The ancient and majestic Tonquani Kloof had people running, climbing and highlining up, down and all over the place.
The Kloof Fest FA hosted with the MCSA JHB Section might have been the most action the space has seen in a while. That’s because we invited a few people, some experienced and some new, to experience this hidden gem of cascading waterfalls into crystal pools, soaring cliffs and a sense of peace in a place so ancient you can’t help but dive a little deeper into what it means to be alive.
The Majesty Of The Tonquani Kloof
The stream that flows through the bottom of the Kloof has clean, cold and tasty water that can be drunk or dived into during the heat of the day; plants line the side and you might get a leaf in your water bottle if you’re not careful. At night the horizon is lit with lights from Rustenburg, Johannesburg and Pretoria but up above the night sky is peppered with stars and the milky way.
Tonquani is a special place, at first glance it looks like nothing has changed in thousands of years, but once you get your hands dirty you can find little traces of our presence in the rusty pitons and the well worn footpaths we’ve used to explore it’s depths and heights.
The route guide lists hundreds of routes, a record of shaky knees and bold runouts, climbers over the years adding their flair and vision to the work done by generations of preceding climbers. For decades the Mountain Club has been hard at work, preserving this and other kloofs in one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.
The Magaliesberg Biosphere is a protected area covering the mountain range and foothills, over 350 000 ha of land stretching between Rustenburg and Pretoria. As more people want to connect with the natural world and use these spaces for recreation, we need to take precautions so that this can continue for generations into the future.
Joining The Biosphere For The Long Weekend
We all met in the car park at 9 on Friday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, bags packed and ready for an epic adventure.
Unfortunately, the walk in is less glamorous than you’d hope, short in distance but with all the supplies for a weekend on your back and the straight up the hill in the full morning sun, we took it slow and got to the campsite in time for a swim and a chat about what it means to be here and what our responsibility to the Kloof is while we’re here.
The highline and top rope anchors were already rigged by a psyched team who arrived on Thursday so we got climbing and watched Tim send the Highline. It’s amazing to spend time in the Kloofs, normally they’re calm and quiet with just the monkeys and the birds, this weekend was the other end of the spectrum, climbers calling to each other across the heights, people experiencing new things and hanging out in the Kloof, just people having a good time wherever you looked.
Climbing, Kloofing and Highlining - All Ticked.
The Saturday morning hike was abandoned in the heat of the morning sun and we dropped into the cool vibe of the Kloof for some climbing and chilling. Soon the walls were covered in ropes, gear and climbers getting a taste of the crisp Magalies quartzite.
Red Corner and the Moke are popular 17s that saw a lot of action, Right Corner Crag and Right Corner Overhang provided some spectacular entertainment for everyone chilling and eating by the pool below. Some of the stronger climbers smashed out routes throughout the day and newer climbers got to mess around on the top rope, follow someone up a trad route or lead for the first time in a controlled setting with supervision from maats that know how to approach climbing safety.
The highline, a monster of over 100m, was enjoyed by new and old Highliners all throughout Saturday in the morning, and by the time the afternoon rolled past even more action and psych for highlining exploded in people’s minds.
Having a big rig like this opened our minds to the potential and to the level we’re operating at. A small crew of highly skilled and dedicated riggers had made a work of art, a thin piece of 1 Inch Webbing stretched between two pieces of Kloof only connected by a dream until now.
Sunset in the Kloof is spectacular, probably because you don’t have much more to do than find a comfy rock to sit on and experience it with maats after a full day of adventure. On one side the sun touches the horizon in a fiery show of orange and disappears while behind you the sky glows pink and purple, getting darker and darker until it’s dark blue and stars start to appear.
A short walk back to the campsite and dinner is cooking already. Small groups of colourful people clustered together with fairy lights and headlamps make it look like a scene from James Cameron’s Avatar. Everyone was cooking something tasty and the vibe was even tastier, it meant a lot for us to sit under the tarps and look out over the hustle and bustle of 40 people sharing dinner in the Kloof, a subtle reward for all our hard work.
Sunday Funday & Knowing You Are Leaving
Sunday morning arrived in a blaze of sunrise over the campsite, coffee and plans were made and people packed up and headed out before the heat of the day.
Some people headed back to the car and the Big Smoke, we went back into the Kloof for a swim and more climbing. As we started to reverse the process, undoing what we had done, the Kloof slowly returned to its quieter, untouched self. The top ropes came down and hands helped to carry them out, trad racks went into packs for their journey up to the campsite and slowly, the number of people in the Kloof dwindled.
Up top, people shouldered heavy packs for the hike back to the cars. Before we knew it, the Kloof Fest was over and it was just us and the highline, waiting for a derig on Monday morning and the return to the real world.
What It's Really All About At Kloof Fest
No one who came for the Fest paid more than to park their car at the MCSA parking, but the Kloof Fest does have a price. Although you don’t pay it in cash.
The idea of sharing is how the Kloof Fest will grow. Just like everyone who came, we have lots to share. We share our knowledge, experiences and way of life, what we get in return is almost intangible, a smile, a look, a new friendship, a new experience and the growth in people that happens when we spend time together in the mountains.
A Kloof Fest doesn’t have to be organised by us for it to work its magic on people. It was started to fill a gap, to meet a need that remains unfulfilled and unmet.
Climbing is growing and newer climbers need the opportunity to learn, to watch, to have their minds opened and their experience developed. A person arrives at the gym and they can learn the movement of climbing in a few weeks, they go out to the sport crag and can learn the technical skills to be competent climbing and cleaning a route in a few months.
Trad climbing encompasses much more than movement and technical skills. It’s a whole system that one needs to be mentored into if we want to keep climbing safe without losing the essence of it. We need more mentors in our community, to guide the ever growing numbers of new climbers beyond the idea of climbing as a way to keep fit or a fun social activity, but deeper into climbing as a way of life, of learning about yourself and to forge the strong connections and friendships that grow when people share a rope.
The Takeaway From This Kloof Fest Is Simple
Whatever level you’re at, there is someone who knows a little less than you and is frothing for the experiences you have on a regular basis. There is also someone who has done things you haven’t, who knows things you don’t and who could blow your mind with one weekend. Find both of these people, join them with a climbing rope and have your own little fest in the Kloof.