There was once a time when mountaineering, skill aside, was not a sport, but rather an effort riddled with bravado and tales adorned with spectacular embellishment. None more so is that of Mount Everest and early attempts to conquer the highest peak in the world. George Mallory became famous for three immortal words he spoke in 1923 before his attempt to summit the mountain a year later. “Because it’s there,” he cheekily retorted when asked why he wanted to do so.
Mallory perished on the mountainside in 1924; his body was found decades later in 1999. His quirks were typical of the era – quips of someone set out to conquer and master the world. Today we still have men and women who dare take on Earth’s challenges. Only now it is done with less bluster and more selflessness. Andrew Patterson, an assimilated Capetonian from Johannesburg is one such a person who would like to make a difference with his own physical endeavour.
Table Mountain, for all its beauty, is no Everest, but a challenge can be just as gruelling should you dare the near-senseless. For most a 3km run every morning is already a daunting task. Andrew, at 38, will scale Table Mountain in 2018 for every single day etched upon this year’s calendar. Cape Town’s eminent iconography may not flirt with Earth’s troposphere, but it can be a treacherous climb – one that has claimed many a life.
Andrew’s initiative, cleverly called 365 Ubuntu Climbs, will not only benefit him physically and spiritually, but one million of his fellow South Africans should he succeed. For starters, he’d like to raise R1 million for, in particular, Habitat for Humanity, One Heart for Kids and The Sunflower Fund. It is not the first time he has been involved with these organisations through some sporting effort – Andrew has worked with some of them for over five years.
“I aim to empower one million South Africans that through no fault of their own started on the back foot in life,” Andrew said; this despite a few detractors being rather circumspect. “Some people were very supportive and understood right away what the scope and potential of the BackaBuddy campaign was; others needed more time to get there. The reality is when I had this idea; it didn’t matter what anyone told me. I knew that it was a powerful idea it was and nothing would stop me from doing it.”
A mountainous and arduous task lay ahead for Andrew and the idea was birthed via a simple drive through the city. “Eight days before my last day of work the idea came to me whilst driving past the mountain on my way to Stellenbosch. My retrenchment was effective July 1st and instead of returning to corporate life – I decided to focus on honouring my idea which I treated like a business training both my body and my mind simultaneously.”
Mallory and Andrew may share one thing though and that is that neither of them are casual rovers of the earth. The end goal may turn out to be vastly different, but Andrew, before his trek upon the Cape massif started, he was in reasonably good shape. This, however, did not mean he could take on this challenge with ease and laxity. He is an avid hiker and an Argus cyclist – he had this to his advantage, happily. It did not mean that his trial would be any easier.
Interestingly, one can’t think of Andrew as a ‘first-timer’; he has various other adventure activities in the name of charity. It makes him a seasoned campaigner and one generally with the necessary know-how. He started ‘lightly’, topping the peak three times a week before his final training summits of nine peaks in a row. He was not entirely alone, though. He had been joined a couple of time by a friend or otherwise (international climbers in particular) and he receives tonnes of support from both his mother and his mate, David.
“Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed by an idea you have or a task you need to complete. These can all be broken down into bite size chunks. Three hundred and sixty five sounds a lot; focusing on the one I need to do today sounds much more manageable doesn’t it? Focusing on just the very next step means before you know it – you’ve completed a quarter of the climb; half the climb; the whole climb – whatever you tackle in life.”
Many would have failed doing just this. Even some of the most hardened sportsmen and mountaineers would have given up and there is a very good reason for that; they have attempted their feat for themselves only. Andrew was driven by thousands in need, by those that depend on his success and for his very own wellbeing. He has not faltered one bit despite the gruelling task he has undertaken. As of the end of November he is still going strong – he even took the time to send us a short account of his journey.
“As I write this, it’s hard to put into words how I feel being so close to the end and what I’ve achieved thus far. I do have an even higher appreciation for my body now and my mind. To date, I’ve completed 2179km in distance of which 248km is vertical climbing – the equivalent of 64.4 Mt Everests. In total it has taken me 35 days 17 hours and 17 minutes and 58 seconds on one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Even more amazing than the journey I’ve undertaken, is that this hasn’t just been me and seeing the 574 climbers that have joined pushing their own capabilities and in the process – seen incredible feats of human spirit and heard inspiring stories. I could never have predicted or known how much support from almost 30 countries would pour in and how many lives we’d collectively be able to impact.
Meeting the children that we’ve helped teach read, survivors of leukaemia even joining me on climbs and the gratitude in receiving your first home and finally knowing what it’s like to have your own bathroom means to someone – is impossible to describe. It’s simply life changing in ways you can only feel.
Ubuntu has never been more meaningful to me now witnessing it in action. I’ve learned that it’s only in taking action that you will ever experience what these words mean. Ubuntu. Compassion. Generosity. Transformation. And it’s not even over yet. With a month left there is sure to be more magic around the people joining and donating and becoming part of history. I wonder now how many other ideas I’ve been ‘given’ in the past that I never acted upon – that will never happen again!
This has been a phenomenal privilege in seeing the very best in what South Africans (and people overseas!) can do when we stand together and focus on solutions. We don’t need big corporations or government. WE have the power.”
He has so far raised nearly R 296 151 through his BackaBuddy campaign and his own channel. A little plus to add to the fun and grandeur of the project is that Andrew will personally invite a person to tag along for a climb if they have donated. To date, Andrew has not missed a single climb as far as progress is concerned and local tour guides have lent their support in the encouragement of others to join and contribute.
Pay It Forward
You can donate to Andrew’s campaign in one of two ways. Prospective benefactors can either visit the BackaBuddy campaign directly via https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs or they can make use of the SnapScan code below.