Seweweekspoort

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

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

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

Towerkop

The magic views from Towerkop

 

The fifth edition of the Pronutro AfricanX Trail Run kicks off today (Friday, April 19) and K-Way athlete Andre Calitz

Nic de Beer & AJ Calitz

will be on the start line. This is a three-day event where participants run in pairs and team members must stay together at all times. Calitz is teamed up with local trail speedster, Nic De Beer, his well-matched rival from last year’s 80km Peninsula Ultra Fun Run (PUFfeR).

Calitz was initially planning to run AfricanX in a mixed pair, with Zola Budd but she pulled out with a recurring injury. “Nic had a great result at Addo and we ran together most of the way at Puffer. Our running styles complement each other so I thought, ‘Hey, this could work!” says Calitz.

The race is made up of three stages over three days with distances of 31 km 33 km and 24km respectively. Both Calitz and De Beer shine in the ultra distance events, especially those with a lot of climb. These stages are somewhat ‘short’ for them.

“Yes, they’re short stages,” says Calitz. “I haven’t scouted the route but it looks as though there are some technical sections. Mostly it looks to be quite flat and fast, which doesn’t suit me.”

That said, the hills are where Calitz and De Beer aim to gain ground.

“It’s no secret that I always go hard on the climbs…to take the sting out of the speedsters on the flats and downs,” Calitz laughs. De Beer too has climbing legs so this pair is sure to close down gaps and make up time when the terrain veers uphill.

Two weeks ago Calitz won the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge, setting a new record with 12 summits of Platteklip Gorge between sunrise and sunset. Asked whether his legs are rested after the 9,000-metres of accumulative ascent he replies, “I’ve trained very hard the last two weeks so my legs are not fresh, but I’m feeling strong”.

In looking at the line-up in the Men’s category, Calitz points out the pairs that will be vying for the lead.

“Definitely Mike and Ben, also Kane and Nicholas are very quick. Bernie is in super form so it’s going to be very fast and interesting,” he says referring to Michael Bailey, Ben Brimble, Kane Reilly, Nicholas Rupanga and Bernard Rakadaz.

At the end of May Calitz will run the marathon-distance Zegama Aizkorri in France. With 5,472 metres of ascent and descent over the 42-kilometre course distance, this Skyrunner Series event suits Calitz’s strengths. Two weeks later he’ll run the100-kilometre Verdon Canyon Challenge – also in France.

“AfricanX is very much preparation for my overseas races, so the more fast and strong guys for me to run against, the better,” he explains.

Running as ‘Team K-Way Vivo Gu’, Calitz and De Beer have experience and pedigree. The race starts on Friday, 19 April and finishes on Sunday, 21 April. Follow their race progress through the Cape Union Mart Facebook page (/capeunionmart) and the event website – www.africanx.co.za.

For most people Platteklip Gorge is just a means to getting to the top of Table Mountain. For first time hikers it’s a safe but strenuous journey to the top but

AJ Calitz descending Platteklip Gorge

for many seasoned hikers/runners it’s often a route to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

On Saturday, April 6, AJ Calitz, one of South Africa’s top trail runners, will attempt to ascend PK 12 times between sunrise and sunset. No mean feat and a seriously tough ask even for the fastest and fittest.  AJ will not be doing this for personal glory but for a good cause as he is among 175 entrants in this year’s  K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge, an annual fundraiser where runners get sponsored for their ascents up PK.

Last year, as a first-time entrant, AJ set a new course record with 11 ascents. Now, with numerous wins and race records on his impressive resume, Calitz has set himself a challenge; to better his record with one more ascent. With the start at sunrise and the finish at sunset, he has only 11 hours to achieve his goal.

Platteklip ascends 760 metres from bottom to top, which puts 12 summits at an accumulative 9,120-metre – that’s almost 300-metres higher than Mt Everest from sea level to summit! At the top, participants run to the Cable Car and catch a ride to the bottom. Each lap is 5.5km in total and the ascent alone is a physically demanding route that takes one to two hours on most fresh legs. It is this level of difficulty that makes this event worthy of being called a ‘challenge’. Most runners make three to six summits.

With this in mind, how will Calitz squeeze out another lap to reach his objective of 12 ascents?

As of this year Calitz is running full time – a professional athlete. He is putting more time into training, focusing on power and speed, which are both needed to get him through this Challenge.

“I have no specific plan other than to just run harder and faster,” he says. Calitz needs to make up five minutes per lap to fit in the 12th ascent.

“The easiest place to make up time is on the flat sections at the top of the mountain and the cable way,” he explains.

And it’s not like the cable car will be sitting waiting for him: “There is no way you can judge the cable car unfortunately,” he says. Calitz will certainly need a dash of luck to be on his side too.

As a fundraising initiative for Sinenjongo High School, the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge raised R500,000 for the school in 2012 – and they aim to better this contribution this year. Donations are linked to runner profiles from the ‘Sponsor’ tab on the event website. By sponsoring a runner, donors contribute to the fund for the school, which is located in the impoverished community of Joe Slovo Park, in the Milnerton suburb.

Despite its lack of facilities and resources -  no hall, library, staff room nor sports facilities – this school has lifted its matric pass rate from 27% in 2008 to 90% in 2011. Last year 77 matrics passed – double that of the previous year – with 56 qualifying for tertiary education.

The Challenge starts at 7am and ends at sunset – 6pm. Throughout the day spectators can cheer on the runners ascending Platteklip Gorge and from the cable car stations.

Event website: www.charitychallenge.co.za.

Arabella Challenge Trail RunAs much as I love running in the Peninsula it’s always great to head out of town and explore some new trails. The Western Cape is an unbelievable region for hiking and running with a kaleidoscope of trails to choose from. You can travel anywhere from an hour to 3 hours plus and find pretty special trails anywhere you go.

So when an opportunity to run the Arabella Challenge arose, I grabbed it. This event encompasses both mountain biking and trail running with both disciplines offering two options. I’ll be running the 17km trail run on the 28 April in and around the trails of Kleinmond.

The Arabella team have been looking at setting up an event for a while now and they felt that this was the right time.  The events were started as an a opportunity for cyclist to get their feet wet, and, with trail running being one of the fastest growing sports in the country, they felt the area lent itself to a trail running event. By splitting the distances into two runs they have given the novices a good opportunity to test their legs on a shorter course and the more experienced can run the longer more technical route.

They are hosting the same event in April and September.

Details: Trail Run

The Trail Run event will be split into 2 categories, 11km and 17km, with numbers limited to 100 runners in both events.

Both trail run events will take place on the Sunday of the two events in questions: The runs take place on April 28 and September 22. There will be one watering point along both routes.
The event starts and finishes at the Arabella Country Estate (Phase 2 site), situated at the foot of the Palmiet Mountain range. The race will take runners through breathtaking scenery including the Kogelberg Biosphere.

>> More Info  <<

Mike Lundy. Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula

Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula - Eighth edition 2012

Mike Lundy has being writing guide books for 21 years and they continue to be some of the best guides around – especially for those looking to explore Cape Town’s beautiful mountains in a safe way.

Mikes latest offering is an old classic, Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula. This is the eighth edition and is full of useful information, from safety to geology, as well as 30 of the best hikes you can do in Cape Town.

14 Years ago I started discovering the Cape Town mountains using Mike’s books and found them to be an excellent way to find my mountain feet and be adventurous at the same time. Nothing has changed and I have now walked many of these classics numerous times and taken hundreds of hikers on these well worn but beautiful routes. I seldom still use the guide but when I was a novice – they provided step by step instructions, providing me with a fantastic grounding to explore further, as well as hours of hiking enjoyment.

I caught up with Mike and had a few questions for him.

What made you decide to write your first book all those years back?
I had been very involved with Round Table, at national and international level. When they kicked me out at age 40 (a prerequisite of membership) I found myself at a loss, and after a couple of years started writing a gossip column for the local rag (Sentinel News). Included in the column was a monthly hike description in and around Hout Bay. I soon kept bumping into people on the mountain with my articles pasted into an exercise book. I realised there was a need and so “Twenty Walks around Hout Bay” was born (1985) Self published. Will never do that again! Five years later (1991) with encouragement from friends I wrote “Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula”. This time published by a professional (Struik).

Is it difficult writing guide books – the attention to detail is so important?
Not difficult if you are a complete freak on minute detail. My wife says I’m a nutter…. I count oncoming cars at stop/go road blocks, lemons on a tree….. anything!

Do you rewalk all the hikes in the book each time you bring out a new edition? Yes. Absolutely MUST do. Everything changes; even mountains.

You’ve kind of stuck to the same walks – did you not want to introduce any new walks to the latest edition?
Did that from time to time. The 1st Edition only had 22 hikes in it. 4th Edition 26. Last couple of Editions 30 hikes

Do you still hike as much as you used to?
Sadly no. With a heart condition at 71,going on 72,  I walk around the mountains, not up them. (See “Easy Walks in the Cape Peninsula’!)  The last two editions of “Best Walks” were thanks to my friend Brian Georgeson re-walking and checking every hike, then passing the handwritten changes to me.

Any new books in the pipeline?
No. The last one published two years ago is entitled “Scenic Day Drives from Cape Town”. Sort of gives away the encroaching age doesn’t it?  But I’m pleased to say my youngest son Timothy is following firmly in my footsteps. He is a qualified mountain guide and busy writing “Walks with Grandad”

Do you do any other writing? The very occasional Mag article when asked.

Best Walks is published by Randomstruik

AJ Calitz

Last year Andre Calitz, a relative newcomer to trail running and a novice Three Peaks runner blasted his way to a new course record. This race started a trend and many record-setting runs followed, including a Puffer win and new record. No longer an unknown, Calitz returns this year with substantially more experience. He also carries a season of racing in his legs and the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Three weeks ago Calitz competed in the marathon-distance Otter African Trail Run for the first time. Not only did he place second –five minutes behind race winner and past record-holder Iain Don-Wauchope – but he also beat the race record set last year by Ryan Sandes, by 10 minutes. Also, both Calitz and Don-Wauchope became the first ever sub-4:30 runners at The Otter.

On top of building his speed for The Otter, Calitz has put in specific training for Three Peaks. “I’ve done a lot of climbing and intensity work and also quite a lot of technical skills for the steep descents,” he explains. “Route knowledge is also essential so I’ve spent some time on the route last week to scout for the fastest routes and possibly dangerous and time-consuming sections.”

Calitz is certainly the best mountain runner around and he has a knack for running fast and strong uphill and downhill. He recommends running up and down staircases as preparation for races with big climbs. He also often runs on the beach, going up and down sand dunes.

“There is no substitute for proper climbing and unfortunately the best way to learn how to go up mountains fast is to go up mountains fast. Hill repetitions have their place as they offer good intensity, rhythm and strength work but mountains are a different story because they’re very steep and very long. Lion’s Head is an awesome all-round training route; it’s a nice hill with a difficult climb to the top,” he advises.

It’s not just the ups that are challenging. Steep descents can destroy the field of competitors.

“Yes, downhills hammer my legs too!” Calitz exclaims. “There’s no way you can do this in minimalist shoes because you need the cushioning and it is really impossible to prevent your legs taking strain because you have to go down. Getting a rhythm and trying to ‘flow’ helps a lot. For the best example of ‘flow’, just watch Iain Don-Wauchope run down a hill!”

Calitz’s course record of 5.07.39 is up for grabs. The spotlight is as much on Calitz as his competitors. Runners most likely to challenge for the front include Andrew Hagen and Ake Fagereng.

“Andrew is an animal and Ake is always strong. Both have won this race numerous times and they are in good form,” says Calitz.

He believes that a sub-5 hour time is possible: “I think we started too quick last year and that this race will be won and lost on Platteklip”.

Going into the race Calitz doesn’t have a particular strategy. “There are always many unknowns, like the weather, so it is always tough. And there are expectations this year, which weren’t there last year, but mostly I expect a good race from myself.”

Katya Sogot

Katya Sogot winning the 2012 TMC

Cape-based brand K-Way is a sponsor of the Three Peaks Challenge and of Andre. “We’re proud to be associated with what is the most iconic trail run in the Western Cape (and arguably one of the toughest). These Peaks sit in our backyard – but only a few have ever climbed one, let alone run all three in a day!” says Nick Bennett, marketing manager for K-Way.

On the women’s’ side Katya Sogot is a firm favourite. The little dynamo is especially good on technical terrain and the steep up and down course should suit her. It would be no surprise if she broke the record as well.

The Challenge starts at 5am on Saturday, 3 November just around the corner from Greenmarket Square. 120 runners will attempt to ascend all three peaks by 7pm – a 14-hour allowance. Greenmarket Square should prove an entertaining spectator point. More information can be found here

Three Peaks

Runners approaching the Knife Edge

I’m not a particularly competitive runner, although I might sometimes chase a faster time on routes or events that I do regularly. It’s just not often that I’m up for it.

But when the opportunity does arise I’m all for it. Last Sunday was the UCT (that be The University of Cape Town for out of towners) GSB (Graduate School of Business) Three Peaks Challenge. This is an annual event organised by the current MBA class and run by many of them. It is also not to be confused with the other, more difficult, Three Peaks Challenge (3 November)

This one involves Cape Town’s three peaks starting at UCT and going up Mowbray Ridge, over the Knife Edge to Devil’s Peak, down to the saddle and up the infamous Ledges to Maclear’s Beacon, down PK (Platteklip), finally ending on top of Lion’s Head. A not unchallenging and rather fun route.

The run was once reserved for GSB students but they have recently opened it up to the general public. Last year I entered for the first time and ran it with a friend, Petro. I led her a merry dance in the mist, getting lost on the upper slopes of Devil’s Peak and getting caught in the pack on the way up Ledges. Despite this Petro still landed up being first woman home. We had run together most of the way with Petro dropping me on Lion’s Head and finishing a few minutes ahead of me. I finished in 4.35, quite high up the field. The nice thing about this event is that a lot of non regular runners take part, making us mid packers feel good about ourselves as we finish higher up the field than normal.

This year, having reccied the route I was hoping to comfortably beat that time, even dreaming of a sub 4 hour. The weather on the day was spectacular, clear skies and a threatening sun early on. Once again Petro and I set off together – Petro dragging me up the hills and me gaining ground and position on the downs. Having safely negotiated Ledges, thanks to the help of the Mountain Club man and his ropes, we headed for Maclears. On our approach to the highest point on TM (Table Mountain) we heard the voice of Michael “the CEO” Ohlsson, there to meet us and offer some encouragement and company. We raced down PK, me literally bouncing off the rocks on a regular basis, Michael hurling abuse from behind.

But after refreshing at the stream near the bottom of PK and Petro having caught up, my competitive streak set in. As we neared the PK seconding table we could see a small group just ahead of us. At this point I turned to Petro saying, “Petro, you are the reigning women’s champion and in second place, there is the woman currently in first place – go get her.” At which stage Petro turned to me, gave me one of those death stares only women can give and went after her, my words “eye of the tiger Petro eye of the tiger” left trailing in her wake.

So while Petro took care of my competitive streak I meekly coasted to the finish taking some serious strain in the now pretty warm weather.

Petro eventually finished 2nd woman, three minutes behind eventual winner Angela, but it was a fine effort nevertheless. I beat last year’s time by 10 minutes; a long way off the four hour mark but a decent finish.

At the post event braai some spot prizes were given out. I managed to answer a simple question quickest and walked off with an Ipod the size of a blister on my big toe. Yip, I too can be competitive.

First women, Angela (Left) & Petro on Lion's Head

 

Mike Lundy. Best Walks in the Cape PeninsulaMike Lundy has being hiking and indeed writing about hiking for longer than most people have been walking. The fact that he continues to update his books and has maintained a love for the mountains, so evident in his many publications, is testimony to his fitness and dedication to the mountains that he so often frequents.

Mike’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula was the book that first got me interested in the mountains and I hiked many of these routes for the very first time using these guides  His hikes are well chosen, well described and  his books contain a wealth of useful information and some great pics.

From the Book:

A bestseller for 21 years, Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula remains one of the most popular books on hiking in Cape Town.

Each of the 30 walks in this guide has been carefully chosen because of a particular point of interest, be it a waterfall, cave, indigenous forest, shipwreck or spectacular viewpoint. This classic selection of routes ranges from challenging climbs to the top of Table Mountain to leisurely strolls among the fynbos (and everything else in-between). Practical advice on mountain safety, local weather conditions and how to deal with snakes ensure that the hiker is given a clear idea of what to expect.

For this eighth edition, all route descriptions and maps have been brought up to date and photographs have been added for lively interest.

Each route  includes:

  • Easy-to-follow direction
  • Accurate route map
  • Average hiking time
  • GPS coordinates for start and finish  points
  • Grading that covers  difficulty and exposure
  • Notes on the availability of water
  • Advice on whether dogs can be taken along
  • Fascinating information on historical sites,  plants, trees and birds  en route

The GPS tracks for each walk can be downloaded from www.gpstravelmaps.com/bestwalks.php

Avid hiker Mike Lundy has written several books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles on  walking and has presented weekly radio reports on  hiking. He has  received a merit services  award fromthe Hiking  Federation of Southern Africa for his exceptional contribution to the hiking
community.

Mkhambathi Nature Reserve Scott Ramsay

Mkhambathi Nature Reserve (Eastern Cape) Scott Ramsay

Scott Ramsay spent a year doing what most outdoor lovers can only dream about and travelled to 31 of South Africa’s most special nature reserves and national parks. His objective was to photograph South Africa’s last remaining wild places and along the way he interviewed rangers, community leaders, environmental and cultural activists, ecologists, scientists, researchers, travellers and school children. Ramsay completed this journey on 30 June 2012.Ramsay’s adventure was motivated by conservation. While working for Getaway magazine, Southern Africa’s biggest and oldest adventure-travel magazine, he visited many of Africa’s great wilderness areas.

“It confirmed for me what I had always suspected that these are our continent’s greatest assets, and they – along with our people – are our most valuable contribution to the world. The protection and expansion of Africa’s wild places is of utmost importance,” he explains.
On this journey, recently completed, Ramsay photographed wilderness areas and documented the people, places and wildlife.

“If someone can see for themselves how special a wild place can be – whether it’s lying underneath blazing stars in the Kgalagadi, or walking through fields of millions of Namaqua daisies, or walking with Zulu rangers among rhino in Imfolozi, or discovering millennia-old rock art in the Drakensberg or Cederberg, or standing atop Mapungubwe Hill on the Limpopo River, or jumping off waterfalls in Mkambati on the Wild Coast…if they can see for themselves, then these places have a better chance of being conserved, and the local communities can enjoy their benefits,” he says.

Ramsay will share his experiences with us in two talks in October – one in Cape Town and one in Jo’burg at the Cape Union Mart Adventure Centres at Canal Walk and Eastgate respectively. The talsk are free of charge but booking is essential as seating is limited. Visit www.capeunionmart.co.za/events to reserve your place. Drinks and snacks are served afterwards and there’s discounted shopping on the night.

  • · Wednesday, 3 October 2012. Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre, Canal Walk. Cape Town. 18h30 – 20h00
  • · Thursday, 18 October 2012. Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre, Eastgate. Johannesburg. 18h30 – 20h00

For more information on Scott Ramsay and his ‘Year in the Wild’ project,  visit www.yearinthewild.com and www.capeunionmart.co.za

Trail Runner's Guide

Trail Runner's Guide

It wasn’t that long ago that you could list the various trail runs around the country on one hand – o.k. maybe two and a couple of toes but there were very few. The last seven or so years have seen an explosion of trail running shoes hitting South Africa’s treasure trove of mountain paths and coastline and a host of organised events to go with. From 5km fun runs to a range of hardcore ultras up to 100km and beyond for the multi-day events.

Now the first guide book to these organised trail runs has hit the shelves. Its 220 pages of 100+ trail runs across the country. And even with this comprehensive guide many runs still didn’t make the cut. It must have been a tough job for adventure photographer and writer, Jacques Marais to pick and choose the runs to include. So tough he excluded some of my favourites.

That aside he has done a pretty good job with the guide and a quick flick through will get any local trail runner checking their calendar and budget to see which runs he can make. It covers the entire country and has given me some serious trail envy. Of course many runs I already knew about, but many I did not, and have added them to my trail bucket list, which was long enough before the book came out.

A full colour offering, Marais has included plenty of information on each run with comments from well known trail runners to give a personal perspective to each run. There are 50 runs covered in detail with distance, maps & directions to the start, route profile, terrain, event description, expert views and accommodation suggestions – everything you need to know to get your trail feet to these events. There is also a section of 50 runs with less info – but just enough to get you interested, and at the end a general calendar allowing you to choose a month and see what is happening at a glance.

Gripes
Marais is a brilliant photographer and there are many great pics in the book but I somehow got the feeling he left out much of his best work when selecting pics for this guide.

He left out the Three Peaks Challenge, my favourite event, even if it involves a large section of tar in-between scaling Cape Town’s three peaks, (Puffer also has a large tar section). He also left out The Bat Run, an iconic night trail run in Cape Town which has been around a lot longer than most. This is not as commercial as many others and one of the few established night runs on the calendar.

Trail Envy.
The Mnweni marathon has gone to the top of my list, a low key but stunning looking event in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Overall an entirely useful and colourful book for any trail runner who enjoys the organised events. Or even those who don’t but want a look at what trails there are to run in SA. There are plenty.

For sale in book shops around the country. Published by Map Studio

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