There is a culture of psych growing out in the wilderness of this vibrant and diverse country of Southern Africa. It is difficult to record or solidify on a page because by its very nature it is momentum, change and evolution; think of it as the essence or spirit that lives in the collective consciousness of people who are dedicated to their lifestyles as climbers. This article is a dedication to individuals in the climbing community who get out there and make things happen, who don’t put others down with needless criticism or elitism but rather exude a humble encouragement to everyone around them.
- All pics by Brendon Salzer
So the Boven Mountain Festival is conceived. It is a mind-space rather than an event, it is a festival and not a competition and I almost feel that I need to stress this point because it seems that many climbers have a kind of performance anxiety and doubt in themselves that needs to be overcome. The BMF is the space to do this.
I was lucky enough to spend the week during the BMF with Ebert Nel and just listening to his ideas about the state of climbing in South Africa was enlightening. He is such a humble person when it comes to his passions and I can see how the BMF has absorbed this kind of personality. The festival is a humble but beautiful creature, it needs to exist as a movement toward inclusion, community, motivation, passion, education and art. It seems that these are humanitarian efforts so one should see the BMF more as a festival dedicated to people rather than some kind of esoteric ideal. I don’t think climbing should be about ideals; about being the strongest or the best or reaching some kind of pinnacle.
The act of climbing is merely a natural progression that comes from the cultivation of the climbers mindset, it is more akin to artistic expression and drastically in opposition to the competitive sports scene that it seems to be associated with. I’ve seen great climbers buckle under competitive pressure and expectations and it does climbing in general no justice at all.
So I took part in the event. I was lucky enough to have spent the previous two weekends in Boven and I was feeling the strain but it felt good. My body was mostly jelly after spending a good portion of the week working some routes beyond my limit but I still had motivation to absorb the psych that would be at BMF.
I took part in as many challenges as I could; the night race was just the beginning of the fun, it was a cool misty evening and the multicoloured hues of the glow sticks hung in the air as the trail runners explored the trail along the Boven kloofs. It was tons of fun, those colourful night-time collages that Brendon Salzer took give an indication of the fun that we were having. The climbing and high-lining on the following day was just as amazing. People were simply on the rock because they enjoy climbing, the only difference is that they just had a little more motivation.
The rule over the weekend was that you were rewarded for having fun – not for climbing harder or being better than anyone else, and I think this is the message that the BMF send out to the climbing community: “Be motivated people! Come and do what you love to do and it’ll be fun! How can it not?” So being the festival that it was, you earned tickets for doing just about anything; belaying, mountain biking, trail running, high-lining, for goodness-sake I got a heap of tickets for jumping into the dam at the bottom of the kloof!
During the event I was blown away by the passion of the organizers; they had almost no resources except willing volunteers who seemed to pop up from all around the countryside. Alwyn needs a special mention, he is the campsite manager at Tranquilitas and he went beyond the call of duty to help us all out, he is such a supportive and friendly man. In terms of the organization of the event I felt that there was very little distinction between those taking part in the accumulation of tickets and those handing out the tickets and that’s why I have described the BMF as an egalitarian and humanitarian production; everyone there helped in some way to make the event a success.
It was an event made possible by the people who entered it and I know that that sounds cliché but we were there to climb and we did because we made it happen ourselves. People who entered into the event were more like volunteers who were there to give their time and dedication into making the whole thing a success. The idea of people looking at the entry cost and thinking to themselves “What can I get out of this?” or “Is it worth it for me to spend this cash, maybe I’ll just go and camp but not enter the competition“. This mindset has become redundant with the inception of the BMF.
It is within the spirit of community and the furthering of climbing as a lifestyle that the BMF exists.
I feel that as a climber in Southern Africa you actually owe it to yourself and to climbing to do something about it and join in on more festivals and community efforts centered around the climbing lifestyle. The BMF is a celebration of the mountains and what they mean to us as human beings. Don’t create boundaries within the climbing community, we have to move away from the politics and elitism that plagues the SA climbing community if we are to earnestly develop climbing.
So until next year keep the psych high and encourage it in others, resist any urges to discourage others, be a volunteer rather than a competitor, get out there and make climbing happen anywhere and for everyone!