By Mark McConville
INCREDIBLE images have captured one brave climber dicing with death as he scaled huge cliffs without any safety equipment.
The spectacular pictures show the fearless mountaineer climbing an enormous grey cliff face which makes him look tiny in comparison.
Other stunning shots show the rock climber hanging by one arm with the sea and land visible in the background hundreds of feet below, looking up into the camera as he continues his rise up the rock and celebrating at the top after the completion of his climb.
The astonishing photographs show Free Solo climber Matt Bush and were taken by South African photographer Jacques van Zyl.
“Matt is one of the most talented climbers I have ever met,” he said.
“It must be obvious by now that Matt has an incredible mental ability to stay calm and focused even when death seems to be knocking at the door but he is also extremely talented physically.
“I personally think if he wanted to, he could match or more the hardest climbing grades in the world. So now you can just imagine what else is possible for somebody like Matt.
“Climbing is much more calculated and methodical than people realize. It is not like we get jacked up on 10 cans of Monster energy drink and go smash out hard routes. It could never work.”
Mr van Zyl explained how Matt could scale these huge rock faces with no safety equipment.
“Matt can do this because he has been refining his skill set his whole life,” he said.
“He is very meticulous and only sets out when he feels he is completely and honestly ready. I told Matt once I’ll solo climb something when I am 95% sure I can do the climb flawlessly and leave 5% for the adventure.
“Matt looked at me rather disgusted and said he would never solo climb a route like that and I should not either.
“He carried on by saying that he only solo climbs a route when he felt he is 120% ready and so leaves no element to chance.
“I remember questioning myself who the crazy one is here. You must be really honest with yourself before you leave your rope behind.
“If the answer is ‘yes’ then it can be very rewarding but there is always a factor of randomness that needs to be added to the equation.”
Mr van Zyl, who shoots using a Fuji XT-2 camera, admitted there can be some problems due to the factor of randomness and explained how he took the amazing pictures.
“Just the other day Matt got attacked buy two Jackal buzzards while free soloing on a 100m route at Paarl,” he added.
“This could have killed him. Six months before a snake popped out of a crack while he was soloing a route on Lions Head. You just can’t prepare for everything.
“The best shots are often where the action is so I rely on my climbing skills to get me in and out of there.
“It can get a little scary because I often have to take up some gear but it’s not too bad. You get use to these spaces and I try and be very careful when doing so. Especially when Matt climbs very close to me.
“I have to be very careful not to get in Matt’s way because he has no margin and is most likely free soloing a route that most people could never climb even with a rope.”
The rock-climbing photographer believes the challenge makes the result much more rewarding.
“I love it because its wild and challenging,” explained Mr van Zyl.
“Maybe the hard work makes the image more rewarding. Every shot has its own adventure story. You can’t just snap these on the go. It takes planning and hard work. Even then it is never a given.
“Just last week Matt almost got swept away by a massive wave on route to his project. You just never know if it’s going to work or not.
“When it doesn’t I’m generally not too phased. It is fun to be in the mountains and I intend to keep it that way.”