Start 08:45 End 15:30 Peak: Seweweekspoort (Western Cape) 2325m
Contrary to our fears of snow about two weeks ago, the day dawns sunny and warm. Seweweekspoort is another peak without any paths; a scramble up the mountain side in the direction of coordinates.
Seweweekspoort is steep and rocky with thick vegetation. The rocks vary in size from small to boulders several metres high. The plant growth is typical Western Cape scrub with proteas, tenacious brushes, thick grasses and some tall reeds in the regions of the mountain streams. It’s pretty and aromatic but difficult to walk through. We devise a route that winds up the mountain side and then end up rock climbing up a gorge.
We realise once we reach the crest that we have taken the difficult way around as there is an easier contour just below. The benefits of a higher viewpoint… Colin says this was his favourite ascent of the 9, as it was mostly rocks scrambling and boulder hopping, rather than endless grassy plains. From here we have to scramble up and around a few more rocky outcrops to reach the summit. It takes just over 3 hours to get there.
I think the view from the top of Seweweekspoort has to be the best of the nine. There are spectacular views all around and a blanket of cloud hanging just below. The bright blue sky, with patches of wintery white cloud contrasts the grey of the mountain tops. The Swartberg has a very different character to the mountains before, being more rocky and harsh but all the more beautiful for being intimidating.
We decide to try and find a shorter route back down the mountain instead of going the long way we ascended. First, we scramble a short distance down, find a suitable rock and eat lunch. Our last mountain-side sandwiches.
After this, we plunge down a gorge and try bushwhack our way back to the vehicle. If the plant life was difficult going up, it is impossible going down. Especially as we have chosen our descent through a watershed, so the plants are dense and tall. Particularly there are thick reeds, about head high that are difficult to bend out the way with sharp points, and smaller spiky plants that whose sharp edges poke through trouser legs with ease. I have never felt as harassed by vegetation as I have today.
It retards our progress, hides holes in the ground, makes firm rocks slippery, gets caught around your feet, gets hooked on one’s clothes and generally makes a nuisance of itself. My hands and arms bear a thousand tiny scratch marks like I have been playing with an army of agitated kittens in an enclosed space. I get poked on the hands, on the legs, in the neck, in the eye. Alleged alien abudctees have not been probed as thoroughly. I went up the mountain with a reverence for the proteas but on the way down, I tackle them with as much enthusiasm as a rugby player. Colin says next time he does this hike (next time?) he is bringing a machete and a bushcutter.
I have fallen over more today than all of the other eight hikes combined. Fatigue? Haste? Malicious plant lifeforce thingy? Colin also takes his share of tumbles. Fortunately there are no major injuries, just bruises and sprained egos. Our joints take a beating with twisted ankles and jolted knees aplenty.
Despite the unusually strong gravity on Seweweekspoort (is it the fault of the DA?), we make it back down safely. It was a challenging hike but rewarded with a fabulous view. We have done our 9 Peaks, barring a few more cycling kilometres we need to catch up for minor portages, we are done. It is disappointment that we couldn’t get into Suikerbosrand to do Toringkop due to beaurocratic nonsense and had to do an alternative peak, but as soon as it’s open, we guarantee we will be there to climb it.
The hiking has been generally tougher than either of us expected. The ups were never really an issue, due to general cardiovascular fitness (although these have gotten significantly easier as the tour has gone on!) but the downs were rough. Hikers must have very robust joints and feet. My one blister has still not quite healed from the Mafadi climb. We were often quite stiff the day after, necessitating a few rest days. Despite this, we still made decent time on the hikes, managing Mafadi in two days (just barely) and Namahadi and Kwaduma in one. We’ve also ascended further than most “peak baggers” would have, as we started all our hikes from base road level while some of them are accessible by car but for the last few hundred metres. We are proud of our achievements as hikers, especially as we are ardent cyclists who have done very little hiking before. Now we are ardent cyclists who have done a bit of hiking.