It’s not a destination, it’s a journey
When the Climb site was integrated with the rest of the Supersport sport sites, it needed specific sub sections for overall site continuity. Expeditions, Kilimanjaro and Rock climbing were the obvious choices, but we needed something in between going off to the Himalayas and hanging off cliffs above Camps Bay, hence the trekking section.
Thinking about it now we probably should have simply called it ‘Hiking’, but I suppose ‘Trekking’ feels a bit more interesting. Truth is millions of South Africa are passionate about hiking. Our countries’ climate and terrain was made for walking under big blue skies in wild open spaces. We have ranges and ranges of unspoilt, un-crowded mountains waiting to be explored.
A colleague in the mountain writing business once challenged me on the definition of Trekking, saying it involved comfort like teahouses and porters, but I disagree- I think trekking is everything from one day trail walking to multi day Drakensberg traverses. And in this part of the world, teahouses don’t really feature.
In a book on the 10 best treks in the world, the editor places our very own Sentinel to Cathedral Peak Traverse up there with the world’s best. No teahouses there!
I confess this section of the site often got lumped with all the Table Mountain muggings and other non-specific news related to climbing and the outdoors, and I apologise for this – please understand I needed somewhere to publish these important yet unspecific stories.
Over the years I particularly enjoyed heading off to all sorts of interesting and wild places, not only is SA but the whole of Africa, to trek and explore, ramble or just getaway. For me it was the ultimate, hike around get paid for it.
But more than the job and pay, being in the mountains means so much more, for 'journos' like me and readers like you. To getaway from the bustle of the city, without the hassles of campsites and caravan parks, or seaside traffic jams and expensive food bills, is a sacred space, a nearby sanctuary.
Within hours of wherever I was living in South Africa over the past 11 years, the mountains were never more than an hour away, where a trekking adventure awaited.
Most recently, that is for the past three years, a group of friends and I decided to trek the 2000 metre high peaks in the Western Cape. It’s taken almost three years now and we are still not done (there are quite a few of them, and they can be pretty remote, rugged and tricky: all the more challenge!), and the article below from this time, I particularly enjoy. It encapsulates the spirit of freedom and exploration one can do without flying to the Himalayas or the Alps, without all the ropes and metal and fear of the big scary vertical walls, but with the brilliance of open spaces and friendships, things often overlooked in the fast world we live in today.
I have often wondered how the Hex Mountains came to be known by such a dark and mysterious title. But high on the scree strewn slopes of the upper peaks near the summit of Buffelshoek Peak, one of the highest and most remote summits of the range, the place’s magic seemed to swirl around me in the late afternoon, as the thin mountain air drugged my senses and cooled against my face.
To the east, Milner, with its witch’s hat pointed-summit, appeared from behind the Shale Peaks. The sight chilled my bones, the mega overhanging walls of its upper amphitheatre spoke of an immense and frightening place, while beyond the giants of Matroosberg and Keeromsberg haunted me as formidable future challenges.
Below to the west, dropping away beneath my feet, the twisted Withels gorge snaked its way below the smooth faces of Waaihoek Peak and the dark silhouette of the Mostdershoek Twins.
Reaching the summit at 17h30 as the sun began to sink away behind the glorious Peaks of the Divide, the splendour of the Western Capes mountains surrounded us in every direction.
To the north, the mighty Winterhoek range melted away into the Koubokkeveld and in the furthest distance, the Cederberg range could just be made out in the haze. Finally, way below in the south, Table Mountain grew out of the ocean.
Climbing in January was a fight against the heat. Starting at 6am, by 8 the sweat was pouring off our backs as we made for shade. By mid morning we broke through the maze of boulders and thick fynbos at the base of the mountain, and descended into a deep ravine directly below final summit.
Resting and swimming in the pools, lunch was consisted of tuna and onion with chocolate hazelnut spread. Then a dash up the valley to some more shade about 500 vertical metres from the summit.
An afternoon nap and chat until the heat gave in a little lasted until 4pm, before Trevor, Alistar and myself picked our lines and set off at our own paces for the summit.
Soon I felt as if I were the only man left in the world, like a spell had been cast on the earth and somehow I had ended up above the valleys and farms, among the clouds and the moraine fields with only the sounds of my feet and the wind for company . For a moment time appeared to stand still.
Down below at last light we swam in the pools and celebrated our experiences with stories and mountain tales and mussels and feta and photographs and black olives, while behind a storm bled red and orange above the Karoo.
Images: Title: Korean female mountaineer Oh Eh Sun trekking up to the start of the Annapurna climb; Insert: trekking to the summit of Buffelshoek