Climbers to honour ’50s Berg pioneers

2009-02-26 00:00

Dressed in khaki longs, tennis shoes and wide canvas skirts, members of the Mountain Club of South Africa will climb the Angus-Leppan route in the Berg this weekend in the fashion it was first climbed 50 years ago.

“We’ll be climbing the route the way it was climbed in the brave days of mountaineering,” said Andy Wood, one of the members of the organisation who will take on the challenge tomorrow.

“We’re going to climb in the clothing that they wore back then — and with the equipment that they used too. It’s our way of celebrating the anniversary [of when it was] first climbed.”

The Angus-Leppan route on Sentinel peak is named after Peter and Pam Angus-Leppan, who were the first to claim it on February 17, 1959. It is one of the most popular routes in the Berg and has the reputation in the rock climbing fraternity of being one of the best.

Two groups of three and four climbers will make the ascent without harnesses, using only ropes around their middles, pitons and carabiners and a large supply of tea.

It may seem like all fun and games, but the climb is a dangerous one.

“If anyone falls, they could die,” said Wood (49). “It is a vertical rock face, and sometimes there will be 300 to 400 metres [of] fresh air underneath your feet. On top of that, we’ll be climbing basalt rock, which is a soft rock that is very crumbly,” he said.

Although he admits to being a bit scared, he is confident that they will manage the day-long climb because between them the teams have many years of experience. Some of the members have climbed in many parts of the world, from the Alps to the Andes.

Wood is concerned about the weather on the day and fears the climb will have to be postponed if conditions are unfavourable.

“They forecasted thunderstorms for Saturday afternoon. Hopefully we can finish before the storm,” he said. “The last thing we need is to be stuck on the top of a mountain in the middle of an electrical storm.”

Either way, he believes, injury is inevitable.

“We are going to abseil down by wrapping the rope around the thigh and neck. It burns like hell,” he said with a laugh.

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