Past Meets

we have moved, find the content of this site in future here:

Sneeuberg - Highest summit in the Cederberg range (2,027m)

posted 8 Apr 2019, 23:57 by Hagen Liebberger


It is interesting to ponder what makes people tick. I don’t mean in the universal puzzle of the philosophy of life, I mean in simple terms – what makes us want to hike, scramble and climb? I say this in the mountaineering sense, as I just love being high. Apart from the fact being ‘high’ is now legal in SA; at least in one sense.

As we grow, especially in our formative years around the end of our school period and maybe a bit into the college years - I think we are looking for a place or a way to go; a way to satisfy our souls.

We need to earn a living…..yes, but also, we are looking for a way to scratch an itch. To do something - often by way of a sport - that does indeed seem to most satisfactorily scratch that itch. If you get good enough at the sport to both earn a living by, and to play the sport; then you are lucky indeed.

I was never good enough to earn a full time living from climbing. Though during some 45 years of climbing I worked in some 200+ first ascents of good standard rock and ice routes, 19 years in MR – five as Face Rescue Coordinator, plus a good few alpine north faces and mountain first ascents in the arctic. But my goals were held in check by a certain awkwardness. Yes, I led to SA grade 22 and ice 5 at one time, but then I climbed with very good climbers, and I was lucky enough to do so on many occasions.

I would always admire the grace and simplicity with which they made the hard look almost easy. And I knew that no matter how hard I trained; I would never reach their level of mastery. Did that bother me? No not really, it was a fact of life, and besides which I was pretty good at mountain survival. On more than one occasion, we would finish a winter or alpine route in a raging storm and my harder climbing partner would say “Steve, get us off and down alive!’.

So, some 52 years from when I started climbing on UK Stanage grit, I find myself living in Somerset West, and taking part in hectic hikes in the area. A mail is received via the SAMC from Frans Slabber to say he and Hagen are taking a group up Sneeuberg – ‘Who wants to come?’

A quick google appraises me of a certain degree of climbing and exposure issues near the summit. Could I do it, mentally and or physically? Maybe not, but I could get ‘high’ again and see some great scenery.

Thursday 21st March 2019

Thus, it was that two Bakkies filled with seven stalwarts and gear set off at the ‘crack of sparrows’ on the N7 north. I’m sure many of you know the way well, but every time I do it, when you take that road right from the N7 to Algeria, and you cross the high Nieuwoudtspas, it is almost as if you are looking down on another world.

Far away distant vehicles churn up dust such that you see the plumes of airborne sand long before you actually see a vehicle. Algeria beckons – I wonder how it got that name? A check in with the folk there confirms that they had rains the previous weekend, so the hill streams will be running with liquid refreshment.

Onwards along the dusty road to find Eikeboom. Blink and you miss it. We did and had to retrace our wheels back a few kms. There, standing dusty and lonely are three oaks. Two are straggly and are on their last legs, or roots. But will probably outlast me. The third stands proud and upright, nourished by the water it finds deep down, from the near flowing Sederhoutkloof river. It gives us shade as we load up our sacks for the three-day sojourn into the hills.

The way follows the old logging trail that winds its way up the Kloof. One can only wonder at the skill and hard labour of the workmen who built the road, often creating high rock wall banks to take in a steep turn or scarp. Onwards it goes, with a thankfully not to hot sun behind wisps of cloud, with water in every stream to drink, as we gained height. There are two useful short cuts, especially the second, that takes a great kink out of the trail and finally brings you out to the high flat plane that ends when you reach the Sneeuberg hut at 1,250m.

You see pictures of it, but nothing quite prepares you for the incongruous way it suddenly appears, nestling up against a huge boulder. Built apparently for the animal herders who would graze their animals on the meadows that spread out below the hut, nurtured as it is by a sparkling stream that flows just down from the hut.

We reached it in 2 ½ hours, and there is some temptation to stay, but we needed to be higher and closer to our goal. So, after brief refuel stop, we went onwards over the next Nek and along towards the Maltese Cross. We constantly checked for water as we need to be as high as possible yet have water to drink. Hagen and I, somewhat in front, went on to take in the cross. So amazing, sitting as it does on a high flat area of ground, just kind of sticking up out of the ground. Way bigger that I had anticipated.

No water, so we two retraced our steps to find that Frans, Liza, Chris, Greta and Johan had found a perfect flat piece of sandy ground, near a flowing stream, on which to spend the night.

We spread out our mats and sleeping bags on the ground, fed ourselves, gathered to tell a few stories, then lay down to take in the panoply of stars above our heads, and to sleep. It was a bit cold, with a breeze blowing, But I snuggled down and pulled my bags hood over my head and drifted off.

Friday 22nd March 2019

We all slept pretty well and as the horizon turned from dark to dawn, we divested ourselves reluctantly from our cocoons of warmth, and made our various breakfasts.

At least we could now travel light. Overnight gear was stowed surreptitiously away behind boulders. We had slept out at about 1,400m and Sneeuberg is 2,027 – the maths was easy, but how easy was the climb?

Some 50m up from our bivy spot, the path to Sneeuberg turns right. Pretty obvious really and hard to miss. The way is up but not too stiff at first, until you reach the gully that gives access to the Nek below the summit. Even here it zigs its way cleverly up, taking the line of least resistance, with one easy rock step to negotiate, until it lays back to a saddle at about 1,800m, where you can take a rest and onboard fuel.

Now we turned right and headed straight up the ridge at first, following cairns until an alcove is reached that requires a few climbing moves to get up. From above this, the way trends right, around the flank of the mountain. A tenuous trail but still marked by cairns. At one point you cross an exposed but large enough ledge not to intimidate you. This leads on to the start of the climbing. Facing you on your left is a chimney requiring some foot and back work. It is possible to exit right via an exposed ledge half way up the chimney. But easier to press on up the chimney to exit right via a tunnel.

At 73 years old, my knee replacement was not going to give me the flexibly to back and foot the chimney, so I opted regretfully to forgo the rest of the climb, and the A team of six went on.


I had been waiting for this moment the whole trip. Last year Greta and I had turned around at this point, demotivated and exhausted after approaching through snow and balancing on slippery ice-covered rock. This chimney signalled the start of the “scramble” section, the last vertical hundred meters or so to the top. Chris and Johan took the lead and popped out the short chimney onto the exposed ledge – that’s where the cairns were anyway. Determined the make it all the way I followed suit. A hunch made me squeeze myself deeper into the chimney, to be pleasantly surprised by an accessible crawl space situated at the top, which led out to the right and meant that I could avoid the exposed ledge. Everyone followed up with relative ease.

Thereafter a real team effort ensued scrambling up solid blocks, hunting the next cairn and debating whether the cairns were a good route choice or not. The sense of height became more apparent as the summit ridge narrowed. The second chimney of 3-4 meters in height, was slightly more challenging as the walls were further apart, and a huge boulder at the top of one side made for awkward yoga moves near the top. This took a little more time, but everyone made it up.

At this point, with the summit so near, the cairns followed exposed ledges. Hagen, Greta, Liza and Johan decided to look for an easier way by following a less exposed path round the left-hand side (facing the summit), whilst Chris and I worked out a way to minimize some of the risk on the exposed ledges. The only way up was via a narrow ledge with big drop-offs and very little to hold on to. After this ledge another short chimney presented itself which I squeezed into with amazing agility – happy to get away from the small ledge. That feeling of security wedging yourself into a large crack is completely underrated. We found a faded red arrow in this crack and new we were almost there. And yes, a few more moves, and we found ourselves standing next to the survey beacon enjoying the view. The other group were visible below us, a mere 5 meters or so, but without gear, there was no way up from where they were.

The scramble back to where Steve was waiting went smoothly, the confidence coming from the familiar route now. We were happy though to be out of the chimneys and blocks.


As I sunbathed on the platform below the chimney, I caught occasional glimpses of some of the team as they neared the top, and more of them as they descended towards me. Once reunited, we went on down to the Nek, and on down to our previous night’s bivy spot.

We were pretty much on schedule, so we packed our sacks and headed off across the trail back to Sneeuberg hut. Here a comfortable night was had by all, as it was slightly warmer during the night and there was no wind.

More crack, tales of hills gone before, and again a night under the stars. Except for me as I opted to share the hut with the notorious Sneeuberg hut mice. I hung up my food on the hooks and slept like a rock. Mice or no mice.

Saturday 23rd March 2019

The forecast was for a hot 30 degrees for that day, so we had incentive to get up, eat, pack and get down before the heat of the day made itself felt. As we set off down, two hill runners came padding lightly up the track. They must have left the roadside around dawn and looked disgustingly bright eyed, fresh and bushy tailed. They did travel light, with just a bum bag and a bottle of water. Impressive though.

On and onwards down. Always a little sad to leave the mountains and go back to reality. Though a good shower was going to be nice - there are some good bits to civilisation!

We stopped for a meal at Kromrivier, nice place, then onto Tweerivier campsite to stay for the night. A cold cider, or two or four never tasted so good.

I felt great after the trip. A bit of new country for me, plus I lost 4Kgs, though it only took me five days to put it back on.

Thanks to Frans and Hagen for organising the trip.

Life goes on. What next!

Steve Chadwick & Frans Slabber

3rd April 2019

Wilderness medicine articles available from the SA Medical Journal

posted 25 Oct 2017, 03:16 by Hagen Liebberger

Sparked by the death of the renowned South African rally driver, Gugu Zulu, on 18 July 2016 on Mount Kilimanjaro, Dr Ross Hofmeyr and I decided to write an article on the risks, avoidance and treatment of high altitude illness (HAI).  We have been approached on many occasions for advice on wilderness and expedition medicine and the lack of readily obtainable information on HAI is a frequent concern. Death due to ascent to altitude is entirely avoidable if one takes all the necessary precautions. Too often illness and death are simply due to a lack of knowledge of the risks, and we hope to make this information easily available and accessible.  Dr Bridget Farham, editor of the SAMJ, then suggested that we should add similar articles on other leading causes of wilderness injuries and accidents.  These articles, written with the assistance of several other authors, were published in the July and August 2017 editions of the SAMJ (2 editorials and 6 articles).   They are freely available to MCSA members as downloadable pdf’s, by clicking on the hyperlinks below (or by copying and then pasting the URLs into your browser).  Ranging from altitude illness to human factors, the articles are not a comprehensive treatise on wilderness medicine, but deal with some of the commonest medical problems encountered by wilderness travellers. Please feel free to contact the authors should you have any questions. 

Nursery Buttress on 25th of June 2017 with Wojtek

posted 3 Jul 2017, 00:05 by Hagen Liebberger   [ updated 3 Jul 2017, 00:23 ]

Sunny Sunday was ideal for this relatively short, but surprisingly diversified walk and scramble. In spite of late announcement, a strong party of seven formed and started walking through a beautiful Kirstenbosch Garden, having a perfect view on the Buttress and the whole route. After initial short walk in a small ravine we were going through bushes and rocky parts of the route, marked with cairns. Walking through dense vegetation is always a bit of a challenge, but there was always some sort of barely visible path. On one longer scramble we decided to put up a rope for some protection. Overall, a stunning tour! We all agreed that we should continue hiking together, no matter which section we are from.

Orange Kloof Saturday 6th August 2016 - Or A tunnel too far

posted 14 Mar 2017, 12:46 by Hagen Liebberger

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

Orange Kloof on 15 of Jan 2017

posted 12 Feb 2017, 22:48 by Hagen Liebberger

Du Toits River Kloof on 29 January 2017

posted 6 Feb 2017, 23:17 by Hagen Liebberger

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!

Kromrivier Pool with Wojtek - 14.01.2017

posted 22 Jan 2017, 22:28 by Hagen Liebberger   [ updated 23 Jan 2017, 01:51 ]

Johnson Hut with Steve Chadwick - 16-18 Dec 2016

posted 30 Dec 2016, 02:19 by Hagen Liebberger

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.

It is traditional to stop at what we call the snake trap. It is part of a sluice gate system that controls the water flow from a channel that is fed from further up the hillside. Snakes looking for water regularly get washed down and into the water containment tanks, and there is no way out for them. The estate regularly checks the tanks and any passing club member also routinely checks and lifts out any snakes with a long stick or a trekking pole, and sometimes, very carefully with braai tongs.

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.

Brent used his pole to lift the snake out of the pit and laid it on the grass to warm up. We turned around to find another snake on the side of the pit. I lifted this snake away from the pit and back to the bush. It was a mildly venomous Whip Snake, which I lifted and dropped on the grass.

Anyway, a start of excitement for the weekend. There couldn’t be anything else could there?

It was a slowish, overburdened hike to the hut, during which Tilana lost traction near the hut and slipped into a ditch (now called Tilana’s Tumble). Not good.

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.

Tracks of a female and cub?
Once back at the hut, we could begin the serious business of ‘chillin’ in the pool.

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!

Poor picture of our Gannet

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.

Gennet's eyes glow from the dark

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.

Worn animal pathway

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.

Thankfully they were not aggressive, and allowed us to move them to the far side of the road. In truth I have to say that they were both in a torpid state due to being in a cool water trap for some time. All very exciting nonetheless!

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.

Our Puff Adders warming up

Steve Chadwick

26th December 2016

Jonkershoek Twins (1494m) with Wojtek, 13 November 2016

posted 27 Nov 2016, 12:34 by Hagen Liebberger

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.

Simonsberg with Wojtek, October 2016

posted 7 Nov 2016, 00:04 by Hagen Liebberger   [ updated 22 Nov 2016, 10:26 ]

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!

1-10 of 45