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highest point of our hike in the grootwinterhoek

We started walk­ing at about 08H40 the Sat­ur­day morn­ing. Half our group camped at Beaver­lac, approx­i­mately 10 km down the road from the start. We thought that camp­ing at Beaver­lac was a much bet­ter option than camp­ing at the start of the hike as the hike has no facil­i­ties what so ever (not even water!) and Beaver­lac was cheaper.

It was a per­fect, crispy winter’s morn­ing and every­thing appeared beau­ti­fully clean and fresh after the good rains we had in the week.

We decided on doing the Perde­vlei, via Groot Kli­phuis route, on the jeep track, and Perde­vlei via Klein Kli­phuis River on the sec­ond day. This was actu­ally our only option, as the rest of the wilder­ness area was still closed after the fire of three years ago. Although the area of The Hell (De Tronk) is the main attrac­tion in most peo­ple eyes, we were still very keen on to walk­ing in the Grootwin­ter­hoek Wilder­ness Area again.

We crossed the the Groot Kli­phuis river with­out too much prob­lems, just one or two slips that could have turned out nasty, but thank­fully did not.

Soon after this you get to see some of the first amaz­ing rock for­ma­tions. One can eas­ily spend hours view­ing these rocks from dif­fer­ent angles. Using a bit of imag­i­na­tion, one can see almost any­thing includ­ing hands, dassies, ele­phants, mon­key rac­ing on a pig… If you have the time, veer off the path a bit and view the rocks from dif­fer­ent angles, it is truly spectacular.

I can­not ever recall being in the Grootwin­ter­hoek area with­out there being an abun­dance of icy, crys­tal clear water. The water is so clear, you even feel to “dirty” to swim in it. Most of the other hikes in the West­ern Cape have water tainted with plant tan­nins, giv­ing it a brown­ish colour.

up_the_only_hill_s yes_the_water_is_cold_s grootwinterhoek_peak_s
Going up the only hill Yes, the water is VERY cold Grootwinetrhoek peak
pho­tos by Paul

Groot Kli­phuis on the map looks like it could be “a place” (the name in Afrikaans means big stone house) it is actu­ally noth­ing more than a few oak trees. I am sure if you go back in his­tory there will be a very good expla­na­tion for these trees. This is also a good spot for lunch if you feel like veer­ing off the path a little.

Don’t eat too much, because right after lunch there is a nasty “bump” that takes you right up to 4400FT above sea level, the high­est point on this route. In sum­mer I have heard more than one or two curse words, but on a cooler day this is a lot eas­ier on the body. The end for the day is just on the other side down the mountain.

Perde­vlei is an emer­gency shel­ter, as the brochure says. Don’t expect any­thing more. Some 4×4 club, (I for­get their name) has their plague stuck on the wall of the shel­ter, claim­ing that they main­tain the hut. Clearly, nei­ther they, nor any­one else has been there for a long, long time. There was a thick layer of mouse drop­pings on the con­crete floor in the one sec­tion. Thank­fully there was a broom.

Never the less, we pro­ceeded with our fes­tiv­i­ties, as we always do, and the last thing I did before I went to bed was to check the star­lit sky. Every­thing looked great; there was hardly a cloud in sight. I knew that we would sleep well, not hav­ing to worry about cross­ing the (semi) noto­ri­ous Groot Kli­phuis River.

The next morn­ing we awoke to a very unfa­mil­iar sound, a soft driz­zle on a tin roof with­out a ceil­ing. This we knew was not good, even though the weath­er­man only gave us a 20% chance of rain.

We set off on our intended route, Groot Kli­phuis, via the Klein Kli­phuis River, but after loos­ing the path a few times (the mist and driz­zle was get­ting a bit heav­ier by now) we decided that it would be a lot safer option return­ing via the jeep track that we came in with.

As we sum­mited the high­est point, just above Perde­vlei hut, the heav­ens started to unleash its rain in all fury. At times we could hardly see 10 m ahead of us, but for­tu­nately this was not con­tin­u­ous. Every few min­utes we would have some relief.

There was no more time for stop­ping; we were on mis­sion to cross the Groot Kli­phuis River before it got flooded. Every two or three years one reads about hik­ers get­ting stuck behind the river, some­times for days on end. This was not our idea of fun. With a brisk pace we guessed we could reach the river in about three hours.

We trudged on, by now the most of us wet to the bone, my expen­sive Kar­ri­mor rain­coat dis­ap­point­ing me badly. You can actu­ally feel the cold slowly creep­ing in on you, no mat­ter how fast you walk.

The land­scape looked com­pletely sur­real. I thought that we were back in the times of Noah and the Ark, and the rain of 40 days and nights had just started.

I don’t know how the 4×4 guys are ever going to get back to the hut again, because one could actu­ally see the 4×4 track being washed away by the heavy rains. I know this sounds a bit dra­matic, but that is how much rain there was.



Our party got a bit “stretched out” (which is never good) and the wait­ing for our party to regroup made the cold really kick in. At times like this, one real­izes how quickly things can go wrong, being in the wilder­ness, wet to the bone with an icy wind mak­ing mat­ters even more chal­leng­ing. With all these con­di­tions at play it can­not take long for hypother­mia to kick in.

We then decided to take the top route (see map) back to the vechiles, via the jeep track, and not the actual path as shown on the map across the river. We rea­soned that the higher up to the source of the river we are, the less water we would have to cross. We were all glad to have made this deci­sion. This route is quite a bit fur­ther but proved to be worth the safety risk.

For­tu­nately our party regrouped quickly, and we set of again. Not long after we got to the Groot Kli­phuis River, by now a very fast flow­ing “stream.” It looked intim­i­dat­ing. For­tu­nately Paul, a very level headed guy took the ini­tia­tive, braced him­self against the tor­rent and made sure every­one crossed safely.

Now that we have finally crossed the river we are all chirpy, even though it is still rain­ing, until we hear a famil­iar sound, the sound of a rag­ing river. We can­not believe this; the map does not indi­cate two rivers. But never the less we have to cross this river as well, and this river is very intim­i­dat­ing. Some­how Paul again finds us a “safe” spot to cross (very barely). I think if we were a half hour later we would have had to sit it out.

The map sup­plied by Cape Nature is def­i­nitely not accu­rate (or up to date) but with some ask­ing (the mist and rain made it impos­si­ble to see any­thing at a dis­tance) we found our way back to our cars via the jeep track to the Dassklip Pass road. The dis­tance we walked, accord­ing to Google Earth, includ­ing our detour of about 4 km was only 19.5 km, while the map sup­plied by Cape Nature shows the dis­tance to be 23km.

Unfor­tu­nately none of us could get any pho­tos or video, as every­thing just was to wet.

Will I do this again? Yes, cer­tainly, but I must admit that I can­not wait for summer.

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An insert… by Helga

I remem­ber going around the cor­ner and see­ing the rest of our group wait­ing for us – it was like watch­ing one of those “snow moun­taineer­ing movies” in slow motion. They looked white and motion­less but most alarm­ingly – emo­tion­less! I remem­ber feel­ing con­cerned about one of our smaller ladies in the group think­ing that she might be in dan­ger on this icy cold rainy day.

When I saw my brother (a big guy) with his vacant stare I did not com­pre­hend at the time what the cold was busy doing to him. We reached the group and started wait­ing for the last part of the group to arrive. After one minute I felt the incred­i­ble cold grip­ping each part of my body. I started this weird hard breath­ing in an attempt to become warmer. I could not imag­ine wait­ing for another 10 min­utes. Then, my hus­band started inco­her­ent mum­bling – the onslaught of hyper­ther­mia has begun! I snapped at him to get undressed – he could not move his hands or arms. The rain is still gush­ing down. I start undress­ing him and com­mand­ing him to calm down and not lose it. We find dry clothes and dress in all we have left in out ruck­sacks. Two of the biggest guys on the hike were tak­ing the most stain out of all! The rest of the group arrives – praise God! Only walk­ing can keep us from this mon­ster called “really dying from the cold”.

We walk and we talk about how easy it was for us to judge the 3 hik­ers who died in the Swart­berge two years ago. Unless you were there – you have no idea! One minute you feel okay – the next you might just not be able to care any­more. For­tu­nately for us, we make it. The idea of reach­ing that warm car dri­ves us to the end point. Will I do it again – for sure – just not this winter!

Enjoy your hik­ing but remem­ber to start warm when walk­ing in win­ter rain. Stick together, eat choco­lates and keep pos­i­tive – you will make it!

Suit­able for hik­ers, this com­pre­hen­sive South African trail direc­tory describes more than 500 trails.
Click the icon to see the map that we walked. You must have GoogleEarth installed on you pc.

Grootwin­ter­hoek, Porterville
Con­tact Details
Tel no 0861CAPENATURE(227 362 8873)or 021 659 3500 G.P.S. 32.997542,19.059072
Cell no Email This email address is being pro­tected from spam­bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fax Web­site Click here
Hike Details
Near­est Town Porter­ville Max Per­sons 12
Dis­tance from Town 32 km, 50 mins Overnight Shel­ter No offi­cial overnight shelter
Map to start of hike View Map Brochure Click here
No of days As many as you like Trail Type Cir­cu­lar
Tips and things to do

These tips will prob­a­bly apply to many hikes, but this is what we thought should not be forgotten

1. A sur­vival bag is a must on a wilder­ness hike. It could save your life.

Writ­ten on 25/​11/​2013, 18:26 by Heleen
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