SA Mountain 89 | June – August 2024


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Off to the Doctor!

A trip to the family doctor always comes with a certain sense of anxiety, and as a child it can be quite a traumatic affair. But one such visit to our family GP when I was 13 years old changed the course of my life. My dear old mother, worried and concerned about her young son’s recent interest in this dangerous and ‘death defying’ sport of rock climbing, decided that we needed to go and have a chat to someone sensible about all this malarky. And who more sensible that the family doctor?
So off we went, down to the doctor’s surgery and sat nervously in the reception, waiting to be called in to Doctor Sandell’s rooms. The door opened and we were ushered in.
“Good morning Mrs Lourens and young Tony, what seems to be the problem today?” Doctor Sandell was a very soft spoken and gentle man, and his voice had this calming effect.
“Well,” my mother began, “Tony seems to have found a great interest in climbing the mountains and is often away over weekends climbing and exploring. I’m just a bit worried about his safety and if this is the wisest thing for him to be doing at his age.”
“Mmmm,” the good doctor replied. Mrs Lourens, why don’t you go sit in the reception for a while and I’ll have a word with young Tony.”
Once alone, Doctor Sandell started asking me all sorts of questions relating to climbing, like “what routes have you climbed? What grades are you climbing? What equipment are you using?” And other similar questions. I found it a little surprising that a doctor knew so much about climbing and climbing jargon, but being a young lad, assumed that he just knew this stuff.
Doctor Sandell called my mother back in and asked her to sit down.
“Mrs Lourens, having chatted to young Tony, it is very evident that he has a deep passion for climbing and the mountains, and there is not much one can do to change this. Tony will carry on climbing one way or another and the best way forward would be to support and encourage him.
“My suggestion is that you ensure that he has the best equipment available and that he attends some climbing meets with the Mountain Club of South Africa. That way, he will be taking the safest path.”
The following week, my mother bought me a brand new 120 foot, 11mm Edelrid kernmantle rope from Canvas Workers in Plein Street. And I’m not sure exactly when I found out, but Doctor Sandell turned out to be a prolific climber and mountaineer in Cape climbing circles.
That’s a visit to the doctor that will remain in my memory forever, and unbeknown to me at the time, set me on a course that would shape the rest of my life and ultimately be the catalyst that would make climbing my life and vocation.
I will forever hold a deep gratitude in my heart for Doctor Sandell, his perception and his wisdom, and for my dear old mama, for listening to him and understanding my love for the hills and always encouraging me.

Be safe in the hills


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