The 3 Most Important Pieces of Equipment

The 3 Most Important Pieces of Equipment

Let’s focus on the basics:  what do you really need for your sport?  In my time as a guide and outdoor athlete on three continents I learned a few simple truths.  Here is one:  there are three pieces of gear worth investing in and everything else is secondary.  Based on 25 years in the mountains, here is my take on the top three gear choices you will make.

Project: Land Rover custom door panel

Project:  Land Rover custom door panel

The stock door panel on a Discovery covers a lot of real estate but doesn’t offer much function beside a pocket and a subwoofer.  I wanted to replace this with a panel that would expand the utility of the cargo space.  Let’s be honest:  my days of alpine climbing are mostly behind me and I spend more time car camping (also known to some as “overlanding”) these days than I do shivering on Mount Rainier. 

Climbing to the sky

Climbing to the sky

On my last visit to Sani Pass I had been a passenger and was now looking forward to driving the route. The road climbed steeply up to the head of a valley. Above us to the right were the cliffs known as the 12 Apostles. The road was narrow, only a car's width for much of the way, with nothing between the edge and a long drop off.

Unexpected diversions

Wednesday we decided to take another two-pronged assault on Table Mountain.  I would take the bus back to Kirstenbosch, hike up, and meet Jenna at the upper cable station after she had the morning to walk around town.  The "tablecloth" was enveloping the mountain, a thick shroud of cloud that rolls in from the Atlantic and dissipates around the edges of the plateau.  From the gardens I could see a thick blanket of cloud stretching out to the southeast, meaning a hike would be completely socked in.  I made a quick change of plan and found the quickest way back to town.

I took a metered taxi from the garden down to the main road in Newlands, then hopped on a minibus taxi back to Cape Town's civic centre.  The taxi ride had nearly the full complement of quotidian drama:  I was wedged in between a large woman and the door, the barker hung out the door shouting, the driver casually wove through moving traffic, narrowly avoiding numerous collisions, playing his horn like jazz trumpeter.  There was an entire language spoken by hoots.

Rejoining Jenna we adapted our plans.  The mountain was not meant to happen on this trip.  Instead we walked along High Level road to explore the Bo Kaap neighborhood.  This area is characterised by brightly-painted houses lining the streets.  The colourful palette of buildings is a relatively recent transformation of the neighborhood, but it has a longer history of being a home to Cape Malays.  We learned some history of the quarter in the small museum and breathed deeply of the exotic aromas across the street in the Atlas spice trader's.    

Jenna wanted to visit the District 6 museum, so we walked west with a break at a balcony cafe overlooking Long Street for a cup of rooibos.  District 6 is an area of prime real estate just outside of downtown that had been populated by minority groups during apartheid.  In the 1980s the government began a systematic relocation campaign to move its residents to far-flung suburbs and redevelop the area for whites.  It was a sad period of local history and the museum is a beautiful tribute to the spirit of the community that had emerged organically in District 6 prior to relocation.

The tablecloth over the mountain behind Bo Kaap.  Note the new development encroaching on the historic neighborhood.