"Aesthetics above everything else"

North West Ridge on Western Injasuti follows the obvious line
Is what my climbing partner Tinie Versfeld told me a long time ago. Yes we were talking about climbing routes but the same applies to running and many aspects of life. Tinie knows all about aesthetics as he is a fine woodworker who makes unbelievably beautiful items that I hope to one day be able to afford.
So how do I define aesthetics?
An aesthetic rock climbing route has a purity about it that is obvious:
Cenotaph Corner climbs up an obvious corner. Left Wall takes the easiest line up, well … the left wall of that. The Nose Route on El Cap is the most aesthetic line up the big stone. Opposite it there is the DNB or Direct North Buttress.
Locally there is Africa Arête and Right Face. Two extremes of the climbing spectrum but both are incredibly direct and “the obvious way to go”. Or the North West Ridge on the Western Injasuti Triplet
So how does this relate to running? What trails are aesthetic?
Puffer (75 km from Cape Point to the V&A Waterfront over Table Mountain)
Otter Trail Run (42 km covering the entire 5 day Otter Trail run in one day)
SkyRun old route (100km from Lady Grey to Tiffendel) I am afraid the new route is just not the same and that is a real pity.
Three Peaks (Ascend Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head while returning to city centre in between each ascent) Yes I do believe there is an aesthetic there due to the iconic nature of those three peaks.
Old Fisherman’s Trail Challenge (21 km Run from Fish Hoek to Hout Bay via the mountain)
And here are some international events that I can think of:
Western States 100 miler (160 km from Sqauw Valley to Auburn, California, USA)
Pike’s Peak (ascend the peak….
Badwater Ultra (runs from the lowest point in Death Valley to Mt Whitney)
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (166 km circumnavigating the highest peak in western Europe)
Drakensberg Grand Traverse (210 km traverse crossing 6 major peaks in an unsupported push from The Sentinel to Bushman’s Nek)
Robben Island Swim (swim from Robben Island to mainland wearing only a cap, goggles and one bathing suit)
Frendo Spur Mt Blanc, Chamonix
The list continues but it does not include contrived races of which I cannot think of any right now. (Yes I don’t want to offend event organisers here too)
All the above can pretty much be described in one sentence to somebody who has no idea about trail running. There is a simplicity in something that is aesthetic irrelevant of whether it is a piece of furniture, a climbing route or a trail run.
There is also a beauty which is pretty evident. Looking across from Red Hill on the Puffer Route and you see Table Mountain in the distance is one of the most beautiful sights!
If you delve deeper there are certain underlying rules that may not initially be obvious at first.
To me the following are true for all the above:
1)      Each event can be described in one simple sentence that can be understood by experts and laypeople.
2)      There is something unbelievable, even magical about it despite it seeming simplicity.
What is aesthetic to you?
Please leave your comment below.

2 thoughts on “"Aesthetics above everything else"

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