The Mountain Club is full of elderly people, otherwise known as “crocks’ or “old farts”. Being unable, or forgetting to demand their democratic rights, they are underprivileged and shunted off to wheelchairs and old-age homes from which they wistfully gaze at distant mountains. This, to use a term beloved of politicians, is “unacceptable” in our democratic, new South Africa. After all, unless you are lucky enough to die young, you too will soon be an underprivileged old fart. It was therefore decided to hold a protest march in true South African style. We had no old tyres to burn, as these are on our vehicles, so we decided on having a Geriatric Meet, instead. Careful research revealed that an ideal route for the march was available at Nature’s Valley.

Merv Prior proposed himself as Meet Leader. His credentials for the position were accepted as being impeccable. Apart from being 91 years old, having a pace-maker and one blind eye, leaving about 80% vision, he suffers from dementia and has already forgotten what happened yesterday. He has also a wonderful reputation for getting lost in unlikely places. It was, of course, obvious that the real power behind the scene would be his wife, Jean, who was, naturally, the real leader.

The starting time for the walk was set at the civilised hour of 10h30: we old farts value our morning snooze and leisurely breakfast. We gathered without mishap on the beach around our leader who was waving a piece of cardboard with MCSA on it and set out along the beach. We were actually quite relieved to see that our club meets convener had also come along with Nicky, his wife, to make sure that we did not lose any old farts. We are not quite sure that they comply with the over 70 requirements to be one.

The Groot river mouth was open, which meant that we had to take boots off to cross it. Here we encountered some dissension. The nominal leader proposed to cross at a wide bend in the river, whereas the real leader insisted on crossing at the mouth where it is always shallow. She decided, unilaterally, to cross there, although it adds about a kilometre to the walk. While waiting for her, Fred looked for and found a path up to the road, as both leaders had forgotten the exact position of the proper path. The crossing was ankle-deep.

The main part of the walk was very pleasant along the river bank to where the washed-away bridge used to be. Here there is a deviation to cross a small tributary of the Groot, where there is a chain and a ladder. Luckily the water was low enough to cross without removing boots.

Near the road bridge we deviated and followed the boardwalk through magnificent forest to the picnic spot with tables and benches where the leader had planned to have the lunch break, arriving at 13h05. The real leader, however, over-ruled this and insisted on going to a scenic spot on the river bank below towering cliffs.

After lunch we crossed the bridge and took the pipe track, ignoring the NO ENTRY signs which are obviously not meant for MCSA members. We got back to the cars at 15h00, having walked 5.8km by Fred’s GPS watch. The leader’s attempts to sell his latest book “Almost” to the party at this point were unsuccessful, sad to say.

Attending the Geriatrix meet: Mervyn Prior (Meet Leader), Jean Prior (the Real Leader), Fred van Berkel (photographer), Nicky van Berkel, Margrit and Erich Brack and Wolf Schneider.

 

Merv Prior – meet leader

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On the meet: Nicky & Fred van Berkel, Dave & Margie Barnes, Sandy Louw, Evie Bowen and Janet Moore.

On Saturday at 9 am on a cool but bright morning 6 of us meet up to start a gentle hike over the top of Paardekop Farm, in the Attakwaskloof. Nicky started about 15 minutes to get a head start on us as the road is quite steep to begin with. After walking up the road towards the boundary gate we turned right and walked through pines up toward the back of the farm. Towards the top turned right again and followed the farm track around the top. We stopped for a short while at this turn.

We took it very slowly and Nicky and Evie did some botanising.

The first part of track had burnt about 10 years ago. When we came to the first track down towards the stone cottage, Dave and Margie decided to take this route. It is a bit steeper towards the bottom, but shorter.

By now we have split into 3 groups. Nicky and Fred coming along slowly, Dave and Margie on the downward route , leaving Sandy, Evie and myself to continue along the track which slowly winds down toward the main farm road. This part only burnt about 20 months ago and so was very interesting for the botanists in the group.

At the bottom we made our way to the old farm road, as this part of farm only burnt in January. It has been very dry until the previous weekend, so was lovely to see all the new growth.

The 3 groups took between 3 hrs and 7hrs to travel approximately 7km.

A very social walk and I think enjoyed by all.

Janet Moore – meet leader

The meet was originally scheduled for 8th September but was postponed due to the strong cold front. There were only four takers for the tough hike / scramble, Clive Louw, Tony Bowen (photographer), Phillippa Barnard (new member) and Greg Moore, meet leader.

The day dawned cold and bright, with a little cloud forecast for later, perfect hiking weather.

A rather leisurely start was made, hiking commenced at 0830. The area having burnt two years previously ensured that we didn’t have to fight our way through the bush, but there were plenty of sharp, burnt branches to avoid. The going was very steep with no path and lots of scrambling.

As we neared the top the cloud came down but didn’t obstruct our fine views of the Attakwas valley. The 580 m climb took two hours and was only 2.25 km long.

The Attakwasberg centre left.

Breakfast at the top was taken with the cloud sitting just above our heads.

There was a possibility of doing a ridge walk from here but having attained the peak and looking at the rugged, difficult ridge, a general lethargy came over us and it was decided to head down in time for lunch.

A very satisfying peak with fine views and worth repeating.

Greg Moore – meet leader

The Swartberg in the Ladismith area offers some of the most dramatic and most pristine mountain scenery in the Southern Cape. These mountains are also the highest in the region. The Liggie Trail gives the hiker a great display of the beauty and grandeur of these mountains. It is a circular day walk of 14 km and takes you high up on the slopes of Elandsberg (almost 1000 m ascent and descent!)

Fifteen enthusiastic members gathered in Ladismith on Saturday morning (Greg and Cheryl Devine, Tony and Evie Bowen, Fred and Nicky van Berkel, Clive Louw, Karin van Niekerk, Maretha Alant, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Greg and Janet Moore, Sanet van Meersbergen, Jacolise Joubert and the leader, Derek Odendaal). We were joined by 3 members of Klein Karoo Hiking Club, Danie Steyl, Wessel Steyl and Pieter van der Walt. It was a beautiful sunny day and turned out to be quite mild.

We walked the trail anti-clockwise, which makes the climb rather steep and exhausting. But the descent is softer on the legs and joints! The plan was to include visits to two exceptional rock art sites, both off the route and still higher than the highest part of the trail. Getting to the first one proved to be more challenging and rougher than expected, and we abandoned the effort (also because the exact location was not known).

Reaching the second site (not far from the Liggie) was still a challenge and only three of us had the energy and the enthusiasm to scramble up the slope. It proved to be worth the effort. It is a very special site, at the base of a huge overhanging rock wall with a very thin waterfall raining down on the grassy slope. Many of the images are substantially larger than most San paintings and still well preserved.

After descending the mountain, 13 of us stayed the night at the Kliphuis, a very comfortable and well-equipped house about 4 km outside of Ladimith. On Sunday morning some went home, some explored the area at leisure, while six of us went into Waterkloof, just to the east of Elandsberg. This is a very deep kloof with a nice stream, cut into the ancient Swartberg rock. We had to wade most of the way and we truly enjoyed the scenery and unspoiled nature of the kloof. Going home didn’t seem right – the weekend was too short.

 

 

Leader: Dave Jones, supported by Fay and Peter Halbsgut.
Hikers: 14 members and 3 guests.
A Team: Clive (sub-leader) and Sandy Louw, Greg and Janet Moore, Fred van Berkel, Marianne Halbsgut, and Maretha Alant with guests Sharon and Marina.
B Team: Dave (sub-leader), Bill & Di Turner, Dave & Margie Barnes, Mike von der Heyde, Romy Foster and guest.

Braaiers: Greg and Cheryl Devine, Blythe and Wendy Thompson, Tony and Evie Bowen, Fay Jones, Peter Halbsgut plus the B Team.

A well supported Meet in very pleasant weather but with a chaotic start at the Farmers’ Market, busy as it ever is over a long weekend. Getting the hikers and their braai gear gathered and loaded into cars for transport to the start point and then on to the Yacht Club proved quite a challenge, fighting against the 9 a.m. rush of visitors trying to get into the market.

The hike started at the Swartvlei car park where we got going at 9.30 in the face of the stormiest seas anybody could remember and real doubt as to whether we would even get to Gericke Point as the waves were so high although it was only 1 hour past low water. These fears were confirmed by Bill and Di who had started earlier but had been turned back at Gericke’s by the waves and had opted to find another hike, far from the sea.

Undaunted, the main party set off for Gericke Point for a quick reorganisation as the waves along the first rocky sections after Gericke were huge and the tide was not going to wait for anybody. Clive generously agreed to take over leadership of a fit (brave? foolish?) A Team and set off at a cracking pace. The B Team, all slower walkers, wisely turned back.

Chicken-leader, Dave, arranged to be dropped off at Kleinkrantz by the support team on its way to the Yacht Club as he had previously marked out an interesting, scratchy route across the dunes to get to the Yacht Club a further 3 km on. Clive’s A Team made very commendable progress along the beach, in spite of rough waves, a rising tide and drenching at times to get to Kleinkrantz by 12.30. But it had been a very tough, worthy of the Mountain Club 12 km to get to that point, so an offer by Dave to call up relief vehicles from the Braaiers was gratefully accepted.

With the help of the relief vehicles, all were in at the Yacht Club by 13.30 where a very pleasant Spring Braai was then enjoyed at this charming venue.

Thanks to all who took part to help see Spring arrive.

Dave Jones – meet leader

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

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

 

 

Mountain Club of South Africa

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