A lifelong passion for mountains
As a climber and mountaineer, the longer you live, the greater the chance that you will see loved ones lose their lives in the mountains. But it is the thrill of climbing these peaks that makes us feel truly alive.
I saw the message on Facebook: ‘This evening we extracted a friend and work colleague from a rock ledge, after he fell while climbing on Table Mountain. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and workmates . . . Fly high Bobby, RIP.’ It was posted by Kevin Tromp.
Bob fell while out enjoying a typical rambling Table Mountain route on one of those classically perfect Cape Town afternoons. He and two of his closest friends, Adam Roff and Jeremy Berrisford, were on the third pitch of Left Face D, when Bob pulled off a loose block. He fell only a short distance, but sustained fatal injuries.
One thing is true. As a climber and mountaineer, the longer you live, the greater the chance that you will see loved ones, close friends and acquaintances lose their lives in the mountains, the very same mountains that bring us the joy, fulfilment, delight, contentment and tranquillity that come from feeling the rock beneath your fingers, the smell of fynbos in your nostrils, the air beneath your feet, the wind against your cheek and the deeply satisfying sensation of moving over stone.
For the true mountaineer, this passion is all encompassing; it knows no boundaries and is impatient with compromise. Indeed, for many it is one of the most powerful forces that keep us chugging along through life. And sometimes it is also the force that can take our life away. But, were it not for this one cold fact, climbing in our beloved mountains would lose all meaning.
It would cease to be the gratifying endeavour that we all but bury ourselves in. It would become just another mundane ride, where you could hop off at any time when the going got a bit tough. It simply would not feed our soul. It is the challenge, the thrill, the unknown and that ever-present companion of danger that keeps us forging deeper and deeper into the mountains.
I often hear people say: “Did you hear about that accident on the mountain? When will it ever stop? Can’t they make it safer?” The answer is simple. No, it will never stop. It can’t stop. That is what mountains are all about – they give and they take, whether you're climbing the high peaks of the Himalaya or your local neighbourhood hill.
Bobby Woods was a well-known and respected climber and mountaineer with a long list of impressive achievements in his career, one of the most notable being his marathon solo of the three big walls of the Western Cape in under twenty-four hours. He was larger than life and threw himself head and shoulders into anything he did. His enthusiasm was addictive. In short he was a real character and one that you could never forget, even if you met him only once, briefly.
Bobby, one thing is for sure my friend, we all loved you and your presence in our lives will be sorely missed. I speak for everyone when I say this, and our deepest heartfelt condolences go to Bobby's wife Kaolin and his children Lilu and Mojo.
A full obituary for Bobby Woods appears in the current (September) issue of SA Mountain Sport.
It is because they have so much to give
and give it so lavishly . . . that men love
the mountains and go back to them
again and again.
– Sir Francis Younghusband, explorer