished he suddenly requested Lezelle to do another one of us together.

My heart overflowed with his words and his additional pledge of R5000 over and above his donation of R1 per day; my minimum request for people to sponsor me as I undertake this grueling challenge.

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Karel (3rd from right) Lezelle (2nd from right)

Enter a chat with Lezelle post the video where she shares this experience and being part of 365 UbuntuCLimbs (her first time and the first group joining) is in her top three lifetime “awesome” experiences. She smiles as she states: “I am one of the million people you aiming to empower this year and I feel motivated for 2018”

Feeling absolutely pumped up from this, I head home where I had a catch up meeting with another new friend created through the JT Foxx organisation; Carolyne Opinde a.k.a the NGO Whisperer.

Hot tip: if you want to dramatically improve your network, head to one of the many JT Foxx events this year. There are a thousand plus motivated successful positive people attending for you to connect with.

My catch up with Carolyne leaves me feeling even more motivated and inspired with actions to complete this week. Embarking on an audacious project like this means I’ve inadvertently created a company (non-profit) which keeps me busy: learning, growing, implementing, taking action.

Interestingly I’ve created a full year working program with no days off; but importantly I get to spend two plus hours a day in nature. And truthfully, having the opportunity to execute this is far beyond what we define as work. I’m having a tremendous amount of fun!

Sometimes you might feel overawed by an idea you have or a task you need to complete. These can all be broken down into bite size chunks. 365 sounds a lot; focusing on the one I need to do today sounds much more manageable doesn’t it? Doing 3000 stairs in one go seems immense yes? Focusing on just the very next step means before you know it – you’ve completed a quarter of the climb; half the climb; the whole climb. Whatever you tackle in life:

It’s one step at a time.

To pledge your support please go to:

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

every little bit helps – just ask the people who’s lives you’re helping change.

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