20 Summits in 20 days in 2020

Murray Williams dancing with the mountain atop West Peak, after summiting the mountain 20 times in a row – surrounded in celebration by arcing, wheeling swifts.

Early before dawn, on the morning of Sunday December 20, I’d climbed West Peak 19 times in 19 days.

West Peak sits pretty, 1 000m high above Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

Since December 1, I’d climbed a total of 17 100 vertical metres – almost the height of Mount Everest, twice. Each round-trip was about 16km, mostly over rocky terrain.

But here was the tough reality, as the clock chimed 4am, that Sunday:

As I set out, in my old leather boots: I had to start at the very bottom, all over again.

The successful summits on the days before – even a full 19 of them – meant zero. I closed my garden gate, looked up and began the upward journey all over again.

Step. By. Step.

“One day at a time” is an expression as old as the hills, a wisdom used far and wide. And my 20 consecutive summits were no different. For I’d realised a powerful truth early on, in my journey…

To climb West Peak 20 times, I only had to climb it: Once, every morning. Just once.

And the next day, and the days after, I had to do it again. Each time: Just once.

Everyone has a mountain to climb. A challenge to face – and conquer.

I wanted to experience, for myself, what it feels like…

To wake up, every day, and have a mountain to climb. All over again. Day after day.

That’s what motivated me. To walk the talk. Show-don’t-tell.

I trekked the first 19 climbs alone, and summited for the 20th time in a row, with my four younger siblings at my side. The strength of the pack is the wolf. And the strength of the wolf is the pack.

This is what I learned from December 1 to December 20, 2020.

It’s not possible to fully understand the extraordinary courage, patience and tenacity needed to recover from serious medical incidents like strokes, or major surgery.

I’m overwhelmed with respect for patients who show this kind of courage every single day, in their healing. Starting at the foot of their daunting bergs, every new day.

Climbing a mountain – even 20 days in a row – is easy by comparison.

My hope is we can all unite around those with these medical mountains to climb. That we can “walk this road together, through the storm”, to quote Eminem, on their journeys of rehabilitation and recovery.

Second: I hope those not carrying medical burdens may wait no longer to burst forth and thrive.

And third: I believe most people survived the year 2020 on a mix of adrenaline and “news” – adapting to this weird new world on-the-run. The year 2021 will be different – a weariness has set in.

Many relationships will start collapsing, burn-out will be widespread and mental health will become the single-most important collective challenge.

Requiring intensive healing and all our support too.

Like most challenges, mental health needs a committed investment in: process. Patient process.

One such discipline is: Walking up a mountain …

Trust me.

Let’s lead by inspiring healing – together.

* Editor: Murray summited West Peak 20 times in a row, while himself recovering from recent serious neck surgery.

* To view his journey, visit Facebook, search the key words “Murray Williams west peak inspiring healing”.