When Greg announced that the Kammanassie traverse, which he had planned, was cancelled due to insufficient water en route, I unpacked my rucksack. No sooner had the trip been cancelled when a four-day camping and hiking trip in the Kammanassie was proposed as a substitute. The rapid re-pack resulted in my carrying several kilograms too much food, and not enough fuel.

Despite carrying an excessively heavy pack, this trip was one of the best I have ever done. There was just the right combination of easy access, distance from civilisation, perfect weather, unobtrusive leader, friendly company, two and a half doctors in case of heart-attack, stroke, broken bones etc, unspoiled wilderness – I did not see any litter during the entire trip, world-class scenery complete with fascinating geological formations, and potable water, albeit a mission to fetch water for the campsite each day. The South Cape Section is extremely privileged to have this pristine wilderness on their doorstep. I travelled from Cape Town to participate in this prestigious meet. Access is free, and we had the area to ourselves, except for a couple of vehicles that passed on the jeep-track during the walk-in. For those who go to the mountains to inhale fresh, clean air there were certainly enough diesel fumes to fill ones lungs to capacity, after which one had to dodge a herd of dangerous cattle trundling down the path, and avoid squelching in their excrement. The Kammanassie is an area of world-class beauty, with excellent hiking opportunities.

After trudging along for about 5 hours with an exceptionally heavy pack, it was a great relief to arrive in the camping area on top of a ridge, and divest oneself of the burden. Gill went down the hill to fetch a pail of water, and returned looking rather pale. Several people have added a bucket to their bucket-list of equipment. Having to descend and ascend the steep hill to collect water makes one value and appreciate water even more than one does in the city, with water restrictions.

Having improved our fitness by virtue of the lengthy hike to the camp-site and the collection of water, we tackled Perdeberg the next day. Greg split the party into a faster sub-group, a medium-paced sub-section, and the slower botanisers, however it would appear that some folk were out of earshot when this announcement was made, which made for some friction when the group re-assembled on the summit. I ascended and descended with the faster group which was ably led by Gillian. On reaching a river some folk immersed themselves. One hiker’s boot fell apart, to boot.

The next day Greg and Cheryl beat a hasty retreat. I have always wanted to beat a hasty retreat, but they are always too fast for me.

Most of the remaining group set off to ascend Kammanassie Peak. Some singularly challenging route-finding brought us to beginning of the traverse, which appeared to be rather daunting, since we were confronted by a seemingly impassable vertical wall of rock. Some members of the party decided that they had had enough partying, and retraced their steps. Undeterred by the apparently impossible terrain, Gillian scrambled up as though gravity did not exist. Nothing was going to stop her from doing the traverse, and in record time nogal. James and I followed as fast as we could. Gillian holds the world record for the fastest Kammanassie traverse. She did not hesitate even for one second when confronted by a death-defying ledge. Admittedly I am exaggerating slightly – the outwardly sloping mantel-shelf, with sheer thousand-foot drop below, was not the worst adrenaline-pumping situation I have encountered in the mountains. So nonchalantly did Gillian stroll across this infamous ledge, that I realised instantly that this was the only way to do it – get it over as quickly as possible, lest ones legs turn to jelly. The longer one dithers, the more one terrifies oneself at the possibility of feinting, rolling over the edge, and plummeting ignominiously to an untimely demise. The idea is to stay alive as long as possible before eventually succumbing to the inevitable end that awaits us all. And now, on that cheerful note let me continue………

James’ water-supply was running low, so he flew down from the peak at top speed, and now holds the world-record for the fastest descent of Kammanassie Peak. Hours later Gillian and I caught up with him at the river, where various bodies were partaking of the waters.

During the night 9 drops of rain fell; I fell asleep waiting for the 10th drop. During my peaceful sleep I was attacked by a ferocious arachnid. What did I ever do to it? What did I ever do to deserve such a fate? Maybe I was a bad boy in a previous life. I shudder to think what my next life holds in store for me…….

Our venture into the Kammanassie last September was unforgettable, which is probably why I still remember it. Another Kammanassie trip is on the cards for September 4 – 8 this year, to be convened by the inestimable Gillian Forbes.

The meet leader was Greg Devine. The meet report was written by Dennis Lange

Despite the meet being advertised quite late, there was a very good turnout of members. The party comprised Clive & Sandy Louw, Stewart & Christine Stiles, Bruno & Ulrike Baldzuhn, Ed & Mimi Kay-Shuttleworth, Tony &Evie Bowen, Greg & Janet Moore (meet leaders), Analyn Knight, Ruth Powell, Maretha Alant, Werner Frei, Henry Hill.

As the group was fit and energetic and there was no interest in the grade 1 social walk, it was decided that we would visit the Whale Cave (our descriptive name) and then those that wanted would recce a route to the top.

The un-named peak is in the Attakwaskloof Reserve and with our self-issuing permit off we went on a fresh clear day.

As we had a late start and to save time, a short 4×4 ride took us to the beginning. The climb to the cave takes about an hour, it is only just over a kilometre and 200m climb, but it is steep in places with no path and bushy slow going. The area burnt three years ago, but the approach is south facing and the vegetation has reestablished itself well, with all the burnt spikey bits slowing us down. The grade is 2M.

We had a break at the cave, which is quite large and has a very interesting series of paintings, which seems to depict whales or dolphins coming out of the water and standing erect. Whatever the pictures depict, much discussion ensued.

Hence our descriptive name of the Whale Cave.

From the cave the party split and Janet, Sandy & Bruno walked down.

The ascent to the peak was even slower. The distance was nearly 1.5km with a climb of 300m but was much steeper, bushier and rockier, with some exposure in places and took about an hour and a half. The grade was 3H.

The 360 views from the peak, at 1078m, on this very clear day were excellent and admired by all.

Happy, weary hikers on the peak.

The hike down, by a slightly different route was also very slow. Although the hike was only just under 5km long with 630m ascent / descent, the party had a tough but enjoyable workout.

Thanks to those that supplied photos for the report

Greg & Janet Moore – meet leaders

This hike was put on the calendar to provide an opportunity for the not so fit to also get out there and enjoy our beautiful area. Unfortunately the weather proved to be a bit windy and cloudy, but perfect for hiking.

The party consisted of 11 people: Hanna Edge (meet leader), Chris Gow, Mike von der Heyde, Romy Foster, Gary Cundill, Sandy Cundill, Henry Hill, Alette Hill, and guests SP Dreyer, Jan Boelhouwens and Claire Boelhouwens (from Sweden). None of the hikers were old or infirm though!

We set off from the carpark on the ‘Wild Side’ of Buffelsbaai and tackled the Buffelsbaai Hiking Trail – a sandy path that goes up and over the dunes to the main Buffelsbaai beach on the Brenton side. We soon reached our high point of 63m (but we did start at sea level!)

Jan, Mike, Alette, Claire and Henry reaching 63m above sea level!

From there we had beautiful views of the sea on both sides of Walker Point (the official name for the point). We even spotted a pod of dolphins playing in the breakers.

Towards the Wild Side (the West)

Walker Point (Buffelsbaai)

The 2.8 km through the milkwood forest to the coast on the eastern side went by quickly as we tried to identify various trees and plants.

Romy says it’s a Rhus, Chris reckons it’s a Searsia, but we all agreed it’s a Taaibos!

Once back on the beach it was just a short walk to get to the Buffelsbaai Kafee, where we stopped for coffee, breakfast and even a Coke Float.

Mike enjoying his breakfast on the deck of the Buffelsbaai Kafee. Henry and SP in the background.

Chris decided to take a short cut back to the vehicles, while Jan, Claire, Mike and Romy decided that a swim was in order, especially as the visitors from Sweden were going home in a few days’ time and had to make the most of the summer while they were here.

The rest of us strolled along the road past the caravan park and back unto the beach on the western side of the point. We watched a few fishermen on the rocks (who did not have much success) and made it back to the cars at about 12 noon.

Along the beach back to the cars

All in all a very relaxed morning hike of about 6km completed in about 2.5 hours.
Thanks to all the hikers who came along – as Arnie said: “we will be back”.

Hanna Edge – meet leader

I regret and was confused and a bit angry about the planned hike last Saturday (18th January) due to the rain and many cancellations. Friday afternoon (24th January), I suddenly had the idea of still doing it, although the tide in the afternoon was wrong – springtide high.

So I contacted Fred, as I had no contacts anymore. Four hiking companions turned up: from L to R: Sandy Louw, Clive Louw, Hans van Ameyde (meet leader), Maretha Alant and Fred van Berkel (photographer).

We left at 09h00 from the mouth of the Groot River which crossing was easy as it was very low tide.

After our coffee break on “Pig’s Head” we went the usual Tsitsikamma Trail up to the point where we turned off to Kovie. The weather was sunny and warm.

We then went through the bush and the mountain bike trail to find the small trail to the coast. Clive found a widened fishermen trail to the coast, but I stuck to my well-known trail to reach the coast. We met again at our well-known lunch spot.

We left quite early, may be because of fear for the spring tide, to reach the end of the trail around 15h00!

Thanks to local tourists some of us got help to cross the river, particularly our backpacks by canoe. I saw a big  problem for me due to my weak legs, drift sand and a very strong incoming current!

Two ladies noticed my problem and volunteered to support me and help me to cross the river.

Obviously, I gave them a big hug and kiss (on the cheek) as I appreciated their help so much.

After all, a beautiful day to spend in that area including beautiful weather.

Hans van Ameyde – meet leader

 

Hikers
Greg and Janet Moore, Peter and Marianne Halbsgut, Irmela Kohlsdorf, Saartjie v d Merwe, Hans v Ameyde, Fred v Berkel, Wolf Schneider, Dave Barnes (meet leader)

Thanks to Nicky v Berkel who took the group picture at the start but did not join the hike, engaged on a botany excursion.
Thanks to Fred v Berkel for supplementary pics.
The hike starts at Jubilee Creek and proceeds along the Outeniqua trail in the reverse direction. The initial part is through magnificent indigenous forest, unaffected by the fires which raged through the area.

Once we exited the indigenous area after about 4,5 kilometres and reached the former plantations the devastation was plain to see. There is ingress of aliens, quick to exploit the opportunity resulting from the fire damage.

Some of the logs placed on the pathway to control erosion have been reduced to charcoal. It is also evident that relatively few hikers have made use of this section of the trail between the Platbos and Millwood huts.

The Homtini was flowing strongly, so none of the party made the crossing using the fixed rope. We decided to have a lunch break on the eastern bank. Fortunately, it is possible to access a pool from this bank, and three of the party braved the cool water.

At the conclusion of the hike back at Millwood, some of the party stayed on at the picnic site for a braai. It was most enjoyable in warm sunshine, the first of the day.
The hike distance was just over 14 km.

Dave Barnes – meet leader

Towerkop with its cleft peak, as seen from the R62 on route from Barrydale to Ladismith in the Klein Karoo is a characteristic landmark. At 2189 m it stands higher as an obvious peak in the Klein Swartberg ridge line. Legend says a witch (tower) waved her wand and cleft the peak. It does feel somewhat haunted when you stand at the base of the peak itself – especially in the howling wind and swirling mist!

Climbing the actual peak has been popular amongst rock climbers, who normally overnight in Nel’s Cave in the cliffs forming the base of the peak.

The object of this trip was to camp out at the base camp/ tin shelter about halfway up the mountain. From here to experience the mystery of the mountain and enjoy the spectacular rocks which lie, perched or rolled all around you.

Access and permits.
The trail starts from the farm at Bo-Buffleskloof on the R103 outside Ladismith. As of 2019, in order to undertake this trail, there is a new system in place. The MCSA is a part owner in the property and bookings need to be made through Jan Viljoen / convener of all the Towerkop area properties.

Visit this web page above for details.

The Hiking party:
4 girls- Ruth Powell, Elna van der Walt, Mari Swart (guest) and Evie Bowen (meet leader); while only one guy dared to join in – Tony Bowen.

The Weather:
For an overnight stay in the high Swartberg where snow can fall at any time of year, accessing a good weather forecast is highly recommended. The weather did seem rather unsettled for the weekend. Always a tough call for the meet leader. A cold front with good rains for the winelands was on its way. Would this front continue into the Swartberg, or dash off to the south and dump most of the remaining rain in the sea?? In these current drought conditions of the past year this seems to be the norm.

Good weather sites are: –
https://www.yr.no/place/South_Africa/Western_Cape and
https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Seweweekspoortpiek/forecasts/2325

It seemed the forecast was for gale-force winds, some rain during Friday night, some cloud on Saturday, and the possibility of a 2nd front to arrive by Monday with snow on the high peaks! Thus … all being good, I decided to go ahead with the outing – needless to say, a few members cancelled due to weather or other commitments.

The hike details:
Friday – we started from the farm parking and hiked up to set up our camp for 2 nights at the base camp / Tin Shelter at 1425 m – 4-hour hike with packs, about 800 m of assent and 6 km.
Saturday – we hiked up through the various rocky sections which involve a scramble here and there, to reach Nel’s Cave at 1989 m and return to the campsite by the same way. This hike took about 3 hours up and included 560 m of ascent and distance of about 2.5 km.
Sunday – return to our cars at the start – leisurely 3.5hours, mostly downhill.

Our weekend:
We set off from the cars. Filled water bottles and approached our first hurdle. A locked gate.

With what seemed like very clumsy, heavy packs, we puffed our way up to the first ridgeline, and then on to the second. Despite very hot sunny October weather we were soon cooled off on higher ground by exceptionally strong gusting north westerly winds. In the camp getting our tents erected was a serious swearing event. Peg no 1 + guy rope + gale force wind = no progress!! Added to the wind, any ground is virtually absent, just rock upon rock.  Eventually almost all the guy ropes were fastened around rocks.

Elna, with a very small tent managed to wedge hers in a wind free spot between boulders, while clever Mari gave up on the wind, and pitched her inner tent in the shelter. Luckily still enough space in the tin shed for us all to cook our meal in wind free conditions. The shelter is so much cleaner and orderly compared to my last visit 2 years ago. I guess this may be as a result of our new convener in the area: Jan Viljoen.

The wind howled all night. Did I hear Macbeth’s 3 witches cry? During the night lovely to hear some rain on this dry landscape. Somehow, I think some of us slept. Tony & I, as well as Ruth managed to squeeze our bodies between the numerous heavy clumps of Restio plants under the ground sheet -which meant having to maintain an “S-bend” sleeping position for the entire night.

The next day cloud and drizzle. Hmm – should we all sleep a little longer! Eventually we set off. Finding the path was
relatively straight forward. We did however add the odd rock to some of the flattened cairns – in case of returning in even thicker mist.

Nel’s cave is a special experience. Sadly, no views out today, and we decided therefore not to do our full traverse.

We descended and eventually the clouds began to break up and warmer temperatures returned.

The vegetation is back, after a fire 3.5 years ago. It was all blackness during our SC MCSA visit in Sept 2017.

These tall white “pom- pom” flowers (Lachnaea pomposa) were quite distinctive and abundant on the higher slopes – while new fluffy Protea seedlings emerge all over.

Back at the camp – we were able to enjoy a very “quick dip and a few yells” in the icy river.
Later a wonderful evening outdoors, cooking and chatting as only 4 girls can, while watching the rosy skies fading in the west.

On our last day – Sunday the weather was perfect and after a slow break of camp, we returned to the start at around midday.

We all had a super weekend. My thanks to all the hikers – for so enjoying themselves and being completely delighted and awed by the majestic surroundings.

Many thanks for the pictures which we shared on our “WhatsApp’ group.

Evie Bowen – meet leader

Hikers:
Clive and Sandy Louw, Barbara Raubenheimer, Wendy Thompson, Geoff and Lorraine Ditchfield, Jude Cobern, Joan Louwrens, Fred v Berkel and Dave Barnes (meet leader).

The hike started in town where we met, and proceeded eastwards, then up the hill to our first stop at the paragliding site which was unusually deserted on a Saturday due to the unfavourable wind direction.

We stopped for a picture near Cloud Nine, with Cradock peak in the background.

Then down to Willow Point, site of Outward Bound camps, and along the lakeside.

On reaching the disused railway track we found it overgrown and decided to head across the N2, past the market and along the lake back to the start.

Good cool weather for the hike.
Most of the party met afterwards for a braai at Dave and Margie’s.
Distance was 14.3 km with 190 metres ascent. Walking time was just under 4 hours.

Dave Barnes – meet leader

 

 

The Swellendam trail has been on my list of trails to do for years. The trail was first opened in 1980. In 2012 a fire destroyed the paths and the hut at Boskloof. The trail is now open and back in frequent use again. The hut at Boskloof has been replaced with two corrugated iron structures.

The group: Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Karin van Niekerk (leader), Clive Louw, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Maretha Alant, Tony and Evie Bowen. In front: Jacolise Joubert and Sandy Louw.

Day 1 (14.72 km) is the longest day on the hike. We set off early, just after 7.30 am. According to Clive’s GPS our ascent for the day was 1100 m and distance 14.72 km (thanks Ed!). We frequently crossed streams and filled up water bottles and cooled down.

The average day temperatures were in the low 30 degrees for most of the hike, with the middle day at 34. We aimed for early starts every day to have some cool walking.

The hut that burned down has been replaced with two corrugated iron shelters and composting loos. Everyone had a splash, soak, or wash in the stream. On climbing out of the valley the next morning we noticed the very large pool above the hut that we all missed! Next time…..

The first night was a quiet affair, everyone tired and in bed early.

The corrugated iron shelters at Boskloof

Day 2: (10.08 km)
The trail passes across Goedgeloofnek (after about 7 km) before descending to the huts at Goedgeloof. This nek gives access to a ridge leading to Misty Point – a peak at 1710 m (one of the highest in the Langeberg), Arangieskop at 1700 m. The highest peak is Keeromsberg at 2075 m above Worcester.

After discussions with Derek Odendaal, Clive and Ed planned to take a 4-hour detour from the nek to get to Misty Point, weather permitting. They set out at first light. The rest of us left at around seven. Very clear skies and perfect weather for the peak detour. Tony, Evie, Jacolise and Maretha did a part of the ridge scramble and turned back after about 45 minutes. On Ed’s video you can see the very rocky, boulder scrambling towards the point.

Hiking along Drosterpas out of the valley above Boskloof.

Looking east along the Langeberg.

Lunch in the shade, below Goedgeloof nek.

Goedgeloof huts are stone cottages. We were happy to have cold showers after a long, hot descent. Ed and Clive arrived around 5 pm. Happy with their peak.

Supper at Goedgeloof

Day 3 (9.44 km) – hiking From Goedgeloof hut over Warmwaternek into protea valley.
The hottest day of the hike. We were glad to get to the hut and out of the sun by lunch time. We spent the afternoon relaxing. There is a small stream and most hikers had a splash in a shallow pool.

Protea valley – looking east towards Misty Point.

Sunrise over Misty Point – from Protea valley hut.

Day 4 – 7.36 km
The shortest day, after a short ascent to a nek, the trail descends all the way down to Wolfkloof hut at the foot of the Langeberg.

Halfway down, mist made for a cooler day in the fynbos.

At Wolfkloof hut beautiful pools called for a swim.

Another view northeast towards Protea valley and Misty point.

Day 5 – 10.72 km
As usual the day starts with a steep ascent out of the valley. Then the path contours along until you reach Marloth Reserve.

Some hikers left at 6 am to get back home for various commitments. The rest of us had a leisurely walk out, followed by cold showers at the cars and lunch in Swellendam.

A truly great walk in the mountains.
Pristine and beautiful fynbos, endless views and wilderness.
I heard murmurs of “when are we doing it again?” as we were leaving.
Thanks to everyone who participated and made it such an enjoyable and memorable hike.

Karin van Niekerk – meet leader

 

This hike was squeezed in at fairly short notice mainly for Gillian’s benefit, before she returned to work in the UK. From ten days before the hike it was apparent that the weather was not going to play along, with promises of up to 70mm of much needed rain. The weather reports in the following days fluctuated considerably and eventually I decided that Sunday the 29th was too risky, but Saturday the 28th looked acceptable.

The undeterred hikers were Greg & Janet Moore, Mike & Hillary Appelgryn, Tony & Evie Bowen, Gillian Forbes and Ed & James Kay Shuttleworth.

The weather was pleasant for hiking with a high overcast and a stiff south-east breeze that had a bit of a bite.

The route follows the Attakwaskloof trail to a neck and then strikes straight up the ridge.

We stopped for refreshments in a perfect wind shadow with the next peak looming above.

And pushed on, down to all fours in places.

But then things deteriorated. By this point we had climbed nearly 800m and had about 160m of climb still to go, but we were just about to reach a point where we could easily descend down to the Attakwaskloof pass below, so better sense dictated that we take it.

As we looked back, we could see the clouds, preceding the rain later.
A very enjoyable hike of 12km and 800m climb.

Greg Moore – meet leader

 

 

Blood, sweat and fears

Hiking off-trail in the Swartberg can sometimes be okay and sometimes extreme. I had my sight on the beautiful Kangoberg area for some time and worked out a probable achievable traverse route from Kruisrivier to Groenfontein (this is in the area between the Swartberg Pass and Calitzdorp). The best map and Google Earth images can’t show you everything, and leaves one with an adventure on hand. Potential participants were well aware of this.

Twelve brave souls turned up for the meet as we gathered at the Kruisrivier Guest Farm’s camping site on Friday afternoon. Derek Odendaal, Clive Louw, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Maretha Alant, Werner Frei, Johan Huisamen, Elna van der Walt and guests Clifton and Annalet Donald, Mari Swart and Milo (see the note at the end of the report).

Saturday was a perfectly clear day and we set off from the camp site following the Kruisrivier valley into the Swartberg. After a few kilo’s of easy walking, we went off-trail and ascended the slopes up to a height of about 1050 m asl. Our traverse to the west followed this height (more or less) along a wide terrace on the mountain slopes. Kangoberg and some of the other peaks still towered almost 1000 m above us. The scenery was great.

The vegetation was still low and relatively open after the fire of about 2½ years ago, so we made good progress. Then we reached the first deep kloof to cross (there were actually two close to one another). It was steep down and up again, with thick vegetation, but not too bad after all. At the bottom of the first one, we crawled in underneath some bushes and trees to get some shade for our lunch break. It was quite hot by now, due to a berg wind.

We continued on our route amidst a rising temperature, so the odd shady spot was welcomed. At about 3 pm we arrived at the second deep kloof to be crossed. I knew beforehand this one was more than 100 m deep, very steep and could stop us from going further. We also needed the water which was flowing down there….. Werner and I first went down the steep slope to see if we could reach the bottom. I was relieved to see it was possible. But going up the opposite slope looked rather challenging, if possible. But I believed we could get up, without risking our lives.

Going down with a pack was difficult, rough, uncomfortable and hot. Most of us were bleeding somewhere when we reached the bottom – even Milo. But we got down safely and welcomed the shade and cool water! Our planned camping spot was now close by. But we still had to get out of the kloof and we were all tired by then. Going up was very steep, rough and slow, but we also survived that. Soon we arrived at our camping spot (with water close by) and could pitch our tents with a wonderful view of the Swartberg peaks. I was delighted that we could reach this spot and I celebrated it with some whisky – Bains Mountain whisky.

The next day was cloudy and grey – even misty at times. We continued along our traverse and I knew there were no more serious obstacles. Further on we just had to get down the mountain along an unknown ridge. For most of the way it was rather gradual, but the last 200 m descent was rough, steep and rocky. We were all glad when we reached the floor of the Groenfontein valley. The last few kilometers to where we left two vehicles on Friday, passed quickly.

I was fortunate that I had a group of tough hikers for this rough traverse. And I was very thankful that no-one got injured along the way. Above all: everybody enjoyed this “Derek Special”! What a group!

Milo:
Milo is a golden Labrador, owned by the people at Kruisfontein. He likes the campers and the food they give him. He also likes walking with people – but he didn’t know what he was in for when he joined our hike on Saturday morning! He cheerfully ran along, sniffing around and enjoying himself. Eventually we realised we will not get rid of him – even after Johan turned back late morning (as was his plan) and lured the dog along with him with a fair amount of biltong.

Eventually Milo did the entire traverse with us. He is a tough dog with tough paws and athletic abilities, although we had to assist him here and there going up the steep slopes. He loves swimming and polluted every stream we came across (because he always arrived first). He also bled after going through that rough kloof, and was very tired that evening. He eats everything, even egg shells, vegetables, chicken bryani, Post Toasties and dried fruit. Or did the exercise just made him that hungry? But he has good manners and was never a nuisance. No wonder his owner was very glad to see him again on Sunday afternoon. What a dog!

Derek Odendaal – meet leader

 

Mountain Club of South Africa