Getaway (South Africa) - - Travel - – TYSON JOPSON

Ever heard the term via fer­rata? Not many South Africans have. It’s hik­ing, with a rad­i­cal twist – in­stead of gain­ing el­e­va­tion along a walk­ing trail, you strap on a har­ness and tackle parts of the route ver­ti­cally by way of iron rungs and safety ca­bles fas­tened to the moun­tain­side. It orig­i­nated in Europe as a way to con­nect low-ly­ing vil­lages to high pas­tures but be­came pop­u­lar af­ter World War I, when it was used to move troops over the Alps. In SA, there are just a hand­ful of rung-as­sisted as­cents (most of­ten used as part of an ab­seil ad­ven­ture) but cur­rently the only place where you can do an ac­tual, guided via fer­rata (Ital­ian for ‘iron road’) hike is at Shel­ter Rock in the Magaliesberg. We started at 9am on a Satur­day morn­ing with a quick demon­stra­tion, be­fore hik­ing 30 min­utes to the base of the shim­mer­ing Magaliesberg range and the start of the as­cent. It takes a lit­tle time to get com­fort­able with the dy­nam­ics but once I found a rhythm it was ex­hil­a­rat­ing. With each rung you’re thrust fur­ther into the sky, and the hori­zon be­hind you (if you’re brave enough to turn around) spreads out like a danc­ing fan. There are spots to stop and take in the view, and once at the top it’s a leisurely two-hour re­turn walk around the back of the moun­tain. If you’re hik­ing in spring, keep an eye out for the colour­ful African bush grasshop­pers at the top – they’re quite spec­tac­u­lar in flight.

This sec­tion of the climb is called The Bak­steen, where you can sprawl out on the rock face like a lizard. BE­LOW The rungs are large and easy to grab, mak­ing the climb more ‘fun’ than ‘fear’.

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