“In May this year, The Hikers Network (Search & Rescue) tragically lost one of its team members. Jennifer Harlow passed away on 13 May in a fatal accident on Woody Buttress, a route she knew inside out, whilst hiking with friends.
We are deeply saddened by her death and we offer our condolences to her family, friends and fellow rescue team members. Jennifer was a contributing member to our team, regularly responding to mountain rescue calls and assisting mountain users in distress when our team was activated via EMS for Wilderness Search and Rescue calls.
Jennifer’s death is a loss to us, not only as a rescue member but as a friend. We hold her forever in our memory and we are reminded of the fact that an incident like this could happen to any of us, at any time.” Anwaaz Bent – President, The Hikers Network
One of our Search & Rescue team members, Miriam Mannak, was a close friend of Jennifer. She wrote the tribute below, honouring both her friends and fellow rescue volunteer.
I met Jennifer Harlow more or less a year ago when she joined me on a Woody Buttress – which used to be my favourite route (and apparently hers too). Both of us knew the trail inside out and loved the combination of wide-open views, rewarding scrambles, and the fact that this particular trail is usually very quiet. Neither of us is fond of crowds, you see.
More hikes followed suit, from Blind Gullies, Kloofcorner Ridges, and Blinkwaters to Grotto-Fountain Cairn Traverses, Llandudno Ravines, and Skeleton Gorges – and everything in between. The mountains and the great outdoors became the glue to our friendship, solidified by everything else we had in common. She was there for me after a triple (successful) rescue on Lions Head in early January, when my relationship packed up, or when work became too much to handle. Jen never judged, and she never made assumptions. She listened and asked the right questions if she felt she needed to understand things better.
One day, she asked me if she could join Hikers Network Search and Rescue. “I want to give back”, she said. And so she joined, no questions asked. Soon after being accepted, she and I went shopping for part of her kit. I remember how excited she was – and so was I to have a friend part of a group that I now consider my family.
When I was on the Pipetrack on the morning of 13 May 2018, and I saw the chopper fly by gearing for Woody Buttress, my blood ran cold. I knew that four of my closest friends were on that route. An hour later, I was told what had happened. For me, there’s definitely a ‘before’ and ‘after’ 13 May 2018. The world shifted on Sunday morning – and there’s no turning back.
I have been thinking a lot about what Jen’s death has taught me and could teach me in the future. One of those lessons is that despite our IQs, EQs, fancy gadgets, and everything else that make humans the most prevalent species on earth, we are just tiny ants. Mother nature will always be bigger than us. The respect I have for the outdoors has nothing but grown and the same counts for the entire Search & Rescue apparatus. Thank you for everything you have done. My gratitude has no boundaries.
Jen’s passing has also taught me that all we truly have, is today. We, mortals, tend to all focus too much on what we want to have, buy, achieve, see, and experience in the future, on who we want to love and how, and on what is wrong and missing from our lives. In the process, we forget about what and who we do have. We, no I, need to stop that.
Thank you, Jen, for the (loud) laughs, memories, hikes, rescues, and everything else. You’ll always be part of Table Mountain. We will guide the fort in your absence. Soar with the Eagles. RIP.
Jennifer Harlow with sunglasses in pic assisting on a mountain rescue stretcher carry