“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away”- George Carlin
My breath was taken away, firstly because the mountain we climbed was breathtaking and secondly because the mountain we climbed was tough! A group of 20 or so of us, set out on a cold winter’s weekend to the depths of Robertson to climb Arrangieskop. A peak that I have often driven past and never thought to climb. But now that I have, I am so happy I did.
As those close to me know, I have been struggling with a leg injury for about 18 months now, and although I am an avid mountaineer, I have been doing less strenuous activity of late, to try and give my legs some rest. However, when the challenge of climbing Arrangieskop presented itself to me, I was half way up Devil’s Peak, in awe of how much I loved being on mountains and I just could NOT say no. And although I tossed the idea around my head, thinking of the damages I could do and then tossing that up with the beauty and experience I would be missing, I couldn’t miss out- I had to go. I had to be there. Finding an enthusiatic group of people- like the group I went with- does not happen too often. Everyone was game, very few complained and we all LOVED the journey.
It was exciting, I had never been on an overnight hike before. I borrowed a 52L bag from a friend and started my list, the fact that there was snow rumored on the top, meant the majority of the list was dedicated to keeping warm & fed. Bryce and I had fun doing the food shop, buying delicious but easy food stuff we could eat without too much fuss on the way, roast veg quinoa salad, bran muffins, veg patties and some treats (dark choc of course!). Once the food was packed and the snow gear was in, little space was left for pillows, sleeping bags and other essentials. I had to be careful when I stood up, that I didn’t’ topple over. However, I always mentally high five myself when I uses everything that I have packed. Well done me.
The Friday after work, my favorite road trip partner and I piled into the car and started the journey to Robertson. We drove away from a beautiful sunset and towards the dramatic mountain tops and terrain ahead of us. By the time we got to our hut, we were Soundclouded out and ready for some socialising. The first night, we were sleeping in a hut at the base of the mountain (Dassieshoek). We arrived in the dark and went straight into the depths of the only warm space in the house- the kitchen. Our whole party mingled there for a while and came up with our game plan for the next day. But basically- it was going to be long, it was going to be tough 🙂
This is the summary posted on Hike South Africa:
A word of warning, this hike is rated as severe and is only two directions: up and down. The weather in winter can also be extreme, be prepared to expect snow in times of cold fronts and the second day’s route down can be slippery and treacherous. Nevertheless, I find that doing this hike well prepared in winter is a lot more pleasant than suffering mid summer temperatures for the slog up. Hiking dressed warm with a frosting of snow is an experience not often found in the Western Cape. We did this hike about 10 years ago and had light snowfalls overnight. This time round we only had subzero temperatures and ice, but nothing a bottle of Obies can’t sort out.
It took a while, the following morning, to get everyone organised, but after the obligatory group pic, we started the mission. Luckily, we realised not too long in, but we had gone the wrong direction, had to back track and head up the right way. With my awful sense of direction, this kind of behavior does not bother me at all. The mountain ahead of us was big, very big and each step forward seemed to be slightly uphill. The beauty was unparalleled. I mean, it goes without saying that the further we traveled up, the more beautiful the view went. The day was crisp and there was very little obstructing a perfect view of the Robertson valley.
When you book your accomodation at the Arrangieskop hut, you are guaranteed to be the only people on that path. It is magical. You don’t see anyone besides the people you are walking with. I felt like I had stepped into some kind of paradise. The greenery around us was intense, every couple of twists and turns we would find ourselves in a completely different type of flora and fauna. Walking through large expanses of proteas and fynbos, following the white footprints that silently guide you through this natural spectacle. It is silent, apart from the running of water and the odd cry of the birds.
Our first tea stop was on the edge of a running river. Our crew impressed me so much, they had bought little gas contraptions to heat pots of coffee. So while, Bryce and I sipped on coffee sachets, some had perfectly percolated cups of coffee. Couple with that was oats and breakfast deliciousness. The crew was an array of friends, some we knew and others we got to know. But all such great, soulful people, everyone there to explore and satisfy that primal love of being close to mother earth.
We continued the walk up, our feet getting soggy in the flow over from the waterfall. I had invested in some hiking poles, which made the trek that much easier. It is amazing the strain they take off your legs. Before this trek, I always swore I would never hike with them, they made me feel less capable, but now I don’t think i would ever do a long hike without them. After a couple more tea breaks and even more impressive views, we found ourselves near the top of the valley, with the waterfall we had been following, flowing slowly down. Bryce and I decided it was time to swim- so we peeled off layer after layer, until we got down to our costumes and with the freezing air biting at our skin, we merged into the icey water. My breath escaped straight away and I felt all the feeling in my toes disappear. However, after a rather arduous uphill, it actually felt relieving on the legs. We didn’t stay in long. Or more, we couldn’t. But we did sit and have a little snack, while some members of the group carried on climbing. We waited to see if more would dive in. They did! Which was great and entertaining.
I can’t explain to you the magnitude of the feeling I felt when we got to the top of the peak, and we walked along a plateau through some long glass, overlooking the whole of Robertson, only to creep around the last little head of the mountain to see our hut, nestled in the corner, and floating above the rest of the world. I couldn’t stop grinning- it was quite simply beautiful.
A beautiful wooden cabin, with overwhelmingly beautiful views. A valley seeped in sunshine. And hard work to get there. It was perfect. I pinched myself to make sure it was all real. The boiler was imeddiately lit, so that we could have hot showers, the whiskey was brought out, to warm us up and the sweaty layers were slowly peeled off and hung over the wooden fencing around the grounds. We were all in awe, all tired but all chuffed with where we were. It didnt take long for some card games to start, the braai to be lit and the wine to start flowing. You would have thought we had climbed enough, but when the sun started creeping down, we climbed a little further to watch it melt beyond the horizon.
The chill factor really picked up after the sun went down and we comforted ourselves around the warm indoor fireplace, while playing cards and telling stories. The perfect end to a perfect day. When we climbed into our double bunk at the end of the day, we barely whispered goodnight, before the clean air and the day’s activities whisked us into a deep slumber.
My alarm went for sunrise and I nudged poor sleeping Bryce out of bed. I was dying to wrap up warm and watch the sun creep up from the other side. It was such a great start to the day. With 200 metres still to climb, before a long day of purely descending, we knew we had our work cut our for us. My warm clothes were waiting to be worn and my hiking poles desperate for some more action.
After a delicious breakfast and a hot shower, the bags were packed and back on our backs, poles in hand, for the last little climb. On emerging that the top, we had a second group pic and signed our names in the log book for those whom are successful. Some of our group had done it before and found their last log. Was awesome! We sat for a bit and appreciated the views- the rolling hills and the green valleys. But then it got cold and it was time to start the descent.
There were sludgy bits, there were icy bits and there were precarious bits. And there were sections of some awesome scrambling, climbing up waterfalls and swimming in them. Bryce and I stopped for a photo session on the top of a rock, before we came around the other side and realised it had not been balancing on very much. But once again, we were silenced by the beauty. With so many different variations of nature, it was hard not to be impressed by mother nature. She had excelled!
My favorite part was a section where Marc, Bryce and I found ourselves scrambling up the face of a waterfall, hanging onto branches and pulling ourselves up, trying to keep as dry as possible.
In the last hour my legs were poked. I had to keep reminding myself to enjoy it and ignore the shaking and the arguments coming up from my legs. Luckily the last section, you just walked through acres and acres of beautiful shoulder high protea bushes. It was spectacular. When we finally came to the last little section, we took a moment to look a how far we had come. The mountain looked ginormous behind us- but we did it! We had such big grins on our faces and although we were offered a lift down the road back to the cars, our stubborn natures needed to walk all the way past the finish line.
The ice cold Savannah at the nearby pub was so well appreciated. It will go down in my books as one of the most incredible hikes I have ever done and I highly recommend it!
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