When last have you tasted that awe inspiring winning feeling of “reaching the top” in something that really mattered to you? What’s stopping you?
See you at the TOP (Audio)
What does “reaching the top” mean to you? Have you ever defined or described your “top”? How far do you think you are away from your “top”? What do you think it will take for you to reach your “top”? And once you have reached your “top”, what then?
So what’s your Top?
In South Africa to celebrate my dad’s 90th in a Drakensberg mountain resort, I undertook a couple of hikes, each with a local guide. The first was a 14km hike into the Tugela Gorge which took us to face the bottom of a mountain range called The Amphitheater almost 1000m up. It was a “practice hike” for two days later, when I hiked up to the top of the same Amphitheater, another 15 km hike but with a much greater elevation.
The way up to reaching the Top
Our resort lay at about 1500m, and we made a 2 hour car drive around to the right of the Amphitheater, leaving the car in a carpark at about 2500m and from where we started the 3 hour hike / climb up to the top of the Amphitheater. I made a point to consciously experience every moment of it “completely immersed in the now”, savouring every step, every bit of the view, all the challenge and all the time looking forward the satisfaction of “having done it”. Stopping every now and then to look back at what we’ve already covered and taking in the new view perspective it offered. Inspired by the beauty, tranquility, silence.
Needless to say, the views became more and more stunning as we climbed towards the top, each 15 minutes or so offering new perspective views of our majestic surroundings. It is a spectacular 360° panorama, breathtaking because of its enormity but also because of the elevation, where the thin air already makes breathing quite difficult. We had the good fortune of a perfect day without too strong a wind and amazing visibility.
Age? Fear? What’s that?
We witnessed a jaw dropping event on the way up. We heard rocks tumbling down the mountain in front of us and momentarily sought refuge from their potential danger. We realized that at the foot of the sheer rock-face cliff of the Sentinel, a family of baboons had dislodged rocks traversing a ridge. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it, but the 4 or 5 baboons suddenly scaled up the sheer 300+m rock-face with lightning speed, agility and confidence – even the two smallest what looked to me like babies. No fear – they just pluckily and happily followed their parents – straight up, all the way to the top of the Sentinel – in a matter of minutes! We would have taken an hour and a half to get to the same point on our route. Wow! I was spellbound.
So, like a yacht tacking, we proceeded to zigzag our way up the rocky paths, one step at a time with the Sentinel and the Western Buttress looming ever bigger as we rose towards the chain ladder. About 70m of steel ladder goes up the sheer rock face in two sections. Scary stuff, but no problem provided one doesn’t look down to see the enormity of the drop (I’m sure it must be over a 1000m drop down to the bottom of those ravines) in case one “let go”.
(For those afraid of a chain ladder, there is an alternative whereby you can scramble up a rocky ravine or gully in almost the same amount of time but consuming much more energy).
The top is only part of the journey – it is not THE journey
The chain ladders deposited us within reach of the top of the Amphitheatre, where a further kilometer or so towards Lesotho, one could see the origin of the Tugela River at 3280m. However we didn’t go there, we walked across to where the Tugela River drops 860m over the edge to form the world’s 2nd longest waterfall drop from a point of about 2800m up, albeit at the end of winter, there wasn’t a lot of water compared to the summer months. To stand at the very edge of that escarpment drop and peer over 1000m down to where we had been standing at the face of this Amphitheater, looking up just 2 days ago was just so magnificent! I have Goosebumps describing it.
We still walked across to about the middle of the Amphitheater where we were over 3000m to look back at the magnificent waterfall. Those of you that have “climbed a mountain” or hiked like we did here, will know how awe inspiring it is to seemingly be “on top of the world”, where you can see forever and hear nothing but the wind.
In the midst of all this grandeur, it always occurs to me how insignificant we humans really are, despite our normal ego driven association with how important we might be. Whether we believe in a God or any other spiritual realms or not, I always experience being closer to “something much bigger than we are” when I’m “up there”. It is in such a setting that the word “awesome” is truly relevant. It needs no music or words – just the appreciation of quiet introspection and “taking it all in”. A truly humbling and exciting experience all in one.
Reaching the Top – Done it!
Unfortunately time passed all too quickly and we had to commence our descent far too soon. On the way down we also stopped from time to time, but this time to look up when we looked back, almost sorry that we were descending so quickly. – wanting to make it last as long as possible. However, when we got back to our car with weary legs and much exposure to the sun that high up, it was that very satisfying -no make that elated feeling of having achieved something of significance and also having “locked such majestic beauty in my heart “ – until next time.….
It was truly excellent then to return to the resort and resume the celebration of 90 years of living, loving, learning and appreciating one of the top role models in my life – my dad.
Apart from wanting to share this magnificent experience with you (and I wish I could share some of the photo and video footage with you) I was looking for a blog context that I could draw from it.
It made me think of Zig Ziglar’s book “See you at the Top” that inspired this title. Those of you that have read this book will know that it emphasizes the opposite of our current trend towards “instant gratification”; that everything and anything worthwhile is worthy of the energy and effort required for its achievement, and if necessary, over a period of time; that the joy and reward isn’t just in the destination, but as much contained in the journey.
Apart from the richness of friendships and relationships, adventure and experiences such as this are just so much more important to me than the “things” life in society seems to impose upon us to keep chasing. Can you relate to that? This was such a substantial “at the top” life experience! Can you blame me if I am “just a little more fired up” in my life right now?
How many people today practice “armchair sport” in front of the television instead of “being out there” in person? How many people look at a picture (and “wish”) or a movie rather than “getting out there” themselves? Can they really replace the inspiration from being involved “in the real thing”? To me life was meant to be “in it”, not to be looked at.
Just have a think about when last you dreamed of, chose, planned and carried through something you are deeply passionate about; something that really matters to you.
Can you recall that winning feeling when you “reached the top”? But just as importantly, can you recall the joy in planning it and the process of getting there?
When do you think it is time to plan the next one? Who would you best like to achieve it with?
What if you could?
I would be very excited and also humbled to “see you at the top”!
Jenny Retief says
How true Heiner, in this virtual world of instant gratification where everything seems to be appearance for appearance sake. The technological “schein”, show or display that simulates the real experience. The virtual “friendships’ that determine how popular one is. They do not know what they are missing out on by not being there in person and experiencing the hard work and the reward at the end. Next time I stand on top of a mountain I shall certainly think of your words. Kind regards, Jenny
very nice and inspiring! i agree that the top is but a part of the journey. there’s always a top out there to achieve. thanks for posting!