Via Ferrata Fundraiser for Alard Hufner

Drakensberg via ferrata

Paco Reynolds (4 year old) climbs the via ferrata in the Drakensberg. Photo by Dave Reynolds

Now is the time for for all friends, climbers, mountaineers and people who share Alard’s love of the mountains and want to support him to donate funds –  to help him cover lawyers’s fees and expenses of more than R160 000.

Alard says: “In planning the route I consulted the map contained on the Royal Natal National park website. This map indicated that the west face of Beacon Buttress was located entirely in the Free State province and did not encroach into the World Heritage Site at all.”

The original map turned out to be incorrect and the 360-metre cable, secured with steel pegs into the rock face, accidentaly encroached 23m into the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site in KwaZulu Natal.

For this Alard was charged with:

  • Construction and development in the UKhahlamba Drakensberg park World Heritage Site without written approval of the management authority

  • Contravention of section 50(5) read with sections 1 and 89 of the National Environmental Management Protected areas Act No 57 of 2003

  • Causing damage to an object of interest and disturbing soil or similar material
Drakensberg via ferrata

Climbers on the Via Ferrata in the Drakensberg.  Photo by

In response Alard has completely removed and rehabilitated the entire route, leaving scarcely visible scars on the rock where the pegs have been taken out and the holes filled in with sand.

On 14 August  the charges against Alard were dropped and he was ordered to pay R38 000 to cover surveyor costs, do 50 hours service for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and put an apology in SA Mountain Magazine, all of which he will do.  His lawyers’ fees amounted to nearly R100 000.

Alard’s intentions were always good, whether you agree with his actions or not!   Yes they were controversial but his motive “providing an opportunity for less technically skilled climbers to enjoy the dramatic beauty of this area of the Drakensberg mountains in a safe manner” is faultless.

Any donation will make a difference and every donation will be appreciated, however small.  To date his expenses have exceeded R160 000.

COST BREAK DOWN relating to Alard (many other individuals contributed hugely to the Via Ferrata)

hard cost installation (everything else was donated) 8521
hard cost removal 4500
Lawyers fees (at reduced rates) 98000
Ezemvelo surveyor fee ( payable to Ezemvelo) 31920
Natal Mountain guide fee (payable to Ezemvelo) 6299
10 x court appearance in Bergville   (petrol, toll) 10000
 Total 159240

12 days off work to appear in Bergville court.



Name:  Alard Hufner
Bank:  ABSA
Branch: Cresta
Branch Code:  632005
Account Nr:  4052309494

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Via Ferrata Fundraiser for Alard Hufner


38 Responses to Via Ferrata Fundraiser for Alard Hufner

  1. Derek Marshall Sep 3, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Eish! Its freaking hectic

  2. Ebert Sep 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Alard you did what you though was right and I hope you still believe it is. I am sorry for the outcome.

    To the people that apposed you, I hope you enjoy the future cable car and the funerals of the people that failed at traversing. I’ll make sure that you informed each time someone fails.

    Ebert Nel
    Trolling for awareness

  3. Ian Sep 3, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Ebert you really don’t make any sense at all !! He he

  4. Robert Breyer Sep 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I am donating R1,000. Imagine if this happened to you.

  5. Mokganjetsi (Willem B) Sep 4, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    ……. and the only winner in the end is the lawyer 🙁

    sorry Alard, you got a hard deal for doing something with the best intentions. keep the psyche mister! respect for how you handled the whole affair.

  6. Ebert Sep 4, 2013 at 8:26 am #


    Alard is a superhero that tried to save lives and he got prosecuted for it.

    I’m saying, the next time someone dies on the mountain in this particular section, prosecute Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife(or the people that took Alard to court) for manslaughter (murder), as they are actively killing people on this section of the mountain in the future.

    This guy deserves your donations!

  7. Stijn Sep 4, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Perhaps I’m falling for your trolling, but Ebert, the Via Ferrata did not introduce any additional safety to that particular section of the mountain. It opened up an entirely new route (if you ignore the existing trad route on Beacon Buttress).

    Now that it’s gone, experienced mountain folk and bumbling tourists alike will take the Chain Ladder path or Beacon Buttress gully to the top as they always have.

  8. Ebert Sep 4, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Oh, so what you are saying is that nobody was going to use this land in anycase? Now that makes “a lot more sense”. This sounds like a classical case of, “my ladder is better than yours”


  9. Stijn Sep 4, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Well ja, the only people that would be able to access the section of cliff that the Via Ferrata was built on are trad climbers. It was not an existing access route by any means.

  10. Graham Sep 4, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    I just wanted to say that I feel for Alard. His altruistic intentions really backfired here. Here is a man who wanted to create something for everyone to enjoy (what 4 year old gets to play in the vertical so safely?). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t thing his intention was to save lives (were people falling here before this?).

    A simple charting error has lead to this happening. 23 meters is a tiny margin for error.

    Alard, I’m sorry for what this has cost you. It has cost the climbing community so much more as I’m sure you will not be so eager to develop anything in the future. People, let’s not forget the amount of amazing things Alard has done, with our flag in his hand. Pioneering routes in Patagonia, opening huge multi-pitch routes in the ‘berg. Amazing climbs all over ‘boven, and generally being a great guy, and a face for all climbing in SA.

    The way that some of the climbing community vilified him throughout this process was shameful. Alard did not put this up alone (it would be impossible). There were others involved in this via ferrata, some who funded it, some who physically helped. These people ALL enabled this route to go up. They should be held just as accountable and for Alard’s costs.

    Alard seems to be the only man who stood up and took the rap here. This shows even more character on his part, and I for one commend him on that.

    • Ghaznavid Sep 4, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      So you are saying that people who helped him out on his idea must bear his costs with him?

      I don’t know him and can’t comment on his character, nor do I know his motives, intentions etc. Yes he had bad information off an outdated map and that is unfortunate.

      I don’t think the way it turned out was good – the lawyers won in this case. But he was still putting up an object that the majority of frequent Drakensberg hikers would object to. That 4 year old could have climbed the chain ladders (its easy to run a harness with 2 slings and a biner on each to clip in – or a rope from his father to him/belay from the top).

      Lots of frequent Berg hikers are not happy about the chain ladders, we use them because they are there, not because we support them. There’s Beacon Buttress gully before them and Barricade Pass just after them anyway.

      • Patrick Fraser Sep 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

        Ok Ghaznavid .. so don’t use the ladders. Climb around them.

        • Ghaznavid Sep 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

          I think the line up the chain ladders is rated as a C/D. The pro doesn’t look great though…

      • Graham Sep 6, 2013 at 10:57 am #

        That’s exactly what I’m saying.

        All parties involved in putting this VF up should be helping to pay for Alard’s costs in defending himself and rectifying the matter.

        As Jay Hyde himself says in a previous forum post: “One day the whole story will come out about what actually went into putting this route up- there were some pretty unique and quite amazing things that all came together to make this happen; so much so that I, even having been part of it, can hardly believe that this route was put up in such a short time and with such minimal fuss (here I am talking about fuss around getting people to donate time, effort and materials, not this present fuss).
        Here are some of the basic figures around that effort:
        400m worth of steel cable, worth around R10,000.00; donated by two different parties
        A whole lot of steel bar, crossby clamps, glue and other bits and pieces, worth around R12,000.00; some donated and R8,000.00 paid for by Alard.
        Some 40 man days of hard labour, not your pick and axe type, but hard graft as well as work that requires rope access and other quite hard to come by skills. You can figure out what that would cost.
        Around R7,000.00 was incurred in just direct costs for other vital activities; something that would probably have cost between R35,000 and R45,000 had it been charged professionally.”

        There seem to have been many people involved in this, yet Alard was the one who took the entire blame for this, and bore the costs of his defence. Where are these other parties now? Unless there are other costs that they are covering (that are not listed for in the breakdown above), these other guilty parties are just walking away from this and let Alard take all of the blame. This is so spineless.

        It takes a big man to suck that up as Alard seems to have done.

        • Ghaznavid Sep 6, 2013 at 11:14 am #

          So, for example, lets say a friend phoned me up and told me he was going to bolt a sport route at Mount Amery (which is just outside the WHS). I tag along and help him bolt the route – you are saying that when it is determined that the route was actually within the WHS and we have to go and chop the bolts etc, I must pay the costs. Surely the liability for negligence regarding working out the legality of a matter should be resolved by the party who was negligent, not someone who merely helped and was informed by their friend that they were doing something that was legal.

          I don’t know if you have read Encounters With the Dragon – specifically the chapter on the Icidi Pencil, That route is out of the WHS and included a pitch with no gear at all. Even though they technically didn’t need to, they still got the necessary permission to place 2 bolts on this route.

          That is the attitude we expect in the Drakensberg community – I walk down Beacon Buttress Gully and there are bolts, pegs and ugly bits of rusting metal all over the place (apparently those are placed by adventure racers). There is a shiny chain on the Sentinel right by the nek between Sentinel and Beacon Buttress – these things are real eyesores. If consultation with the Berg community occurred beforehand he would have had overwhelming opposition and probably wouldn’t have tried this in the first place.

          Go and check the online poll we did for the support behind the cable car (and feel free to vote yourself – 20 votes in favour, over 350 against. I’m sure there is a place for a VF and cable cars in SA, but its not in the Drakensberg.

          • Graham Sep 6, 2013 at 11:57 am #

            “So, for example, lets say a friend phoned me up and told me he was going to bolt a sport route at Mount Amery (which is just outside the WHS). I tag along and help him bolt the route – you are saying that when it is determined that the route was actually within the WHS and we have to go and chop the bolts etc, I must pay the costs.” – if you don’t own up, and push your friend forward to take the blame alone, then no.

            “Surely the liability for negligence regarding working out the legality of a matter should be resolved by the party who was negligent, not someone who merely helped and was informed by their friend that they were doing something that was legal” – unfortunately, ignorance of the law is never an excuse. Not in court.

            I’m not sure if I’m for or against this VF personally. I’ve not been to the area ever. You sound passionate about the location being wrong and I would agree that the poll does reflect a strong bias towards this not being wanted. Like a lot of climbers, the cart was put before the horse in this case. There was also the overlooked issue of liability, maintenance and rescue. I personally think that at some point or another this VF would have become a problem.

            My only point here was that in my opinion, the guilty parties should be the ones to help Alard with his now huge debt. They were happy to share in glory.

          • Ghaznavid Sep 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

            It won’t let me reply to your reply – hence my reply going here…

            I am aware that ignorance is not an excuse for the main charge, but misrepresentation can be grounds for a civil claim against the one who misrepresented and thus by function the leader of the team could end up taking the blame (as with this case). It is interesting that the court didn’t bring his helpers into it though.

            Some more context on this debate would be a look at how different the discussion is on VE (a forum specifically focused on the Drakensberg –

            I guess the question of who should pay is one of personal opinion that will differ from person to person.

            Anyway – nice chatting, you seem to be rather knowledgeable and objective on the matter…

  11. Ghaznavid Sep 4, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I agree that the cable car is a bad idea, but there is already a via ferrata about 1km from where this was put up (the chain ladders are a via ferrata by definition). Its bad enough that they exist – we don’t need to add another one.

    • Gustav Van Rensburg Sep 4, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      Ghaznavid, have you ever done a via ferrata?

      Don’t confuse it with mountain ladders –

      Ladders simply give easy access to an area as seen in this link, a Via Ferrata is a whole different kettle of open worm cans.

      • Ghaznavid Sep 4, 2013 at 11:48 am #

        Aside from the chain ladders, no.

        By definition a via ferrata is an iron road up a mountain – thus it includes chain ladders (a fixed iron ladder I guess could be debated) – as for the pro part of the definition, you can clip into the chain ladders, I have done this before.

        The Drakensberg is a trad climbing venue – a via ferrata is the opposite extreme to trad.

  12. Jean Sep 4, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Ebert, jy is nat agter die ore seun. Jy praat stront totaal uit jou diepte uit. Dit sal in jou beste belange wees om(meeste van die tyd) liewer net stil te bly.

    • Trevor Sep 7, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Hy kielie die verkeerde perd se Piel

  13. Steve Sep 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I loved the VF. Went up 5 times and took a whole lot of my (capable) mates along who would never have seen or experienced the berg like that. Alard and Co. are goddam kings for putting this up and should be getting awards. I donated R750, sorry its such a pithy small amount given Alard’s misfortune and given the utter awesomeness of the now ex-VF. Please donate guys… that is a crippling debt, and if you climbed that VF then please pay your fees now.

  14. Alard Sep 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    HI all….THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!! any money coming in is going straight to pay off my rather large unplanned VF debt…. I really really appreciate any and all donations!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  15. Rob P Sep 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Totally stoked these ludicrous charges have been dropped. Alards good character shines through here. This was not a commercial venture, done with good intentions to be free to all. When things went south, he didn’t involve anyone else and took the full blame. Whatever you position on the via ferrata, i think you’d be hard pressed to fault the guys motives or character.

    His continued effort to promote climbing and adventurous activity amongst not only the climbing community but to the wider world as I believe was part of his idea with the Via Ferrata is inspiring.

  16. Nick Sep 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    “Disturbing the soil.”
    Wow, now i really have heard everything…

    • Ghaznavid Sep 4, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      Lol – it is quite a funny charge!

      Of course none of us have ever disturbed any soil while walking over the ground – we float above the ground and never touch it.

      Had a good laugh at the cable car feasibility study when they implied that erosion in the Drakensberg is mainly caused by hikers…

  17. Luke Bush Sep 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Shake a big tree, watch the deadwood fall out and hopefully we have a healthier tree.

  18. Gustav Van Rensburg Sep 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Yes Luke, you will have to shake quite ferociously – here are some proposals:

    Otherwise, its amazing that in 2013 we still have lengthy disputes about very unimportant stuff.

  19. Pierre Sep 4, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Well done you load of dumbasses.
    Alard, I am so sorry you are suffering these fools.

  20. emile Sep 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve commented too soon – obviously it was an honest mistake, and I’m sorry that such a small mistake has cost Alard so much, I’ll be making a donation!

    I must however also commend the park for so fiercely defending the property. In this case it has cost a well meaning individual dearly, but imagine if all part of our government acted with such fervour to enforce their mandate.

    Hope this is all over and done with soon Alard.

  21. Jacques Sep 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Just came back from from a trip in switzerland. Wow what an amazing place and what hardcore mountain people. Was in a place called Pontrasina where the average citizen is about as mountain savy as the average trad climber in SA. And you know why, access to the mountains for everyone. I saw 6 year olds on via verrata routes with there parents, 60 year olds hiking up mountains and taking the cable cars down, downhill bikers taking cable cars to the top of 3000m peaks and then doing 18km downhills and going up again.
    I really think those of you intent on keeping the mountains for yourselves are doing everyone a big injustice.
    Well done Alard I would have loved to take my small kids up that route. You’ll get some of my paycheck

    • Ghaznavid Sep 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      What’s stopping kids from hiking in the Drakensberg? They can even get a lift up/down Sani Pass.

      Nobody is trying to keep the Berg to themself, but we do want to preserve one of the last remaining large mountain ranges on earth that still has unexplored gullies, unclimbed peaks and vast uncommercialised regions.

      I’m up for tarred roads to all regions which ups accessibility.

      • Ghaznavid Sep 7, 2013 at 9:09 am #

        Just to clarify – I mean to the EKZN offices, not to the top.

  22. Trevor Sep 7, 2013 at 11:24 am #


    I have my opinions on the VF, but at the point in time i raised my concerns. The matter has been dealt with and unfortunately it ended sour for some people. Why make a big issue about funding and helping someone out.

    I suggest if you had/have nothing nice to say on helping a person out. Shhhhhhh.

    You talk about the Drakensberg Community, well these are guys looking out for a Fella in the Climbing Community.

    You Say: I walk down Beacon Buttress Gully and there are bolts, pegs and ugly bits of rusting metal all over the place (apparently those are placed by adventure racers). There is a shiny chain on the Sentinel right by the nek between Sentinel and Beacon Buttress – these things are real eyesores.

    What about the chain ladder, if you can go up a certain face then well buddy you cant go up, use the gully.

    I think you are urinating in the wind. Again, if you not gonna help the fella out with a donation, then dont get involved. if you want to give support, then get involved.

    It amazes me on how much info you actually get off google to make these comments.

    Anyways, some food for thought,

    Karabiners, Screw it up, before it screws you up

    • Trevor Sep 7, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      forgot to add regarding what you said:

      did you know those items were there previously, I have been up and down that gully countless times and I have even set up ropes for the Mont-Aux-Sources challenge, I myself had to really look for the “eye sores” and I think I may have missed some.

      For the average hiker that walks in the berg does not know about half the things that are around them, until it gets raised to there attention.

      Some of the “eye sores” were placed there by previous climbers and permission was obtained. I am sure some of the “eye sores” are placed for rescue intentions. So when you walk in the mountains and you injure yourself (which I hope never happens) and there is a conveniently placed “eye sore” are you going to tell the rescuers not to use it or will you not be happy to know there is a solid “eye sore” to result in a swift evacuation.

      mmmmmmm think about that.

    • Ghaznavid Sep 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      Hey – we’re all entitled to our own opinions…

      Btw, what do you mean by “It amazes me on how much info you actually get off google to make these comments.” – we aren’t exactly talking about an area that I haven’t been to before.

  23. Justin Lawson Dec 9, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Message from Alard:

    THANK YOU!!!
    A MASSIVE THANK YOU goes out to all people that have donated towards the Via Ferrata Fund!!!

    So far R90 150.00 has been donated (8.12.2013)

    I really appreciate everyone’s generous support!!!!

    The support from SO many people has been AMAZING, and has come as a HUGE relief.

    I have been able to pay off all the outstanding debt to lawyers and Ezemvelo.

    It is not possible to name everyone that has made a donation as there were so many anonymous donations.

    Thank you!!!!


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