An Ode to my Father, and the Spirit of Adventure Sports!
Now I like to watch a game of soccer, rugby, cricket or tennis as much as anyone. I do even enjoy playing tennis occasionally – sometimes you have to earn your gin & tonic in our lovely South African climate after all!
But I know where I’ll be playing the tennis. The size of the court stays the same – hopefully the height of the net stays the same too. It’s a static environment (and it should be) but where is the adventure? In a world full of 9-to-5 jobs – I think a lot of people are missing that craving for adventure and discovery… and they don’t even know it.
My father was a rock-climber and a mountaineer. He was actually one of the best that South Africa has ever produced and opened a lot of new routes up mountains in the Rockies and the Andes that were only ever repeated many years later. I am named after the Jasper National Park in Canada, which contains some of my father’s successful routes…
This is my father about ten years ago – he is 65 years old in this picture!
My father pushed himself. A friend died in an avalanche that narrowly missed killing him as well.
He and his team were once stuck in a snow cave in remote Baffin Island while a storm raged. The plan was for a small airplane to drop supplies to them when the storm passed… but after two weeks of nothing but a few chocolate bars, the team of five brave men eventually realized that they were going to have to save themselves. A mosquito net helped them catch fish out of a pool… and this food gave them energy to get below the snow-line where they started to eat berries off the bushes. That food gave them the energy to keep walking several days back to safety. All five of them made it that time, although my father lost 15kg (about 40lbs) and never really put the weight back on again. Oh well, I guess being light is an asset for a rock-climber though!
To put it bluntly – my father doesn’t enjoy watching a climbing movie like “Touching the Void”. It’s too real for him and reminds him of his own epics. Come to think of it, I believe dad has climbed with both the people that “Touching the Void” is about. He’s also climbed with George Mallory jnr, who is the spitting image of his grandfather George Mallory snr (who some people think might have been the first person to get to the top of Everest but then died on the way down… to this day people debate whether he died going up, or on the way down, on his attempt at the Everest summit in 1924. Remember that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay only finally achieved the feat for certain in 1953!) For what it’s worth, grandson George Mallory jnr has definitely conquered Everest, without oxygen!
By the time I was a child, my father was taking it a bit easier. Instead of tackling full blown mountains, he was happy to practice the more technical aspect of climbing on cliffs of 100m or less. By placing protection constantly to clip the ropes into, a fall would be unlikely to hurt badly, let alone be life-threatening. He was still having fun finding new cliff faces with good, clean, climbable routes to open. I believe he made this change from life-threatening to ankle-threatening because he now had me, and my older sister, in his life…
Then there was me. As a child I was tall and very thin, and this meant I was able to do a few pull-ups even from a young age. I imagine my father had hopes for me as a kid who looked like he had a promisingly light frame and some upper body strength, and I would follow him up the odd climb occasionally, but I had, shall we say, at least the average person’s fear of heights! I certainly didn’t enjoy leading the rope up, instead of following, or doing anything risky – it just wasn’t my sport!
Luckily my father never pushed me too hard to make me climb against my will… but through no fault of his own, can you imagine being a boy with a father that people talked about as a legend? How could I not compare myself sometimes?
Here I am about as good as I ever got at climbing – not terrible, but my father wouldn’t have needed the rope to get up here, even when he was about 65 years old. He’s about 75 now and his climbing days are finally over, but he still sets a mean pace hiking in his beloved mountains!
Luckily, years later my father learnt to ski (in his 60s!) and I learnt to ski and snowboard along with him (in my mid 20s – there’s not much snow in South Africa so we had to get to Europe first), and we finally got to have some adventurous father-son bonding time in the mountains doing something we both enjoyed!
I have been fortunate enough to get back to Europe with Dad and enjoy that experience of skiing/snowboarding in the snowy mountains with him several more times!
There he goes – learning to ski in his 60s. It wasn’t long before he was leaving the prepared trails behind and exploring off-piste – but at least I was loving it too this time! It’s been about 5 years now since my last European winter, and I hope I get to have at least one more ski season with my Dad before he really is too old! It’s not an easy trip to afford on the South-African currency!
I am also a surfer, and that tends to be the sport I blog about the most here on Ecency/HIVE. I will be the first to admit I’m not a very good surfer, but that’s the cool thing about adventure sports – I don’t need to be the world’s best surfer to go exploring and find my own little wave in a beautiful place, where just the slightest tinge of my father’s adventurous gene comes alive in me!
More on that little surf exploration adventure of mine… Next time!
In the meantime, bless my father – May he have many more years of hiking and scrambling around his beloved mountains, while he is still able! May he have at least one more ski season left in him too – apparently the European Ski Resorts allow 80 year old people in for free! Haha!
May I tell him that I love him, as easily as I write it here...
What an amazing story and life in general - kudos to your dad to living it to the full
Gotta say that I’m with you on the fear of heights thing. Does it just not bother your dad or is fear part of the thrill of doing it in the first place?
Thank you so much!
I think a bit of both - far less scared of heights than someone like me but I know he felt fear in those moments where he'd climbed past his last piece of protection he'd clipped the rope into and was needing to place more protection. When you are leading the rope up the climb... You would then fall twice as far as the last place you'd placed protection. Following the leader is much less scary because the rope is now above you and can protect your fall more gently at all times.
I think my father learnt how to control that fear. Mountaineering aside, if we are just talking technical climbing there are three levels of how scary it is:
Following: the rope has been set up above you and tightens as you climb so you will never fall far.
Leading a "sport climb" - you lead the rope up, but it is a prepared route with bolts to clip the rope into (look carefully at the picture of me) - here you would fall about twice as far as a bolt below you.
Leading a traditional climb - there are no bolts. You have to place your own protection by jamming nuts or camming devices into cracks and then clip the rope into that (the follower will then remove that protection).
A normal person can follow a much more technically difficult sport climb than he could dare to lead. I never had the courage to learn how to lead traditional climbs and trust my own protection rather than a bolt.
My father pretty much climbed at the same technical grade either way, which showed that he was controlling his fear even at his limit... I think he loved that feeling!
To make matters worse for a normal person like me... You can't claim to have "sent" a climb unless you've led it. You can't rest on the bolts or protection either... You have to climb all the moves in one go as if the rope isn't there at all (it's there to catch your fall, not rest on). A "flash" means you got it first try, with no following first or resting on the rope to work the hard moves out... There's an honour code to climbing!
Most people work out the moves on a hard climb and then go back down to lead and "send" it... But they don't get the "flash" then.
Thanks for that insight. Yes, I can imagine that honour code being big in climbing. Other than the heights, it sounds like a great sport!
What an absolutely beautiful and inspiring post! Your dad is such a legend, and I am sure he is as equally proud of you as you are of him. !LUV
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Epic post Jasper, I followed a link from Zak to find your profile. I'm connecting with all the fellow South Africans so that I can upvote your work.
Best wishes from Garden Route.
Ah hello! I have just come back from a quick holiday up the Garden Route! Several of my next posts are going to be about it!
Excellent, I'm glad you were able to experience the Garden Route. I will look out for your posts on your travels.
Great story. I couldn't submit this as you disappeared for ages and are not involved in the community like you once were. You need to stay active in order to receive support as it is a two way street.
Thanks for the feedback! At first I went on holiday to a place where there was absolutely no Wi-fi, and then when I came back I suffered a health issue that hopefully will be resolved soon! I plan to be back on this community more often again for sure!
Sorry to hear that and hope all is ok now. Please get back as we need quality content to support.
Thank you! After many years we finally managed to do a test that proves what's wrong. My upper phyrynx sphincter doesn't work properly resulting in swallowing air and a nausea feeling. In recent years, doctors have found a simple procedure that has a good chance of helping a lot... I'm suddenly optimistic after being despondent for years, and currently pestering the doctors for a date to give it a try... If it works, I definitely will be happy as it's something that has been holding me back in life for years now... I will be sure to write something in the medical community about it... And look forward to surfing and martial arts at full strength and less fear of getting nausea!
The holiday was in the garden route... I discovered my own little surfing paradise that I will post about soon!
I've also noticed that @jobiker has gone missing, which is a pity because I was loving his surf adventures! I hope he is okay and nothing bad has happened in his life...
Best case scenario is that he's found a surfing paradise on an uninhabited island somewhere in Indonesia!
Yes he vanished after going on a surfing trip and hope things are ok. Happy that you have a chance of getting your health back to normal as that must be terrible having to put up with that stuff.
Wow great post paying tribute to dad. It's amazing the muscles that hurt that I never knew I after a session if rock climbing. I'm talking about the commercial rock climbing venues though that are indoors. Those outdoor places are just next level
For most people the surprise is the build up of lactic acid "pump" in the forearms and you can start to see all the veins in your forearms for probably the first time in your life. That's where all the small muscles are that help you grip with your fingers (try get a lean person to move his fingers and you should notice his forearms move)...
You probably even got to the point where the forearm pump just stopped your hands from working at all... I know I did often!
There are various tricks my father did that made him climb much harder than me even when he was old and weak compared to me...
He wasn't scared and so wasn't using all his grip strength to hold on.
He would find places where he could shake out his hands. Sometimes he could even hold his body in position with heel hooks or knee bars and shake out both hands at once! A good time to grab some more chalk from a little bag around your waist anyway!
Technique - good climbing is keeping your arms straight while you plan your next move, and learning to use your legs to counterbalance your hand movements, and then to use your legs rather than your arms to actually lift you up to the next holds. A good climber thinks about his foot holds as well as his hand holds!
If you do go climbing again - I hope that helps!
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Your father must be extremely strong. I know a few climbers and their level of fitness is well beyond that of people that just lift weights. This is an impressive story for sure.