Via Ferrata route in the Berg

30 Dec 2011 03:08 - 30 Dec 2011 04:11 #5186 by intrepid
So it finally happened: a Via Ferrata route has been opened in the Berg, between the Sentinel and the Chain Ladders. See the info here: topknot.co.za/viaferrata/index.html .

Stirs up mixed feelings. I'd much rather like to see our beloved Drakensberg remain unexploited and as wild as possible. Why do we feel like we need to add more to it than we already have? On the other hand, I understand not everybody sees it this way and that many actually support the idea of a safe climb with a short easy walk in. Being a climber myself I think I can understand the reasons that probably motivated the people to establish the route...still, it leaves me feeling sad. Doesn't feel right. Thats the bottom line for me.

I don't think we have seen the end of bolting or even of more Via Ferrata's in the area of the Berg. There already is a road and the Chain Ladders (which are already, in a way, a form of Via Ferrata). And its in a majestic part of the Berg. The problem is that the Free State side currently does not enjoy the protected status of a wilderness area and a world heritage site...and as long as thats the case, people will take the gap. If its going to be done, I guess keeping it limited to this area is the best solution anyway.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 30 Dec 2011 04:11 by intrepid.

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30 Dec 2011 12:46 #5189 by gollum
This is ridiculous. Was this permitted by KZN Wildlife or is the route really in the unprotected area?

As for safety, this is very subjective. For starters, exactly how safe is ANY form of anchor in brittle Drakensberg basalt? Then, this route can attract many inexperienced/incompetent users who do not know the dangers of static loading on systems such as these.

*THE REST IS OPINION*
I would definitely rather not see any more metal pop up in the Berg. This will have to be managed in some way. As for making the berg more accessible, I regard that as null and void too. I am the most timid trad leader I know of (and I know a good number of trad climbers), yet I have lead all the pitches on the Sentinel's Angus-Leppan route - the adventure of a lifetime! Sure, you need a rack and experience, but 4 cams, 10 nuts and a couple of slings are enough. If this is too much commitment for you, then don't climb. Not even via ferrata.

PS - Since turning into a Capetonian I seriously miss the Berg :(

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30 Dec 2011 15:27 #5190 by drsnoobab
I guess just like the chain ladders, the new route will offer positive aspects, which in turn may turn out to be their own Achilles heel ...

- The chain ladder route, due to its ease of access to an amazing spot was my first trip into the high 'berg, and the trip that got me hooked on the 'berg in the first place. However it saddens me now to see the overuse of the access trails as well as the summit area which has resulted due to this ease of access; I have also taken note of the flow of unprepared and inexperienced people being enticed up the ladders ...

- Likewise I would love to give the new Via Ferrata a bash, simply because I have never done any 'berg climbing, and it seems an awesome first step without the true commitment ! That said, I guess time will tell as to the nature of the visitor it attracts ... will it become a feature frequented (call it "self regulated" if you will) by persons with adequate climbing and 'berg experience (thus limiting visitor numbers as well), or do we expect to see the devil-may-care, testosterone driven, wanna-be Sly Stallone taking his buds out for a thrill on a Saturday morning ? Time will tell.

The image that moved me :( in the website's gallery was the one with the hoards of people queuing up to do the route ... I understand that this must have been something of a gathering to celebrate the opening of the route - but is this a possible image of the droves it will attract in future ... ?

PS. Is it just me, or is the fellow in the last image of the site's gallery standing a tad close to the edge ... ?

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31 Dec 2011 05:22 #5191 by intrepid
It seems like the hardware is going to get chopped. Read through this thread on ClimbZA:
www.climb.co.za/forum/viewtopic.php?f=41515&t=7964

So it does actually cross over the UDP-WHS boundary, and the route was erected in spite of advice from Raubenheimer not to do it. I do not think EKZNW was consulted as they would not allow this kind of thing. I must say I am very relieved. It didn't seem right, even if it did not cross over the park boundary. And I'm relieved that many leading climbers are not in favour of it either. I thought I was being too purist again.

I hope this has not done too much damage between EKZNW, MCSA and the climbing community at large. I recognise several faces in the gallery shots...

It is true that we all use and benefit from Sentinel Car Park, the Chain Ladders, Tseke Hut, Sani Pass etc, but these were all built in an era when it was OK to do that. We now live in an era in which it is not, but in which we accept some of the artefacts from the past. The rock paintings could be seen in the same way...they are now a cultural heritage and protected...but we can't add to them any more. It also used to be OK to leave litter on summits (like tins) to prove that you had been there, and to make campfires - but this is taboo in our times.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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02 Jan 2012 10:30 #5192 by intrepid
Please read this media release from KZN Wildlife concerning the issue.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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03 Jan 2012 09:18 #5195 by Frosty Ice
Hmmm this is an interesting question isnt it.... the first official VF in the berg.

First of all I must say I am keen to give it a go and will purchase the required lanyards soon, before the route is removed.

Regrading the permision issues, how is this any different to some of the bolted routes in the berg? I would be interested to know if Paradigm Shift recieved the required bolting permissions? Or was it too far off the track for people to care? I really believe some serious clamping down needs to be done. If we are going to have VF, then they should be placed in a single area designated for such a style, the same should go for bolting.

Other than permisions I think we should be careful that by not putting up bolted or VF we dont exclude people from the fun we have in the mountains. I think the purists may need to look at the berg and carefully control the use of bolts etc to a certain area which lend itself to the relevent styles and maybe has a fair amount of steel lying around already.

Anyway, lets see how long it is before the lot gets chopped.

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03 Jan 2012 18:28 #5197 by caveman
it's a difficult one - needs some sensitivity, and the fact that it was erected without necessary permissions means self righteousness will be there from both sides from the start (unfortunately). the chain ladders were also my first intro to the high berg (aged twelve). i didn't do them again til i was 37 (with my two kids - 9 months and two years). during the 25 years inbetween i went up all the other passes and experienced wilderness as it should be. if the VF was on the red wall in the injisuthi area i would be firmly against it. same with paradigm's shift... somehow if there HAS to be development at all, then at least it's in the right place. and a VF is not exactly a cable car, so we're not going the chamonix route yet.

maybe let's give it time - the chain ladders also sparked a huge controversy at the time ... now they are advertised on guided tourist sites as "by far the most spectacular way to the escarpment" which personally i may disagree with, but beautiful places need a "designated coca cola route".

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03 Jan 2012 23:47 - 03 Jan 2012 23:48 #5199 by Serious tribe
I have cut and pasted the info after my waffle out of the Wilderness Management Plan.

Likely the best way forward now is for the i&ap to meet together, those who put it up, with cap in hand, and those who can make the decisions to be magnanimous with a view to either formalising it and using it as a supervised tourist money spinning trial, or tearing it down. As one on the climbing forum mentioned, such money could be used to fix up the Witsieshoek parking access point.

I noted the 'architects' website, (which by the way seems to be 'non-operational') if my memory serves me, that he would likely have to be involved with rescue on the route. That is opening up oneself to huge amounts of litigation, and I have to wonder who would be responsible if someone was injured, or worse, killed themselves on this route. I would say that the responsible party would have to be the builder!

If the builder was planning on making this a business venture with paid staff to assist clients to make sure that they did not hurt themselves then the safety aspect would be sorted, and the correct permissions sort at the outset. However now that it is out in the open, you might find those not sufficiently experienced or equipped trying it and getting hurt and causing a huge problem for the authorities. If you put something like this up in the berg, you should be take proper ownership of it.

7.5.4 Mountaineering

Mountaineering is compatible with Wilderness principles and is accommodated as an acceptable activity in the Park. Sections of the Park have been zoned for Wilderness quality and for ecological integrity and it must be recognised that mountaineering takes place in an area sensitive in terms of biodiversity and cultural concerns. As such, a policy has been developed together with MCSA to prevent possible detrimental impacts due to climbing in the Drakensberg (Appendix 1).

The MCSA has zoned the Drakensberg as a traditional 5 climbing area as opposed to a sports 6 climbing area. The use of fixed protection7 is allowed but discouraged since prolific use thereof erodes Wilderness qualities.
and the uncertainty inherent to Wilderness climbing. Removable protection8 and other temporary devices
may be used provided they are removed after the climb.

Issues:
Fixed protection is permanent. The removal of which can be more damaging than leaving them.

The negative impact of mountaineering in close proximity to large raptors, such as Bearded Vulture and Cape Griffon nesting and roosting sites.

Although fixed protection devices will only be seen by mountaineers, people’s perception of the Wilderness area can be impacted by knowledge of an anchor being present, even if they are not climbers and cannot see the anchors.

The LAC and the IEM policy must be applied.

Use the Hiking and Mountaineering Liaison Committee and the Wilderness Steering Committee as forums for addressing mountaineering issues.

Assess existing routes for sensitivity (e.g. close proximity to bird nest sites).

Identify and implement management responses to areas of conflict.

The MCSA to assist Ezemvelo in monitoring compliance with the established bolting policy.

Make relevant mountaineering books / journals available to hikers and climbers.
Last edit: 03 Jan 2012 23:48 by Serious tribe.

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05 Jan 2012 09:24 - 05 Jan 2012 09:26 #5206 by SeriousTribe2
There always has to be ONE, doesn't there?! :pinch:

What a chump. To go ahead with something like this without permission was just plain stupid. Besides the damaged integrity between the relevant parties, it is now going to have the added spinoff of seriously undermining any future "applications" for this kind of activity.

Which, I feel, is not at all bad. :woohoo:

So. Alard. You get the STOOPID prize for 2011. However.....
You also get my HERO prize for canning any possible future and legitimate applications.

So well done all round old chap. Two awards in one go.

Now grab your kit (angle grinders et al.) and toddle off to remove your project/hobby with your fellow nubbins.

The chain ladders attract too many 'tissue-flingers' for my liking already. No sense in putting something like this up where same 'tissue-flingers' are likely going to start pulling 'Darwin Awards'.

My answer. NO!

This isn't Switzerland (land of rational, law abiding citizens)where the population is fairly small, and the intent wholesome.
Neither is it Yosemite (land of loud, law making citizens) where Darwin Awards (thankfully) attach themselves to lard-arse Walmarters unable to hang onto the chains after half an hour of 'strenous' climbing.
Or the Dolomites (land of loud pizza makers), where the original reason was to run and hide!
This is Africa (land of DIY, no laws, and braaivleis) where many will try, probably succeed, enjoy the buzz; but not the reason for being there, and bring back their abberant mates for more. Causing more of the damage, tissues and fecal matter we see there already.

Silly boy! If this goes ahead, then what rights are there in stopping the 2L brannewyn 'n coke 4x brigade from driving there via Lesotho.

Think! Before you leap.

If you need a hobby - try scrapbooking.

Hasn't the whole Everest debacle made sense to you yet?

***yes,the larger part of this post is aimed at the protagonists!
Last edit: 05 Jan 2012 09:26 by SeriousTribe2.

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05 Jan 2012 13:52 #5207 by Skapie
I support the VF
If you have done it and am not happy with anything, give suggestions.
As far as I understand, it was done by a mountaineer with a passion for mountains.
They did not mess up the rock face nor pollute...to me, they opened up a section of the Berg that was out of reach for most people.
Yes, I don't want any one to set up routes and bolts in the Berg, but asgain, have you carried a bag of bolts and Hilti up a mountain pass. lol. You have to be passionate to do it.

Parks Board and Wildlife can rather focus on dagga-trains and messy campers, and I suggest they do a bit of hiking themselves.
Most of them have never been in the Berg.

So, I suggest to any mountaineer ... do it and then state your case.
The following user(s) said Thank You: onehand

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