Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Me on my dad’s back, Cederberg 1975

I won the parent lottery, and mine took me to discover the mountains of the Western Cape before I could even walk. It has always been a place where I could reflect and rediscover myself.  So, after a particularly rough year as Chief Technology Officer of a major international social networking company, I left my position at the end of October, and I’m taking a sabbatical which I will start by climbing three peaks in the Himalayas.

But climbing only for myself, although fun, just didn’t feel like I’m using the experience to the fullest extent. I know many people living with cancer, and I have immense admiration for their guts and determination in dealing with this disease. In many ways it is a tougher mountain to climb than Everest and often  a very lonely journey.

When my dad got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I’ve found that even I didn’t have anyone to talk to.  None of my friends have had a parent with cancer.  My good friends Eldre and Rohan provided all the support they could at the time, but couldn’t really understand the situation either.

Me at Augrabies Falls, 1978

It was quite a shock when Eldre herself got diagnosed with breast cancer years later. This time it was me who didn’t know what to say.  And this is exactly the gap the People Living with Cancer buddies fill. One wants to talk to someone of your own age and gender, who’ve been through the experience. And I’m very proud of Eldre, who has resigned from her job, to run this organisation.

I’ve decided to honor three people I know who’s living with cancer, by attempting the three peaks on their behalf. I don’t know if I’ll make it. I’m fit, but I’ve never been that high, and I’ll only find out if I adapt to altitude when I get there. I can only do my best. And climbing a mountain is not only about the egoistic western concept of making sure you get up there yourself. It’s also about being a good team member, providing support to the other people in the group, and sometimes sacrificing the peak because you’ve helped someone else.  I think it’s a great metaphor for all difficult struggles in life, cancer in particular.

I’ll be posting regular updates on the PLWC site out of the Himalayas via a satellite link. We will tell you more about the three people who I’m climbing each mountain for, as I progress.  But in the end, it’s for everyone affected by cancer in some way.

Lastly, my expedition is entirely self-sponsored. But PLWC is a charity, and could really use your donations to support their efforts to train buddies and provide this valuable support to others. Please take the time to make a donation at GivenGain.com. It’s an easy, secure credit-card payment and will do a lot of good.

Doing some training before my trip

I’m now busy with the usual last minute rush before heading to the airport for a flight via Doha in Qatar, to Kathmandu in Nepal. A short summary of the trip follows.

After arrival in Kathmandu, the expedition team will meet in our hotel.  I’m climbing as part of an international team, and with the highly respected guiding company Adventure Consultants.  (Adventure Consultants also kindly provides the satellite link I will use to blog, as well as photographic material). On Friday morning, we fly with Twin Otter plane to the small Himalayan airstrip at Lukla, and start walking immediately up the valley to our first overnight stop.

We will climb three peaks in the Khumbu area.  Island Peak, referred to by the local Sherpa people as Imja Tse – an “island in a glacial sea” is an exciting peak with a great view onto Ama Dablam, Nupste and Lhotse’s South Face.  From Island Peak we progress to Lobuche East, which is a little bit more technical.  It has a dramatic high camp, with exceptional views towards Ama Dablam, especially as the sun sets into Tibet. The third peak, Mt Parchamo, is located deep in the Himalayas between the Khumbu and Rowaling valleys. This climb involves first navigating intricate terrain to reach the Tesi Lapche La (pass), that lies to east of Namche Bazaar and above Thame village.  From Parchamo we head back to Lukla, and fly back to Kathmandu on the 11th of December.

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