To the Everyday Heroes

I know how great it is to feel protected. There comes a time in your life when you feel that you are forced to learn to protect yourself.

By Louise Walton

My challenge is the distance between my imagination and my reality. My mind says that after 47 years and 8 months of being alive, I should be an accomplished heroine. I should be like a loving but noble Wonder Woman; live to protect and nurture others like Florence Nightingale and be swept off my feet by my knight in shining armour…. when I say “Take!”.

Recently at Lakeside Pinnacle, reality burst my imaginary bubble. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend, I wouldn’t even have made it there. I would’ve convinced myself that I’m destined for a life divided between my laptop and my kitchen…

Time was limited, so I went straight for the climb that Wonder Woman would have warmed up on. I was feeling blessed that I had this short time to invest in my dreams, for a change. I’d been visualising topping out on Undercling (19) – a steep and slippery route, like the old days when I used to have more time for outdoor adventures. My shoulder/bicep tendon was sore due to too little training and too much jumping up on too-hard-for-me gym climbs. I reminded myself that although I was feeling nervous, a friend of mine told me that “it’s minus two”, for every excuse you make before climbing.

Staring up at that inverted step, the Undercling finale… I wondered: ‘Why have I dragged my boyfriend out here, to put myself through this? There isn’t even time for him to have a climb!” Feeling tentative, I mumbled a “Watch me” after my first step. Mmmmm that could be the reason that I was doing this – I want to be watched, I want to feel connected to others, especially when I’m being brave. 

I’ve lost two amazing ‘protectors’: my dad and my brother. They loved to watch me test my limits, and they believed in my abilities. I know how great it is – to feel protected, with loved ones in the wings, ready to help. There comes a time in your life when that changes; when you feel that you are forced to learn to protect yourself.

“Watch me!”, I shouted this time. I felt completely lost. There were tiny cracks and pebbles for feet and a one-finger pocket that was too high!

“We’re all watching you!” my boyfriend and two complete strangers, sang back in unison. Instead of getting annoyed that I was taking sooo long to complete the climb, the stranger with one prosthetic leg started supplying me with beta. He believed I could send! He must’ve read that vulnerable look on my face; I had been thinking that I was too petrified to even attempt to continue). Although his beta was too technical for me to execute, the fact that they cared about me succeeding was enough to keep me going.

I inched my way up; one curse at a time. I thought about this climber with his prosthetic leg and felt guilty about how easily I was going to give up. That was the turning point; that’s what got me the send.

Photos courtesy of Cape Ascents (@capeascents)

The climbing spirit is all about looking out for one another; buddy checking and spotting, protecting your fellow adventurers, at all costs. Yes, I lost some of my childhood heroes, like my dad and my brother, who passed away too soon; and although that carefree phase of my growth has passed, there’re always others willing to pay generative attention to me. 

To all the everyday heroes and heroines out there, who understand the value of being appreciated and become energised through doing good, you know who you are. We salute you! 

Don’t feel shy to say “Watch me!”; don’t be afraid to offer help to a scared or self-doubting climber. Don’t let go of your goals. Be inspired by the big heroes, but remember those often overlooked – the supporters at the base who cheer you on and work with you to achieve your success, selflessly and always with enthusiasm. Your small, generous actions can be transformative to another, like they were for me. They gave me what I needed to hold on. 

You’re never too busy or too out of practice or too weak to keep climbing! You can rest, you can go through dips. Just don’t give up. To everyone who’s said “Come on! – I’ve got you”… thank you from the bottom of my brave little heart! 

A person is a person through other people (Umntu ngumntu ngabantu) 

– Luyanda Mpahlwa & Klaus Doppler