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Your 2021 Mayhem Mountain Festival

It really all started for me when I walked into a park and saw all these lines seemingly spun between trees. We looked around and sure enough there were people walking on those tiny lines. Not only that, but they were doing it really high off the ground. To this day I remember my maat pointing out a line and asking me to jump on with him immediately. I hesitated and told him I couldn’t, I have to wait a bit. Why? Because if I get on one of those lines today there is no way I could see myself not taking this ‘new thing’ to its logical limit.

After absorbing it all in for a bit, I did get on. I found out that this ‘new thing’ is called Slacklining and, the rest is history. A history that spans everything from meeting up and getting to know the PTA and JHB slackline communities to putting in the silly amount of time needed to adjust to walking a slackline. Thereafter, finding out that there is something called Highlining and then getting tied-in to my first highline. Having the crew psych you up to travel down to the Rocklands Highline fest, on multiple occasions, and have the chance to get to know the Cape Town highline crew. All the while learning how to rig from those who have come before me, and then ultimately, rigging my very own highline, with my own gear. It is a history and culture that I am psyched to share with so many of the Slackliners and Highliners in South Africa. A history that I would like to say culminated into the 2021 Mayhem Mountain Festival, be it at the festival, or in the days, weeks, months and years in the build-up of this fest.

It was not an understatement to stay that in the month leading up to the fest, there really wasn’t talk of anything else in the community, everyone just seemed so psyched for the fest! There were slack sessions organised every weekend for a month before the fest. Friday-after-work sessions at the Top Dam of Delta Park, a Saturday Slack meet at Waterkloof Park in PTA, and on the last Sunday of March people got their flow on juggling, Slacklining and just having a good time at the Park Play sessions hosted in Delta Park. All the prep was done, with everybody admitting they could have put in more time on a line before the fest. All that was left was to organise a lift, get through that last short week and drive to Boven, where Mayhem awaited.

I drove through on Thursday after work, hitting the start of the Easter weekend traffic, making good time given the circumstances. It took me five hours to get to Boven, instead of the usual three and a half. Arriving well after dark to the sight of a blazing fire and old friends around it was all I needed to lift my spirits after the long journey. After setting up my camp, catching up with friends and greeting the other late night arrivals I clocked out for the night. Knowing what chaos and mayhem was waiting ahead!

Waking up we were in it from the start. Greeting all the new people who were arriving, sorting out gear for the rigs, planning the logistics and finally, when all the riggers had arrived, the process of rigging. It was a wonderful experience to be able to rig three Highlines, the 30m, 65m, 88m in less than an hour; it just showed the skill and experience the rigging crew has built up over the years. After this extraordinary feat we set up base camp with gazebo and tarp and set about rigging the 20m. The morning was not even done and four Highlines have already been rigged! Returning to camp I was greeted by something I could hardly imagine, a full Mayhem Campsite! It was wild to see all the tents, cars and general activity being swallowed by this hungry space. After a quick lunch, the next portion of rigging was the 50m tri-waterline, which after a fair amount of tweaking, going out with boat and webbing; and really tensioning the line set the stage for a lot of fun in and above the beautiful Mayhem dam!

Rigging and tying people into lines has a way to eat away at your day, and before we knew it the sun was starting to flow away from us. It had been a full day, filled with laughter psych and the pleasure of meeting new people and introducing them right to the edge of what they felt comfortable in doing, even taking them beyond that with their first highline tie-in. As the sun was starting to limp to the horizon the revellers all joined on the cliff and watched the truly mystical sight of Highliners playing on the lines as the sun set! It was not long before the breathtaking vibe of the location made everyone feel comfortable and unwind from their daily stresses, simply taking in the sight of people walking from point A to B on a tiny line in the sky.

Saturday was probably one of the biggest hustles that I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. It started early in the morning mist walking a 200m tagline across the Mayhem valley, we had started the process of bolting the new 180m line! It was a full on group experience to rig this beast! As people on both sides of the Mayhem hustled to bolt, sort webbing and rig what would be Mayhem’s largest line to date! The dream became a reality just after midday and the newest addition to the crag stood bold and proud as the new king line at Mayhem. It didn’t stop there though, we still had a rope swing to rig, and it was an on-sight, baby! The crew pulled together and with monumental endurance. Everyone came together to rig a rope swing off the 50m Highlines’ webbing, allowing a person to jump off  the Mayhem waterfall into space. After doing a test run with “Billy the Bag” and not being on target, we decided to call it, as the sun was setting and there was still plenty of time left to get it perfect! The cliff top base camp once again filled up with friends who now seemed to have melted into the Mayhem, losing themselves to the atmosphere, the psych and interactions with those around them. While all of this was happening, far in the distance the 180m was slowly being sent. Showing everyone in attendance, who did not think it possible that it could be done, how a person calmly walks from one side of the valley to the other. Getting the send of the line, the same day it was bolted!

Sunday started off with an early Easter egg hunt. The morning was completely covered in mountain mist as the Mayhem revellers set off, animated and childlike, to find those Easter eggs. It was a very dear moment when I saw the faces of people looking for eggs and could see that they had nothing of the real world on their minds, just the simple pleasure of finding Easter eggs. After spending the early morning just taking in the fest, duty called and we finished the rope swing rig. It really is such an amazing feeling when you get to assist in the construction of something that people as a group can put their energy into, either by hauling, assisting with a tag line or just watching the epicness of someone jumping into a chasm and enjoying the experience. While all of this was going on, people were busy putting in time on the lines, swimming in the lake, climbing the beautiful orange rock all around us and just having a generally skitz time. I would like to think that this is my most enjoyable take away from the fest, the opportunity to play some small part in the psych and bliss that people felt on that glorious Sunday as the sun started to move behind the horizon.

The body was tender and tired climbing out of my tent on Monday, but much still needed to be done. The sad but necessary process of de-rigging the lines needed to be undertaken. Starting with the 180m we worked our way back through the valley, de-rigging lines and saying goodbye to friends as the day moved on. The final line to go down was the 30m, and with it gone, the Mayhem crag once again felt wild and pure. We broke up base camp around noon and soon found ourselves de-rigging the waterlines and having a final swim. All the lines were down, most of the peeps had left and Mayhem returned to its usual calm and solitary state. The camp was empty and all my maats were knee deep in traffic hoofing it home as the sun was setting over the crag on the last day of the fest. The 2021 Mayhem Mountain Festival was much bigger than I ever imagined it would be, with so much psych that it would be pointless to try and list all of it here.

If there is one take away from the festival that I would like to highlight, it is the potential development that still awaits this festival, with so many highly motivated and frothy people to make the dream a reality, how could it not grow into something that none of us can even fathom at this moment.

From the bottom of my heart I wish to thank everyone who had a part in co-creating this wonderful moment in time. The unique energy every single person brought to Mayhem is what made the Mayhem Mountain Festival what it was. I would like to end off this little festival roundup with an invite to everyone who has ever yearned for a sense of community, working for that feeling of pushing your limits and the sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming what you thought you never could, to come and join us at the 2022 Mayhem Mountain Festival!

Until we get to walk the skies together,

Swart. 

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