Wednesday, 16 November 2011


According to Debbie Franklin, Juror number 5 of the Michael Jackson trial, the jury had decided on guilty as a verdict on the first day of the conviction process. However, she also mentioned that not everybody thought that Dr Murray, Jackson’s doctor being convicted for Michael’s death was guilty. The majority managed on the Monday to convince all jurors that Murray was negligent and his mistakes led to Jackson death, Franklin said. In addition, she commented that Michael had addictions. He asked other doctors to give him the operating room anesthetic Propofol and they said no. He was looking for somebody to say yes. And Conrad Murray said yes. After the verdict was read, 58-year-old Murray was handcuffed and taken to jail until sentencing on the 29 November2011, he faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.

This is a stark reality for Murray, who essentially is being held responsible for Michael Jackson’s addiction. Michael was an adult, and therefore responsible for his own ingestion of everything from food to sedatives. Authorities ruled that Jackson’s June 2009 death was caused by an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, combined with effects of lorazepam. Murray has admitted giving Jackson a dose of propofol and four milligrams of lorazepam to help him sleep, but his attorneys have argued that Jackson gave himself extra doses of both drugs without Murray’s knowledge. This is all hearsay and at this stage, completely unimportant.

Murray could be argued as a negligible Doctor but he certainly is not solely responsible for Jackson’s death. He could be likened to a ‘legal dealer’, which is not condonable and equally as bad  as regular street dealers. However, the reality is that Michael was the addict and if it wasn’t Murray that would have prescribed those drugs, it would have been another doctor, and it would have lead to the same conclusion, Jackson would still be dead as he still would have taken the drugs and he still would have overdosed.

For Jackson, taking the pills, orally or intravenously was a choice, as it is with every addict. Those who choose a life of drugs and crime could choose otherwise and are thus responsible for their drug consumption and related activities, and blameworthy for harm done. However, all this begs the question, like Amy Winehouse’s death, if Michael wasn’t famous and he was just another addiction statistic, would Murray’s sentence been as harsh as it is? Definitely a point to ponder. In addition, Amy and Michael are no more special than any other person who battles with addiction or dies from an overdose. This is an every-day occurrence that affects millions of people all over the world, it’s merely their celebrity status that grants their deaths so much publicity, shock and concern. Normal people face the same shocking reality every day, without glamour and without media concern.

The reality is that dealers don’t knock on your door looking for users to enable; Murray did not force Jackson to take those pills. Michael Jackson killed himself, and he was solely and 100% responsible for this. And that, is the power of choice.

Monday, 1 August 2011


Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and now Amy Winehouse; these are the names of stars who have died at the age of 27 through substance abuse and drug overdoses.
Amy Winehouse was found dead in her flat on Saturday the 23rd of July 2011 at 4pm. Although autopsy details have not been released, it is suspected that her demise could be attributed to a drug overdose.
According to her friend Russell Brand, “When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call,” writes Brand, who battled substance abuse himself.
“There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new.”
“Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.”
Firstly, I have a different take on drug addiction; it’s not a disease. Drug addiction is a choice. From the very first hit of a joint to the conscious and deliberate decisions one makes when choosing to abuse any substance. We are human beings, not animals and as such we are given the power of choice and what we do with these choices when it comes to drugs means the difference of demise or recovery.
This is not an isolated incident and too often worried family members do receive that frightening call in the dead of night only to find out that their loved one is dead from an overdose or complications from drugs. Like Amy’s father, Mitch. Images of him distraught at his daughter’s funeral have circulated around the world and lays testimony to how drugs destroy lives. It’s heartbreaking, it’s not natural to lose a child, especially under those circumstances.
The reality is that Amy didn’t want to get better nor did she reach out and seek help. Ironically her well-known hit ‘Rehab’ lays testimony to this, “they tried to make me go to rehab and I said no, no. no”.
You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. There is a small light at the end of the tunnel; her death has prompted greater awareness of the addicts’ plight. The tragic thing about some drug addicts in South Africa is that rehabilitation units are beyond their financial means, a sentence in itself. Whilst Amy could afford to check herself into recovery, many drug addicts who crave recovery and clarity are unable to. That’s why Mountain Heights is committed to raising awareness around drug addiction and is committed to helping as many addicts as we can who are committed to the recovery process.

You can only help someone that is genuine/serious about getting help. I (Marco) tried several times and often used going to rehab as an excuse to ‘get out of trouble’ and pretend I was getting clean. Winehouse did not want to change her life. This being said, I hope her family finds peace in this tragedy and eventually come to terms with the choices she made that lead to her untimely and tragic death.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


It’s been a pretty cold winter in Gauteng, so what better way to get warm than get the old blood flowing with some heavy duty exercise?
June got off to a bang as we completed what was a pretty grueling cycling challenge with the Ride to Rhodes.  I really wanted to complete this race not only because would it be a monumental personal achievement for me but it is a training milestone for both the Empty Quarter desert challenge and the 7 Summit Challenges we have ahead of us. And boy, was this a tough one, it was probably my most difficult physical challenge to date. It took 6 days to complete which is monumental in itself but the great part is that we experienced parts of South Africa that most people will never get to see. We cycled through some incredibly rural areas where people don’t even have the basic and fundamental necessities for daily living in the 21st century that we all take for granted, it was a very humbling experience as we raced through on our expensive bikes. The scenery we cycled through was also breath-taking, the vistas were something I will never forget and not to mention the cold, it was very, very cold.
Another member of the 7 Summit Team, Alex Harris was also keeping out of mischief as he trained for and completed the Freedom Challenge. This is no laughing matter it’s a 2300km race that took him 6 months to train for. Conditions were wet and cold with flooded rivers, this made an already epic challenge even more treacherous. Alex’s previous time was 14 days and 8 hours (can you imagine cycling for that long?) and this year not only did he beat last year’s time by completing the race in 12 days and 15 hours but he came first. So a big ‘well done’ to you Sir, you’re a true champion.
So, as you know, we were supposed to climb Mount Elbrus in Russia in September, this however is no longer a viable option as there is political unrest in the area. Not ones to be defeated instead trusting in God, we have decided  to climb Mount Acongagua which is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza and is the second highest of the 7 summits and the highest peak in both the Southern and Western hemispheres. We chose Acongagua as it is fairly cost effective for a climb and we are looking forward to a bit of a challenging ascent unlike our last climb which was pretty easy. The climb is likely to take us 3 weeks and conditions are going to be pretty darn cold with rugged terrains and the altitudes will be staggering.

We’ll be leaving at the end of November and are hoping to be back mid December but we have a lot of training to get through before which will include stretch events like the one we did in Sabi, it’s likely to be 3 days of pure hell but we love it really! We’ll also continue with the general weekly gym and cardio training sessions.

So as you can see it’s been a rather busy winter for everyone on the 7 Summit team, no staying in and watching telly for us, no sirree.

So until next time, go outside, get your blood pumping and enjoy the beauty of our South African winters.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Strawberry Tik - the war on drugs gets younger

I would firstly like to dedicate this blog to a friend of mine whom I found out had died of an overdose last week. The pull of addiction is strong and the gamut of reasoning within an addict as to why you need ‘just one more’ hit is even stronger. But sometimes that ‘just one more’ . . . is the one too many. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Hearing news like this never gets easier and that’s why I will continue to bring the deplorable effects of drug addiction to the forefront of people’s minds - no matter how shocking the content.
However, it would seem that the infiltration age of the drug user is getting younger and younger. Have any of you read the papers of late which documents the horrors of Strawberry Tik?  Even I, who has seen pretty much anything a dealer can come up with, is shocked.
Strawberry Tik is being used by drug dealers to hook kids as young as 5 into taking this dangerous and deadly drug. It would seem that now dealers use food colouring and flavouring to mask the appearance of the drug which then resembles strawberry Nesquick in both look and flavour. Cape Flats residents who have heard about the drug say it’s been around since last year but they have kept it quiet.  According to one article a community activist and Mitchells Plain resident says primary school children have become easy targets for “Strawberry Quick” dealers. Younger users mean long-time buyers for dealers. In fact, it’s a rather effective marketing plan.
It has become ever more crucial that we educate kids of all ages and demographics on the perils of drugs, what they should look out for and exactly what will happen to them if they choose to explore the world of drugs in graphic detail. Simply delivering a message of ‘drugs are bad’ is just not enough. If kids feel they are old enough to think about dabbling in drugs or are drug-curious, they are old enough to be exposed to the horrors of what a full-blown drug addict goes through.
The forthcoming blogs will detail in all its gory detail what a full-blown addict and their family goes through. I don’t want any more phone calls about crack claiming another precious life.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It's getting colder. We're hotting up!

It’s been a busy few weeks since the 7 Summit Challenge team came back from the land down under. Since our return, we have been plotting and scheming initiatives for South Africa’s kids to make sure they never fall in to the trap of drug abuse. This really is a huge responsibility and something we feel very privileged to be a part of. So keep watching this space for all kinds of awesomeness ensuring future generations of South Africa are informed and given the best possible education when it comes to the perils of drugs.
As promised, we told you we would take you up the mountain with us and we are not the kind crazies to break promises! So our ever-dedicated camera savant, Barry Hamman has put together a little montage of footage of our Mt Kosi summit.
The first thing to note is how Kabs LURVES the bizarre names the Aussies seem to give, well, anything! Seriously, when you try and pronounce half the names of places, it feels as if you are speaking ‘alien’ proper! This kept us very amused for most of the trip.
On a more serious note, the footage sees Kabs telling his story of how he got involved in drugs. And if you pay attention to his account, it’s amazing to see how easy it is to slip into this underbelly of darkness. It’s so important to see that even the most successful and driven people are vulnerable to the dangers of drugs. Through work on himself and a strong core faith, Kabs managed to pull himself out of the gutter and is now reaching mountain heights. What struck me most was when he says how lucky he considers himself to not be HIV positive from he’s experience. This is a very sobering thought. Kabs is now 9 years clean and is using his sobriety to inspire and help others.
Crazy how one morning we were in Joburg and then we were in Australia’s outback not 24 hours later. We were so privileged to be at the top of the mountain for such a worthwhile cause and when we looked at the scenery we were surrounded by and had the good fortune take in, we realised just how lucky we were.
But enough of that, we want you to see the footage for yourself. As you will see, Kosi is not the highest or the most arduous climb in the world; they even have a little walkway to help you on your way but it still qualifies as one of the 7 Summits. The toughest challenge of the trip was the training we did after Kosi in the Blue Mountains. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted but these are the necessary steps we have to take to ensure we reach our dream of eventually climbing Everest
So check it out and you’ll get a taste of where we were, the team camaraderie and the really bizarre Australian names. For like everything!  Happy watching!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Wallonggong and other craziness, the summit to Kosi

So our epic journey to Oz began with leaving Joburg at about 6:15pm on Tuesday and we arrived in Aus at 14:00 (oz time), the flight was long and tiring. Of course we were in economy so to say we were cramped would be an understatement! We hoped that there would be some empty seats but naturally the flight was packed.

Once we arrived in Australia of course we had to overcome the challenge of customs, always a fun experience and if you have ever watched an episode of border security you will know what I am talking about! Barry in all his wisdom ticked one of the boxes on the customs declaration form to say that he had been in contact with a farm in the last 7 days, excellent! That ensured him getting pulled out of the line after which a detailed search of his belongings ensued culminating in an Australian customs official cleaning his hiking boots so as to be rid of the evil South African soil!

After the customs ordeal, we hired a car and were on our way. Our plan was to drive to Cooma, a town about 400km from Sydney and only an hour from Kosi. The drive was long  after being cramped up on a plane for such a long time. Driving in Oz is definitely an experience, no one breaks the law and speed limits are adhered too - don’t even think of stopping where you shouldn't. Having to stick to the 110km speed limit we finally reached Cooma at about 8:30pm.  By this time we were completely knackered even though our bodies thought is was still lunch-time what with the difference and all. We stayed at a hotel called the Alpine Hotel, this was the kind of hotel where the bathrooms are communal  which means 1 bathroom per floor so it was more a boarding house then a hotel really. We planned to have an early start the following morning with the hour drive to Kosi. We stopped off at Mac Donalds on the way for a coffee and a egg macmuffin, the breakfast of champions and climbers alike! We arrived at Kosi at about 08:45am just in time to catch the Ski Lift at 09:00 ( as embarrassing as it is to admit, we caught a ski lift half way up one of the seven summits!). It took us little under 4 hours round trip from the lift to the summit and back. We also felt it would be important on this trip to introduce a mascot of sorts to add a bit of a fun dynamic to the whole documentary, enter Mkhize the wonder Wombat. We aim to collect a mascot on all the summits! After summiting we drove back to Sydney which was a marathon drive of about 6 and a half hours due to the fact that it has far worse traffic then we could ever have expected to anticipate. We stayed in the Ibis hotel, quite an experience as it was in the heart of China town, a shock to the system after the tranquility of outback. The room keys weren't working so every time we needed to get to our rooms the receptionist would have to open up for us.

We said our goodbyes to Kabelo that night as he was leaving the following morning, his shuttle was collecting him at 07:00am. We then drove to a town called Katoomba in the blue mountains near Wallonggong (yes I am serious, the names in that part of the world are crazy). We stayed at a hotel in a place called Lilianfels, a far cry from the Alpine and the Ibis hotel. It was beautiful! Alex and I were sharing a room and Barry and Mike another. The weather was a bit sucky on the Friday, so we decided to take a rest day. We prayed really hard that the weather would clear otherwise our dreams of getting in some world class rock climbing would not be a reality. Saturday we woke up to another miserable day, but we decided to get out onto the cliffs and worse case turn our climbing trip into a trekking stretch event. When we got to the mountain to our surprise the weather cleared and it was spectacular! We climbed on a crag called Mt Piddington, we did two routes that day one being a 2 pitch route that took us longer than we thought forcing us to end in the dark! The next day we did another 3 routes (more difficult) also on Mt Piddington. It was fantastic training and a great way to build camaraderie. Unfortunately time was coming to an end the following day we left for Sydney again, as sad as we were to leave I was super excited to see my beautiful wife and my amazing boys. The last day in Sydney was spent shopping for the family back home and on Tuesday we left Sydney at 10am and arrived back in SA at 16:00, totally and utterly finished.

All in all the trip was amazing, chalk another experience to those that I will remember for a lifetime!