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NIGEL S. ROBERTS

Climbing

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Climbing in New Zealand:
*Mt Ruapehu, 2008
*Taranaki, 2008

Climbing in Africa:
*
The Drakensberg mountains, April 1961
*The Drakensberg mountains, April 1962
*The Drakensberg mountains, July 1962
*Mt Kilimanjaro, 1959
*Mt Kilimanjaro, 1985

Climbing Australia's state and territory summits:
*A.C.T. - Bimberi Peak, 2010
*New South Wales - Mt Kosciuszko, 2010
*Northern Territory - Mt Zeil, 2013
*Queensland - Mt Bartle Frere, 2011
*South Australia - Mt Woodroffe, 2013
*Tasmania - Mt Ossa, 2009
*Victoria - Mt Bogong, 2010
*Western Australia - Mt Meharry, 2016
To see articles I've written about these climbs, go to:
*New Zealand Alpine Journal, 2016
*Apex to Zenith, 2016

Climbing in Europe:
*
Mont Blanc, 2004
*Mt Elbrus, 1994

Climbing five of the Seven Summits:

*Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro, 1959
*Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro, 1985
*Australia - Mt Kosciuszko, 2010
*Europe - Mt Elbrus, 1994
*North America - Denali / Mt McKinley, 1997
*South America - Aconcagua, 1994

Climbing / visiting the US state highpoints:
*Alabama - Mt Cheaha, 2014
*Alaska - Denali / Mt McKinley, 1997
*Arizona - Humphreys Peak, 2012
*Arkansas - Mt Magazine, 2014
*California - Mt Whitney, 2012
*Colorado - Mt Elbert, 2009
*Connecticut - Mt Frissell (south shoulder), 2013
*Delaware - Ebright Azimuth, 2016
*
Florida - Britton Hill, 2014
*Georgia - Brasstown Bald, 2015
*Hawaii - Mauna Kea, 2014
*Idaho - Borah Peak, 2010
*Iowa - Hawkeye Point, 2013
*Kansas - Mt Sunflower, 2016
*
Kentucky - Black Mtn, 2015
*Louisiana - Driskill Mtn, 2014
*Maine - Mt Katahdin, 2013
*Maryland - Backbone Mtn, 2016
*
Massachusetts - Mt Greylock, 2013
*Minnesota - Eagle Mountain, 2004
*Mississippi - Woodall Mtn, 2014
*Missouri - Taum Sauk Mtn, 2014
*Montana - Granite Peak, 2006
*Nebraska - Panorama Point, 2016
*Nevada - Boundary Peak, 2012
*New Hampshire - Mt Washington, 2013
*New Jersey - High Point, 2016
*
New Mexico - Wheeler Peak, 2012
*New York - an attempt on Mt Marcy, 2016
*
North Carolina - Mt Mitchell, 2015
*North Dakota - White Butte, 2013
*Ohio - Campbell Hill, 2013
*Oklahoma - Black Mesa, 2016
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Oregon - Mt Hood, 2009
*Pennsylvania - Mt Davis, 2016
*
Rhode Island - Jerimoth Hill, 2013
*South Carolina - Sassafras Mtn, 2015
*South Dakota - Harney Peak, 2013
*Tennessee - Clingmans Dome, 2015
*Texas - Guadalupe Peak, 2016
*
Utah - Kings Peak, 2010
*Vermont - Mt Mansfield, 2013
*Virginia - Mt Rogers, 2015
*Washington - Mt Rainier, 2007
*West Virginia - Spruce Knob, 2015
*Wyoming - Gannett Peak, 2006

 

"'Why? Why do you do it? Why is climbing so great?'

"It's the eternal question every mountaineer has grappled with, and to which few have given coherent replies. …

"[I]t's a reasonable question: the non-mountaineer … sees mostly suffering, cold, risk, and even loss of life. So I try to explain that simply by nature, I'm extremely goal-oriented and personally motivated. I have a lot of drive and like to push myself. I like things that aren't too easy, that don't come too quickly.

"And the mountains are a beautiful arena in which to face such challenges. On top of that, you face them with a few carefully chosen friends who have similar goals, aspirations, and work ethics. A great climb is a wonderful mixture of difficulty and intimacy. The challenge is both physical … and mental. If your body is willing, your mind can push it to do amazing things."

Although I am nowhere near his league, when I read those words in No Shortcuts to the Top, a recent book by Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb all fourteen of the world's 8,000-metre peaks without bottled oxygen, I identified with them and agreed with them.

As many of the entries in this website (including even the entries in the Architecture and Penguins sections of this website) indicate, I'm pretty goal-oriented. In the late 1980s, for example, I decided that I wanted to climb four of the world's seven continental summits, and I have not only achieved but have also even exceeded that goal, in that I have climbed five of the seven summits – namely, and in chronological order, Africa's Mt Kilimanjaro (December 1985), Europe's Mt Elbrus (August 1994), South America's Aconcagua (December 1994), North America's Denali / Mt McKinley (July 1997), and Australia's Mt Kosciusko (which I finally got round to climbing in early January 2010). Two additional climbing goals involve highpoints in America and Australia. In 2005 I decided I would try to climb the 13 peaks in the United States that together constitute the ten highest and ten hardest of the American state highpoints (I fulfilled that goal in February 2014, and to date I've also climbed / visited an additional thirty-two US state highpoints, bringing my overall total to 45); and in July 2016 Eric Hodge and I completed a quest we began early in 2009 – namely, climbing the eight Australian state and territory highpoints. The vertical index bar on the left-hand side of this page contains links to pages which contain (or, when completed, will contain) more details and information about the climbs I've done.

The first climb I can remember was when I was almost five years old. My family had just emigrated from England to South Africa, and we were staying with friends, George and Vera Ridge, on their farm at De Deur, a little south of Johannesburg. Late one afternoon, George Ridge, my father and I climbed a kopje (which is what hills are often called in South Africa). I can still recall labouring and puffing as I willed my short legs and puny body up the hill, as well as my not always successful attempts to avoid the local thorn-bushes, but I can also remember the feeling of exhilaration I experienced when I reached the top of the hillock. The view impressed me mightily: I could see for miles across the mielie fields (i.e., the maize fields) of the Transvaal highveld, and I knew then that I wanted to climb more peaks.

At the end of the year, during the 1949-50 southern hemisphere summer, we holidayed in Cape Town, and Table Mountain became the first of the many peaks I have tried to climb and yet failed to do so. My father, my half-brother Anthony, and I got nowhere near the top. In retrospect, reaching the summit was almost certainly far too ambitious a goal for my father and 13-year-old Anthony with a small five-year-old in tow, but I still remember how much I enjoyed the walk, especially the part where the path went through a pine grove. The pine needles were soft and springy to walk on, while the trees themselves smelt warm and friendly.

Almost exactly ten years later, I hitch-hiked to and tried to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. I didn’t reach the summit – far from it (literally: I gave up a thousand metres or so, about three thousand feet, short of my goal), but the trip to and from Mt Kilimanjaro and my experiences on the mountain were literally life-changing. For my parents' 60th wedding anniversary, I wrote and dedicated to them an account of my 1959-60 Kilimanjaro adventure, and I've also put it on this website. Twenty-six years later, on 12 December 1985, I finally reached Uhuru Peak, the 5,895-metre / 19,340-foot summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. It proved two things: 41-year-olds have much more will-power than 15-year-olds, and persistence pays!

Following my first foray to Mt Kilimanjaro, I climbed in South Africa's panoramic Drakensberg range for two-and-a-half years before leaving Africa permanently – and, as events transpired, leaving climbing for more than twenty years. Student politics during my undergraduate years at university in Australia, studying hard as a postgraduate student in Britain, establishing myself in my career as a political scientist in New Zealand, and working with Heather to raise our son, Evan, all took priority. However, my climbing dreams were dormant not dead, and in 1985 – while on my way back to the southern hemisphere from a sabbatical leave in the United States and Europe – I grasped the first practical opportunity I'd had to return to Kilimanjaro. The rest, as they say, is history.

Climbing has meant meeting some wonderful people. To give just a few examples: I am still in contact with Ted Goodyer and Derek Suckling, two people I first met on my 1959 trip to Mt Kilimanjaro; in June 2007 I went climbing in Oregon with a friend, Roger Marcus, whom I first met in 1985 on my second trip to Kilimanjaro; and I am still in regular touch with the eight people with whom I trekked and climbed in Nepal in 1991 (indeed, one of the eight – Eric Hodge – and I have climbed together in Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and North America). In addition, I have both kept in touch with and also reasonably recently visited friends I first met while climbing Elbrus in 1994 (Peggy Shinn and Greg Matte), Aconcagua in 1994 (Cathy Jenkins, Annette Morris, and Mike Sikora), and Denali in 1997 (Aidan Brennan). My climbing companions mean a great deal to me: I am deeply grateful to them for the encouragement and support they have given me, and I hugely value their friendship.

Climbing has also taken me to some stunningly beautiful places, including Nepal, a host of New Zealand's national parks, the European Alps, Alaska, and the North American Rockies. Two of the most memorable views I have seen in my life are the 360-degree vista from the 5,360-metre / 17,585-foot summit of Gokyo Peak (or Gokyo Ri), 24 kilometres / 15 miles west of Mt Everest in the Himalayas, and the panoramic sweep south down the Kahiltna glacier from 4,877 metres / 16,000 feet on the west buttress of Mt McKinley / Denali. In his book, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, David Livingstone famously described the Victoria Falls (which he first saw in 1855) as "so lovely [that they] must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight". I feel sure that Livingstone would have appreciated the views from Gokyo Ri or down the Kahiltna glacier even more than the Victoria Falls, for it's a little known fact that after proclaiming that "scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight", Livingstone added another crucial sentence: "The only want felt is that of mountains in the background"!

It's little wonder, then, that sixty-eight or so years after willing my small body up an insignificant Transvaal kopje, I still relish the challenge of willing my not-quite-so-small body up hills and mountains. I also hope I will continue to strive to attain summits for some years to come.

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Pages in the Climbing section of my website were last revised on 26 February 2017.