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The mountain

31 August 2012, 08:13

HELDERBERG: - WHAT  GOES  UP……

My very first view of the great Helderberg  mountain struck me with full force at the end of 1963.  I was on my way to the college with my sisters and mother. The mountain seemed to loom benignly over the hilly countryside and the college estate. I fell in love with it immediately. The Helderberg range consists of  7 peaks and the main peak is in fact the well known dome rising majestically over the others and visible from Stellenbosch,. Somerset West and the surrounding area.    

During idle hours at the college I would stare wonderingly at the mountain with only one wish in mind and that is to climb it. The idea haunted me daily. As time went on I and other students climbed the first peak in a matter of an hour. Standing on the peak one could see Cape Town and, well, almost to the United States. Climbing the other peaks was out of bounds due to safety reasons and a no-no area. One Sunday, having nothing to do with myself I decided to climb the second peak. This peak had a terraced area  and was like giant staircase to heaven. The “ steps” were about 3 metres apart and the rock crumbly:- such trivialities did not in any way detract from a standard 6 mentality.  (I would climb it or die.) and that did almost come to pass.     

After reaching the face I started to climb the terraces one by one and soon reached a point where the terraces angled upwards making for a slippery area. I took a rest period and lost my bravado in the process. Now to get back. Each terrace is about 3metres high and I had climbed 4. Now I could no longer climb with my back to the world but turned around looking out over the landscape and infinity below. So I carried on down the top terrace. On the second from the top terrace I slipped and fell to the next below and again slipped and bounced down the terraces to the base level. I( made a cursory medical examination and found I was not to badly done by in the injury department. My ear was bleeding profusely and tee-shirts, (not AB ones) served as a convenient item to staunch the flow of blood.    

On arrival at the college I was met with the full force of the search party, the members who were in a rather bad mood, Jostled me to the Hostel superintendent who laid into me with a mother of a cane.  Today I still love that mountain.

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