Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Facts about mountains

In Cape Town, people basically do two things: get super drunk on local wine and climb mountains. Not at the same time, of course*, but these two resources share the convenience of being close and abundant.

The tracks of Table Mountain and its surrounding environs afford budding hikers / climbers endless entertainment, and if you haven't yet sampled the joys of walking uphill for several hours followed by walking downhill for several hours, here's a few interesting factoids about our rocky friends.

Fact 1: Mountains are not your rocky friends. Mountains are trying to kill you.

Mountains are dangerous and awful things which actually come equipped with a startling number of hazards. Injuries and even deaths from falling are disturbingly common in the Cape area, while other nasty effects like dehydration and general exposure are always legitimate concerns. A mountain would probably break into your home and steal your TV right now if it was small enough to get through your door and smart enough to know what a TV was.

Thankfully, mountains are dumb.

I tend to overprepare for just about any trip nowadays, mainly because my first hike up Table Mountain saw me and two unfortunate friends getting very, very lost and very, very thirsty for a good couple of hours before stumbling across the cable car station and buying grossly overpriced Powerade because we hadn't brought enough water along.

Fucking around with mountains can lead to injury, death and getting ripped off by station vendors. Remember this and be careful out there.

Fact 2: Mountains are taller than other things.

Since ancient times, society has been built around people trying to put themselves in positions where they can look down on other people. Mountains are pretty much the epitome of looking-down-on-ness. Even humble climbs such as Lion's Head tend to provide some pretty nice views of the surrounding environs.

Camps Bay on one side.

City Bowl, Gardens/Vredehoek area. You may have noticed my house there.

Signal Hill.

Some dude's head.

It's all a lot nicer-looking with a decent camera, but capturing any sort of picture is ultimately awkward and half-hearted compared to seeing the real thing as a real person.

Lion's Head in particular is a popular hiking choice due to its relative ease, the fact that the track circles all the way around the peak, and the almost guaranteed safety from shark attacks. But this also means that the narrow route can get pretty crowded from time to time, particularly if you're climbing at sunset or during a full moon -- the evening sky looks REALLY pretty from up top, and it gives you a brilliant view of the astounding floodlights that illuminate the side of Table Mountain later on.

Fact 3: People's butts.

This isn't really a fact, per se, just something I thought I'd share. This isn't even the best butt picture -- some other dude took a picture where one person's butt was, like, in another person's face and stuff. It was hilarious.

This is a small section of the aforementioned Lion's Head climb that uses a bunch of neat little chains and footholds and stuff to help you get up. It's not absolutely necessary to go up this way, but the other way around is longer and much more humiliating because all the cool kids are going ahead and using the chains and taking butt pictures and you're totally missing out.

Fact 4: Mountains have a top.

One of the things that I really do love about hikes is that with a reasonably-sized group, you have yourself a perfect activity to take your own social pace with, complete with a massive payoff at the top that involves snacks and chatter and basking. If you're anything like me, you'll find that there's times in any social engagement where you kinda just want to drift off and absorb the world without talking much or taking butt pictures, and mountain climbing presents just that opportunity: if you're not immediately engaged in conversation, you're concentrating on your movement, taking in the lovely views and generally just feeling "alive".

And if you REALLY want annoying talky-talky social people to sod off for a few minutes, just start sweating and panting profusely. Sneeze / fart on them for good measure. It'll be disgusting but understandable in context, causing people to leave you alone without feeling like they were deliberately chased off. I've never actually had this problem, mind you, but I'm pretty sure my solution would work if I ever had to use it.

Fact 5: You cannot zorb down a mountain.

My friends have told me this, repeatedly and insistently. A part of me still believes that it could be done with enough padding.

* Actually, a lie. I have a rather interesting story to tell about that

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