Up into the clouds

Du Toits Peak – The highest peak in the Western Cape within direct sight of the ocean.

Elevation: 1995m (6545ft).

Difficulty: 9/10.

About two years ago Du Toits Peak became a word in my mountaineer vocabulary. Grueling, challenging and slightly silly to go without a guide were all words to describe the ascent. Those were the things that drew me to the challenge: The sheer difficulty.

Over the course of about 24 months there were few opportunities I had to go on this extreme hike. One of the challenges was that I don’t live near that area anymore.

The second issue was fitness. Fortunately I was about 80% there as I work mostly outdoors and have a tendency to go on adventures that involve endurance and some technical skills to keep going at a decent pace. So after about three decent hikes I felt my fitness was sufficient.

The third issue was having a team to go with. I could always count on my dad to go with but he isn’t fresh out of the army anymore and injuries occur more frequently on him than myself. One of the reasons we didn’t go in December was due to some back pain he was experiencing. I decided to recruit a fit friend who was thankfully also on vacation and myt younger brother alongside my dad and I.

But with all these contingencies, the 18th of February was the day we finally attempted the hike to reach the summit of Du Toits Peak.

February is the warmest month in the year at that part of the world, reaching over 40 °C (104 °F) at times. We knew what we were coming up against, so we packed about 10 liters of water between the 4 of us. We searched for a guide but no one was able to get back to us or was keen to go on such a long journey on a potentially scorching day.

So what did we do?

We just went for it.

We decided 12 hours would be the longest we would hike for (most do it in 2 days but we decided to go for it in 1). We just weren’t keen to get lost in the dark, so opted for the “safe” route. If we weren’t at the top by 6 hours, we would turn around.

Leaving at around 5:40 to start the hike at 7:30, and finishing the hike no later than 19:30 was the plan. You wouldn’t believe how far off we were.

Being the stereotypical men that we were for that occasion we only started the hike at 8:00 due to only purchasing our beverages in the morning at a petrol station. But weren’t really discouraged by the late start as we saw a cloud cover starting to cover the peak. It brought a bit of relief knowing that for at least some of the hike we won’t burn to death.

The trip actually started with us walking up a tar road to the first part of the trail. It was about 45 minutes of lovely flat asphalt.

It was at that moment we decided to take a turn towards the summit and through one of the farm gates. It started as a gravel road for cars to go around but after about 20 minutes it started to turn away from the mountain so we decided to take the fire break. That was a pretty obvious path to follow for a good amount of the trip.

The fire break section was probably the most tiring part of the whole hike. You felt as if you weren’t getting anywhere and constantly getting nicked by small bushes in the way. My youngest brother was having a hard time. His time in the sun as of late has been rare and the exercise he has been getting was at a minimal. But he surprised us the most, he kept pushing, staying at the back all the way up, but never stopping.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ―Confucius

When reaching the end of the fire break my dad noticed a path going down, that was probably the desired path from the start, but we must have missed it and kept going. Things started to get interesting as we climbed the spine of two peaks. The cloud cover surrounded us and we even felt a slight drizzle.

The commencing of the light rain was the start of a beautiful journey to the very top. With all the nervousness and fear about the intense heat we may face and the exhaustion that comes with it, we were delighted to face the rest of the hike with water from above. It was almost like a nice lesson you would hear at Sunday school: Sometimes God will surprise you by blessing you with a good day despite the challenges that come with.

The further we climbed the less of a view we could actually see, seeing the ocean was out the question with all the mist and overcast weather, only on occasions could we see through it, but only certain parts of the landscape. Fortunately that wasn’t why we hiked that mountain.

Reaching the top was rather anti-climatic. We were expecting so much more difficulties from the hike but to our joy it was the end (of the ascent). Lunch was rewarding. The climb was almost a joke in hindsight. The preparation (which was probably not as much as it should have been with the reviews we read) was not nearly as close to the hike’s difficulty. It was easier than we all expected. We were all thankful for a safe climb and a wonderful experience.

There was only one close-call that almost had me severely injured while tripping over a few loose rocks on the way down, but I managed to catch a sturdy rock planted firmly into the ground that stopped me from getting even a scratch. My dad said he had me in case I didn’t catch that rock, guess we will never know! I am truly blessed and fortunate to walk out of that one unharmed.

On the descent we took the path we missed at the start and realised it probably would have made the hike 2 hours longer (we were about 6 hours). The fire break wasn’t easy but much more direct, so a good compromise in hindsight.

Making it home after all that effort was amazing. And getting home so early allowed us to go for a dip in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. No regrets.

To get the near-perfect conditions and be fit enough for the climb may be the hardest part, but if you do have both you won’t regret the climnb of Du Toits Peak.


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