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

 

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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

TAKING PART:
Dave Jones (Leader), Chris Gow, Dave & Margie Barnes, Clive & Sandy Louw, Fred & Nicky van Berkel, Geoff & Lorraine Ditchfield with Greg & Janet Moore. 12 Members in all.

The good support for this pleasant 12 km circuit on the hill above Sedgefield showed that there is room in our Section for easier walks which give the opportunity for couples to hike together and the weather could not have been nicer.

The party gathered as planned at the busy Farmers’ Market for a departure at 9.00 and the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction which implied the potentially boring leg along the N2 or through town came first.

This was cleverly by-passed by using the old railway line and sand tracks along the base of the hill in MCSA style to reach the paragliding site by 11.00 and a tea stop.

The Sedgehill view-point was at its best but with absolutely no wind there was no paragliding activity to amuse us.

The whole party were back at the start point by 13.00 where a unanimous decision was easily made to finish off a very pleasant day by quenching our thirsts at the Scarab Market Craft Brewery.
Thanks to all who supported the hike for their pleasant company.

Dave Jones – meet leader

We arrived at Grootvadersbosch on Friday late afternoon to set up camp. The evening was spent around a campfire.

The group : Karin van Niekerk(leader), Greg and Cheryl Devine, Janine Smith, Maretha Alant,
Jacolise Joubert, Ed Shuttleworth, Charles Smith, Gillian Forbes, Albert and Saartjie van der Merwe

Along the ridge – looking west towards Barrydale

Saturday morning we hiked up Dwarsberg to the stone shelters at Helderfontein. Ed was keen to also hike the Grootberg peak (an extra 4 hours at least) but realized that one probably needs an extra day in the mountain to do it justice. The hike is longer (17km) than the 14 km according to their map. It is a slow ascend through beautiful fynbos without any stiff climbs. The views from the ridge towards Barrydale and into the valleys approaching the shelters are spectacular. It took us most of the day. The shelters were adequate and we spent the evening in thick mist.

Leaving Helderfontein shelter with Horingberg in the background.

Sunday morning was warm and clear and we had a 15km hike back along an equally spectacular route towards Grootvadersbosch – descending into Saagkuilkloof and crossing the Duiwenhoks river.

By 3 pm we were back at the cars and after a hot shower headed back home. A weekend hike that we all decided to repeat again soon.

Karin van Niekerk – meet leader

 

The following hikers attended and arrived at 10h00 at the parking area of Enrico Restaurant in Keurboomstrand: Hans v Ameyde (meet leader), Karin van Niekerk, Gonnie Houtsma, Clive and Sandy Louw, Wolf Schneider, Erich Brack, and guests Peter and Marianne Halbsgut.
We left at 10h00 from the Enrico boardwalk in an easterly direction.

The ocean deposited so much sand that we could walk round the Arch/ Cathedral rocks on the sea side.

We had our lunch break before 12h00 at Grootbank. After that, we went uphill below Forest Hall to find 13 Walking Festival hikers having their lunch at the picnic area. They came from Nature’s Valley on their way to Keurboomstrand. After wishing them good luck, we proceeded to get up to the escarpment through the bush.

Thereafter, we strolled over the escarpment through the flowering fynbos, enjoying the magnificent views over the coastline.

We then climbed down to the Matjes River at around 14h00. Five of us proceeded to walk along the beach and 4 of us went over the escarpment to Keurboomstrand.

We arrived there in a jolly good mood and sat down to enjoy some snacks and drink at Enrico Restaurant.

Hans v Ameyde – meet leader

Checking equipment – legs all ok

Participants: Left to right: Cheryl Devine, Janet Moore, Gill & Dave Manley, Gillian Forbes, Vanessa & Savanah Herbst (visitors), Greg Moore, Evie Bowen, Greg Devine. Not shown – Tony Bowen (meet leader)

Hike statistics: 15 km incl diversion, 5 ½ hour duration (quick pace)
Grade: 1, with an optional short Grade 2
Access, permits and trail head:
The hike is in the Groeneweide Forest Reserve, controlled by SANParks. Access to the trail head is from Saasveld campus of NMMU. There is a kiosk at the trail head, with self-issue permits and maps. There is a sign board showing the Red, Blue and Green routes.

Hike description:

The party met at 7.45am at the main gates to the campus, and then proceeded to the parking area near the swimming pool. After visiting the trail head and signing in, they were on the trail by 8am. The Red Route was followed.

The Red Route markers

The walk was predominantly in spectacular indigenous forest. Although the weather looked drizzly, it quickly cleared, and the day ended in sunshine. The route is well marked with a well-maintained trail, and with easy gradients. However, there are some fallen trees that need trimming to clear the path.

Savanah rock hopping the Kaaimans

The magical forest

All happy!

Tony Bowen – Meet leader

Following members attended and arrived at Nature’s Valley Rest Camp Parking at 9h00, from left to right: Sandy and Clive Louw, Fred van Berkel, Gillian Forbes, and Hans v Ameyde (meet leader). I regret that so few arrived to enjoy the beautiful scenery east of Nature’s Valley.

I discovered that the Grootriver Mouth was blocked while entering the valley due to the visible high water level, and suggested that we rather move our starting point to the mouth in order to avoid the high lagoon water level on the east side of the lagoon.
Fortunately, the weather was fine but cool, excellent for hiking. We crossed the Groot River mouth on a sandbank and climbed Pig’s Head for our morning break enjoying the ever-beautiful view over Nature’s Valley and the lagoon.

Thereafter we proceeded through the fynbos and indigenous forest to the Kovie settlement, and then down to the coast. That area is densely overgrown but fortunately, I knew an easier access to the coast to reduce the bush whacking. I was very glad that the vegetation was now dry after yesterday’s rain, otherwise it would have been a very wet experience! Unfortunately, one of us sustained some injury and had to spend some blood in the bush whacking area.

We reached the Otter Trail around 13h00 and enjoyed the spectacular coastline with the last huts of the Otter Trail (Andre Huts) in the background.

As the South Easter wind increased, we went for a sheltered spot with a view for our lunch break.

After that it is fairly easy going (about 5 km) with beautiful scenery along the rugged cliffs to Nature’s Valley.
We had a short stop on top of the escarpment before descending to the beach. We were still able to cross the river with our shoes on in spite of the high spring tide.

Hoping to see more of you next time!

Hans van Ameyde (meet leader)

The weekend of 9 – 11 March saw Greg leading a climbing meet at Pinnacle Gorge and me doing the hiking option up Cockscomb.

Ed and Charles opted to leave Knysna at some ungodly hour on Saturday for a 7 am start. They would have been on time but for one misdirection into the farmer’s homestead road.

The 5 hikers on the day were Greg and Janet Moore, Ed Shuttleworth, Charles Smith and Cheryl Devine (leader).

The trek starts from the cottage, where there are several tracks leading up to a break in the rock band, near the crest of the hill. The path then follows the farmer’s fence for some way. The path is rocky but easy to follow, with the very impressive Pinnacle Gorge on your left. At some stage you cross over the fence and the walk from then on is forever upward. After about two hours of steady plodding you traverse around to the left, to a rising traverse line up to the base of the summit peak.

It was never Janet’s intention to do the scramble to the summit, so she waited in the shade, for our safe return.

To reach the summit you follow a fairly well-marked trail that weaves in and out of rock bands. At times the scramble is over very exposed areas and you must have a good head for heights. There is not much respite for the weary on the way up and like all summits, is very illusive. As I puffed and panted my way up, I said to Greg, who was bouncing along, “I think we are nearly there” and he looks at his GPS and says “nope, another 200 m to go”. I hate modern technology!!!

The return journey was uneventful and a refreshing swim near the cottage ended a great trek.

The tech savvy have supplied the info below:

Start: 513 m @ 07h35
Janet stopped @ 1161 m @ 10h00
Base of climb @ 1328 m @ 11h00
Summit 1747 m @ 12h30
Descent done in 3 hr 32 min
Distance covered: 5.7 km
Average moving speed: 2.2 km/h

The social aspect of all meets must not be forgotten, so thanks to all who joined in and made it a fantastic weekend.

Cheryl Devine – meet leader

The pick-up cars were parked at Coney Glen, Knysna Heads, and we drove to the start at Sparrebosch. The landowners had decided to repair part of the fire-damaged fishermen’s path down to the coast, so they had just recently closed the trail! The official there would not allow us access. It was quite a bind after all the planning, and in addition we had a visitor from Cape Town, who had come just for this meet. I knew that you can start a bit further down the coast from Noetzie. So that quickly became plan B. It just meant that we would have to do it a bit faster than planned, because we still had to get through key points on the coast while it was spring low tide.

Greg Devine, Gillian Forbes, Ed Shuttleworth, Dennis Lange, Cheryl Devine, Charles Smith, Wolf Schneider, and photo taken at Noetzie beach by Clive Louw (leader).

 

This route follows the very rugged and beautiful coast line to Knysna Heads. Because this route is best done at spring low tide, it is rare to see anybody else. There is the occasional beach, but it is 99% walking and scrambling the rocky coast, while avoiding the splashes from the waves.

Then a pleasant lunch spot in the shade. It was a somewhat hurried bite, and I hope I will be forgiven. The important point is that the rising tide did not catch us.

This was followed by a very large double arch rock which we climbed through. There was still a tough step to climb and finally we joined the Sunday afternoon crowds at Knysna Heads. The route took us 6,5 hours, the same time as previously from Sparrebosch, but it was hurried.

Clive Louw – Meet leader

 

First there were 20, then 15, then as day zero approached only 9 hardly souls swam down the river with me. Admittedly,  the weather was not ideal, overcast, not a patch of blue in sky to cheer us on, but I think we all had a great day nevertheless.

We started our journey from Strawberry Hill, walking down a well-trodden path to the river.  Without delay we enthusiastically jumped into the warmish water and swam, walked, waded and scrambled our way down the Kaaimans. The river level appeared to be higher than usual and the small rapids we encountered had a bit more force behind them, adding a little excitement to the trip. After the last long swim, we got out of the river under the N2 bridge in Wilderness. The total time to complete the swim was two hours, add half an hour for the walk down equals two and a half hours. If the weather had been kinder to us we would have been a lot more casual in our meander and stopped to smell the roses on the way.

 

Back to the cars and dry clothes, then Strawberry Hill to end the day with a braai shared with Bill and Di Turner. While we were having fun in the river Di and Bill took Sandy, Nicky and Sandra for a walk their Fern Trail.

The intrepid enthusiasts who shared the day with me and made it such an enjoyable one, were Greg and Janet Moore, Gillian Forbes, Alexis Aronson, Clive Louw, Stewart Stiles, Greg Devine and guest Tony Rebelo.

Cheryl Devine

Mountain Club of South Africa

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