The moment of truth had finally arrived and we were getting ready to go mountaineering. Putting my protective gear on, I wondered whether I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew. We had been warned that once we were out there and tethered to the rope and busy climbing, there was no turning back.
Leaving the ship and boarding the zodiac, my emotions were swinging like a pendulum between excitement and nervousness. When we finally arrived and got off the zodiac to go ashore, my heart was beating out of my chest. It was a steep mountain. One that we would have to climb in a zigzag pattern in order to prevent falling down the slope. We were all briefed on the do’s and don’ts, like keeping the rope rigid between you and the person in front of you. The group that made it to the top first would be given naming rights to the mountain. This just added extra pressure which didn’t go down well with me.
We were then issued with ice-axes and various other equipment all fastened to a belt that we tied around our waists. We were then split into two groups, so there were 7-8 of us tethered to a rope. I took some deep breathes and prayed to God, asking him to help me to the top. Keeping our ice axes in hand and with our snowshoes on, we set off.
The first part of the mountain was a gentle gradient and so we had no problem scaling it. The tricky bit came right after that, as the slope became progressively steeper and steeper. Once we were on the steepest incline, it was about 400m in that I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath and get on top of it, My muscles were burning and my lungs felt like they were on fire. I could taste blood. I realized that I would have to stop if I had any hope or prayer of making it to the top. I felt bad and embarrassed as I shouted stop. Three of my team mates who were in front of me passed the message on to each other which reached our lead climber in the front. They stopped pretty much straight away, much to my relief. Being very patient with me, I felt bad as I realized that I was holding them all back and at the same time putting our naming rights at risk. Half way up, and I shouted for everybody to stop again. By this time team members were asking me if I was okay. I knew at that point that they had over estimated how fit and strong I was. I had too! If I wasn’t tethered to that rope with them, I would have opted out and not continued to the top, but there was no way I could do that now. I had to dig deeper than I ever had done before and make this work…make it to the top. I had to use my ice axe several times as I nearly toppled down from sheer exhaustion. I stumbled and panted on, stopping several more times. As we were approaching the summit and we had stopped once again, the other group passed us. The team leader of the other group shouted, ‘It’s better not to keep stopping the whole time…it only makes it worse. Just keep it going and find a rhythm!’
I felt like shouting back at him, ‘You try going through what I’ve been through and see if you can do this you clueless @#$$!’
I held my tongue however, because at this point I knew that I had no room to talk. I had just sacrificed our naming rights to the mountain and probably ruined the experience for my entire team. At that point, the tears started streaming down my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away as I didn’t want anybody to see me as a weakling. It was most likely way too late for that, but I still had my pride. I dug into my pocket and took out two small photo’s that I had put in my pocket before leaving the ship. One was of my mum and the other, my three girls. After staring at them for a few seconds I looked to the top of the mountain that was so near, and yet seemed so far and I saw them at the top. My mum was shouting, ‘Come on angel, you can do this.’ My girls did what they always did when I was training at home. They shouted ‘Come on mom you can do this…you’ve come so far, don’t stop now!’
Putting the photo’s back in my pocket, we set off again. Despite the fact that at any moment I might collapse, I kept on putting one foot in front of the other. I was determined that I would make it to the top for my loved ones, if not for myself. Upon finally arriving at the top, a huge sense of relief and accomplishment flooded me. I may not have made it to the top first, but in hindsight the most important thing is that I tried and achieved my goal in the end.
It was then time for photo’s as well as a few minutes of silence, just to savor the moment and pay tribute to why we had undertaken to do this in the first place. At the end of the day, we all had our own reasons for being there and we paid homage to that. After gathering ourselves, we embarked on the journey back down again. I walked down with a huge grin on my face. I had done it…I had achieved what I’d set out to do from the very beginning. I had climbed that mountain…pushed through all the struggles and made it to the top.
The mountain was subsequently named ‘Pink Ribbon Peak’.