Summit Numero Uno
I recently finished the audio book "No Shortcuts to the Top". The author, Ed Viesturs, writes about his adventures in being the first American to climb all fourteen of the world's eight thousander mountain peaks. Without the aid of supplemental oxygen. Not being a mountain man myself, this book cemented the fact that not all summits need to be climbed. Some should be left alone.
The Unrelenting Richard Laskey and the wannabee
It was at the time of reading the book that I was asked by my good friend, Richard Laskey, to run up and down the Westcliff Stairs in Johannesburg two hundred times. This equates to running up to the height of Everest from sea level. Money raised would go to a good cause namely The Sunflower Fund (Leukemia). Never having seen the Westcliff stairs, I welcomed the challenge and immediately volunteered. It was then that they told me that this wouldn't take the 2 hours as I had expected, but rather around 36 hours. It turns out the distance is about 97k's. I immediately declined the invite.

Sibusiso Vilane - one of the select few
to complete the Explorers Grand Slam
aka The Three Poles Challenge:
reaching the summit of Everest,

South and North Pole.
Still, being a noble fellow and good sport, I put my name down to assist and do some stair repeats on behalf of the challengers not gunning for the full 200 repeats. One of the chaps on whose behalf I ran was Sibusiso Vilane. It turns out that he is a seasoned explorer, certainly one of South Africa's most renowned explorers, with credentials that would make a living Sir Ernest Shackleton blush. He has done it all: Everest, North Pole, South Pole, the 7 Summits. And here he was adding the Westcliff Stairs to his repertoire. On one of my descents, I had the chance to speak to him. He said something that was very interesting and resonated with me.

"No-one ever goes up Everest to get stronger". 

This struck me as profound. People spend their entire lives chasing summits. They miss out on things like warmth, comfort, desk jobs, use of their fingers and toes, happy marriages and happy meals in order to chase a summit dream. They train like warriors, endure like monks, conserve like prisoners, plan like dictators, foregoing life's earthly and bountiful pleasures in the all consuming pursuit for the top. Relationships are tested, resolve is tempered, discipline is endured. And it turns out that once you get there, it'll probably kill you if you stay there for too long. You have a window of opportunity, and you better get up and get down. As much as the summit adds life, just as quickly it'll snatch it away.

The agony of the stairs allowed me the opportunity to juxtapose my life against that of a friend, Lloyd Scott Hudson, who happened to be running in the opposite direction at the time and was on his way to completing the full set of 200 reps. Lloyd is an adventurer and currently on his quest to complete all the Summits on the world's continents. He has already bagged 5 and is on a clear path to achieving all 7. It's very inspiring and enlightening to hear him talk about his quest. He is a true explorer and makes the world a brighter place.
Lloyd Scott Hudson finishing his 200th rep
I thought of my own summits: my annual quest of balancing fatherhood; working hard and well; listening out for my muse; training to be the best I can be; being a good husband, family guy and friend; having the principle aim of turning my children into virtuous citizens.

It may not have the clarity of an Everest summit, with its leading base camps and Hillary Step and risk of death on all sides, or of a quest to achieve a university degree, or of giving up addictions, or raising enough money to buy a house or pay off an ex-spouse. But whereas the ascent of some summits may not make you stronger especially as you near the top, the summits contemplated in others, and certainly in my life, hovering like peaks poking out of silvered clouds on the horison, add backbone and perspective, injecting a steady drip feed of daily mojo into my being and guiding me along the path of *happyness*.

With it being a new year and all, I wonder how many out there have openly declared war on their summit?
That's me and my two youngest on the bench,
surviving another birthday party.
Many summits to climb.
Attack the summit,

PS For those of you who cannot simply let sleeping summits be, here are - depending on which mountaineer you ask - the Seven Summits:

1. Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa)
2. Mount Everest (Asia)
3. Aconcagua (South America)
4. Mount Elbrus (Europe)
5. Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania)
6. Vinson Massif (Antarctica)
7. Denali/Mount McKinley (North America)