The Mountain

The Mountain by David Macfie

 What a glorious day. I’m Roger and I love living in Cape Town. This morning reminds me why. It is an absolutely stunning early winter’s example of perfection. The sun is shining and the early mists have burned away. I have a panoramic view of the sea in front and, if I turn, I have an equally magnificent view of the mountains behind. To make it even better it’s Saturday.

Impulsively, I decide to hike up Table Mountain. I have done it many times before, but it never loses its wonder and appeal. On such a day, it’s a perfect way of enjoying everything that’s good about life. I go through my usual careful preparation. My rucksack contains plenty of water and sunscreen. I put in chocolate and protein bars and an extra pair of socks. My thick hiker’s jacket is there too, because the weather can change quickly on the mountain. I add a stout rope and check my hiking boots. Everything is fine so now I’m ready. I decide on a medium to hard hike for my outing and drive to the nearest parking area from the start of the route. From the parking spot I do a visual check on the weather and also look at the forecast on my phone. There’s nothing alarming so I set off.

I know this route and enjoy it, not only because of the exercise but also because of the natural beauty of the surroundings and the views. Nature has always appealed to me, in its many forms and this morning, I am fortunate that the route is quiet so there are no distractions to my enjoyment. There are many birds around and late season butterflies and flowers. The sun is warm and the sky cloudless. I hike briskly on the lower slopes and rest after a couple of hours of light activity. I take a drink and eat a chocolate bar, while sitting on a handy rock and relaxing in the peaceful surroundings. Refreshed, I continue on my way into the next section of my hike. I remember that the going gets tougher on this stretch, but it still isn’t too difficult so I don’t have to concentrate too hard on where I put my feet. In this section, the incline increases gradually so I’m having to work a bit harder all the time. But I’m still not yet up to the transition from vegetated slopes to rocky outcrops and there are no cliffs or ravines yet. I continue on my way, whistling with the joy of it all and occasionally breaking into song. It really is a glorious day and I can’t think of a better way to spend it. After another couple of hours I rest again and eat and drink. Now I’m close to the last section where I have to start climbing more than walking. I check my boots again and monitor the weather. I can go no more than another hour before I must turn back for home. I certainly don’t want to still be on the mountain when it gets dark.

Now the going gets much harder. The route winds between boulders and outcrops of rock and gets steeper as I go. I have to use my hands and my feet and am scrambling more than walking now. It is exhilarating to match my fitness to the challenges of the mountain and I’m enjoying the hike immensely. Now the path bends starts to circle around the outside of an extrusion of rock, like a mini mountain on the side of its big brother. Here now I have to be extra careful, because there is only a narrow strip of ground to my right before a steep drop into a ravine. As I move higher and higher, the drop obviously increases also, in both height and incline. I’m not concerned. I remember this section well from previous visits to this route. I know that I’m not in danger unless I’m really careless. I therefore increase my vigilance and my caution and continue upwards. Finally, I reach my target destination for the day. The path leads to a flattish area on the top of the mini mountain. I take a seat for a rest before starting down again. Another drink and a protein bar refresh me once more. I check the sky and notice clouds, starting to gather. I clean the soles of my boots and prepare to head home. The clouds start to cover the top of the mountain and the temperature drops. I realize that I will have to get off the steepest part of my route quickly, because it feels as if it will rain soon. I set off down the winding path round the mini mountain, trying to move a fast as I can, while watching where I put my feet. In some places I have to go down backwards to get past particularly difficult sections, where I’d had to climb on the way up. I groan inwardly when the rain starts, gently at first then more insistently. Now, I’m getting concerned. The mountain can be cruel in these conditions. I increase my caution and check the sky again.

I realize my mistake instantly, but it is too late. My feet land on a wet section of smooth sloping stone and slip out from under me. I try to recover my balance but it’s gone and I lose my footing completely. My body flies through the air. I know that I am going to go over the edge and fall into the ravine. I scream but no sound comes out. My vocal chords are paralyzed by the shock. My scream reverberates in my mind, as I fall swiftly through the soaking air.

But, it is suddenly silenced when my body all but disintegrates, as it hits the jagged rocks below.