by BRENT RUSSELL
photo by ANT HALL
Ahead of an upcoming trip to the Alps, we decided we needed to train . . . to do some real Saaf Efrikan alpine stuff, otherwise known as country climbing. Now, the Cape’s climbs may have no snow or ice other than for a few short days in winter, but what they lack in winter conditions, they make up for with the long approaches, descents and intricate route finding. This makes country routes in the ranges around Cape Town ideal preparation. Whilst they may not offer glaciated alpine scenery, the rugged fynbos and the endless vistas across into the blue depths of unchartered rock offer spectacular views that make one’s heart glad, and make the effort more than worthwhile. There is a rugged beauty in Africa that is unrivalled.
Ant Hall, my alpine co-conspirator suggested Sybasberg Frontal in the Hex River Mountains, an hour north of Cape Town, as a good training climb. These mountains have a reputation, and are spoken of with reverence as ‘The Hex’ amongst those in the know. (It’s appropriate that the Sybas means ‘Sea Master’ and the Hex meaning ‘Witch’ – both sets of force and cunning are required in these big mountains!) The Hex is an intricate tangle of kloofs, ridges and soaring walls that are some of the grandest terrain in the country. Not having been to the Hex before, I was dead keen, and the climb itself was one of the best days I’ve had in the hills in a long time.