2.FernKloof, something for everyone
Nestling behind the Bergheim Resort near Rustenberg, lies Fernkloof. Not a place for those of poor lung capacity and wobbly knees, the kloof is probably the steepest Kloof in the Magaliesberg, rising up at a 40 degree slope. Park at the Bergheim resort, and follow the path to the river. Follow the river past some stunning ferns (surprise!) to the base of the gorge, pass through a narrow but flat part of the kloof, with a sport crag on your right. At the steep boulders, exit to the left, and up you go! If you survive (most do) the steep hike up the rock slabs on the left of the kloof, and don’t get lost in the boulder fields near the top, once you are up there, it is worth it, there are some stunning views, and unspoiled magic. Keep walking, as it flattens out, and you will eventually reach a marshy plateau surrounded by an amphitheatre, where the river begins, and is one of the few places in South Africa were Grey Rheebuck can be seen: they look like donkeys, with their big ears, and run like big rabbits, hopping with their ears flopping about. Also around, are vervet monkeys, baboon, klipspringer, mountain rheebuck and dassie, and I guess Leopard roam around at night. Exit the amphitheatre to the left, and you will eventually reach the trig beacon at the top of Aasvoel Krantz, a great place to view (but please don’t disturb) the rare Cape vultures at their breeding colony. Or cross the river and move right, and you land up with stunning views of Retief’s Kloof below (private-no entry). And that is just the hiking!
The kloof boasts some classic trad climbs, of note is the famous Fern Kloof pinnacle, which is good which ever route up it you decide to climb, and the traverse Dexeter (16) and Dextrose (19) are a delicate exposed lead, and a terrifying second. I do recall our current chairman at a trad climbing meet making enquiries to Merve Prior about the sport climbing crag at the bottom of the kloof. The conversation went something like this: “I’m going down to the sport crag to do a few sport climbs.”
To which Merve enquired curiously, “Have you ever done any sport routes before?”.
“Nope!” replied our Honourable Chairman.
“ Well” said Merve,“Don’t be surprised, if by the end of the day, you still haven’t done a sport route.”
The truth be told, He was right. And so it is, for those who have skinny legs and giant forearms, and hate the big slog up the hill, Fernkloof boasts one of the finest and hardest sport crags in South Africa, the Storm watch wall is a short steep overhanging section of rock in a soothing river setting, with pumpy single pitch climbs of grade 23-31. Not for the faint hearted.
Access: This is not an MCSA owned kloof. Access is via the Bergheim resort. Safe parking, clean ablutions, a welcome swimming pool in the summer and great place for overnight camping.
3. SHE’S A MAN EATER
(A NEW ICE CLIMB AT GIANTS CASTLE)
For the past six years I have been waiting for the Shisa gully at Giants Castle to come into condition to make an ascent of this previously unclimbed route. Only the final pitch had been climbed in the past and by top-rope only. This left the rest of the gully waiting for a complete ascent.
In July this year, after an early snow fall and some cold weather in June, the ice routes at Giants Castle where in prime condition for climbers willing to endure the hike up the pass and eager to sink their ice tools and crampons into this seasons virgin ice.
Along with a group from the JHB section of the mountain club, myself and Mike Sporen made the journey up to Makaza to ice climb and hoped that the Shisa gully, located to the East of Makaza, would also be in condition to ascend the entire route. Makaza was in good condition this year, well fed by the streams and seepages above the gully but more pleasing was that Shisa was also in a climbable state with the top pitch having a solid pillar in the centre of the falls and the remaining lower pitches looking thick and stable.
On the morning of 13 July, after a days warm up climbing at Makaza, Mike and I set out to Shisa. A 10 minute walk along the edge of the escarpment took us to the top of the gully where we set up our first abseil to descend over the rock overhangs and down to a large icy ledge above the “chimney” pitch, located on the right hand side of the final ice pillars.
Leaving slings threaded into the ice, we continued down the gully and after some six or so abseils later we reached the bottom of a steep and rather thin ice face, the start of our route.
I led the first pitch. Not the ideal way I would have liked to break into the climb. A 50m WI4 pitch with thin ice, sparse protection and to top it off a detour via a patch of frozen turf, to avoid an unstable pillar, that broke through the overhanging section. The ice quality wasn’t too bad but a dinner plate did come off, hitting me in the head which resulted in a slightly swollen eyebrow.
Mike lead the second pitch which fortunately was only WI2 and gave us a chance to gather our wits and climb quickly up to the rocky section which split up the ice pitches as the route ascends the gully.
After the rocky scramble another 60m of WI2 climbing lead up to the lower portion of the “chimney” pitch which Mike was to lead. We took a short break, enjoyed a snack bar and some water then made ourselves ready to start up the final and most taxing part of the route.
Mike’s lead up the WI3+ “chimney” pitch did not go without incident. During the day temperatures had warmed up causing melt water to flow down a section of the ice falls above. Chunks of ice were breaking off and plummeting down on top of us. Mike took cover by climbing up on the left hand side of the pitch where a rock overhang gave him some protection but I was left quite exposed at my belay down below. Luckily neither of us got injured and we were relieved to reach the relative safety of the stance below the overhangs we abseiled down earlier that morning. Mike did well on that pitch to keep his composure and lead the full 57m in one go.
The next pitch was scary too. I led the 40m traverse below the collapsing icicles to reach the stance below the final ice pillar. It looked very intimidating. I knew I had the skill to climb the last 20m of vertical ice but my strength had already been sapped by the previous pitches.
I studied the centre ice pillar, while bringing Mike over to the stance, looking for the line of least resistance to take us up to the top. After re-sorting the rope, I tackled the first little obstacle to get up to a short, leftwards tending traverse that gained the steep pillar. I located the shallow recess in the pillar I studied from the stance, placed a good ice screw then started up this demanding piece.
It all started off well. The ice was very good and placements were easy. My tools stuck on first impact and there was very little “dinner plating”. However, the pump of climbing without leashes soon set in and I had to take a rest, clipped into an ice tool, to place the next screw. My hands couldn’t hold the tools properly anymore so I resorted to putting my leashes on to complete the route safely. With the extra security offered by my leashes, I top out with elated shrieks.The adrenalin from the final efforts were causing me to dry puke and with a little help from my friend Martin, I quickly set up a belay and started bringing Mike up.
Seeing me pumping out on the steep ice, Mike donned his leashes before leaving the stance and bashed his way up the pillar. Taking screws out can be as taxing as placing them so Mike’s ascent of the last pitch was too marred with pumping forearms and short rests on the rope. Euphoric, Mike topped out in dramatic fashion, solidly planting a last tool placement before joining me at the top of the climb.
Congratulations came from the others in our climbing party who had been watching us climb the final sections of the route. Mike and I were really stoked, to say the least, at our days efforts, a route that I had waited for a long time to climb and finally completed.
Thanks go out to my buddy Mike for his sterling efforts on the day and for accompanying me on this adventure.
Gareth (Lofy) Frost
SHE’S A MAN EATER (II WI 4)
From the top of Makaza gully, walk in an easterly direction for about 10 minutes to the next steep gully where a multi-pitch ice route can be seen ending in a steep section above an overhang. Descend the route by abseiling down the gully starting on the right hand side over a rock overhang to gain a large icy ledge 25m below. Continue the decent down the ice pitches leaving gear which can be used for belay anchors on the way up the route. The climb begins at the bottom of a long steep section (50m) with an overhang in the face about 40m above the ground.
Pitch 1 (50m WI 4)
Climb on the right hand side of the ice fall avoiding the overhanging section on the left then move leftwards with the ramp to a stance on a flat section.
Pitch 2 (30m WI 2)
Continue up the ramp on easy ground to a stance on a flat spot below a rocky scramble dividing the climbing pitches.
Pitch 3 (walk)
Walk along the rocky section to below the next ice pitch.
Pitch 4 (60m WI 2)
Continue climbing up to belay at a large boulder in the ice on the right hand side of the gully below the ice chimney that leads up to the upper section of the climb.
Pitch 5 (20m WI 3)
Climb up the face to a ledge below the overhangs above.
Pitch 6 (35m WI 3+)
Climb the break on the right up to a large ledge and belay at the back of the cave section (protection from ice falling from above).
Pitch 7 (40m WI 2)
Traverse leftwards on ramps and ledges to below the centre portion of the face and belay on a small ledge just to the right of the central ice pillar.
Pitch 8 (25m WI 4)
Climb up from the stance then tend leftwards to the pillar. Climb the pillar directly to the top and belay behind a rock to the left of the top-out.
This route needs a good season to form completely. On this ascent the ice on the first pitch was thin and required a move through a bush to get through the overhanging section on the left. When reaching the upper section of the route, melt water caused large ice blocks to fall down pitches 5 to 7 and the ice to become soft and wet. Pitches 5 and 6 can be combined.
FA: G. Frost, M. Sporen2006/7/13
4. Proposed Walter Sisulu UrbanWildlife Reserve
Unless urgent action is taken now, to prevent further destruction of this area by developers, this rare wildlife - our last remaining - will soon disappear.A unique opportunity to create Africa’s first Urban Wildlife Reserve will be lost forever,and future generations of city dwellers, including disadvantaged communities, will be deprived of access to a remarkable natural environment right on their own doorstep.
Should this last wildlife habitat disappear, the Gauteng Metropolitan area will have no remaining natural open space to speak of and our children will ultimately be left with nothing but a vast, continuous urban sprawl of concrete, brick and paving.What future are we creating for our nation by failing to act now - while we still can - to prevent this tragic irreversible loss?
The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s proposed 2000ha Sisulu Urban Wildlife Reserve, with the 300ha Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden Nature Reserve at its core, aims to protect threatened resident wildlife populations and allow the reintroduction of larger wildlife species that have long since disappeared, such as eland, zebra, klipspringer and black wildebeest.
Linking up with the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, the envisaged reserve stands to become the Johannesburg equivalent of New York’s Central Park. As an internationally renowned visitor attraction it will help put an otherwise bland metropolitan area firmly on the map as a ‘not-to-be missed’ stop over for international visitors. For Gauteng’s citizens, it will serve a vital function as a unique environmental education and open space recreational area for many generations to come
The majority of South Africans do not have real access to their own natural and wildlife heritage, which should be an inherent, right available to every South African.
The reasons for the lack of such access are two-fold.
1.Most such facilities where wildlife and nature can be enjoyed are located far from the cities in which much of the population resides. As a result the transport cost is a prohibitive factor.
2.The entrance fees of such nature reserve facilities are high, making it unaffordable to the majority of the community.
The Proposed Sisulu Urban reserve is aimed at filling this role in society and hopefully leading the way for similar facilities around the country. The core function of the reserve will be centered on environmental education and accessibility.
The proposed reserve will be located with easy access to city dwellers of Gauteng, with a subsidized entrance fee structure, which would make the reserve accessible to the broader community. It will provide a nature sanctuary stocked with wild animals within the city limits where people can escape the pressures of city living and enjoy natural surroundings and wild animals of their own country.
The success of this project rests entirely upon the support of the community.
To demonstrate your support, or for more information on this project please send correspondence to:
The Sisulu Reserve Working Group
P.O. Box 2194
Fax: 011 958 1752
5. MNWENI ROAD???
Upon visiting the Mnweni area I noticed a new road has been built, leading up to Hlongwane's kraal. It takes one ten kilometers beyond the Mnweni Centre (which was supposed to be "the end of the line" - and from where hiking and other tourism activities would start). This road directly serves about ten homesteads and maybe fifty in a broader sense of say half a kilometer to a kilometer from road. No one seems to know who authorised the road.Further, no one seems to know whether an EIA was carried out in this super sensitive area.
Who will want to use the Mnweni Centre (established at high cost and effort) when one can now drive past it and get all of ten km closer to the mountains? From an environmental viewpoint, this has to be what can only be termed a national disaster!
Will "man" not be happy until the very last vestige of unspoilt landscape is 'destroyed'. The Mnweni heartland is a NATIONAL ASSET - of a value way beyond the interests of it's few present inhabitants. The Mnweni is one of the top three or four most beautiful places in the whole of southern Africa! The road will see to it that the population in this environmentally sensitive rural area will increase dramatically. All hope of its tourism value for the future will be lost. What chance World Heritage Status? Could there be more to this road than we realise?
Whilst I’m not sure, we are in a position to preach conservation, when others are close to the poverty line, if anybody knows anything about this new road, and could enlighten us as to how and why it was built, please let us know (Ed.)
6. TRIBUTE(S) TO HARRY BARKER
With great sadness we advise the sudden passing on of Harry. As most of you probably know Harry turned 99 on the 10th of June. At our 75th Anniversary Dinner on 6 May, Harry was given a standing ovation for his speech and hissong. Our section says goodbye to a person whose invaluable contribution, help, guidance, influence, legal contribution, love for our mountains and so many other attributes spanning over 74 years will leave a great a void in our club. Harry was awarded the MCSA’s Gold Badge in 1972.
Harrywill be missed tremendously. We remember him with great fondness.
As an immigrant Afrikaner from the Free State to the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Witwatersrand in the early nineties, the late Porky Harris inducted me into the intricacies of the Johannesburg Section's Land and Access work. The first step was to introduce me to Harry Barker. What a privilege it was.
What sticks in my mind of what Harry told me of how he came to South Africa, is the picture of a young BA graduate sitting on the deck of one of the Union Castle line ships, teaching himself Afrikaans. Although he was coming to be a teacher at the quintessentially English school St. Johns, he had the decency to voluntarily familiarise himself with the language of the majority of white inhabitants of the country that he was making his new home.
Whatever tasks I had to tackle during my stint on the Land and Access Committee, I could rely on the sound and wise advice from Harry. His integrity and courteousness to farm owners in the Magaliesberg and the Waterberg (many of them Afrikaans-speaking), secured invaluable access servitudes for the MCSA, usually at no cost.
I miss Harry.
The passing on of Harry Barker marks the end of an era. I first met him in 1947 when I was a student. My climbing partner at that time was Rob Latham, whose father was a life member of the Cape Town Section.
Rob and I were using a 20mm sisal rope and army boots with hobnails to climb fairly difficult stuff and Rob's Dad felt, with some justification, that we were likely to come to a sticky end, unless we learnt a bit more about safety and techniques. He gave us Harry's phone number and we went to see him in his office in Commissioner Street. Harry was then vice-president, Transvaal section. He organised an outing for us with Eddie Lude, Bob Davies, Frank Villa and June Slinger, (later June Davies).
Harry was always the life and soul of a camp-fire party, with his enormous repertoire of songs which I found fascinating. It was largely due to his example that I also started to sing. Harry's dedication to the Mountain Club is legendary. He was involved in any legal matter which concerned the Club, giving great amounts of his time to Club business, usually at his own expense. He missed being a foundation member by only a few years. What a pity that he so narrowly missed his century!
His departure has taken away one of the Club's landmarks.
A Wake will be held on 9 September 2006 at Harry’s house from 14h00 at23 Doveton Road Parktown.
For catering purposes please phone Marguerite
082 653 1594
7. MEMBERSHIP NEWS
New members: We welcome the following new members: Belinda Jacobs, Jan Reinecke, Alan Watson, Stanley & Elizabeth Jewell, Thomas Abbott, Heiko Tillwick, Julia Stock, Tamarin Simpson, Kerry Ann Whyte and Robin Chazen and family member Anna-Thea Oppler.
Re-instated: Adam & Kerry Feldman and Aphra Schumacher.
Resigned: Gary & Kandice Acres,Gigi and Adrian van der Riet, Elizabeth Easton.
Colin Inglis left our section a much appreciated legacy of R30000.00.
Comrades marathon: Russ Dodding and Heather Murch ran the Comrades for the first time and finished in the allowed time.
Events and Slide Shows:
20 September:Rob Thomas: Mountain rescue in Europe: a glimpse into the heart of the beast. Feedback from a trip to France and Italy when 3 MCSA members were invited to a 12-day workshop with the Gendarmerie (French Police) and CNSAS (Italian Mountain Rescue) as well as attending the IKAR (International Commission for Alpine Rescue) conference.
27 September:Simon Yates‘Beyond the Void’
4 October: Slide Show and information: Rory Lowther Memorial Challenge 2007.
7 and 8 October :Sections’75th Birthday Bash at Cedarberg. (Bring fit liver enzymesJ)
11 October: ‘Trekking the Lycien Way in Turkey’ Jane Luck and Karien Spottiswoode
18 October: ‘Patagonia’, Stephen van Helden.
In the North Patagonian Andes, lies a wild and seldom-visited area of Argentina. Between the Nahuel Huapi and Los Alerces National Parks, nestled among heavily forested mountains, sits Lago Cholila. This remote lake, surrounded by mountains and glaciers, is where a team of 11 UCT students headed. We aimed to climb Cerro Tres Picos (2492m) and as many other peaks around it as time and energy would allow, many un-named and all seldom explored. We have put together a DVD of our trip and experiences that we will be showing.
1 November: Second Gear and Book SaleYours and ours.
4 November (Saturday): Barn Dance at the Waverley Girl Guide Hall. All welcome: children, aunts, uncles, grannies and granddads, friends. From 18h30.Bring your picnic basket , drinks will be available. Entrance R10 pp.
15 November: End of the year bash. All members welcome, especially those who have been members for 30 years and longer. Those members who have been members for over 50 years will receive a certificate. We will possibly show slides/ videos of the ‘older generation.’ Join us for a glass of wine and snacks.
Fires: No fires allowed in open places. Please take care when operating your stoves. The country side is very dry.
First Aid Kit missing: One kit has been missing for a few months.Meet leaders please check your cupboards.It is in a greenish bag with a red cross. Please return.
Gear Donation: Many thanks to Grant Shepstone, a former member of the Johannesburg section for a donation of almost an entire rack of gear, in good condition.
Anniversary booklet: Please see the attached flyer.
http://www.mcsa.org.za/cent/11_media/journal/journal.php. Photographs (with captions and names of photographer): -prints and 35mm slides to be posted to: The Editor – Journal 2006; c/o PO Box 1641, Houghton 2014. High resolution digital images are to be copied to CD and sent to the Editor at the abovementioned address.
MCSA/SAA Corporate Agreement
WHITE UMFOLOZI: An update for the White Umfolozi route guide has just been published. It has 16 pages with cardboard covers and colour photos.It will be included with all future sales of the route guide and is available free to anyone who has previously bought a copy.Either collect it from Gavin Peckham or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to him at P O Box 593, Empangeni, 3880