About 7 years ago Mervyn Prior celebrated his 80th birthday by taking a party of his old compatriots to the summit of Formosa Peak. I had secreted a coupla bottles of champers, together with glasses and a bow tie, in my pack as a surprise.

On my way down I plotted to emulate Merv’s feat on my 80th and decided on Cockscomb.
The party consisted of Bill and Di Turner, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Tony and Evie Bowen, Clive Louw, Jane Luck, Maretha Alant, Hanna Du Toit, Dave Edge, Zeta Michau and guests: JP Keyser, Bryan Turner, Tristan Turner.
We spent Friday night at the cottages on Willow River Farm were we enjoyed  a braai, made sumptuous by everyone contributing salads, snacks and pud.


Some of the party about to set off

Next morning Greg, Cheryl, Clive, Bryan and Tristan climbed a 35m grade 14 route on the Tortoise Slabs before following the rest of us up the long , long ridge to the cave.



Overlooking Willow River Farm


Leading from the rear




Leucospermum cuneforme


Porters carrying firewood and champagne


Tokolosh Cave: naked lady lost her head



Leaving Tokolosh Cave

The upper part of the route to T’Numqua Cave is interesting where it traverses across the east face along a narrow ledge through Tokolosh Cave before crossing a high nek, beneath the final rocky dome of Cockscomb, leading back N to T’Numqua Cave on the W side of the ridge.


Approaching the nek. Final dome of Cockscomb in the background (very foreshortened)




Heading back N towards T’Numqua Cave


Geissorhiza roseoalba. There were many of these near the cave.

The cave is dramatically situated beneath a rugged. partly overhanging, crag facing the sunset. It belongsto the E Cape Section. It is large, and is well equipped with water tanks, braai appliances , some rather tatty mattresses and a loo with a view.



Loo with a view
We had carried up much of our own firewood, according to custom, but there was plenty of firewood available after a recent fire. We had carefully kept the champagne close to freezing before setting off and kept it cold by wrapping it inside our sleeping bags. The shaking on the journey up caused some of the corks to open with a fizz and a bang!


We watched the sun set while quaffing champers. Then I made a large fire.

Cockscomb18 Cockscomb19

Next morning we dumped our packs and Di at the nek before setting off up the rocky faces of the final dome. I was soon left far behind the others but was eventually reunited at the summit.


Clambering up


We made it!

Cockscomb22 Cockscomb23

One tends to notice the exposure going down

The rest of the way down was pleasant and uneventful. I finally arrived last at the cars at 3pm. Several of the party wasted no time in cooling off in the concrete dam which is supplied with fresh running ice cold mountain stream water.


Agathosma spp


Erica spp


We may have started a tradition. Next in line is probably Bill Uren. He will probably be still fit enough to tackle Everest, although I suspect champagne will burst long before the top due to altitude.