Mad Dogs and an Englishman go forth in the midwinter Karoo sun

Arriving at Fonteintjie, at the foot of Teebus in the early afternoon on Friday we had time for a quick visit to nearby Steynsburg before it was time to camera bag Koffee and Tee bathing in the golden glow of a late afternoon winter sun. The following morning we decided Koffee would precede Tee and with overnight temperatures hovering around freezing we waited until the thermometer was starting to rise before driving over to the base of Koffeebus. Whilst not a big mountain this iconic Karoo Koppie will make you labour before you can leap with reward upon its summit. At moments it was quite literally two steps forward for each slip back.

Koffiebus

Teebus

These Koppies owe their existence to a brief geological window about 180 million years ago when molten magma forced its way up to the surface of the earth from 100’s of kilometres beneath the surface. This formed narrow layers of dolerite ( sills ) which being harder than their surrounds formed hard caps which today give us this typical Karoo feature. Although a hard rock dolerite weathers in such a way as to form blocks and is surprisingly brittle which presents quite a challenge to prospective climbers.

Under starter’s orders (L-R : Clive Louw, Gillian Forbes, Rina de Leur, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth-Leader )

Koffeebus can lay claim to no less than three Trig beacons on it’s top. We visited each one in turn and peered over the edge at certain points. During these proceedings the hike leader managed to divorce himself from the remaining group ( or was it vice-versa ? ) and it was only after establishing that neither party had been blown off the top, as by
now the wind had picked up considerably in strength, that communications were reestablished and the group descended off the Koppie. This downward momentum combined with the loose marble like rocks scattered across its surface produced considerable wear and tear to member’s lower limbs and half the party decided to pass on the  afternoon Tee.

Beacon no 1 atop Koffie with Tee in the background

And so, after a quick sandwich in the farmhouse one Mad Dog and the Englishman set off up Tee. The ascent appeared somewhat easier than the morning and after about 60 minutes they found themselves at the base of the final obstacle. Peering upwards immediately resulted in a very stiff neck and induced waves of vertigo in half the climbing party. In anticipation of such circumstances the week prior had been spent scouring the Club’s constitution where a small sentence had been uncovered basically instructing committee and accompanying members not to place themselves in unnecessary peril for personal gain. After some deliberation it was agreed that without further equipment vertical progress would be in violation of the constitution and it was elected to undertake a complete circumnavigation of the summit. This was duly undertaken and successfully completed before the descent ensued and saw us back in our farmhouse shortly before sunset.

Teebus – the final obstacle

From the Orange to the Fish

The next morning ( Sunday ) we drove 1.5 Kms to inspect the Orange Fish river tunnel outlet on the neighbouring property. Full details of this engineering project can be found at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange– Fish_River_Tunnel

Plaatfontein between Hofmeyer and Steynsburg – La Chute sans eau !

We then headed off in to one of the emptier corners of the Karoo in search of a waterfall. We did indeed find a rock feature that under the right conditions would be a very impressive waterfall but not at this moment given the drought conditions that currently exist. By midday we were heading back to the Garden Route but not in such a hurry that we didn’t have time to make detours to Middleburg and Aberdeen amongst other notable N9 waymarks.
So, lets just – “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Ed Kay-Shuttleworth – meet leader

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The weather forecast the week before the hike was not looking good, with light rain forecast for Friday night into Saturday morning. People were worried about the rocks around the Point being slippery from rain and sea spray. However, the weather gods were smiling on us and a most glorious sunny day awaited the 12 hikers.

The group consisted of 10 club members and 2 guests.

Left to right: Dave Barnes, Irmela Kohlsdorf, Wolf Schneider, Geoff Ditchfield, Clive Louw, Mike von der Heyde, Dave Edge, Hanna Edge, Attie Cilliers, Rea Cilliers and Romy Foster (Fred van Berkel behind the camera)

We set off on the path on the northern side of the peninsula, stopping frequently to look at the seal colonies, which you smell and hear first before you see them. The grown ups were swimming in the sea, while the pups were having a great time in the baby rock pools!

Cape Fur Seal Colony

Walking on the northern side

Along the way Fred gave us an introduction into the geology of the peninsula, while Dave Edge told us about the very threatened Knysna Sand Fynbos. The Robberg is one of the few places where this vegetation type can still be found in its (mostly) unaltered state.

We stopped at The Point for lunch (although it was only 11 o’clock), and had a great time watching the seals cavort in the waves. Then we tackled the colder, more rugged southern side of the peninsula, but the weather was  wonderful and there was no sign of slippery rocks. The frequent NSRI signposts however reminded us that the coastline is not always so benign. It is a good idea to save these numbers in one’s cellphone for further reference.

NSRI Information Boards

Going down towards the Fountain Shack

Another break was taken at The Island beach, although nobody had the courage to go for a dip – skinny or otherwise! Back at The Gap some people were just having a break when a shark was spotted cruising along in the very clear water – probably looking for a juicy seal or two. Just as well nobody went swimming.

Some of the group at The Island beach

Cruising shark

Hike stats: Total distance: approximately 9 km

Total time: 4 hours (including stops)

Thank you to everybody who came and enjoyed the day!

Hanna Edge – meet leader

 

 

 

 

 

Hikers: –
Ruth Powell, Gillian Forbes, Tanjje Strauss, Judy Dixon, Maretha Alant, Joan Louwrens, Terry Hime, Fran Hunziker, Mai Petersen, Greg Moore, Fred van Berkel, Greg and Cheryl Devine, Wolf Schneider, Eugene and Avril Fichardt, Dave and Gill Manley, Peter and Marianne Halbsgut, Charles and Lindsay Smith, Clive and Sandy Louw, Ed and Mimi Kay-Shuttleworth, Karin V Niekerk with guest Janet Meintjes, Dave Barnes (meet leader) with guests Pete and Ewa Richmond.

The hike had been postponed from the previous Saturday due to a winter storm with icy winds and rain. A week later conditions could not have been better. It was like a perfect early spring day.

Our club had permission to view the newly upgraded section of path along the dune section of the Goukamma trails, which will shortly be reopened to the public.

It was gratifying to see the recovery after the fires, and the section of cleared path made for easy walking.

Three of our number braved the high tide and low sea temperature and had a swim at the turning point. It was not possible to make the return along the beach due to the unfavourable tide, which resulted in an out and back hike. This meant more ups and downs, 900 metres of ascent and descent, enough to persuade most of us to visit the Lake Pleasant hotel afterwards for necessary rejuvenation of body and spirit.

The hike took just under 6 hours with stops. Distance was 15.9 km.

Thanks to Fred van Berkel for the pics.

Dave Barnes – Meet leader

 

O siyeza, O siyeza, sizofika webaba noma
O siyeza, O siyeza, siyagudle lomhlaba
Siyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama
Lapha sobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka

We are coming, we are coming, we will arrive soon
We are coming, we are coming, we are moving across this earth
We are crossing over those dark mountains
Where we will lay down our troubles

These words from the late Johnny Clegg’s song “ The Crossing” carry the same strength today as they did in 1993 when the song was first published. And so, I think it appropriate to open my report with these words immortalised by the “White Zulu” as they so succinctly describe our experience hiking up the Western Cape’s highest peak at the precise moment that he was ending his own mortal struggle.

For us yesterday there was no crossing as we did not traverse across the summit from one side to the other. Instead our group which had assembled the previous evening at Sandriver Cottage set out in the early hours of a Tuesday morning with the aim of a one day summit bid. Normally Seweweekspoortpiek is tackled from the South which is a long two day climb with an overnight in a cave near the summit. However from the North the distance is much shorter and with the correct weather conditions we knew a quick and light ( day packs ) foray would have a good chance of success.

L-R : Gillian Forbes, Jacolise Joubert, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth ( Leader ), Werner Frei, Clive Louw.

The weather on Tuesday was near perfect – there was quite a stiff breeze blowing from a North-westerly direction which had quite a nip. In fact it was just enough to keep us nicely refreshed whilst on the move and to stop us from lingering for too long when we paused for rest.

Fire struck the lower slopes over three years ago and I think this has made the route much more accessible as one doesn’t have to fight through head high Proteas at the beginning. There is some sign of re-growth but it is very slow so one’s passage is pretty easy and we didn’t get blackened from head to toe as one does immediately after a fire. After about 400 metres from the road beside which we left our transport one starts to climb – at first this is gentle but then one enters a rocky section alongside a kloof where one has to thread one’s way through some enormous rocks and boulders. On ones left one can peer down into the kloof where the side walls are exposed to reveal a tortuous example of the folding for which this part of the Cape Fold Mountains is famed. If rocks could speak they would be screaming.

If rocks could speak – these would surely be screaming !

Emerging from this section there is then a flatter section of about a kilometre or so before one reaches the final  section up to the skyline where scrambling and boulder hopping is the order of the day.

Rocks in all shapes and sizes

Entry by window and exit by door

There is no fixed route up this side of the mountain. Last time I tackled it we were carrying full-packs and we had to take that into account with the line that we chose. With no such encumbrance we were somewhat less constrained and so we made a beeline straight for the skyline. This is a more direct and enjoyable route and one soon finds oneself on the ridge criss-crossing from the North to the South side. One does this for about 700-800 metres dodging in and out of enormous rock formations and passing beneath rocky overhangs before finally there is a short climb to the summit proper.

Happy hikers on the summit @ 2326 m
Photo credit: Gillian Forbes

We took 4 ½ hours to reach the top so arriving there before midday we had time for a relaxing lunch break nestled away from the wind. On the descent we stopped at the “Stone of Damocles” to take pictures and marvel at this feature before resuming a fairly long and very rocky descent back to our transport.

Is it Hercules or Damocles ?

A second night was spent in Sandriver cottage where we recuperated in front of an enormous log fire (indoor braai) and continued our debate, started in earnest the evening, before about the aptness of being in a group named after an undefined and possibly unrecognised area ( South Cape ) versus an equally undefined but significantly more recognisable area (Garden Route ).

So lets just – “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Ed Kay-Shuttleworth – meet leader

 

 

Seven attended, Greg Moore, Dave Manley, Jillian Manley, Janet Moore, Hilary Appelgryn and guest Trish Coninx. Gillian as leader.

Due to a west wind we decided to do the trail from Dana Bay to Mossel Bay Point. The Blaze trail forms part of the greater Oystercatcher trail starting at the Gourits River mouth – this is a lovely walk on its own.

We had a lovely day out in the sun, with sightings of both whales and dolphins. We did the 13.5 km in a reasonable time and where back in time for a stopover at Delfinos for a great ending for the day.

Gillian Forbes – meet leader

Regrettably, due to the unrest on the N2 in Plettenberg Bay last Friday, 9 of the originally 11 expected hikers cancelled. Subsequently, the only three left were Irmela (member), my daughter Femmy (Guest) and myself.
We left at 11h40 from the Enrico boardwalk in an easterly direction.

We had our lunchbreak around 13h30 at Grootbank and then proceeded via our rope-assisted uphill climb from the coast below Forest Hall.

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 16h00, which we crossed with dry feet to climb up again into the bush above the beach as the tide was too high.

We arrived at Enrico’s around 16h45 to have a well-deserved drink and pizza for Irmela.

We were very fortunate with the excellent mid-winter weather we had and enjoyed this hike along this section of the coast tremendously. I regret the 9 last minute cancellations but fully understand the reason why.

Hans van Ameyde – meet leader

Left – right: Greg and Cheryl Divine, Clive and Sandy Louw, Mike von der Heyde and Romy Foster, Wolf Schneider, Gerrie Forbes (guest) in background and Gillian Forbes (camera)

Quick breather to enjoy the view

On the narrow path to Tierkop hut

Morning break at Tierkop hut

An easy walk with a few steeper bits, Sandy and Romy, with Mike in background, George Peak in distance.

Beautiful wooded section just before the saddle

Kransberg saddle, lunch break and chance to admire the views

Cradock Peak from the east side

View of the sea and rock formations on way home, Wolf and Cheryl on way back

Gillian Forbes – meet leader

The group consisted of 5 people – Stewart Stiles (leader), Christine Stiles, Phillipa Barnard, Gillian Forbes and Dennis Weaver (visitor from USA). The weather was not great with early morning rain following a night of rain.

The group set out just after 07h00 from Witfontein.

The rain fell lightly and the small stream after passing the Witfontein plantations that one normally crosses by hopping across a couple of boulders proved to be a significant obstacle. It was now considerably deeper and fast flowing. Dennis decided that as he was travelling internationally the following week, he did not want to risk any  activity that might result in injury. He therefore elected not to cross the stream and did his own short hike in the area around the George mast keeping in touch with me throughout the morning until he returned to the cars.

An interesting feature just below the saddle was the small spring that often provides us with water. This was huge by comparison with its normally almost dry state.

We reached the saddle between George and Cradock Peaks just after 10h30 where we had a brief stop.

Needless to say, the ground was extremely muddy and slippery, so we exercised a lot of caution.

We summited Cradock Peak at about 11h50 where we had a quick lunch.

Due to the wet slippery conditions I decided that it was best not to try to do the George Peak section of the hike, so we did not need to rush the descent.

We were disappointed to note that some motor bike scramblers had been along the path below the railway line whilst we were on the hike. Their wheels had dug into the wet ground badly and had caused significant potential for erosion. I have sent pics of the tracks to Cape Nature.

We headed back down to the cars and the hike ended at approximately 16h10.

Thanks to all those who attended the hike.

Stewart Stiles – meet leader

 

A late start after some members had to undergo a close examination of wild cards and sign away their lives with the new indemnity forms.
This is a 9 km walk with a drop and rise of about 200 m with a coastal section of a few km. It was a pleasant day out with plenty of snack and viewing stops. Lots of new growth since the 2017 fires that totally burnt out a large section of this lovely trail.

Group photo – left to right: Clive Louw, Marianne and Peter Halbsgut, Tony Bowen, Maretha Alant, Cheryl Divine
front row: Sandy Louw, Ruth Powell, Wolf Schneider and Greg Divine.
Gillian Forbes – camera.

First snack break at bottom of the trail.

Start of coast section with lovely orange rocks

New growth on a badly burnt area

 

Gillian Forbes – meet leader

Participants/ members
Greg & Janet Moore; Gillian Forbes, Tony & Evie Bowen; Ulrike & Bruno Baldzuhn; Karin van Niekerk; Ed & Mimi Kay-Shuttleworth; Analyn Knight; Gonny Houtsma; Ruth Powell; Ann McGregor; Sanet van Meersbergen: Wolf Schneider; Tannje Strauss.
Participants / guests
Janet Meintjies: Graham Moore resident in the UK; Dennis Weaver from Oregon USA; and 2 extra guests brought by Ed.

Details
Hike distance and duration:
The Meet leader had estimated about 700m of height gain, and 15 km of distance to cover – however some of the participants say that their GPS trackers measured around 19 km!! They obviously did loads of extra steps!! A fast pace was set – thus we managed to finish in the allotted 6 hours.
Access, permits and trail head:
The hike in the Groeneweide Forest Reserve is controlled by SANParks. There is a “stand” at the trail head, where self-issue permits, and maps can be obtained.
Grade: The hike was offered as a grade 2M.
We followed a good footpath or track for the hike. In order to reach our “Kop”, a short section of both up and downhill of no path was encountered.

Note: The meet leader was possibly using the wrong name for our peak. Local mountain peaks and
koppie names are often very variable. No wonder Google does not include them on their maps. Looking at the “Garden Route” Slingsby maps, I notice the Koppie immediately behind Groenkop, which is the one we hiked to, is marked as “Haarnaald” at 734 m, while the further peak seems to be Paddakop, (See photo taken on a previous hike to Tierkop), and the highest peak is Melville Peak. Strange though – as I have heard local people using the name Haarnaald for the more northern peak at 918 m??

Hike details:
It was a wonderful day out. Perfect hiking weather. Our party of 21 hikers and the meet leader set of at a brisk pace from our cars which were parked at Strawberry Hill. Some super patches of local indigenous forest, which remained unscathed after the George fires of October 2018. Only the perimeter trees were affected.

Majestic views toward Cradock Peak and George Peak as we gained higher ground. Here the extent of the fires is very evident.

We climbed over numerous burnt pine logs to reach our” Paddakop” for the day. At this point the group showed off their different priorities. Some of us coming to grips with our very meagre snacks, while some relaxed into rather fancy prepacked home cooked Thai food-delish! Tony adopted a comfortable posture in his normal style. Ed was busy coming to terms with the Club’s newest gadget – the “SAT NAV”, and even Evie was given a brief introduction, while Gill concentrated on the info given. Our overseas visitors, Dennis and Graham stayed upright enjoying the circular views.

On the return no one was prepared for a dip in the pools just off the “Red route”. Ulrike dots the water with a few toes only!!

Finally, a meander in and out of the tall indigenous forest trees, where numerous tracks abound. Luckily with the aid of a cell phone, we did not lose any of the acceptable 10% of the party and all arrived back saying “despite it being a longish hike – it had been most enjoyable”. Some of the hikers even managed an extra stroll in a garden in “Wilderness Heights” in order to end the day replenishing their energy levels.

Thanks to all who participated and for enjoying yourselves. Many thanks to Strawberry Hill, for the excellent free parking.

Evie Bowen – meet leader

Mountain Club of South Africa

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