Hiking the highest mountain in the Western Cape.


The ice fields on the upper slopes.

I should have seen it as an omen when on the Friday night I almost got frost bite while digging out a beer in Dirk’s cavernous cooler box packed with ice.

The next time I would see that much ice was the following day at about 2100m asl on the upper slopes of Seweweekspoort (SWP). SWP, at 2325m, is the highest mountain in the Western Cape. Only this time it was the steep slopes that were covered in ice and there were no beers in sight.

The upper slopes are all rock and plants with the ice covering making them both beautiful and treacherous. The sun glinting off the icy plants made the scene surreally dreamlike but with the promise of possible nightmares never far away. The ice was courtesy of the previous night’s rain; but despite conditions being like a high altitude ice skating rink, we decided to press on carefully and try reach the summit.

We had worked hard to reach this point and the thought of turning around without seeing the spectacular views promised from the summit was not a pleasant one. Six hours of tough hiking, including an early morning bundu bash through cold and wet fynbos, a minor cat fight with two of our party and hours of uphill slog, albeit it in stunning surroundings, had got us here.


Seweweekspoort summit: So near - yet so far

We had set a turn around time of 2pm and as the hour neared Jane was in front. She took one look at the precipitous icy scramble near the top and declared it unsuitable. So we turned around, making one of those tough but important decisions hikers and climbers often need to make when near a summit. The good news is it left us some unfinished business on SWP and we will return. We had ascended up the southern route, a longer but more scenic ascent than the northern approach, which we will attempt next time.

Sleep came easy after a 10 hour day washed down with some cold ones but I was up at 3am for a promised meteor shower. Sure I saw a few shooting stars, not difficult in the dark country skies, but certainly not the 80 a minute we were expecting. Worth a shot but I didn’t get much sleep after that.


Towerkop in the distance

A few hours later and five of our original party set out to hike the imposing Towerkop. TK has a cool story attached. Apparently the peak was slashed by a witch who, in a hurry to fly home found a large peak looming before her; she whacked it with her broomstick, splitting it in two. Who were we to argue and it sure was magic up there.

In perfect autumn weather we had made our way up the scenic slopes, quite relieved to find a trail most of the way up. The peak is also one of the highest in the region and we eventually reached our destination, Nel’s Cave, at the base of the famous split peak. Only climbers with equipment can reach the summit so we enjoyed lunch at about 2000m with some of the most spectacular views imaginable before descending via the same route.

This ended a perfect weekend’s hiking in the Klein Swartberg Mountains, which are anything but klein (small). A weekend where we spent almost all of the daylight hours in the mountains. Just the way it should be.

We used Koedoeskloof Country Lodge as our base. The lodge has both camp sites and rooms for those so inclined as well as a cool little restaurant with roaring fire and home cooked meals. Hosts and owners Debra and Eugene made us feel quite at home and the place is perfect to use as a base camp for exploring the magnificent surrounds.

More Pics: SeweweekspoortTowerkop


The magic views from Towerkop


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