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National News, June 2018

MCSA National News 4 June 2018 National News, June 2018


Time again, for the stream of consciousness that emanate from this part of the Cape every couple of months – always mountain oriented and hopefully of passing interest to at least some of the 4 800 MCSA members around the country. This time, I wish to address what some members consider to be an “issue” and what others consider to be an advantage of membership of this, the only mountaineering organisation of any size on the African continent. This issue is the Club’s membership of the UIAA – the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation.

While to me, at the coal face of our international relationships, it is all quite clearly very valuable to the Club, it is perhaps less clear to those of you who climb and walk almost solely in South Africa. This was brought home to me at a recent general meeting when the question was asked by a senior member of the Section concerned as to whether membership of the UIAA was worth the money that we put out to maintain our membership. The general feeling of the meeting in the discussion that followed was generally positive and I was able to point out various positives in the cost/benefit relationship. I put a few of these out to you all now:

Cost to the Club members – yes, the sums involved in maintaining our membership sound a little alarming when the total (R83 000 last year) is considered. But when the cost per member is calculated and it is realised that the sum as part of the levy means less than the cost of a cup of coffee per each member… That kind of puts it into perspective!

Benefits – these can be separated into the tangibles and the intangibles. The intangibles include the large body of knowledge that is available within UIAA. Like our own Club (and the individual Sections) the main body of work is actually done in the Commissions (or Subcommittees), the general meetings are really networking opportunities and a talk shop that can (and does) set aims for the organisation within the strategic direction mandated. The various Commissions deal with safety, medical matters, mountain access and protection, etc. All of these Commissions issue reports on their work which is generally of a very high standard. And all of it is available on the UIAA website. I encourage you all to go there and see for yourselves. The tangibles include some reciprocal rights agreements that allow members of affiliated clubs the use of club huts, etc. on the same basis as full members of the Club concerned. There are some restrictions but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!!

The bottom line is always that it has to be up to individual members to be aware of these benefits and to take advantage as and when.

Part of the activity within the UIAA is a working group (of which I am a member) that is re-writing the UIAA strategic plan. It sounds boring but it is far from that! The new strategic plan will allow for the better understanding of the benefits (and obligations) of being affiliated to the UIAA and to ensure that all member organisations – and by extension all individuals associated with those member organisations – to optimise the association such that world-wide mountaineering benefits in the best possible way.

Part of this is a long, hard look at the membership structure and the fees associated with that membership. As you will (hopefully!) be aware, this Club is leading the charge into Africa (as it were) by setting up a confederation of African mountain clubs such that all climbers in Africa may benefit from the association with the UIAA. This is already bearing fruit as those MCSA members who went on the inaugural “Pan-African Meet” will, I am sure, testify.

But the ultimate bottom line has to be the following question. Do we wish to be a small insignificant club sitting in our own enclave at the bottom end of Africa or do we wish to be a part of the great brotherhood of mountaineers world-wide? You must answer that question for yourselves. I know what my answer is…

I have been requested to try and disseminate information regarding the UIAA and this is first part of the attempt. It is difficult to know which the best forum is for this, and I have been canvassing ideas from friends and colleagues. If anyone out there has some ideas how we can get the idea across – please let me know! It is bit like the old adage – you can lead a horse to water but..!

In the National News (this rambling is part of that!), we include a few bits and pieces from the UIAA monthly news-letter but there is a wealth of other stuff on their website – so please go and look!! And all this for the price of a cup of coffee!

When I interact with other members of the UIAA management Committee, I am reminded that all climbers are basically the same. Doesn’t matter if they are from the “western world” or from some of the other major mountaineering cultures. I have enjoyed long, (boozy!) lunches with our Japanese colleagues and drier occasions with our Muslim friends in Iran. This is all open to YOU – at any stage that you care to activate it!

On another subject, we are currently in a lull here in South Africa where “real” expeditioning is concerned. It is a subject close to my heart as a climber and I look forward to the storm that must (inevitably) follow this lull. There are still parts of the world where exploratory stuff can be done without necessarily being a really hard climber. One just needs the curiosity to see what is around the next corner…

Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow…

That about sums it up for me.



For July Camp 2018, we will be returning to the Southern Berg to the evocatively named Crystal Waters Base Camp site on the farm of Mr and Mrs Arthur Cole. We extend our grateful thanks to them for allowing us to share their beautiful farm which lies on the banks of the Mzimude River. July Camp has not been at Crystal Waters since 2010, so it will be a pleasant return to this beautiful place.

It is a wonderfully well situated Base Camp, giving good access to numerous day walks, exciting sub-camp opportunities with a number of caves in the Little Berg in which to sleep, as well as several mountain passes giving access to the Escarpment – for those who seek the challenge of longer trips or traverses in the High Berg. Above all, there are wonderful swimming pools! Base Camp will be situated within easy walking distance of the Giant’s Cup Trail and also important, within easy walking distance of the car park. Discover more, along with your application form, in the brochure available on-line.




The Hottentots Holland section would like to invite you to the annual Joint Meet held at the Johnson Hut in the lovely Hottentots Holland mountains.

Arrival 22 September, 3pm, at Vergelegen Estate, Somerset West. Relax at the hut or dip in the pool while planning the next day’s activities. Bring n braai merriment while enjoying the sunset over Table Mountain and False Bay. Sleeping mattresses available in the hut (20 of) or sleep under the stars or tent.

On Sunday we offer:

  1. a gentle hike up the Landroskop gorge, with a variation into the Koffie Kloof. (2 A+).
  2. a more strenuous but interesting scramble up the Landroskop Needle (3C).
  3. a possibility to trad climb the Lang Klippie (4D).
  4. hike up to Chipaway cave and spend the night (3C).



American Chris Weidner took part in the recently held second leg of the MCSA/AAC Joint Meet in the US. (/

This is his report back:

“We started in the rain in Eldorado Canyon, then drove through snow for a day trip to Shelf Road near Cañon City. We scrambled a couple Flatirons, climbed long routes in the Black Canyon and finished with five days of cracks and sandstone towers near Moab. I gaze across from Castleton Tower, past a narrow ridge to The Rectory and The Priest. Others in our group are just visible, slowly crawling up vertical cracks like tiny spiders on a web of sandstone. It’s hard to believe I’ve only known these climbers since last spring, when we met on the first half of this exchange in South Africa.

For me, climbing is about relationships more than anything else. There’s an intense vulnerability and trust required to rope up with someone, especially for the first time.

“It’s the connection of the rope,” explained Brent Russell of Cape Town over dinner one evening in Moab. He said he believes the friendships made on this exchange “will last for many decades to come.”

International climbing exchanges have been an on-again, off-again thing for many years, but they’re about to become an annual sure thing. The American Alpine Club based in Golden has recently launched and funded an International Exchange Committee, whose purpose is to build relationships with overseas climbing federations and to schedule several climbing trips per year.

Since 2006, with help from the AAC, I’ve personally attended climbing meets in the U.K., Russia, Iran and South Africa. I’ve also hosted international climbers here in the U.S. three different years, the first being in 2008 at Indian Creek near Moab.

I climbed with Julia Wakeling from South Africa on that meet 10 years ago and then again this month. Save for the deeper creases around our eyes and the whiter hair, it was as if time had barely passed. Climbing is great like that.”

[Club members should also note that the MCSA has been involved in organising these exchanges and has a special purpose fund available for Club members to take advantage of for approved exchange meets.]



Some selected highlights of the UIAA’s activities are provided below members are encouraged to go to to find out more about the UIAA‘s important activities.

5.1         Introducing the UIAA Alpine Summer Skills series

The UIAA Alpine Skills Summer guide was first published in 2015. Produced in collaboration with the Petzl Foundation, the guide and has been well received worldwide and is currently available in five languages. To mark the launch of a digital version of the publication, the UIAA is running a series of articles from the guide designed to help hikers, climbers and mountaineers develop their skills and knowledge of the mountain environment.

5.2         Online climbing gear: are you buying safe equipment?

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) recently published a guide regarding the potential perils of buying climbing equipment online, notably the abundance of non-certified equipment offered by dubious sellers.

The UIAA endorses the BMC article which advises buying gear ‘which conform(s) to the relevant CEN or UIAA standard, which is usually mentioned in the product description’.

5.3         High-altitude Advice – Specific Recommendations for Women

The tenth in the UIAA series exploring the UIAA MedCom’s high-altitude advice focuses on women going to altitude with specific advice for both pregnant and non-pregnant women.

5.4         Mountain Skills – Preparing for your Expedition

The latest in the UIAA Skills series focuses on preparing for an expedition and specifically the following key stages:

  • Plan the itinerary,
  • prepare and maintain communal and safety equipment based on the number of expedition participants,
  • and for those working for a club or agency: familiarize yourself with its practices and be a good representative.

This article is an extract from the ‘Managing and leading a trek’ chapter of the UIAA Alpine Skills Summer handbook. The handbook is a compendium of the essential skills one must acquire in order to become a hiking, climbing or mountaineering leader.  The purpose of the handbook is to present tried-and-true techniques that can be learned and mastered only through formal training. The entire guide is now available to purchase as a digital download. The MCSA maintains a copy in the Library in Hatfield Street and digital copies are available for purchase via the UIAA website.

5.5         UIAA Mountain Protection Award

Are you developing projects to help protect the mountain environment and support local communities?  And are your activities focused towards climbing and mountaineering? Does your project tackle one, or more, of the following areas – conservation of biodiversity, culture and education, resources and energy consumption, climate change and waste management/disposal. Then participate in the 2018 UIAA Mountain Protection Award. In addition to being part of an international showcase you can earn US$5000 of funding for your project! Application via the UIAA website closes 25 June.



National abbreviated link for the national MCSA Facebook page:

Links for all the sections’ web pages are on the MCSA national webpage.



Worcester Section

The Annual Dinner hosted by the Worcester Section was a great success.

“As deel van Worcester afdeling se 125jaar viering, het ons die voorreg gehad om die Nasionale Dinee en die nasionale vergadering op dieselfde dag aan te bied. Lede van Cencom en al die afdelings (buiten Namibia) was teenwoordig en het die aand saam gekuier by Kirabo Privaat kelder.  Die eenvoud en rustigheid van die venue, geleë net buite Rawsonville, het bygedra tot ‘n heerlike kuier tussen vreemdes en bekendes. Almal het aan Tom Jourdan, ons hoofspreker, se lippe gehang met sy aanbieding oor die name van en roetes op al die berge rondom ons dorp, Worcester.  Sy wye kennis, asook inligting uit die boekie “A Mountaineers Paradise” het gesorg vir ‘n baie boeiende aanbieding. Worcester-afdeling bedank almal vir hul bywoning, goeie geselskap en kameradie.”

From the Chairman, JB van Eeden.



 8.1 Chalk

A very interesting article on the chalk that climbers use. Climbing chalk this is not ordinary blackboard chalk but a desiccating compound called magnesium carbonate that is also an abrasive: It both keeps your hands dry and improves your grip – your ability to create some friction between you and the rock.

So, what’s an eco-conscious climber to do? “As much as we want to be environmentally friendly, it’s an incredible conundrum,” says Kelleghan. But there are lessons to be drawn from understanding where your chalk comes from, namely being cognizant that the choices we make about what we buy have specific impacts. What was surprising to me in researching this story wasn’t just where the chalk comes from; it was the fact that some chalk suppliers didn’t seem to know either. As the supply-line distance from material extraction to consumer purchase grows, it’s more important that suppliers learn where their products come from and share that information with their customers.

8.2 Climbing and Loss

Madeleine Sorkin (see link) has developed an idea of creating the Climbing Grief Fund, where climbers can find support to deal with death, loss, and grief as a part of climbing. Launched in partnership with the American Alpine Club, the Grief Fund will start as a comprehensive online resource for coping with trauma, and eventually expand into individual and group therapy sessions, held in private and at AAC events. Funding for the Climbing Grief Fund will come from private donations, funding from brands, and other grants. 



Please send any newsworthy items for inclusion in MCSA National News Editor, Ineke Moseley at

Quotable Quotes:

‘Vy can’t ve chust climb’ – John Salathé


“explore – discover – connect – protect”

“verken – ontdek – ontmoet – bewaar”

“phonononga – fumanisa – qhagamshela – khusela”


MCSA-CT Office Admin

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