It Counts If You’re Having Fun (How I Started Rock Climbing and You Can Too!)

I wake up early on Sunday morning. In my haze, I forget that I am going on a camping trip with my best friends, but I get a rush of giddiness when I come to from my slumber and realise I’ll be spending the week in Montagu, camping and in the mountains. The road trip […]

Apr 17, 2024

I wake up early on Sunday morning.

In my haze, I forget that I am going on a camping trip with my best friends, but I get a rush of giddiness when I come to from my slumber and realise I’ll be spending the week in Montagu, camping and in the mountains.

The road trip begins, and it’s just two hours outside of Cape Town where a natural playground rests between the cracks of Sandstone and Quartzite hills.  Due to our group being fun-employed, we were able to leave on Sunday and plan our return on Wednesday, allowing us to utilise the midweek discount at the Glen Eden campsite in Montagu.  Although to be honest, the feeling of being in nature with people you love, and hobbies you are passionate about, is priceless.

Consequently, before we checked into our camping spot we stopped at our first adult playground, a collection of Quartzite faces on the side of the R62, called Lego Land.

As we approached the 18m high face of the rock, the nervousness began to kick in.  Am I going to be able to do it?  Am I strong enough?  What if I fall?

I begin my climb, falling the entirety of the way up, with jokes being shouted at me from below.

Tackling the rocks of Lego Land near Montagu, South Africa.

I eventually finished the climb frustrated that I fell so many times.

I said to my friend, “does it even count if I keep falling?

He replied, “As long as you’re having fun, it counts.

I realised then that new hobbies aren’t fun if you let your ego get in the way, because firstly, you’ll likely quit before you get the opportunity to become good, and secondly, it robs the joy of learning and playing from the experience.  I feel like a mindset I have adopted in my adult life, as I’ve subconsciously squished my childish spirit, is that doing things you’re not the best at is a waste of time.  Climbing and being outdoors reignite this childish spirit in me.  This day was a reminder to do the things you love, even if you’re not the best at them.

We leave this climbing spot and arrive at our beautiful campsite, where we have dinner, a couple of beers, and go to bed.

The next morning begins at 7:30, waking to the smell of one of my fellow campers brewing coffee for the group.  I follow the scent to my camping chair and have my first sip of energy.  We sit drinking coffee and reading until we are reminded that the mountains are waiting.  We pack up and begin the incredibly steep hike up to our second climbing spot of the trip, called the Bold and Beautiful.

Relaxing in a hammock amongst the rocks of Montagu, South Africa.

With built-in platforms and hammocks set up for us to relax and watch our friends climb, we spend the entirety of the day in the shadows of the slab, laughing and cheering each other on.

On the last morning, we climbed into the car and drove a short distance to our last climbing spot, called The Farm.

Although the day in the mountains was once again spectacular, my favorite part was actually returning to the campsite and cooking dinner.

In the air that evening was a sense of giggles, which sent us all into a swirl of stomach aches and flushed cheeks.  We spent the evening around the fire, braaiing braai braaibroodjies and rehashing the trip and our lives.  It was in this moment, staring at the fire that was warming my toes that I realised I was creating moments for myself that were building towards my perfect life.

I could be succumbing to what I feel is expected of me as a 23-year-old.  Instead, I choose to be a 23-year-old who is living life authentically to what she desires, not what she feels she should be doing.

Never refuse to listen to yourself, life is too short to not try and design it to be exactly what you want – because hey, it only counts if you’re having fun, right?


Now, maybe you’ve read this personal piece about climbing and decided this is a new hobby you want to start but you’re not sure where.

Here are some tips for you:

Firstly, join a climbing gym.

Being a member of a climbing gym not only allows you to become familiar with your body, rent shoes, and chalk before you decide to buy, build up the calluses on your hands, and strengthen your muscles but it also allows you to meet other climbers.

Making friends who climb is crucial to attempt climbing outdoors.  As a beginner climber who wants to try sport climbing, you can’t begin doing it on your own.  You need someone to belay you and teach you how to do these tasks yourself!

Plus, making friends who share similar interests and hobbies is always a bonus, especially when banter is best in the mountains.

Secondly, once you are familiar with a climbing gym and are ready to take it outdoors, you are going to need equipment.

Such as a harness that fits, and maybe even a helmet if you’re feeling a little nervous.  The friends you are going climbing with might ask to split the other equipment if they don’t have one of their own.  This depends on the group you’re going with, and at this point will be familiar with what you need to climb or contribute.

I personally just bring my harness, and my contribution is the preparation of lunch for my fellow climbers and friends in the mountains.

Now that you’ve made it to the mountains, you’re excited and nervous.

My third piece of advice is to drop any expectations you may have.

Although the gym is useful to build strength and learn how to move vertically, it is a completely different experience to climbing outdoors from height to texture of the holds.  Open yourself to enjoy the difference and do your best to not take yourself too seriously and have fun.  It may take you a couple of falls to find your rock legs, but you’ll find them eventually – of this I’m sure.

(This article was written by Amy Novak, a Guest Writer for The Africa Rally; to get in touch about joining our team of Guest Writers, or taking part in one of our events, please email the HQ Team on

About the Author

Social scientist, sustainability enthusiast, and road trip lover, Amy Leigh Novak, not only loves to adventure but loves to write about it too. Having recently finished university and begun her corporate adventure into the field of sustainability, Amy has made it a personal mission to explore in her free time what the world has to offer. She is specifically passionate about the mountain ranges and exquisite camping sites that exist in her backyard in the Western Cape, although is excited to take it further when the opportunity presents itself. She writes from the memories and lessons she has gained through personal experience, with a sense of sustainability and a love for nature that attempts to wield her adventures in a positively impactful way. Instead of leaving no trace, Amy believes in leaving behind a positive trace in the people and places she has the privilege to interact with. Life is too short not to leave your authentic mark.

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1 Comment

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    Amazing advice on being true to your own happiness!


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