Boots made for Berg

2014-04-15 00:00

IF any boots were made for walking, they belong to David van der Veen, who enjoys nothing better than strapping them on with his pack on his back and heading off into the Berg.

“It’s become part of my life, something I have to do. It’s something I need. It enriches my soul, my mind and feeds my body, keeping me in a good space,” he said.

It all started at the end of Grade 7, when David’s brother Ben came home from school with a hiking form.

“It looked quite interesting and I decided to join him on the hike, which was a portion of the Giant’s Cup trail,” said David. “My introduction to the Berg was spending the night in a hut but the bug had bitten and I wanted more.”

David had found his niche. A quiet boy who does not enjoy being in the limelight had stumbled upon a pastime tailor-made for him. He could appreciate nature, fill his lungs with fresh air and be at one with the world around him.

“My first escarpment hike was a two-day trip in the southern Berg, taking on Bollard’s Pass, which was and remains a tough test,” said David.

Hiking has become such a vital kick in David’s life that, by his own admission, “I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t get a chance to strap my boots on and heave my pack on my back.”

Having kept a log book of all his hikes, David has knocked off in the vicinity of 1 150 kilometres in official school hikes and other excursions. With the average hike being 25 kilometres, it equates to many hours spent in the splendour and beauty of the mountains.

His focus, dedication and expertise as he became a seasoned hiker resulted in David taking on and completing the epic Grand Traverse in April last year, a two-week slog, covering 242 kilometres, from the Amphitheatre to Bushman’s Nek.

“That made me appreciate how demanding and tough hiking can be. I carried a pack of 25 kilograms, with food for a week and the weather was harsh,” said David. “It rained most of the time, the sun coming out for the last couple of days after we had taken on 10 centimetres of snow with wind and rain. Water was gushing like fountains out of the mole holes but I dug deep.”

Indeed he did. David admits he had days where his emotions threatened to derail his effort.

He felt homesick, flat, having to call on every ounce of willpower and determination to continue and complete the traverse.

“Fellow hikers were willing to help by carrying my pack, but I could not live with myself and honestly say I had done the traverse if I did not do everything on my own,” he said. “Every step was important and I soldiered on to complete the task.

“It would have been too much of a loss to bail as I had put in plenty of training and even missed a week of school.”

David is on record as the second youngest hiker to complete the traverse and was recommended for the challenge by David Gray, a teacher at Hillcrest High School, who doubles as the hiking master as well.

“David is so dedicated to hiking and takes it seriously, hence my recommending him for the traverse, knowing he had the bacon as such, to take it on,” said Gray. “There are strict rules regarding the age of hikers doing the traverse and David fit the bill. Besides a few off days, he did not disappoint me.”

Although hiking is not classified as a sport, David is under no illusions that his pastime calls on all the acumen associated with playing sport.

“A hiker needs conditioning, physical strength, stamina, guts and supreme mental control and belief.

“Everything a top sportsman in whatever discipline needs,” said David.

As for another traverse, David has the thought in the back of his mind. “I would be keen to do it again, although my knees are still recovering from last year. It’s all part of the deal but for me, every step counts and is worthwhile.”

David was recognised for all his stomping around the Berg with a personal achievement award from Hillcrest High School, having passed the 1 000 km mark and still counting.

Name: David van der Veen

Age: 16

School: Hillcrest High School

Grade: 10

Sport: Hiking

Achievements: Personal achievement award for more than 1 000 km on official school hikes

Van der Veen at a glance

Does mountain biking and has specialised training twice a week

Enjoys recording flora and fauna on his hikes

Goal is to hike as many Berg passes as possible

Reads biographies, adult fiction, sci-fi, fantasy books

Took an iPad on one hike to read in the caves

Enjoys movies but not comedy or heavy drama

Cooks once a week at home

Spaghetti bolognaise is a speciality

Favourite food is a pumpkin and blue cheese lasagne

Enjoys light classical music

Favourite subjects are geography, physical science, engineering, graphics and design

Wants to study geology


Get up, get out and do what you want to. Don’t let others put you off. Climb over mountains if you have to and use your mind to your advantage.

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