Over the weekend of 31 August to 2 September, “a few good men” (and Ladies) of the South Cape Section assembled in Montagu to climb a little known but by no means insubstantial peak (1391 metres) along the R62.

Undaunted by warnings of dire weather heading our way our first call of business on Friday afternoon was a visit to La Mont dairy along the R60 where we tasted six varieties of their cheese and undertook a short hike up a kloof to a rather attractive little waterfall on their property. We left a car to overnight at the dairy as this was to be the ending point of our hike the following day.

Sarahsriviersberg viewed on the South side
From the La Mont dairy along the R60.

View from the North side along the R62

Saturday dawned, and we left our campsite in Montagu at 7.00am and headed to The Farm Route 62 about 7kms along the R62 towards Barrydale from whence after being greeted by the owner we commenced to hike at 7.30am.

At this early hour the summit was obscured by high level cloud but undeterred by our inability to have our target in eye fall we kept faith in the leader’s little yellow pathfinder.

After 375 meters of vertical ascent we reached the first significant intermediate summit expecting a small downhill to follow on the other side. Peering over the edge of the ridge we found a 130-metre cliff face in front of us lying between us and our summit ahead. We realised a deviation was needed to circumnavigate this hidden valley that had been all but invisible from below.

A “few good men” at the start

L-R : Charles Smith, Jacolise Joubert,Evie
and Tony Bowen – Leader Ed Shuttleworth taking picture.

 

Peering over the edge

Looking back to the obstacle

From this point the going got slow – having “galloped” the first kilometre ( linear ) in just over an hour the next 1.3 kilometres ( linear ) was to take over 3 ½ hours ! With no path to follow a careful line had to be navigated with some extended scrambling as one never quite knew what was around the corner or over the next ridge. I think everyone who climbed will admit to having to dig deep into their reserves on this one – I will always associate this climb with the final words of Sydney Carton – “it’s a far, far better thing that I do , than I have ever done”. Somehow this mantra echoing around my head kept me going !

From the bottom the North side of the mountain looked completely denuded of all vegetation by recent fires, so we were pleasantly surprised at the amount and diversity of the flora that we found. There was a lot of rock much of which was very loose and the climb although short was very steep.

The Langeberg Sceptre
( Paranomus spathulatus )

Resting at the summit beacon

Down the spine towards Montagu

The South by contrast was much more densely vegetated and a far gentler gradient though considerably longer in length but quicker in time. There was still an abundance of loose rock but on this side it was hidden beneath the green stuff. After over 9 hours on the mountain we were all relieved to reach the dairy still in one piece.

The rain that we had been forewarned of finally arrived, rather considerately after we had all broken camp, on Sunday morning. Instead of heading out into it around Montagu four of us elected to head down the R62 to Barrydale where we managed to complete a two-hour stroll along the Barrydale trail before retiring for a strong coffee and the arrival of the rain there.

Thanks to a strong team of fellow hikers I think we can deservedly say that “ we felt the fear and did it anyway “.

More route info / stats can be found at :

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/spatialArtifacts.do?event=setCurrentSpatialArtifact&id=28311256

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/spatialArtifacts.do?event=setCurrentSpatialArtifact&id=28311202

Ed Shuttleworth – meet leader

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The Party. (L to R) Di Parker*, Evie Bowen, Fred van Berkel, Peter Halbsgut, Janet Moore, Marianne Halbsgut, Gillian Forbes, Marcel Combrink*, Greg Moore, Andre Roux* (*visitors). Not in photo: Tony Bowen (meet leader).

Summary. The hike starts at “Sputnik” carpark near the top of the Outeniqua Pass. After crossing the highway, the route follows the ridge line on a path to the peak. Currently the path is well used. It goes up steeply requiring occasional scrambling, with some exposure. Grade 2 ½M.

The Hike. We set off from Sputnik at 8 am in clear but windy weather. The party of 11 included 3 visitors, who were welcomed after the customary “safety” briefing. 8 made it to the very summit. The final bit is a trifle exposed but has good holds all the way. After lunch on top admiring the expansive views, which included snow on the distant Kammanassie and Swartberg ranges, we returned to base by 12.30. To prove conclusively that walking along a paved surface is more dangerous than climbing mountains, one visitor (who shall be nameless) slipped on the sidewalk near the carpark and required 3 stitches to his/her chin.

 

Tony Bowen – Meet leader

Hikers:
All MCSA members – Tony and Evie Bowen, Karin van Niekerk, Charles Smith, Cheryl and Greg Divine, Basil Dominy, Peter and Marianne Halbsgut, Fred van Berkel, Werner Frei, Dave Barnes.

Grade: 2M
Trail distance: Around 16 Kilometres. It is mostly uphill all the way to the Tierkop hut- thereafter a section of downhill, along a somewhat exposed mountain path. Once the jeep track is attained -an easy downhill run back to the Saasveld Campus.

Trail Condition: This trail is currently in a very good condition. We walked along the lower Jeep track, passing upwards towards the Dam, from the railway line (above Pepsi Pools). This track has been very well cleared, and all (almost!) of the alien Wattle trees which were previously taking over the track have been removed. The mountain trail from the Dam up to the Tierkop track is also open and very easy to hike along. So well done – to the Outeniqua reserve and its mangers

Access and start of the trail. Access is via the main security gate at NMMU Saasveld campus. Parking is permitted at the Administrative Buildings. From here road access to the start of the trail – a gate just beyond the Student houses.

Permits: Self issue permits are available from the Witfontein Cape Nature offices.

Trail times: We started our hike at 8.30, while we completed the circuit at 14.15. The hike lasted for almost 6 hours which included a tea break at the Dam wall, followed by a lunch stop at the hut.

The Hike details: A lovely day out in the stunning Outeniqua mountains. Cradock peak above – wafting in and out of the clouds, the fynbos in good shape – and looking clean and fresh as we were lucky enough to have had shower on the area the day before. George had been experiencing particularly dry hot windy weather during the previous week. Pepsi Pools lost out- no one was quite ready for a swim at 9.30 in the morning – it being July and a somewhat cooler day than the temperatures of the week before. The leaky dam (officially known as the George Dam) – not looking as leaky as it has in the past – where little water spouts normally exit from the higher holes in the dam wall. On inspection we realized why- the dam is very empty- so the level is currently lower than many of the weep holes.

The flowers on the rare plants above the Dam –one of them being a Protea pincushion (Leucospemum glabrum), and the common Pagoda flower (Mimetes pauciflorus). Both at their peak of flowering season. So stunning that our hikers were in fierce competition -juggling with one another for the best position in which to take a photograph.

Lunch happened on the Tierkop hut terrace- Lovely views out – however now quite a fortress – notice the bars behind the lunch time guests. The hut had “upgrades” a year or 2 ago, now supposedly neither the baboons or other ‘baddies” can get in / “er weeeell not so far”!
Sadly, even overnight hikers are not welcome.

After lunch -some discussion as to whether the downhill road was even an option –however the Meet Leader rules – so the much more exciting mountain path was followed. Much chattering on the easy downhill section back to the start of the trail. It seems a good day was had by all.

Thank you to all who joined in on this circular hike in the Outeniqua foothills.

Evie Bowen – Meet leader

 

While the rest of humanity was watching the opening matches of the World Cup, we were playing a match of our own.

Round One of the MCSA vs Kammanassie (the Kam) Challenge took place in September 2016 and ended badly. There was blood, sweat and crocodile tears from the sky. We came away scratched, drenched and freezing. The silverware stayed in the Kam’s display cabinet. But at least we had managed to suss out the Kam’s game plan, and were hungry for a rematch.

Round Two was charted for the last weekend in June. A small strong team assembled for the rematch and this time the odds were stacked for Team MCSA. The sun beamed from cloudless skies and a recent burn took care of the vegetation. We left with the silver and the bragging rights.

Most of you should know by now where the Kammanassie actually is, so I won’t go into that again. But for those of you with dodgy memories – probably all of you – here is the low-down on the actual challenge. Jeep tracks start at each end of the range, but do not meet in the middle. There is an eight-kilometre as-the-crow-flies gap between the two ends. The challenge is to link these ends by any route. Two members did an east-west traverse in 2005, using caves for shelter, crossing the imposingly-deep Rooirivier gorge and taking four days. We decided on a west to east traverse, staying high, sleeping in tents and taking three days.

The Rooirivier has two major tributaries, one flowing due east, the other due west, and a minor one from the south. They all join up and flow north, forming the impressive gorge which splits the mountain into an east and west massif. None of this is blindingly obvious from either a map or Google Earth, which led me to believe that the ‘tributary’ valley would make a good traverse line. When we got to the col and saw how deep and bushed the valley was, we decided to stay high and skirt around to the south.

The hard-core crazies who turned up, besides me obviously, were Cheryl (aka The Boss), Johan Huisamen, Gillian Forbes and Werner Frei. We met up on the road near Buffelsdrif at 08h00 on Friday and took Werner’s car to the finish point. We then drove up to the start and started walking up the track just after ten. We passed the usual camping place below Kammanassieberg and continued on past the first of the four big gullies that seem to block the route. Here we made a startling discovery – a definite path starts at the end of the jeep track, continues on in the right direction for quite a while and then fades out.

We camped on top of one of the noses between the gullies, where there were ample flat spots and water a short way off. The night was warmer than expected and a breeze kept the dew away in the morning. We were under way again before 08h30. We crossed the other three ravines quite easily and headed up to the saddle. The going was steeper than it had appeared to be, and was populated by blackened plant-skeletons. It was when we got to this saddle that we decided to stay medium-high. High-high follows the ridgeline and is bound to be longer and much-much harder.

The traverse was fairly easy going for a while, until we crossed the small southern tributaries of the Rooirivier. A long hard gully led out of the river and we regained the high ground with difficulty, turning north at the end of the big valley. We eventually gained the top of the last ridge and gazed down on Perdevlakte and the jeep track. Picture a flat 2 km x 2 km bowling-green on top of a mountain and you have an idea of Perdevlakte.

The jeep track to the shelter was an interminable slog, with the sun going down and no end in sight. We got to the shelter after dark, but with a strong moon we were able to pick out tent spots and find a trickle of water. The night turned very cold with ice all over the tents in the morning. The sun only hit the shelter at 10h20 that morning, by which time we were long gone as it was too cold to hang around. We watched the sun rise on the shelter from a ridge high above. It took about five hours to get from the shelter to the car.

We walked for a total of 20 hours. Day two was 12,6 km with 1162 metres of ascent and 868 metres of descent (aggregated) The days were only 10 hours long, although first-light to last-light was a bit longer. Day two really opened my eyes to the actual layout of the Kam and now I can say that I know my way round the mountain. As usually happens though, as soon as you tick off one item on the to-do list, another three take its place. I have a bunch of ideas already. Watch this space for Round Three.

Starting out. Gillian, Cheryl, Werner and me, wearing brand-new clothes. Photo by Johan Huisamen.

The jeep track heading between Kammanassieberg and Platberg

View of the route ahead, across the ‘dings’ and up to the col in the distance.

Day two route across the ‘dings’ and up the gully.

The deep valleys to the left and the medium-high route on the right.

The Rooirivier Gorge.

Perdevlakte, at about 1500 metres.

Greg Devine – meet leader

 

Participants: Nicky van Berkel, Charles Smith, Gonny Houtsma, Hugo Leggatt, Wolf Schneider, Bill Turner, Gillian Forbes, Ed Shuttleworth, Werner Frei, Fay and Dave Jones, Fred van Berkel (Leader), and 11 visitors.

Hike statistics:
A Grade 0 beach walk covering 6.4 km. Required permission: none.

This hike was billed as a walk into the past, looking at animal tracks preserved in the late Pleistocene-age fossilised dune rock outcropping along a 3 km stretch of Goukamma Nature Reserve coastline east of Platbank. In preparation for this easy outing, I gave a talk at the monthly club social explaining the paleoclimate conditions that shaped the distinctive Garden Route scenery along this piece of coastline. Animal tracks, interpreted to have been made by elephant, lion, various sizes of ungulates and others are preserved in the fossilised dune rock outcropping along the coast.

12 Members and 11 guests braved the cool, partially cloudy weather behind a recent cold front. We looked at most of the trackways, also known as ichnofossils. Unfortunately, several were covered by beach sand and some suffered from weathering damage. The lion track has been largely destroyed by someone who attempted to make a cast using fibreglass!

 

Small ungulate tracks

Large ungulate tracks

Although the hike was graded as 0M, recent beach erosion beyond the large ungulate trackway has exposed large, partially moss-covered slabs of fossil dune rock (above). Most hikers scrambled across these to look at some small ungulate tracks beyond.

Thanks to those who joined me in admiring these trackways which are part of the Garden Route’s heritage.

Fred van Berkel – meet leader

 

 

Our base for the weekend was Simonskloof Mountain Retreat nestled in the Koo Valley at the base of the Langeberg Mountains. Arriving there shortly after 12pm on Friday there was barely time to get tents up before Greg and Ed left on the 100kms drive to Nuy where we rendez-voused with Werner at the Nuy Valley Guest House. We then all returned in the one car to Simonskloof arriving back there by 4.30pm – the stage was set for the following day’s hike.

L-R : Maretha Alant, Bill Turner, Cheryl Devine, Greg Devine, Karin van Niekerk, Werner
Frei, Jacolise Joubert, Gillian Forbes, Charles Smith, Clive Louw – Ed Shuttleworth
(Leader/Photographer)

A cool but dry evening ensued as we gathered around our camp fire for a braai – this did not deter the leader from venturing off into the bush in search of old wrecks.

Ford Zephyr of unknown vintage – one of the many
old wrecks decorating the farm.

Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear and the wannabe Geckos assembled for the starting order which was to be 0745. Bill Turner had decided not to accompany the rest of the group on the trail and acted as “dog decoy” as the
group split off and headed up towards the saddle above the farm.The first 45 mins of the trail is a fairly bland stroll until one reaches the Pinnacle or “Nose”. It’s at this point as the descent into Cobra valley begins that the days challenge starts to come into focus.

Over the “Nose” we went and down – a constant trail of cairns kept us on the right path but from time to time a few moments were needed to consider how best to navigate particularly large boulders that choked the kloof.

Finally we reached the bottom of Cobra valley and found ourselves in the Nuy gorge proper. The going was gentler
here but not much quicker as, with the help of the cairns, we navigated over and around the obstacles that littered
the river bed. Boots had to come off only on one occasion as we crossed the river about 5 times before eventually
arriving at the Berg hut for our lunch break.

Looking back up Cobra valley

Looking forward down Nuy River Gorge

We kept up a steady pace throughout the day – it took 4 hours to reach the Berg hut which is situated 6.5
Kms from our starting point. From this point on there was a track all the way to the end and we covered the
afternoon section of 11 Kms in just under 3 hours.

The scenery in the afternoon continued to hold us in awe as we wound our way down the gorge threading
ourselves back and forth across the river.

Karin threading her way through river bed debris

Clive ready for a plunge ?

The Berg Hut under the trees

In total we covered 17.5 Kms in a fraction over 7 hours – the cars were waiting for us at the Nuy Valley Guest House and we were fortunate to stumble upon a “biercache” in one of them ! We were back at Simonskloof by 4.30 pm where we gossiped beside the fire whilst braaing our dinner. Rain overnight dampened the spirits of those planning a Sunday excursion and in the end it was only Charles and Ed who ventured out in search of “Twin Peaks” and the “Space Harley”.

Charles on the “Space Harley”

Overlooking Simonskloof Mountain Retreat

Thanks to Jurgen and Ninon for accommodating us at their very special corner of the Koo valley
and thanks to Greg and Werner for the extra miles.
More pics can be found at :
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cKaurNQveYIxqrBKDn6nUzAcAsIi8oPu?usp=sharing

More route info / stats can be found at : https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/gecko-trailsection-a-nuy-river-gorge-nr-worcester-western-cape-south-africa-25524115

Ed Shuttleworth – meet leade

 

Hikers:- Eugene Fichardt, Karin v Niekerk, Ian Mc Ewan (temp member, guest of Dave Barnes) Lorraine and Geoff Ditchfield, Gillian Forbes, Gonnie Houtsma, Marianne and Peter Halbsgut, (99% members) Janet and Greg Moore, Wolf Schneider, Sanet v Meersbergen, Margie Barnes. Meet leader Dave Barnes (Shadow photographer)

The Ranger who gave us permission to hike said that the forest would be wet, and it was pleasantly so, a welcome return to having trapped moisture after the dry conditions of late. Weather was cool, and we made good time to the breakfast stop before the Hoogekraal River where the Outeniqua trail meets a jeep track and there is an open clearing. At this point Geoff, Lorraine and Margie turned back and followed the jeep track to make a circular return to the start at the Beervlei hut.

The remainder of the party continued past the Hoogekraal tributary to the main river. There is a badly eroded short cut making a steep and difficult descent to the river. This is a result of walkers missing the trail where it veers off to the original and walkable descent. At this point Greg and Gillian were the only ones to make the descent as it was cold and shady. Gillian was the only happy paddler, and the only one at the end to lament that the hike was too short.

The pic above, courtesy of Eugene, shows the fern forest section in good shape after the rain.
The return was also via the route taken by Geoff, Lorraine and Margie.
Total distance was just short of 18 kilometres.

Dave Barnes – meet leader

 

Participants:
MCSA members –Gillian Forbes; Wolf Schneider; Ed & Mimi Shuttleworth; Analyn Knight; Dave & Margi Barnes; Dave & Gill Manley; Greg & Janet Moore.

Visitors – Suda Khatong and Pierre Krusse; Marianne and Peter Halbsgut.

Hike statistics:
Length: 15 km round trip with about 775m of actual uphill walking.
Time taken : 5 and 1/2 hours for round trip. A fast pace today – Rain imminent, with clouds and swirling mist around us on the Peak itself – so the rests were few and short.

Grade 1 along a section of jeep track, otherwise Grade 2M. Some rocky sections, and number of ups and downs during the hike.

Trail Condition: good.
Now that the vegetation is returning to previously burnt areas – the path on the steep section is easier to find. It remains well marked with cairns.

Access permits: Self issue permits are available at the Witfontein office/ outside George.

Trail head: This hike starts from a cluster of apple farms in the Waboomskraal area. Parking is along a gravel access road- and remains limited. Access to this road/ a faded “Imbezza farm” turnoff sign. The Cape Nature sign is long gone!

Start time:8.45am
Trail completion: 14.15

Hike description: A lovely day out. With cloud cover- a cooler day – thus the uphill sections were completed in no time at all! After passing through the Apple Orchards we climbed up to the top of the Ridge. From here 2 of our party opted for the shorter route (to the Peak and back), while the rest undertook the hike in a clockwise direction, starting down the jeep track section, passing the pool- no takers for swimming so early. Then on to the rockier terrain with numerous small loose stones – along an uphill section to eventually gain the peak. Easy going for everyone.

At the peak – loads of swirling mist – so much indecision about when and where to have our lunch. Is it really going to rain ? A few spots of drizzle. On and off with our macs/are they of any use? Is it the correct time for lunch or
not? – such difficult decisions we hikers are required to make! A little chilly so YES – we continued – to a lower ridgeline. Here clouds receded, and we were able to agree that the time was right- to enjoy some snacks/lunch with views towards the Herold Area.

Always a great skyline to admire – numerous Peaks stick out, and the Waboomskraal farms, form a pretty patchwork. Good to notice that the vegetation is returning with strength and variety – plenty of new small Protea saplings – moving in an upward direction.

The front man – was mostly Greg – who agreed to act as an extra leader- thanks – while Evie “dillied and dallied” in amongst the crowd.

We all had a great social outing as well as a good hiking day in the as always, wonderful Outeniqua mountains.

Thank you to all who supported this meet.

Evie Bowen – meet leader

The objective was to climb Spitskop from the north. Spitskop nestles in the Swartberg Mountains and our base for the week-end was at the farm Wilgemond. Fourteen keen hikers scrambled into cars at 0700h to drive a little further into the mountains, to start the hike. The day started out cold, with a bit of a breeze and heavy mist clouding the route, but we were not deterred.

 

Bill and Di Turner started out earlier than the group, therefore they are not in the group photo.
The happy faces belong to Clive Louw, Greg Moore, Gillian Forbes, Ed Shuttleworth, Janet Moore, Karin van Niekerk, Dave Underwood (guest), Evie and Tony Bowen, Ian Cameron-Clarke, Greg Devine and Johan Huisamen.

The first stage of the walk is along a jeep track that steadily rises to the top of a hill, Karin decided to continue over the hill and along the track to check out the flowers etc. The rest of us left the jeep track and headed in a southerly direction to a saddle hiding in the mist. Ian decided to leave us at the saddle and headed back down to eventually hook up with Karin.

Usually, from the saddle one can get a view of where the route goes, but the mist was still thick with occasional pockets of sun shining through. We headed off to the next saddle and regrouped. At this stage everyone became
a leader and headed into the mist, some to the ridge, some took a lower line and Greg, Di, Bill and I took the
middle path. Bill and Di decided to turn back here and proceeded down, to botanise on the way.

Fortunately, we all found each other and after a few false starts reached the summit in time for lunch.

The clouds lifted a little so views from the top were seen and the descent to the cars was visible all the way. We were all safely back at the farm by 16h00 and then the very social aspect of the day began, with a braai, banter and BS continuing until bedtime.

The total distance covered was 14 kilometres and the height climbed 1086 meters.

Clive and Ian cycled on Sunday: of course, the weather was perfect, clear skies and sunshine.
Thanks to Ed for the photos.

Cheryl Devine – meet leader

 

Many of us have been eyeing this area for exploration for quite some time. There area offers many revamped cottages and houses from yesteryear for accommodation, but no group facility. Then I discovered the camping site and started planning the meet. Ultimately we were 12 people in the group:
Derek and Jacomi Odendaal, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Tony and Evie Bowen, Charles and Lindsay Smith,
Maretha Alant, Karin van Niekerk, Clive Louw and Gillian Forbes.

We gathered on the Friday afternoon and drove into the camp. The facilities are basic (no electricity), but the ablutions are good and we had good shade for our tents. It is on the bank of the Gamka River, with a long and wide stretch of water just behind a thicket. We had plenty of firewood and every night there was a sociable gathering around the campfire/braai area.

On Saterday we walked their 4X4 route in the foothills of the Swartberg. We enjoyed great views of the mountains and the meandering Gamka River. I was hoping to do a longer route, but some of the neighbouring farms with their high game fences are out of bounds.

On Sunday we drove a few kilometers to the entrance of the Gamka poort. This is one of the poorts that cuts
right through the Swartberg. It goes up to The Hell (Gamkaskloof) area and then further north to the Gamkapoort
Dam. We didn’t know how far we could walk up this poort, and it proved to be quite a rough hike. The first part
is easy going, but then the long stretches of water force you to walk on the slopes. We followed an old route that
the people from Gamkaskloof used to walk to Calitzdorp. We really admired those hardy people! We did not get
very far, but it is a spectacular gorge with impressive cliffs and natural beauty.

On Monday we drove out of camp again to hike the Steering Kloof route, a well laid-out loop trail on the slopes of the Swartberg. It is quite a rewarding hike with great views. Some left the route and went further up the mountain for a great view into the Gamka River gorge.

Derek and Clive were the only two brave mountaineers to take on a two-day hike, also starting on the Steering Kloof trail, then going much higher up the slopes and traversing to the east. The uncertain water situation on the slopes made this hike a bit of a gamble. But we found water in the 9th gully we went through, and spent the night on a high ridge with a lovely full moon rising.

On Tuesday it was either walking back, exploring a bit more, lazing around, taking photos and then packing up. It was a great weekend in the Swartberg with good weather, good company and exploring some new ground. I think we’ll be back.

Derek Odendaal – meet leader

Mountain Club of South Africa

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