HI All

Retd. Colonel Lionel Dyke was a die-hard soldier who had a very successful military career. He knew his own mind and didn’t take fools gladly. Lionel joined the Rhodesian army when he was just 17, spending time in the RLI and RAR ending up commanding The Zimbabwe Parachute Battalion. He was awarded a Silver Cross for his frontline role in quelling the Entumbane uprising in Matabeleland in 1981. You can read more about his career if you click here. Lionel died last Thursday in his home in the Cape – a day before his 80th Birthday.

Way back in 1990, he retired from the army taking up an excellent opportunity to set up Operation Raleigh Zimbabwe. In September of that year, he placed an advert in the well-read Financial Gazette offering guys a challenge that could provide far more interesting stories than the Tiger Fish caught on your last Kariba Houseboat trip. 12 of us were going accompany Lionel and his wife Claire en route to South America to climb Mount Aconcagua – peaking at 22,838 feet, it is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. 

7 of us had run good times in the Comrades Marathon – South Africa’s leading ultra-distance running event – so most of us were physically capable of the task ahead. Our initial training involved hiking with 25 kg backpacks up and down the hill opposite my home in Greystone Park. This soon progressed to climbs in Chimanimani and the ascent of the west side of World’s View in Nyanga. All good team-building stuff we were assured by our charming Colonel.

We spent the first day in Rio Janeiro with me hiring a surfboard to ride some dream sea waves – a brief moment of relaxation before the ultimate venture into the cold unknown. Being a highly ranked military officer for most of his life, Col Dyke had done all the relevant research, and he planned/commanded the complete 20 days with details to the Nth degree. 

Our first test was a four-day climb of Mount Plomo – roughly the same height as Kilimanjaro. One of the younger guys struggled with Plomo so Lionel politely informed him that he would not be spending any more time with us. The oldest guy (another Mike Seward) was 64 and had been “snow-blinded” on that initial climb so he too was given his marching orders.

Then after a day’s rest in base camp, we started the long haul up Mt Aconcagua – The first stop was at the Plaza de Mulas – a plateau at 14k feet where literally hundreds of tents had been erected waiting for that perfect weather break to attack the summit. All in all, 10 of us completed the ascent reaching the summit 3 days later in bitterly cold winds and snow. I had to carry the monstrous video camera the whole trip so that’s me you see lying back whilst my colleagues raised the Zimbabwe flag.

This 20-day trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would highly recommend to anyone with an adventurous spirit. Memories keep flooding back when you look at the photos – like the pink full moon so coloured because of the refraction between the snow and thin air? Then there were the times spent huddled up in your two-man tent sharing stories and dreams; talking about the wife and kids back home; and making promises on how we were all going to change our worlds. You might ask if I have done that – well not exactly the way I had planned it back then – but still!

Lionel went on to establish Minetech – one of the biggest companies demining landmines before setting up the Dyke Advisory Group. Never one to let the grass grow beneath his feet he then decided to take up sailing as a sport ending up as the Commodore of the False Bay Yacht Club in Cape Town. There will be a celebration of Lionel’s life on Saturday 15 June at Parklands in Harare at 10 am. MHDSRIP. Mike G

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Open chat