As a Metallurgist, you get introduced to Mohs Scale of Hardness as part of your studies. It allows you to compare how tough different minerals are and helps you to identify them.
Up until last year, I thought I was a pretty tough cookie. I moved halfway across the world alone when I was 18, I managed to carve a career out for myself in a male dominated industry, I lived and thrived in Namaqualand and I survived two broken marriages and one disastrous and destructive long term relationship.
I was right up there with Corundum and Diamond at the top of Mr Mohs scale as far as I was concerned.
In 2011 I was introduced to a new beauty therapist. Her name is Marlette and when I met her, she looked like a beauty therapist. Well dressed, tall, an abundance of blonde curly hair and nice nails. As I got to know to Marlette, this “chick” turned out to be a bit of a phenomena. A mountaineer, with a taste for mountain biking without the use of brakes and a couple of big ass KTMs in her garage, Marlette toppled me off of the top of that hardness scale graciously until I settled at a respectable 7 along with the mineral quartz (can be scratched by diamond…)
But this story isn’t about Marlette and her triumphs. It’s about how she was the catalyst to a new life reference for me.
One day during a heavenly facial, Marlette (aka Molly) asked me if I wanted to trek to Everest Base Camp with her. She was attempting her 5th of the 7 summits and it would be nice for her to have some friends to wave her off from the bottom of the mountain.
I have never been one of those people who analyse and plot my adventures – I’m more of a “Ok, that sounds like fun, I’m sure I can do it” sort of a girl. So with not much thought and a bit of preparation, I trekked to Everest Base Camp with Molly.
I started to write a blog. I was going to document this achievement so that my grandchildren could read it one day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. To say that EBC Trek was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life is not an exaggeration. During the trek I was 100% out of my comfort zone and brutally shown that even if you are fit enough to ride 200km on a bicycle and resilient enough to bounce back from personal tragedy and broken bones, it is not hard enough or tough enough to wander merrily up to 5364m above sea level in rough, ice cold terrain.
I haven’t celebrated my base camp trip much. I didn’t even show my Mum and Sister the video I made when I came back. I dared myself to peek back at the journey for short snatches of time but I did not dwell on the marvel of the Himalayas or the gentleness of the Nepalese people or the majesty of that Mother of all mountains. In fact I am only beginning to reminisce nearly a year later.
Why? Well, a large part of it is the earth quakes and tragedies that happened when I got back and Molly was still at base camp. It was unfathomable that a nation so committed to prayer and peace should have to suffer like that. I was so scared that our team were going to die there. Once you have been there, it is easy to imagine loosing your life there.
The rest of the reason lay in how I suffered personally. I am not good at high altitudes. I found that out in Peru when I suffered from Altitude sickness in Cusco at only 3400m ASL. I was ill from Namche to Dingbouche during the trek – luckily I recovered as we went on, but it made walking and thinking very hard work indeed! I hate not being able to do things. Why was I at the back? What happened if I just stopped threw a tantrum and said that I couldn’t go on? I kept slipping and tripping over my own feet. I was so useless.
Thank goodness I wasn’t at Base Camp when the Avalanche hit – I don’t think I would have coped.
So, I got home and life went on – as it does. I did some tough things in 2015… I didn’t scale one of the seven summits, but I managed to do some really tough mountain bike rides. I pulled my company through a downturn in the economy. I opened up my battered heart to another man and his family which led me to my soul mate. I dealt with some personal daemons that have made me a much nicer person!
On top of it all, I now understand that I have made a shift in my hardness scale… being uncomfortable and scared is actually healthy. It outlines the risk and helps you to calculate how to deal with it. I may not be Diamond tough number 10 but I think I’m well on my way to Topaz at number 8.
So on Saturday after 60km of tough riding on my Fatbike when I was starting to get tired and sore, I asked myself this question – is this tougher than trekking to Everest Base Camp? No ways! That’s when I knew I could and would ride the remaining 50kms of the Ultra Marathon. On a Fatbike. Because, I am Topaz.