This page contains a list of brief descriptions of past meets. It is a great way to monitor how successful the planned meets were. Whenever reporting back on a meet, try think of our older members who are not as fit and able as they used to be. They might be sitting in a home longing for our local mountains, a good meets report could just spark a nostalgic mental mountain mission! It is always a treat to get these older members together and hear recollections of their time in the mountains many moons ago. We encourage all past meets leaders to contribute to this page, the older the story the better!
Leaders should please try to submit their stories and photos of past meets to the secretary as soon as possible after the meet. We will be posting the report and photos on this site and on our social media pages.
The day started badly. Even in my sleep filled mind it seeped through that it was getting light outside, and my alarm hadn’t gone off at 06:00 as planned. I looked at my watch whose luminescence glowed weakly but enough to show it was 06:45. WHAT… 06:45…I was due to get to Brent’s place at 07:15. I couldn’t do it – I had to.
I jumped out of bed and threw some clothes on. Packed a day sack on auto pilot and rushed downstairs to get some food together. But first, animal can’t suffer because I screwed up! Feed the cat, feed the dog and let it outside, and finally feed the chickens. What must be done was done, and I backed the car down the drive – Don’t hit the gatepost just because you are late!
I made it to Brent’s place by 07:15 on the dot, and Brent offered to drive, which was great as I could eat and drink some vitals I had thrown in a bag. We picked up Helen and we set off along the N2 heading for Constantia Nek.
Brent drives like – well most powerful bakkie drivers - the road is his and I’m bigger than you! So we made fast time and pulled into the Constantia Nek car park at 08:10. Our guide Suzanne Smith was waiting for us, so ‘no pressure’ but get yer boots on and lets go.
It was strange to set off diagonally into Orange Kloof, instead of going up the track and path to Bel Ombre, but good to be heading off for new ground and to add a little more to my knowledge of the Table Mountain complex jigsaw of environments, hills tops, valleys and ravines.
The jeep track gains steady height, made easier by frequent stops as Suzanne and Helen swapped notes on the flora, with Brent interjecting with Geological info, which I love to learn about.
An hour took us past the towering distant De Villiers dam wall and up into the heart of Orange Kloof. The track now changes to the ‘Peoples Trail’. Which is a bit of a conundrum, as the people aren’t allowed on it without a permit. This path is well laid, but is suddenly steeper as we gained more height into the back of the Kloof, with Hells Gates and Frustration Ridge away to our left. One wonders what went on to cause such names.
Heading up 'Peoples Trail'
The sun had yet to reach us, as the Kloof is partly protected by the towering cliffs of its northern bastions, and as it had been raining that night the
undergrowth was want to give of its moisture that hung in glittering diamonds of water on every leaf, grass stem, and spider web. I hung back in third place (of four) hoping that the front-runners would glean most of the wetness, but I still got soaked.
We reached a path junction marked on Slingsby’s map as ‘Journeys End’. But it wasn’t the end of our journey. A short descent took us down to the entrance of the original Woodhead tunnel. I spent some time on Google and put together this brief history:
Brent crossing to the Woodhead Tunnel
Burgeoning Cape Town had been getting its water from a small steam on the west side of the mountain. The drought of 1880 came as a shock, so something had to be done, and the only alternative supply was to tap the waters of Disa Gorge on the far side of the mountain. A pipeline was begun from Cape Town along the west side of the mountain, and at the same time, to meet the pipeline, the Woodhead tunnel was carved through the rock from Slangolie ravine to the outfall of Disa Gorge. This was complete in 1891.
Almost immediately it was realized that even this step was not enough and the Woodhead dam, complete in 1897, was built to store the winter waters and control the flow. Still more water was required and the Hely-Hutchinson dam was complete in 1904.
By the 1950’s the Woodhead tunnel was degrading badly, partly from corrosion in the cast iron pipe caused by the powerful flow of water. A second tunnel was then completed in 1964, making the Woodhead tunnel redundant. The ‘second’ so-called Apostles Tunnel ends 100m to the north of the Woodhead, exiting on Woody Buttress.
Inside the 1891 Woodhead Tunnel
We ascended Disa Gorge to cross the stream and entered the Apostles entrance. Incidentally, I found a UTube of four intrepid youths who had explored both tunnels, traversing the length of Woodhead, but finding the lower end of the Apostles locked, 640m down the steep tunnel, then 640m back up again – many steps and endless darkness and rushing water!. It is an interesting view on UTube.
We headed on up Disa Gorge, along the deep ravine filled with luxurious verdant trees, ferns and early spring flowers until we reached the fine stepped waterfall from the spillway of the dam above us – a rarely viewed treat in itself. Lunch on top then a leisurely walk down, asking passing walkers if they knew the score of the Lions Vs Hurricanes game.
Entrance to Apostles Tunnel
We strolled over the flats past De Villiers dam whilst Suzanne talked of the Wynburg caves, which we will go past on the clubs planned hike for the 25th September. Then that long descent down the track back to Constantia Nek - I don’t like downhill. Ah well it had been a great day, I had learnt a lot, and filled in some gaps of my TM knowledge. Thanks to Suzanne from all of us for organizing the trip.
Steve Chadwick 9thAug2016
Our guide Suzanne heading up Disa
Gorge to the dam
This time it was a combined meet of the Cape Town and Hottentots Hollands Sections. Guess which section prevailed in number? The day was beautiful, sunny and warm. The only small inconvenience was darky water, due to Friday’s rain. Otherwise it was kloofing as usual – jumping and swimming, lots of joy! Rope was in use on the rocky traverse, few people felt safer when on belay. Wojtek’s waterproof camera was a real asset. See few selected photos, to make you envy!
Brent and I are both members of the MCSA, and Brent this crazy idea – so I loved it! A weekend up at the hut just before Christmas with our partners who had never stayed in a mountain hut before - one had never even camped before.
The conversation went something like:
“What do you mean there’s no power?
What do you mean there’s no internal running water, and no HOT water??
What do you mean the loo is outside half way up a hill?
And no mirror?”
Brent and I promised to look after Tilana and Tania. It had to be good, or it might be the end of any ‘outdoors’ relationships.
Thus it was a heavily laden party of four who struggled along the path to the hut carrying all sorts of luxuries to make sure the ladies had a nice time. Even so, we were a little worried as to how the girls would react.
The journey thus far had not been without excitement. It had begun with a wine tasting at Lourensford estate. I got the feeling that Brent and Tilana went there quite often as they were greeted with open arms, and the tasting samples were sooooo generous (hic!). We eventually tore ourselves away and slightly worse for wear, we went to check in at the Vergelegen estate gate.
Brent’s big 4x4 buckie took the humps with ease, but we almost didn’t make one sharp bend as Brent was busy looking up at the mountains. We shouted a hysterical warning and I was sure we were going over the edge into a ditch. Images of severe embarrassment - needing a tow out of the ditch flashed before my eyes, but Brent managed to wrench the wheel around as we teetered on the edge and drove on. At least for us, this corner is now called Brent’s Bend.
In many times of stopping at the traps I had never seen a snake there, but this was to be the start of a very special wildlife weekend.
To my surprise, there was a nice sized puff adder with its head just out of the water.
Anyway, a start of excitement for the weekend. There couldn’t be anything else could there?
Happily, we shed our loads and we showed the ladies the Loo with a View and the swimming hole. They were beginning to be impressed with the hut and the outstanding scenery, and we guys breathed easier.
When our mates are happy, life is much better.
We lowered four mattresses down from the loft and spread them out on the stoop, then got the inside fire going to heat up the lasagne. There followed a fine meal followed by good wine. We sat for a while under the stars. At least some of us did. Soon a gentle female snore could be heard from the stoop, whilst we sat looking up at the stars. We dissected South African politics and other weighty world issues before I too baled and laid out with my 1.9m frame overhanging the stoop edge. Sleep came easy!
Sunset. Got to be one of the best loo views in the world
Sometime in the wee small hours I sensed something furry pushing against my overhanging feet. I must have been dreaming, right?
Saturday was heralded by the rising sun subduing the dark as slowly the orange orb crept up and over the mountains behind us, and then shone down in early shades of pink on the flanks of the Dome and West Peak……very cool.
Over a breakfast of bacon, eggs and croissants with butter we asked the ladies what they would like to do. Tilana opted to relax at camp, whilst Tania was interested in seeing the cave paintings in Sneeukop gorge. It was going to be a hot one, so we set off immediately so as to beat the heat of the midday sun.
We hauled ourselves up that steep slope to the Lourensford Estate tracks, and set off along the rough roadway heading for the gorge. I have an insatiable curiosity regarding the outdoors, and as Brent is an experienced geologist I quizzed him about any passing rock and intrusion, the slopes of the scree, and the possible depth of the various areas of talus. Brent, also an enthusiast, happily fed me his knowledge which I added to mine.
We were still chatting rocks and all things earthy when we stopped for some reason just short of Sneeukop Gorge. It was just about 100m back from the main gorge where a concrete pipe conducts a small side stream under the track. Brent was espousing a point of rock when Tania asked us to stop talking and listen. We were well into out discussion when Tania insisted we STOP TALKING. As we did she pointed up the wooded slope and gave a muffled scream.
Tree shaken by the Leopard
About eight metres away, she had seen a leopard’s body and its tail. I looked up and saw its flank moving right to left through a gap in the woodland. Tania spun on her heels and was about to run, when we tried to persuade her to stay calm and stay with us.
There was a large crash as something heavy went up the side gorge, then the leopard jumped up on the base of a dead white tree and shook it.
There was further noise as it went further up and into another large tree where Brent made out the head and upper body.
Whilst Brent and I knew that an attack on a human was extremely unlikely, and almost unheard of, Tania did not. She remained convinced that it would jump on us, and was very keen to get away. I struggled with the need to calm Tania and get my phone camera out at the same time.
The strange thing was why would a normally very shy animal put up this display of bravado? Because of that, even Brent and I were slightly unnerved by its actions.
The moment had past. The Leopard had jumped down and disappeared, and I had not taken a single pic. I still curse myself!
We decided not to disturb it further, to which Tania readily agreed, so we made our way back down the track, giving up plans to visit the red daub paintings.
As we made our way back down the trail, we came across some tracks of what we thought could be the prints of a Leopard with a set a smaller pug marks with them. Hmmm, mother and cub? Maybe. That would go some way to explaining why the Leopard we saw behaved so unusually aggressive.
We realised the encounter was unusual, thus I have tried to describe it just as it happened. So perhaps someone with more Cape Leopard knowledge might confirm or deny our thinking.
For a mountain stream the water was warm and delightful, and the falls were great to sit under.
We made a braai that night, with a fine salad to have with the top-class woollies burgers. There are some advantages to staying in a mountain hut with women!
We moved outside to sit under the stars and drink some more wine, beer or cider, as we felt like. Then Brent gave a shout. A smallish mammal was moving about below the hut stoop wall. It had a body size a little bigger than a cat, with short legs and a long ringed tail. It goes under the cumbersome and unromantic name of Lesser Spotted Gennet. We watched it dart about looking for food, almost completely oblivious to us, and I would say well used to hut visitors. Later when we were laid out in our sleeping bags on the stoop, the partner appeared and one of them brushed against the bottom of Tania’s sleeping bag. So, I hadn’t been dreaming after all when last night I felt something furry brush against my feet.
Sunday morning saw Brent and I heading back for Sneeukop Gorge. We wanted to see if we could find out any more about our Leopard sighting the day before. Leopards with cubs tend to have more than one den, and when disturbed they usually pick up the cub\s by the scruff of the neck and take them off to another lair. So we did not really expect to be lucky enough to have another sighting. Never the less, we approached the sight with care.
With difficulty, we scrambled through a thorny barrier barring the small ravine, and came across a section of trail that had been used so many times that it was worn into a virtual path.
We checked the trees for signs of claw marks, but were not able to substantiate what we saw as definite claw marks.
The area was littered with boulders that would be fine den sites. Later, we found a worn animal track leading onto the estate track.
Once back at the hut we found the ladies had pretty much sorted all the bags ready for carrying out. We did a final check and staggered out with our belongings, including a big bag of rubbish.
Last stop was a final check of the water snake trap. We had pulled one out two days before so surely there wouldn’t be another one? Well, it wasn’t one – rather two!
My turn, so I lifted out a very large, beautifully coloured Puff Adder and placed it on the grass verge to warm up. Then I lifted out the darkly coloured, only slightly smaller of the two.
We left our two Puff Adders sunning themselves back to life as we drove back to Somerset West.
Best of all – the ladies had a great time and want to go back – yessss, there is a benevolent god. Thank you!
Many thanks to the Hottentots-Holland section of the MCSA for the use of the hut.
26th December 2016
We were only two, John and I. An ideal number for a relatively difficult hike! We started from the entrance gate, because driving any higher along the forest plantation is forbidden. Initially it was relatively cold, so we were advancing quickly, first on the forest road and from ca. 500m height straight up to the mountain face without any marked path.
Higher up there was a strong wind and it was even colder than before. We easily found Bobbejaankloof where the Suidfront route starts, but higher on we were occasionally not sure where to go. Few cairns were helpful, but in one case a big cairn confused us totally and we started to climb a chimney which was definitely too difficult to be part of the route. Ironically, we both did this hike earlier but our memories faded completely. I had the English translation of the famous book “Jonkershoek en sy Berge” of the late Ernst Lotz, but we did not find the route description very informative. It is perhaps time for someone to write a modern description of this beautiful route.
Having lost perhaps up to one hour on deliberations where to go up, we went much further to the right and… we found the grassy slope that was definitely the proper route, incomparably easier than the previous chimney. From that moment we were “at home” so to say, and we were scrambling on steep grassy slopes until we reached the exposed solid rock that is typically being climbed with a rope. We did just that, and the summit was near! It was sunny and the view was spectacular, as usual.
On the way down we again initially lost the path, almost invisible after fire destroyed all vegetation, and we started traversing too high. Luckily we quickly corrected this mistake, found the (already visible) path and continued until the Nerinakloof. In lower parts of this beautiful ravine there is now plenty of lying trunks and loose rocks, so we were not as quick as we thought we would be. Finally, having reached the forest level, we went down using mountain bike routes as shortcuts on the way to the entrance gate. The wall of Jonkershoek Twins was now orange, in the sunset light. Overall, this hike lasted 12 hours, with the total denivelation of 1260m.
Doing a hike just a day after the MCSA’s 125th anniversary should be something special, and I officially registered this hike as one of the many events done by every section to commemorate this occasion. On the previous day it was raining, and in the morning Simonsberg was still partly in clouds. Tokara owner has a policy of waiving permits once the mountain is in clouds; therefore I needed to convince him that I know the route very well, in order to let us go. Grass and rocks on the slopes of Donkerkloof were still wet, so we had to be very careful on the way up. Especially rocks just before the pass between Simonsberg and Joubertspiek presented much more challenge than usual. However, we were always on the right path, as few cairns indicated. On the ridge we already had sunny weather, and the view from the top was magnificent, as usual. The path straight down is awfully eroded, nothing has changed so long. Signs of last year’s fire were still visible everywhere and our lightly coloured pants very soon turned black. Another beautiful hike to remember!
Hottentots Holland Section celebrating 125 Years of MCSA
Hiking along the Palmiet River with fresh green mountains and lots of Fynbos in bloom, on a lovely, sunny day and no wind between the Koegelberg mountains, made this a lovely hike. This was a real 2A hike, but only one family with two little girls took part. Then there was another 6 people of the "elderly, but mostly fit!!" We walked for about 90 minutes one way along the river. The family pulled out a little earlier with two of the ladies, but 4 of us walked from about 10h00 to 12h00 and had then a lunch break on "The Beach along the Palmiet river". It really felt like sitting on the beach with the Palmiet River rushing passed. The best was that between the Koegelberg mountains we were shaded from wind, which we found out later, when we went to have something to drink at the new restaurant near the Penquins in Betties Bay. There one was virtually blown over by the wind, so we had to have our drinks inside.
Here just a little photographic impression of what they are about over there right now: