“Have you hiked up Seweweekspoort Peak?...”. “No I haven’t! But I bumped into so many people who have either done it or are doing it, it’s not even funny…I am totally keen”. This is my favourite kind of friend; one who, in a heartbeat, will join me on any adventure. Three months later we still hadn’t planned much (or anything at all), but we were amped and ready to go. Our friend Martin had encouraged us to do the traverse (up to Seweweekspoort Peak, traverse along the side to Skull cave on Day 1 and then down via Towerkop on Day 2). What we gathered from the little bit of information that was available online, was that the northern approach is shorter, but more of a scramble. We decided on the southern approach due to convenient accommodation at Koedoeskloof near the base of Towerkop (at the western end of the traverse) and it would mean that we’d ascend and descend on the same side of the mountain.
I am on an eternal quest to find a balance between comfort and hiking/running light. This is what I packed for the 2 days. The heaviest items were food (1.5 kg) and water (3 l). The rest was a sleeping bag and liner, warm kit and sleeping clothes (a luxury which I prefer to carry) (1.5 kg). Weather forecasts indicated 0 degrees Celsius for the evening. The latest addition to my kit was a fiery pair of full length tights from Siren Polewear; perfect for the overgrown first part of the trail. Everything fitted nicely into my UltrAspire Epic pack.
As tends to happen with these group affairs, our numbers dwindled as the date drew nearer. Eventually, our motley little crew set off - Armand, Ghaleed, Jakob, Sabrina and I. One member in particular has built a long standing reputation for, well, you see…we spent the first part of our trip waiting for him, then finding out he would need to be picked up along the way, only to find that he was in fact waiting somewhere else, but at the same time was also busy buying some last minute items at Canal Walk. We eventually left Cape Town after 15:00 in peak Friday traffic. We then proceeded to look for this person at every garage stop after each of us had found our way back to the car. What a laugh.
We arrived at Koedoeskloof Country Lodge at 20:30. Ghaleed and I set up our nifty little solo tents and we all tucked into burgers from the on-site restaurant. It was a warm night and I was incredibly cosy inside my Vango tent. We were staying near our planned finish, so we needed a ride to the start (25 km away). We agreed to meet at 06:30, in order to catch a ride with the owner. Somehow there was a miscommunication and I was very confused when I saw Ghaleed head to the showers a few minutes before I went down to meet the others. He was just as surprised to see me all packed up. Turns out he thought we’d be meeting at 07:30. With some muttering under our breath, we piled into the minivan.
It is about 1700 m of ascent from the start to the peak over a distance of approximately 13 km. Although someone was nice enough to set out white tape marking, the first part of the hike, involved some serious bundu bashing, leg scraping and blood drawing. Long pants/tights are recommended.
My SUUNTO Ambit Peak came in really handy because I had stored the POIs beforehand and I could easily get an indication of how far we were from various checkpoints. We used a combination of a really handy route description, two SUUNTOs, and a cellfone with a mapping app. Team work!
Soon after we passed the rain gauge, Jakob realised that this hike was not going to be the type which culminated in dumplings and wine at the top; which is apparently what they do in his home town (Prague). Armand volunteered to go back down with him and we continued up to the cave. Ghaleed hung back and ate his lunch, while Sabrina and I pushed on.
It was incredibly cold at the cave. We pulled on everything we had while we waited. Armand had pretty much run back up and it wasn’t long before he was at the cave. As we were about to leave for the summit, Ghaleed said that he would not be continuing with us, but that he would spend the night in the cave. Oh dear. I recalled people often saying that you should never split up on the mountain. Alas, for the second time that day, we left a member behind and pushed on, checking contours and coordinates every so often (all too often).
The rest of the route was incredible. The views were fantastic and we chatted away as we hopped, skipped and boulder climbed to the top.
After reaching the peak there were no more cairns and the weather looked ominous; the makings of a true adventure.
It was 17:00 and we had only covered 500 m in the hour after leaving the peak, because we first went along the ridgeline, reaching an impenetrable “bowl” and then dropped back down. We knew that we had to follow a generally westward direction, but my SUUNTO said we had 8 km to go and it all looked like boulder hopping on a slope. It was frustrating, because I knew that other people had done this before. I love technical trail, but decided I wasn’t having fun, we were low on water, and it seemed unlikely that we would reach Skull Cave before sunset. I told the rest that I was opting out. Someone mentioned burgers, beer, wine and sleeping in a warm bed, so we agreed to venture down the northern side of the mountain.
I peered over the side of a ravine and declared that there was no way we were going down that way. Armand had other ideas. Look at this face!
Possibly due to his lack of water (he had earlier jumped straight into a muddy mess), he exclaimed that it would be the “pudding to our main meal”. He may have been trying to recall a different saying. It could only be a mad man (or a thirsty man) who would think this ravine was a good idea. Nonetheless, Sabrina and I bounded down the slope.
Fortunately, for all of us, it turned out to be the best decision of the day! It was absolutely beautiful and it made our aborted mission all worth it.
We stepped out of the gorge, giddy with laughter and satisfied with our successful kloofing mission.
We picked up signal for only an instant and Armand contacted Jakob. He would come and fetch us. We dropped a pin (iPhone perks) and started moving again.
Just as the sun was setting we approached a cluster of old houses straight out of a scene from “The Hills have Eyes”. A herd of cows spread out in a straight line started walking towards us, moo-ing loudly. We walked fast. They walked faster. We started trotting and soon they were running towards us. We raced around a bend and ran up to the main road. Flipping heck, what was this place?! Convinced that we were at risk of never picking up signal again, we ran up the road nearer to where we previously had signal, and it worked. It was dark by then, but Jakob was on his way racing through Seweweekspoort and soon we were on our way back to Koedoeskloof. What a day.
We picked Ghaleed up the next morning and he looked mostly unscathed by his night in the wild. He even had photos of the fire he had made.
A week later, Martin and some of our other friends managed to do the traverse in 5 days. Knowing what a challenge it is, I am now even more keen to go back.
The following POIs for the Southern approach to the peak are suggested:
Possibly leave cars at the farmer’s house: -33.480324, 21.383443 (call Mr. Gerrit Nel on 028-5611628 to get permission to do the hike)
Start of the trial: -33.466652, 21.374454
Hut1: -33.436390, 21.368547
Raingauge: -33.422211, 21.369461
Cave1: -33.403519, 21.369314 (*There is water here in the back of the cave)
Seweweekpoort Peak: -33.398270, 21.367773
The most useful site that we found for route information: https://sites.google.com/site/towerkopinfo/nearby-hiking-routes/seweweekspoort-peak-to-towerkop-traverse