Drakensberg Cable Car

19 Oct 2012 14:35 #55468 by plouw
plouw replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
I like that idea. :thumbsup:

...and how would they keep the top station in working order? From the condition of the hiking huts in the berg, one can make an obvious assumption that our Basotho friends have a tendency to carry away any sort of building material. So guards will have to be stationed there 24/7, in those miserable, cold and inhumane conditions of the escarpment. ;)

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19 Oct 2012 14:36 #55469 by plouw
plouw replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Just keep in mind quite a few of the hotel operators are using this site too, and some of them are pro the cable car idea....

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19 Oct 2012 16:52 #55470 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
I like that idea. I actually referred the witness to this thread (as well as climb.co.za's similar thread). Don't know if they will actually have a look at them, but you may want to watch what you say ;)

This was in response to them saying that they want to publish my comment on the article in the letters section of the paper.

If anyone is interested, I wrote the following as a comment (may have approached it differently if I knew it would end up in the paper):

Anybody who knows anything about Mnweni and cable cars knows that this idea wouldn't work. A cable car can't function in gentle winds - the Mnweni area of the escarpment is famous for winds so strong that you struggle to stand up. At least 200 days a year the area is terribly windy, and most of the other 165 its in "light" winds.

I also find the reference to the cable cars going to 3300m quite funny. The most northern 3300+m peak in the SA part of the Drakensberg is on the Yodeler's ridge at south Didima - a good days walk from Mnweni - at a very fast pace that is. Ok - Mnweni has the Icidi Buttress at 3290m (next highest being the Icidi Back Ridge at only 3240m), but unless their cable car is going to run a 100m over flattish land, thats not going to be reached. Yet another case of hype by exaggeration. Does 3200m not sound equally impressive to the untrained eye? And to the trained eye, we all know that peaks like Tseketseke at 3024m have better views than peaks like Mafadi at 3451m.

Aside from all of this - if they do go ahead, a group of 50 tourists dressed in shorts and T-shirts and no jackets (its only a good 15 degrees colder up there on an average day), equipped only with a camera get to the top (and don't suffer from altitude sickness - for a start, never mind edema from driving from Durban at 0m to 3000+m in a day), go for a short walk and suddenly the mist comes up. Maybe it gets windy and they close the line down till the wind stops in a few days time. News headlines "5 tourists die and 23 suffer severe injuries in northern Drakensberg".

We already have the chain ladders and Sani Pass for those underprepared people to throw their lives away on - do we really need another opportunity for ill equipped unfit non-hikers to reach the top of a mountain range which got its name from the Dragon. People with experience in the Alps come here and are surprised by the additional dangers the Dragon poses - how much more a person who has no mountain experience. As it is, many ill equipped people endanger their lives every year on top of the Amphitheatre. I always feel - if you aren't fit enough to get somewhere, or lack the equipment and knowledge to survive in an emergency, then you shouldn't be there in the first place.

Maybe they should hand out space blankets to tourists with their tickets, give them some hope of surviving WHEN things go wrong...

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20 Oct 2012 00:40 - 20 Oct 2012 00:40 #55471 by Serious tribe
Serious tribe replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
There are some good technical and social reasons why there should not be a cable way in the mweni, not least of all that the local community don't want it there.

A letter outlining the points for opposition to the cable-way could be written from VE for publication in the getaway mag as well as major newspapers.

I have pulled the ideas from the various posts into one and edited them a bit.

We the members of the forum Vertical Endeavour denounce in the strongest posable way the concept of a cable way in the Mweni for the following reasons:

1.The local community do not want the project - “The cableway will destroy our community and our wilderness (ihlane),” said Mkwazeni Hlongwane, who detailed the various cultural and community activities such as controlled hunting and medicinal plant harvesting that would be adversely affected.
“There has been no consultation with the community; we are not happy about the process,” he said. “One thousand people survive here because of what the mountains give us. The cableway will employ 100, but what about the other 900?”

2.During the summer months, cloud and mist cause white-out conditions for days at a time. Associated with this are violent afternoon thunderstorms with electrical discharges and sometimes hail. The period June through September also has a number of snow events which should they be heavy enough can paralyse the region for at least a week by cutting electricity, communications and road access.

3.The high frequency of strong wind gusts, sometimes exceeding 100km/h during summer storms, in winter and almost constant 'berg winds' during August and October would mean that the cableway might not be operational for extended periods of the year.

4.The trafficking of dagga and the associated potential for security incidents in the region and on the escarpment. It is also accepted that from time to time there are theft related incidents involving the local Basotho shepherds. This can only but increase with the increased number of camera wielding 'wealthy' tourists in the area.

5.Lower berg mountain huts and other infrastructure have over the years been vandalised, some to an almost unliveable condition, by unsociable elements from Lesotho requiring building materials or for malicious spite. How, without the use of armed security guards, would they keep the top station safe and in working order from the same type of theft or malicious elements?

6.The nature of the landscape on the escarpment is rather bleak as compared to the top of Table Mountain and while this does appeal to backpackers who enjoy the arid solitude, it likely won't appeal to those that require 'cable car assistance' to reach the escarpment.

7.The distance of the cableway, from the lower station at Woodstock Dam to the upper station on the escarpment is a distance of about 23km. Does anyone want a 23km of cable eyesore!

I have added a couple of additional ideas and all are free to comment on this straw-dog letter.
Last Edit: 20 Oct 2012 00:40 by Serious tribe.
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20 Oct 2012 06:49 #55472 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Maybe include a photo something along these lines to show them the environment that tourists would probably find quite disappointing:


I showed my mother my GT photos and she was shocked at how the top of the northern berg escarpment looks - how much more would tourists who don't appreciate the amount of work required to get there be disappointed. Personally I really enjoyed being there, I have never regretted a second of my life spend on the escarpment, but to a casual onlooker they wonder what we are looking for up there.

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20 Oct 2012 07:10 #55473 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car

plouw wrote: Just keep in mind quite a few of the hotel operators are using this site too, and some of them are pro the cable car idea....

If there are readers of this thread that are pro the cable car, then I would be interested to hear your motivations. Feelings around the idea can be strong, but nonetheless I believe the discussion can be kept objective and constructive should someone post a differing point of view. What I would want to get to through this would be understand what needs are motivating the idea of a cable car, and to look at better alternatives. If an objection to the cable car is to be raised, then I think the argument will be much stronger if viable alternatives are promoted along with it.

I would imagine that for people supporting the idea the motivation is boosting tourism and revenue. The question is: will a cable car be the best option for achieving this objective? What better alternatives are there: this is what we need to look at too. And very importantly: what option has long-term sustainability?

Speaking of the Mnweni specifically as an option, I do believe it is extremely ignorant to consider it, and that it is being looked at through a lens of greed rather than a genuine interest and recognition of the value this area has. I do not believe the idea has everyone's best interest at heart.

I hope I am right in thinking that the process which has been started of firstly including it under KZN Wildlife’s stewardship program, and ultimately to bring it under the UDP-WHS, and perhaps even to proclaim a new Wilderness Area, is a major, weight-bearing objection to the idea.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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20 Oct 2012 09:07 #55474 by thomas
thomas replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
It would behove all concerned to read the attached "Propsed Mnweni Cableway Pre-feasibility Study 2000" which was once given to me in my limited Bergwatch role through the auspices of the esteemed Meridy Pfotenhauer, its head. I don’t know if the Federation of Drakensberg User Groups still exists. Keep in mind that it is dated in that the Mnweni area development was still in process then (guiding, tourist centre, roads, water and soil reclamation projects, et al) and much is now completed there, but the facts of the cableway still remain relevant.

While you may posit environmental, ethical and user-appreciation concerns for these mountains, and knowing that in the history of human endeavours where engineering and technology take precedence (this would be an amazing construction feat), your (valid) arguments are often repudiated regardless by governments to build dams, roads (including the Sentinel road), ski resorts (if you oppose the cableway why would you support that Tiffendel monstrosity), hotels and shopping malls, etc., etc., etc. Furthermore, there are very little environmental, ethical and user concerns that stop the making of - and your using - those beloved GPS'es, cell phones, ipods, cameras, techno-hiking gear, the cars you drive to the Berg, and the lifestyle you pursue which cause huge swaths of environmental destruction, further ethical disregard for "slave labour" and human rights (see Foxconn, China), not to mention embody a condition of acquisitive obsolescence which requires a limitless consumerism and materialism mentality that endlessly perpetuates the a/r ills (we need 3 planets to support this 1 at current consumption rates). Just because the cableway is full in your face does not mean your need for technology has not already destroyed the earth somewhere else - out of your sight of course. If you own a cell phone you are responsible for the 5+m persons killed (and landscape denuded) in the eastern DRC since the later 1990's as civil war rages over rare earth metals required for such a device; ask the marginalized and murdered folks in the Niger delta what they think of Shell extracting oil for your car).

Inquiring minds would question your environmental/moral credentials. I have yet to see a lengthy discussion on this forum about these uncomfortable truths. Feel free to include me as an environmental "villian", who opposes the cableway, but will not be a hypocrite. Like the Emperor with no clothes, I DO see the naked truth, acknowledge it, apply a more learned approach, and temper it towards a more common good.

Nevertheless, the bottom line for the cableway is not the environment but that it has been shown to be economically unfeasible. It will never recoup its investment and would go broke if an entirely private venture based on normal business practices. There will never be the numbers of paying passengers to support it (unlike the Table Mtn cableway). It would have to be subsidized (what an outrage given the current dire state of the RSA economy/employment). This is a “prestige” project for local government, a not uncommon feature of those seeking the power to impress by leveraging other people’s money and influence. Politics and power ensure that this hydra continues to rear its ugly head time and time again just when one thought that logic and reason had decapitated it for good.

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20 Oct 2012 09:11 #55475 by plouw
plouw replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car

Aside from all of this - if they do go ahead, a group of 50 tourists dressed in shorts and T-shirts and no jackets (its only a good 15 degrees colder up there on an average day), equipped only with a camera get to the top (and don't suffer from altitude sickness


Exactly the reason why there is a sign up at Blind Man's Corner, warning day hikers not to go beyond that point. Anything higher than the lower berg becomes dangerous and unpredictable, and the authorities know this. Speaking of which, in my mind, if i was a greedy investor, i would've proposed a cable car in the Monk's Cowl area rather, with probably the best infrastructure and hotels in the entire berg, and for practical (realistic) reasons, offer a ride to the top of the lower berg, like up to the Sphinx. the view towards the main escarpment peaks are anyways better than the view from them. (In a tourist's mind, as Ghaznavid pointed out, it is rather bleak up there)

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20 Oct 2012 11:08 #55476 by SeriousTribe2
SeriousTribe2 replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car

thomas wrote: It would behove all concerned to read the attached "Propsed Mnweni Cableway Pre-feasibility Study 2000" which was once given to me in my limited Bergwatch role through the auspices of the esteemed Meridy Pfotenhauer, its head. I don’t know if the Federation of Drakensberg User Groups still exists. Keep in mind that it is dated in that the Mnweni area development was still in process then (guiding, tourist centre, roads, water and soil reclamation projects, et al) and much is now completed there, but the facts of the cableway still remain relevant.

While you may posit environmental, ethical and user-appreciation concerns for these mountains, and knowing that in the history of human endeavours where engineering and technology take precedence (this would be an amazing construction feat), your (valid) arguments are often repudiated regardless by governments to build dams, roads (including the Sentinel road), ski resorts (if you oppose the cableway why would you support that Tiffendel monstrosity), hotels and shopping malls, etc., etc., etc. Furthermore, there are very little environmental, ethical and user concerns that stop the making of - and your using - those beloved GPS'es, cell phones, ipods, cameras, techno-hiking gear, the cars you drive to the Berg, and the lifestyle you pursue which cause huge swaths of environmental destruction, further ethical disregard for "slave labour" and human rights (see Foxconn, China), not to mention embody a condition of acquisitive obsolescence which requires a limitless consumerism and materialism mentality that endlessly perpetuates the a/r ills (we need 3 planets to support this 1 at current consumption rates). Just because the cableway is full in your face does not mean your need for technology has not already destroyed the earth somewhere else - out of your sight of course. If you own a cell phone you are responsible for the 5+m persons killed (and landscape denuded) in the eastern DRC since the later 1990's as civil war rages over rare earth metals required for such a device; ask the marginalized and murdered folks in the Niger delta what they think of Shell extracting oil for your car).

Inquiring minds would question your environmental/moral credentials. I have yet to see a lengthy discussion on this forum about these uncomfortable truths. Feel free to include me as an environmental "villian", who opposes the cableway, but will not be a hypocrite. Like the Emperor with no clothes, I DO see the naked truth, acknowledge it, apply a more learned approach, and temper it towards a more common good.

Nevertheless, the bottom line for the cableway is not the environment but that it has been shown to be economically unfeasible. It will never recoup its investment and would go broke if an entirely private venture based on normal business practices. There will never be the numbers of paying passengers to support it (unlike the Table Mtn cableway). It would have to be subsidized (what an outrage given the current dire state of the RSA economy/employment). This is a “prestige” project for local government, a not uncommon feature of those seeking the power to impress by leveraging other people’s money and influence. Politics and power ensure that this hydra continues to rear its ugly head time and time again just when one thought that logic and reason had decapitated it for good.


TOUCHE'

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20 Oct 2012 17:13 #55481 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Thomas: I hear what you say, and a Berg forum is always going to lean against these commercialisations. Personally I am happy that there is an easy route up to the Chainladders and that there are Chainladders there to climb. I like the presence of the Sani Pass road and the fact that on GT I was able to have a nice big burger when we got there. I also like the fact that 1 of the 2 GT resupplies can be done with no hikers having to bring stuff up on foot. On GT I actually joked how much easier arranging resupplies would be if there was a cable car at Didima - we could even head down it and enjoy a meal and shower at Cathedral Peak Hotel. Don't get me wrong - I am anti-cablecar, but my main reason isn't the eyesore factor (although it is a big factor). Lets face it - Mnweni already has that old mine and might soon have a massive wind farm just into Lesotho, it doesn't have the nicest looking escarpment as it is- not that that is an acceptable reason for them to go ahead with this. Admittedly Mnweni's rugged appear is derived from its cliff line which would take a knock from any project like this/

My biggest problem is that this cablecar would be a waste of taxpayers money, would basically never be usable and would no doubt end up costing numerous people their lives before its deemed unsafe and closed down. My feelings may be different if I thought that it would be safer and usable more frequently. Bear in mind that Mnweni doesn't hold as special a place in my mind as it does for most hikers - but I know how I feel about my 2 top valleys (Senqebethu and Mashai) and I would be annoyed if someone was to damage those, and I do appreciate the almost lunar appeal of Mnweni - so I stand behind those who wish to preserve the most rugged part of the Dragon.

But lets face it, none of us want to see the following picture (excuse the poor editing - I also don't know exactly where they plan on making the cable car top out, I imagine further north than this):

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