My deepest and sincerest condolences and prayers are with you.
As some of you may or may not know, I’ve hiked a few times with Ommiedraai, I’ve volunteered with some of you, I marshalled at your race and just last week, I camped with some of your members (2 of them was with you yesterday). One of your members was my +1 at my own hiking club function on Saturday night, another one of your members joined me on a hike with my club yesterday so the loss you suffered on the mountain yesterday, was my loss as well.
As this is a blog about my hiking life and as I couldn’t even bring myself to upload photos of my own hike yesterday, never-mind blogging about it, I am dedicating this blog post to you (as a form of therapy for myself as well)
As some of you may or may not know, I was involved with the Blinkwater rescue (see my blog https://myhikingmylife.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/blinkwater-ravine-turned-rescue-mission/) so I have an inkling of an idea what you endured. The shock, the fear, the cold, the chaos and the tears. I also know Post Traumatic Stress after a mountain rescue. I can sort of relate, I can sympathise and empathise with each of one you who was there to witness the tragedy.
I was still hiking when I saw the message from Uncle Shahmieg in the Mountain Safety and Tracking group on Whatsapp, ‘Accident, hiker fall call me’ . My heart sank and waited for further updates to come through. ‘Rescue activated’ within 3 minutes. For this to happen quickly, it’s not just slight injuries. 10 Minutes later, ‘skymed activated’. This is serious. Skymed will not be activated for a rescue along the contour path. The how did not matter to me at this time, the who and how serious, is what I needed to know. Knowing better, I knew not to contact Uncle Shahmieg, so made enquiries with those I thought would know. They did not know yet so I waited. My concern was with Uncle Shahmieg especially knowing the calibre hike leader he is and I have the utmost respect for him and this has never happened to him before.
Then the news came through, code blue. I was in shock and my heart bled for those affected. Fortunately, I was not alone and one of your members got to console me. Accidents happen. No matter what precautions are put in place, if it is in the Almighty’s plan, it is your time. I accepted this almost immediately. I explained to her what you all are going through right now and how much our prayers are needed. I informed her not to tell anyone until it’s made known. I saw the messages in the chats about the accident and I couldn’t let them know what I knew. I advised them not to even message those on the mountain as you need to conserve battery life etc. I know that you are focused on the situation at hand.
I was hurting and in a state of shock for your club and chatting to those who knew and I couldn’t get myself to even make lunch for my children. I was in that much of a daze. In the end, I supervised my daughter or I would just mess it up. I asked my +one if he knew but he didn’t at the time. As I was chatting to yet another one of your members (who didn’t know) and as she was joking around and I was in no state to laugh, I explained to her my depression. Chatting to her, helped me.
Members of my club messaged/phoned me as well as they received the news and they too send their deepest sympathies and condolences. One of them know my close relationship with your club and knew this would affect me also. Isn’t she just too sweet?
Only later I remembered that I gave the hike details to another friend and that she was with! I immediately messaged her to ask if she is ok and she appreciated my concern.
The next few days will not be easy. It will take time. It will be a painful reminder every time that you look at the mountain. It does get easier but speaking out of experience, nearly 3 months later, I still feel a slight knot in my stomach. Your accident was different to ours but I still feel anxiety every time I hear a loose rock, rock on another. I still feel anxiety when I do scrambles, fearful that what I pull on is going to break off and come tumbling down. And despite my fears, I carry on hiking. I still do scrambles as accidents happen anywhere and everywhere. If it is your time, it is your time and accept that it is the Almighty’s will and who are we to question?
Uncle Shahmieg, when I messaged you are on Sunday saying that you are the most respected hike leader. This was not just words. I meant it. You really are the most respected hike leader that I know. Your patience, gentleness, knowledge, humbleness and leadership abilities is most inspiring. The motto of your club being ‘if you hike once with Ommiedraai, you are considered a friend’ and I felt this the very first time I hiked with your club.
Easier said than done I know but the best way to conquer your fear is to face your fear. As much as a cliché this is, it is true. To each one of you, keep on hiking. Take that first step. I KNOW you will want to go into a panic attack but the mountain is not out to hurt you.
Last but not least. To Iona’s family and friends. Whenever there is a loss on the mountain, it reverberates throughout the hiking community but the feeling is fleeting as they are faceless and nameless and we carry on with your lives. Not this time though, Iona will forever be remembered. Iona’s daughter. I am so sorry that you had to witness that. My heart aches for you and I cried the first time I visualised what it must have been like. As a mother and daughter myself, I want to hug you so tight and tell you that everything is going to be alright. Your mom would want you to take care of yourself so please do that for her. Same for your siblings. I am so sorry for your loss.
May you find the peace and contentment in your hearts and the strength to become outstanding human beings as a legacy to your mother.
Take care and much love.
PS…I wrote this over two days
From Momeena (the friend who I gave the hike details to)
You could not have said it any better. I have been struggling to write my experience down but just can’t put it in words. I have to FULLY ENDORSE.. Shamieg is one of the most CARING…CAREFU
LL…CONSIDERATE… Leaders I KNOW….. I’m still struggling to to deal with this as I can hear Shamieg saying….[After breakfast.. . We are going down the contour path… PLEASE BE CAREFULL. My initial thoughts was..who will get“ hurt on the contour path. I’ve been hiking for almost 5yrs and had the pleasure to hike with many leaders and Strong hikers too…. But I have to admit Shamieg is an OUTSTANDING leader in every sense… We regrouped so many times and his famous words you all ok.. Ready to go… Then to crown it all… He has 15 hikers watching him as he raced down to assist Iona…. We all were in a state of panic and he had to walk talk us down,,, I still can’t believe how quick this FREAK accident happened… I am forever grateful to the Almighty for many mercies and for the unselfish comrado .love and care I have experienced with the OMMIEDRAAI Hikers.. You guys are truly AMAZING… Shukran to all that assisted incl Aslam Levy… Sap.. Air Mercy etc… Thank you Fatima… Bestie… Fuzlin… Shireen. For your unselfish concerns…