Climbing the mountain of life with courage

East Rand Business Women (ERBW) met for the first time this year at a new venue and with new committee members to steer the ship.
ERBW guest speaker Marlette “Molly” Hegyi inspired the ladies who attended the February meeting to view failure not as a setback but feedback.


View Molly's blog articles in LinkedIn >> click here

Today is the 1 year anniversary of our summit of Island Peak (6189m) a mountain in the Himalayas, which we climbed in preparation for the higher camps on Everest. Reminiscing on the climb and the dramatic events which unfolded over the next few days made me pick up my journals so I could remember what I was thinking and feeling during those tumultuous days.

After my Keynote talk, tailored to the theme “Crisis Management”, for the French South African Chamber of Commerce last week, one of the questions that was asked of me was what coping mechanism or tools I have that help me deal with the human side of climbing. In my words, I switch the vulnerable, emotional human side off, and become more mechanical in order to deal with the challenges of climbing. This is probably why my team mates call me the “Lara Croft” of the hills. In terms of a mechanism, or technique however, my answer involved the keeping of journals.

My journals have taken many forms on the past climbs, many of them just scraps of paper on which I scribble details of the day, thoughts, feelings, and sometimes even poetry. I often tear pages out of a larger diary when climbing to camps away from base camp, in order to carry as little as possible. We inevitably have rest days on mountains, and on these days I spend time writing in my journals.


Browsing through them made me ponder on the value of Journaling your Journey. For me much of the value as been in the chronicling of the journey – the dates, times, and places – more of a data collection process. However, I had also from time to time made some honest declarations. For example, in 2003 on a trip to Everest Base Camp, I acknowledged the “drawing power” Everest had on me, not knowing I would be back 12 years later trying to climb. On Denali (6194m and the highest in North America) I disclosed that “I tasted fear in my mouth all day”. Perhaps “Lara Croft” has a more human side to herself after all?

On returning from Everest in 2015, I started seeing a Life Coach, and I distinctly remember her encouraging me to keep a journal “to hold your pain”.

The link between the two journals, one in the mountain, and one in the struggles of life is clear – they are both a storage unit for the inner experiences, fears, pains, and emotions that one otherwise may simply ignore in the process of achieving a goal.

Thinking about this in context of two personality types – known by the Insights Discovery Test as the “Fiery Red” (Me) and the “Earth green” brought another interesting context to journaling. The Red and Green personalities are the polar opposites. Reds are focused on achieving goals, at time despite the human element, and Greens are focused on the human element. Being quite a strong RED person, I can acknowledge that the focus on achievement of goals has been not only in spite of other human elements, but in fact, in spite of my own human element at times. This has served me well in the sphere of endurance sports, but clearly not in life. For Green type personalities, the danger is to focus purely on how people feel and therefore not on the task. Clearly, balance is necessary is both spheres and journaling can be a form of attaining such balance.

For the goal achieving type, journals are a way in which we can express ourselves in terms of a human element – thoughts, feelings, fears – in a safe space, in neutral territory. Acknowledging such emotions can be a source of strength, and an important part of self-awareness and development. So, besides writing down the goals and a task list accompanying it in order to achieve such goals, a journal can include the following:

  • Acknowledge challenges faced
  • Admit to weaknesses, fears, limiting beliefs and other emotions
  • Express gratitude to those who assisted you in the process
  • A platform for recognising your own achievements and not being only hard on yourself

For those “Earth Green” people, a journal can be less of the feelings, and more of the task/goal based details, although this would be uncomfortable for them:

  • Write down the goals
  • Detail the tasks involved in achieving the goals
  • Give the process structure in terms of a to do list, not a “who do” list

For each of these opposite personality types doing this kind of journaling is out of their comfort zone, but an important process in striving for balance and personal development. One can view this as a self-coaching exercise and a more rounded out approach to achieving goals.

How are you going to Journal your Journey of life starting today?

Climb high,


Keynote Speaker and Performance Coach


“Mountaineers are selfish”

The accusation came from a man I had recently made acquaintance of at a function we were attending.

This wasn’t the first time I heard this sentiment being expressed, so I wondered whether people had read this somewhere and thought it was an appropriate thing to say, or whether people really believed we were selfish. So I had to examine my own thoughts and respond by means of this article.

There is so much that has already been written about this subject, so instead being repetitive and defending the sport; telling you how it’s a team sport, after sharing one or two of my thoughts about selfishness, I’d rather share with you what “Self-isms” are inherent to mountaineers and how these qualities can improve your life.

My brief thoughts on “Mountaineers are selfish”:
To label every person partaking in a sport as selfish by their choice of sport is rather narrow minded and stereotypical. Many of my team mates on expeditions are by nature decidedly unselfish people; instead they are caring spouses and devoted parents.

I would like to offer that passion for something doesn’t necessarily make one selfish; neither does a drive to achieve goals – because if it did then every athlete and successful person could be classed as selfish.

The definition of selfishness is “being concerned, sometimes excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others.

In mountaineering, we are extremely aware that no expedition can be accomplished alone. No mountain can be climbed solo – or by definition “regardless of others” – which is often why mountaineering is such an expensive sport. Teams need to be put together, and with them large support teams, meaning we consider others and how we will work together to accomplish a common goal. We are constantly concerned about the wellbeing and safety of our climbing partners, and share very close quarters with them, sharing activities and equipment that keep each other hydrated, fuelled, warm and safe.

We also share our physical and emotional struggles on a level that people seldom reach under the demands of a day to day existence

What about leaving loved ones behind in order to pursue such a dangerous sport? Isn’t that very selfish? 

In the movie “Everest” we feel for Rob Hall’s wife when he makes the final call to her – and assume that mountaineers are selfish to pursue a sport that can similarly end our lives.

I’d like to counter – how is this any more selfish than other acts people take part in on a daily basis that put themselves in harm’s way – smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity and other lifestyle choices many people make that put them at risk of disease and early death? When having a sudden heart attack, this person won’t have the opportunity to call their spouse and say goodbye. Perhaps some points to ponder, particularly for the man at the dinner table with a decidedly unhealthy lifestyle evident from his appearance.

Instead of defining mountaineers as selfish, I’d like to offer some “Self-isms” that mountaineers most certainly are, and upon closer examination, these qualities are desirable in every person’s life.

Definition: “Self-control, an aspect of inhibitory control, is the ability to control one’s emotions and behaviour.....a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one’s behaviour in order to achieve goals”

Self- control is certainly a quality of mountaineers since regulation of self – your emotions and behaviour – is essential to survival in the extremes of high altitude.

Self-control or willpower is an essential component to achieving goals. At its essence, self control or willpower is the ability to resist short term temptations in order to reach long terms goals. Surely you would want more willpower or

self-control in your life, so that you can achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

If so, you can learn from a mountaineer!

Self- Discipline:
Definition: “the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses”

Self-discipline is without a doubt a quality of mountaineers - we need to exercise extreme self- discipline when tested physically, mentally, and emotionally in the harshness of the mountains. Preparing for a climb takes self-discipline and this quality often spills over into the other aspects of a mountaineer’s life, whether in business or other daily activities.

This is therefore clearly a really desirable quality to have in life and business! The good news is, self-discipline is a learned skill, and you don’t have to climb a mountain to learn and apply it in your life.

Definition: “able to provide for one’s own needs without external assistance”

In mountaineering we are reminded by our guides that although we work as a team, it’s essential that each one of us is and needs to be simultaneously self-sufficient and able to work alone. If we are unable to continue on a particular course and need to get ourselves down the mountain, we need to able to do so alone. We spend many hours on mountains in solitude, either literally (in tents on rest days) or in our minds. I believe that these hours of solitude while being tested for endurance, one comes face to face with who you are at your core and really gets to know the authentic inner self, who you are and what you’re capable of.

An article in Psychology today says that “self esteem can be very fragile, unless it’s underpinned by self-sufficiency”. The article goes on to explain that self-sufficient people have an inner sense of well being and completeness that makes them more resilient, have more internal focus and control, make their own decisions, and are authentic.

On reading this definition wouldn’t you like to be more self-sufficient and authentic in your own life?

mind is the safety video on a flight – and the instruction to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. The only way to be in a position to help or save others is to be helping, preserving or saving oneself first!

If you’re unable to breathe because you haven’t put your oxygen mask on when the flight is in distress, you’ll be no good to someone else. The exact same principle applies in mountaineering and in life. In the high altitude places we love so much, we wear oxygen masks and use other safety equipment, if we can’t take care of ourselves, we cannot help anyone else either and in fact become a danger to our team. In life, if we are unhealthy – mentally, physically or emotionally we become a burden and a danger to others. It can therefore be argued that not being self-preserving is selfish.

So, the next time you read an article, watch a movie, or meet a mountaineer, reflect on the qualities they do possess – qualities of self-control, self-discipline, self-sufficiency and self- preservation – and you can reflect on how you can develop and apply these qualities in your own life.

Life, like the mountains, is tough and can be harsh, but if you live it like the mountaineer I’ve just described, you’ll be sure to succeed!

Book me for a speaking engagement – you’ll learn more about how you can have a mountaineers approach to achieving goals, overcoming obstacles and flying your flag at the summit of success.

Climb on,



Why take on a challenge?

The most common question I am asked when I identify myself as a mountaineer is “Why?”

From my education as a life coach, I’ve learnt that the neurology (the brain) doesn’t like the question “Why” very much – in fact the neurological reaction is to defend, justify or shut down. This may explain my speechlessness when people inevitably want to know why I would expose myself to the risks and challenges of high altitude. The best answer I have been able to present in my keynote presentation has been the spectacular views that I love photographing in the mountains.

Camp Cholera - Aconcagua

I certainly don’t only climb for the views though. Interestingly, some personal development research has explained that my personality type “takes on big challenges to see if they can pull off the impossible” – so maybe it’s just in my DNA?

As a kid I was never afraid of new challenges, whether it be the highest branches of a tree, or riding a horse, yet mountaineering was never an aspiration  I was conscious of.
Hence, the second most common question is “How did you get started?”

A road trip my brother, two of his friends and I embarked on early in the  year 2000 culminated in us climbing Africa’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro. In my jeans!
We pointed the bonnet of our Land Cruiser north, and when we had ticked off the wanderer’s checklist of things to do in Tanzania, we were left with the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Unprepared, untrained and inexperienced, we set off with hired clothes, hired porters, and ignorant determination and summitted the mountain on 26 February. As I shuffled onto the summit in layers and layers of clothing I realized what I was capable of, and wanted to test the boundaries of my mental and physical capabilities again, at even higher altitudes.

So, my desire to climb mountains is possibly simply in my DNA or part of my character, innate in me is the desire to challenge myself and others in all aspects. Perhaps your character or personality type values security and comfort instead, and you have absolutely no desire to challenge yourself at these extremes, or even at all.  I encourage you to try new things, to step out of your comfort zone, in any small or large way, and expose yourself to new opportunities and adventures. Whether it’s taking up the challenge of climbing a mountain because you’re right there at the base of it, like I did with Kili, tasting sushi for the first time, riding a motorbike, or learning a new skill, try something new and you might find it changes the course of your life like it did mine.

George Mallory (died on Everest in 1924) said about this "If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life."

You may indeed state “I’ll never climb a mountain”, and rightly so, yet if I offered you more joy – would you decline? Certainly not.  I challenge you therefore, not to climb a mountain necessarily, but to experience joy in your life by trying something new. Step out of your safe routine, and take the risk of trying new things. Why you may ask?

  • Trying new things takes courage, something you may discover you have more of than you know. When you discover this courage you can draw on it when you need to

  • Trying new things may open up an entirely new world to you – whether it is something you turn into a hobby or a career path or entirely different life

  • You’ll never be bored again

  • You’re forced to grow

  • You’ll get to know yourself in surprising ways

Some suggestions for new things to try:

  • Try something your spouse/partner or child loves doing

  • Take a different route to work

  • Do something alone – you might enjoy your own company

  • Photograph nature during the day – you’ll become more aware of the beauty around you

  • Enter an event – whether it be a parkrun or an endurance event – whatever stretches your limits

The list of suggestions on the internet is endless.

My joy may come from the pursuit of challenging myself, from the beauty I enjoy photographing at high altitude, and from the confidence I have from knowing and striving to know what I am capable of.
Do you know what yours stems from? I challenge you to find joy, step out of your comforting routine, and at the end of it all, LIVE.

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website designed by Amoeba Design Studio