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Location: Sandwiched between the Grootrivierberge and the Witteberge just North of Willowmore

Date: 28-30 Oct 2016

Group Leader: Chris Leggatt

Members: Chris Leggatt, Hugo Leggatt, Bill Turner, Fred and Nicky van Berkel, Tony and Evie Bowen, Dave and Gill Manley, Dave and Margie Barnes, Don and Mari Bands

Guest Appearances: Liz Bazin, Andre Knoetze, Sineke Schmidt, Cherie Swanepoel, Dave Heggie

This memorable weekend was born a over a year ago while Chris and Andre sat around a campfire enjoying a bottle of wine. Andre had remarked that in all the years that he had owned the farm, he had not yet climbed the Witteberge behind the farmhouse and gazed across the Great Karoo… and so it was, with this objective, that the weekend was finally planned for the last weekend of October 2016.

On the Friday afternoon, the group was due to assemble at 5pm in Willowmore under the leadership of Chris Leggatt, but due to unforeseen circumstances the group leader and his two travelling companions were nowhere near Willowmore at the allocated time. Thankfully, the landowners, Andre and Sineke, met the party and led them to the farm at dusk, with Chris and companions catching up just before the farmhouse.

Saturday morning saw 3 different excursions. A group of 10 set off for the high ridge at 8am (Bill Turner, not wanting to hold back the group, had set off earlier), while two smaller groups stayed in the valley below (one to walk the jeep track further along the valley while the other explored the nearby river valley for possible rock art).

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Summit group less Bill who is somewhere up the slope behind the subjects

Thankfully the ascent to the summit, while long, was reasonably straight forward. There were some cliffs which had been formed by the folding of the rock strata that created some minor obstacles, but the sparse vegetation and the overcast weather allowed us all to plod along at a comfortable pace. Just under halfway up the 770 m ascent, we had to drop down to a neck before continuing our way up. After three and a half hours of hiking, we were rewarded with the most magnificent view over the Great Karoo towards Aberdeen and Graaff Reinet. With no foothills below, the mountain drops away to the vast plain of the Karoo.

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Fred making his way up the slope

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The lower slope

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The whole summit party

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On the Witteberg Ridge with the Grootrivierberge to the South and the Great Karoo to the North

After lunching at the Jakobskop trig beacon (1465m) with a magnificent view laid out before us, we started the knee-jarring descent. With water starting to run low, the party started to show signs of fatigue and minor dehydration in the last half of the descent. After 8 hours on the mountain, we were happy to sit around the evening campfires and take stock of our achievements. We realised that the summit party, with its 4 hip replacements, 1 new knee, a pace-maker and a few other odds and ends, could almost build a robot with what they had in the group. We also learnt that the one party that had explored the river valley near the farmhouse had discovered some rock art!

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Sunday morning saw a couple of minor excursions. The rock art group, which mainly consisted of some of the members of the Saturday summit party, headed off to view the newly discovered rock art, while a smaller group walked up the jeep track to see more of the farm. Although the scramble up the scree slope to the rock art site was a little tricky, the art and the view were both worth the effort. From the cave we could look towards the farmhouse and up the slope that we had climbed the previous day. Most of the party then headed back to the farmhouse via the way they had come, while Chris and Liz continued down the dry river bed in order to loop around a hill back to the farmhouse. En route, while crossing over a neighbouring farm, they discovered another rock art site that the 5th generation landowner did not even know about!

All in all it was a successful weekend in which we managed to reach our objectives. Thanks to our gracious hosts, Andre Knoetze and Sineke Schmidt for allowing us the privilege to explore this spectacular mountain range.

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Andre and Sineke at the rock art site with Jakobskop in background.

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Chris and Liz at 2nd rock art site

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Chris Leggatt – meet leader

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