I grew up among mountains. Our home was built on the side of a mountain and we looked straight onto a mountain. We had a narrow view of more distant mountains from our front veranda that sometimes faded in a blue haze. If you wanted to go anywhere on Sheba Gold Mine, you would have to negotiate the twisting dirt roads that wound through the residential areas. As young children, we became familiar with the network of footpaths or ‘short-cuts’ that snaked up and down the mountainous terrain.

Footpaths have always fascinated me: worn smooth or gouged deep into the ground by generations of feet. I have often imagined exploring the ribbons of footpaths and game trails that criss-cross Africa. As a passenger, I would while away long journeys by imagining the easiest routes up the mountains we passed and wondered about the views I could experience from the top.

An enjoyment of mountains and paths meant that I gave a shiver of delight when going through the options for clubs and societies that arrived from the university of my choice: there was a Mountain Club! Possibly because of the potential dangers involved – and I was under eighteen – I required my parents to sign a permission form for me to join the club.

I didn’t know a soul on my arrival as a first year at university and, having come from the Transvaal platteland to the midlands of Natal, I felt very shy and rather unsophisticated when comparing myself with my peers.

Over the four years I spent in Pietermaritzburg, I found the Mountain Club was by far the best place to meet and befriend a wonderfully diverse group of people. Many became lifelong friends. We hiked everywhere in the Natal Drakensberg over weekends, following footpaths in the foothills and labouring up those that took us to the summit. We hiked in the heat, the wind and rain, and sometimes even in snow. We slept in caves and swam in the mountain streams…

Mountains and paths … what a delightful combination that introduced me to wild flowers, snakes, wild animals, beautiful vistas – and wonderful people!

Learning to rock climb? Well, I soon discovered that Mountain Club activities were not confined to hiking in the mountains, but included rock climbing! Now that is an activity I hadn’t even heard of before coming to university.

It was with a degree of trepidation that I went along to nearby cliffs for my first rock-climbing meet (bear in mind rock-climbing walls had not been thought of yet). I recall following a well-worn path to the base of the cliffs. Watching fellow members climbing up the rock face was scary!

When it was my turn, I looked up at what seemed like a sheer wall of rock and felt terrified! A chap at the bottom positioned the rope and pointed in the direction I was to follow – up. Another was belaying me from the top. It was one of those now or never moments: I had to swallow my fear, believe in the process – and trust.

Encouraged by the chap below until I could develop an eye for such things, I found hand- and footholds I would never have guessed existed. I strained and panted and had to dig deep to calm my shaking fingers and quaking knees. The chap below taunted me at times when I froze briefly whilst desperately seeking another tiny ledge to haul myself up by. “You could land a Boeing on that one!” Really? Even my fingertips couldn’t grab hold comfortably: needs must.

At last I pulled myself up and beyond the final obstacle to meet the smiling face of the chap at the top. I felt exhilarated and for many years – until I had children – loved the sport!

And the chap yelling at me from below? Well, I ended up loving him too. We will celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary later this year.



  1. Never tried the climbing bit, but I enjoy hiking, though the difficulty level is gradually getting less strenuous as I age. And let me offer my early congratulations on your golden anniversary. My wife and I aren’t all that far behind at 46!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely story. (On another topic, I read in my newspaper today that your government has appointed a minister especially to get your electricity supply onto a reliable footing. I hope that he is a miracle worker.)


  3. What an interesting life you have had. I had to look up Natal Drakensberg to learn you live in South Africa. I’m married 52 years in college in Upstate New York. He offered to teach me how to drive. I attended high school in a mountain community, it was a ski resort and beautiful, too.


  4. Vyftigste, dis wonderlik, Anne. Ek bewonder almal wat van hierdie sportsoort hou, self hardloop ek weg!😉🤗


  5. Congratulations on your 50th anniversary, Anne.
    Although I have enjoyed walking in the mountains, and have achieved the summit of quite a few, rock climbing isn’t something I’ve seriously considered. I’m too much of a wuss, but it does look great when I see others doing it.
    Sadly, I’m a little too old now, and my balance isn’t what it was.


  6. What a lovely story Anne! I love walking but have never tried rock climbing though my husband used to enjoy it before I met him and other things too over his time. Well done for overcoming your fear.


  7. Thank you so much for sharing these vivid descriptions of your early life — I could wish that my own college years had included more of such invigorating activities. It is such a blessing to have mountains in one’s life!


    • It is. Before long I was able to spot the hand- and footholds fairly easily. Funnily enough, I assisted a little boy climb a rock wall yesterday – not very high – and he was very pleased to reach the top 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great story! I met my wife in the mountains too – in the Italian Dolomites. She was a chalet host and I was a guest (of a Mountain Holiday company). Must be something in the (lack of) air! 😉


  9. You are much braver than me – I would worry I would slip off and tumble down or not make it to the top, regardless if the ledge could support a big plane landing there or not!


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