Posts Tagged ‘+ Salomon’

Tales of Trails in Cederberg

So after all the talk about were to stay and all the fun I had with Helen and Cori, its time to get down to the trail running and exploring I got upto for the last few days on my own.

I was staying in Algeria at one of the cottages – Peerboom (Means Pear Tree in Afrikaans) in the narrow valley that makes up the Algeria section of the Cederberg, and is administered by Cape Nature. Its a deep steep sided valley at around 500m altitude, with peaks either side of around 1600m. Its the first part of the park you enter when appproaching from Citrusdal , and as you drop into the valley you can see Southwards towards the Uitkyk Pass, where the valley climbs up to a plateau valley at 1000 metres before heading off further into the wilderness area.

I took plenty of photos during the runs so here we go:-

Whilst here I had 3 full days of great trail running that involved the following:-

Day 1 –  40 km 7.5 hours 2500m ascent Sneeuberg peak 2000m ( it would have been 44km but a couple of  guys passed me and offered a lift – they were mountain bikers themselves and were interested to see where I was from. I couldn’t resist the lift as by this time I was boiling and wantedd to have plenty of gas in my legs for the next couple of days)

Helen and I stayed here for a few days mountain biking , running and horse riding

An Oasis of green in the midst of the rocky landscape, a cool place to stay with a lake for a swim too!! I approached Sneeuberg from the far side on my run, but this valley behind Kromsrivier has some great tracks too

A run from Peerboom up a parallel valley ( Klein Uitkyk ) then a long traverse towards Sneeuberg Peak , a climb to the summit then a descent more directly to the gravel road beyond the Uitkyk pass, returning along the gravel towards Peerboom.

Early in the run a steep valley climb with some triffids to fight through here and there, leads to great views and a levelling out in Fynbos vegetation, before a fantstic valley traverse

Looking down Klein Uitkyk on the Duweisgat trail -on the way to Sneeuberg.Technical trails and a steep climb in the early morning. Running in my Salomons today, probably not the best choice due to technical nature of trails but plenty of cushioning

I set off ful of trepidation as one can really feel the wild and emptiness around one and there is always the possibility of bumping into snakes and other wild animals …. I had chosen a longer route than necessary as I liked the look of the Klein UitKyk and the Duweisgat area on the map, with its tight contours and remote look.  I had my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles with me too to help with the climbs  (I have definitely found that they are great for steep power marching and definitely seem to help with reduction of soreness in the quads the day after too). I was constantly aware that the day was going to be a scorcher – 30 plus and kept my eye on water sources to supplement my supply. The water from the streams tastes so good and I was lucky that on this particular day there were plenty of them throughout the trip. Hitting the top of the first pass the route levelled for a km or two then dropped significantly into the top of a super steep and remote valley which looked like a scene from a Conan Doyle novel “The Land That Time Forgot”. My first concern was that I would have to drop right into this to get to Sneeuberg, but a map inspection reassured me that I still couldn’t see the peak…

The land that time forgot? So remote and trails just clinging to the side of the valley. no one around, just rock dassies and the odd Grysbok and lizardd

5 miles into Sneeuberg run and no sign of the mountain yet. Looking down into Duweisgat after ascending Klein Duweisgat

The trail is carved vertiginously into the side of this valley and generally contours round to the left until another steep climb leads to a col and a further plateau covered in myriad rock formations and a less technical trail across some flats towards the Sneeuberg hut… The hut is in fact a shed with hay in it so not wuite like an alpine hut, but it has a great little stream nearby and fantastic views of Sneeuberg and the surroundings, and is about 2.5 miles from the summit.

The Track levelled off for a while, and plenty of streams to fill my Salomon flexi bottle thingy and back pack. Hut just around the corner

A beautiful plateau, with Sneeuberg in the distance my objective. Very technical trails leading up the mountain with climbing at the top, It was somewhere around here that I disturbed a Black Spitting Cobra - one advantage of running poles is that they strike the ground ahead of you and seem to alert snakes to ones presence before you stumble onto them...

From the hut some steady contouring then a very technical, steep and narrow trail leads up to the Southern end of the summit ridge, where some rocky running leads onto large rock steps and some definite scrambling and easy rock climbing moves to progress, with tricky route finding as one gets close to the summit. I spent a lot of time seeking out the best way up, and also had to concentrate as the higher one goes the tricker the climbing becomes and also more exposed, narrow ledges and awkward bridging gave me a cramp at one point.  20 metres below the summit cairn I called it a day ( see caption below) and decidedd to head down…

Hot and remote and a long way back yet. 20 metres from the top. An exposed section of about 10 metres on round pockety slab  above a big drop did not look so appealing and as I wasn't sure whether this was the right direction or not I decided against it...12 miles down 13 to go

Little Pup and Sugar Loaf in distance, looking back towards where I stayed with Helen ( Kromsrivier valley). The last 20 metres above me was an awkward rock slab with scoops and I was not sure if this was the right way to go, after weaving my way around for 20 minutes route finding. Still the ledge I was on now had a great view and it was time for a boiled egg and then the descent....

The descent was technical again and steady, a lot of pole use for stability and a lot of triffid wrestling. Once I hit the travers path back to the Sneeuberg hut I picked up speed and form and turned right down hill at the hut, on the trail that led more directy to the road through from Algeria to Dwarsrivier. I figured a faster descent for 9 km and a steady return on the gravel road would be better in the heat of the af ternoon than  a return on my route, and a bit of variation is always a good thing. No point running the same trail twice unless you have to… The descent was a killer – even though it was a cart track it was a festival of loose rounded rocks and sharp boulders, steep in places and boiling hot down to the road at Oike Boom, , and then in the distance loomed the steady climb back to Uitkyk Pass, which I launched into after another hit of cold water soaking in the river conveniently next to the road track junction!! Another 4.5 km on the road and foruitously a couple of South African mountain bikers passed and were inquisitive enough to say hello , then offer a lift back to Peerboom, so how could I say no!! 40km  after setting off I was back and the cold water pool next  to the house beckoned, to help the legs recover and soothe my mild sun stroke . Ginger sliced into hot water and lots of rehydration salts helped sort me out and then a other hit of Braai and vegetable stew for dinner to fortify myself for tomorrows adventures…..

Food of champions, cooked over wood embers under a starry sky

Braai'ing and wholesome vegetable stew frenzies characterised the time in Cederberg, eat al fresco. This is at Algeria, Peerboom house, but we did the same in kromsrivier. A great way to eat. Not forgetting a nice bottle of S.A Pinotage or Shiraz and some rehydration.....

Day 2 – 25 km Climbing up to Die Gat then a traverse behind the middleberg mountain, then descending to Algeria and a run up along the Uitkyk trail back to my house ( This was planned to be a 10km run, just a climb up to Die Gat, but the terrain was so amazing , I just couldn’t resist exploring further and further, and also a short wrong turn added a couple of of spectacular km to the trip)

Heading out on y second days runnign up Die Gat to head round the back of Middleberg, planning on a short one

Techy tracks climbing up zig zag style in dense vegetation amidst myriad rock scenery, climbing would be great in Cederberg too. Sweltering morning but my legs felt great. Poles helped again on these climbs.

A steep climb up from my abode was all I planned for at the start, and the path was a great stepped technical roccky trail, with loads of Fynbos overhanging it too ( return of the triffids…) Had my TNF Hayasa’s on today as they are firmer on this kind of terrain and my feet feel better with a bit more feedback after a day in the Salomon Crossmax Missions. The Hayasa’s fit like a glove and feel light and fast in this stuff..

17km in on my planned 10km run, the scenery was so fantastic I just had to keep seeing what was round the next corner...

Took a wrong turn before this and started heading off into the middle of no where. This view was just after I passed a rare group of people out for a hike, confirming that the hut lay ahead and I was indeed heading the right way

Once up on the top of Die Gat, I got carried away seeing what was around the next bend, and then 17km into my run and one wrong turn corrected later, a spot of lunch on a rock, and I was nearly at the Middleberg hut nestled in a corner of a high valley above Algeria.

Steep techy and steppy descent ahead in the sweltering heat. A brilliant trail down and a great waterfall along the way, where I stopped with Helen and Cori the week before

Looking down the fine trail and ready to fly.....Legs feeling good but wary about battering them too much as I have another good day planned for tomorrow. I so can't get enough of this area and the trails , they are amazing

Time for a great stepped descent, North wales style down into the valley passed a great waterfall to top up the water supply as necessary, and a hot run up the valley bottom back to Peerboom and my house. The valley trail, if you catch the right trail is great, but I missed it a couple of times due to the triffids again and had to fight my way back online . Very hot finish, but once again the cold pool in the stream was awaiting and it was straight in there to soak the body back to a chilled and recovering state before more feeding Day 3 25 km Consisting of 2 runs. The first run was from Sandriff ( a 20 minute drive away to the South) where I ran steeply up to Wolfberg Cracks, through the cracks and acrosss to Wolfberg Arch and back.

A permit is required for this run as it lies on private land outside the Cape Nature area. The permit can be got from Dwarsrivier office, which also does wine tastings and has vine yards. The rose 2011 is an amazingly good wine that myself and Helen shared a bottle of on our last night before she left to work

Start of the third day involved a good hard climb upwards, and again the poles just seem to add a spring to my step and the legs felt remarkable perky too. All these climbs are so technical that even when descending yoou have to be super careful not to catch a toe and take a flyer.. These rocks are rough and will do some serious damage if you take a dive into them.

A brilliant climb/caving style ascent through the cracks leads to great views over the valley

Amazing colours and amazing views. The Wolfberg arch lies another 3 miles across the rocky plateau

More fine views!! The cliffs are a popular climbing area , although there was no one there when I was . Only a few visitors to the Cracks themselves

Can't get enough of the views and the sense of wilderness this place has. It is spectacularly vast, ancient, peaceful and airy

10 miles round trip to underneath the arch,through wolfberg cracks. Great place for lunch

Wolfberg Arch, after a great scramble and squeeze through the Wolfberg Cracks as part of the run

Looking back towards the Wolfberg Cracks, the sense of this vast place is fantastic. So empty of modernity and such ancient rocks. No traffic noise, nothing but wind and birds

The terrain racks to here is rolling gently and a fantastic mix of solid sandstone steps and dusty trails weaving in and around myriad boulders

Having completed this amazing run, and heading back to Peerboom for yhe customary immersion in the cold pool for 15 minutes , I couldnt resist a blast (stagger) up the UitKyk pass on the gravel road to descend a rather fine looking track I had spotted previously back to the house…….

A brief run down of where what and how we stayed in Cederberg

I am back at work now and just reflecting on what a great holiday I have just had with Helen and Cori, and ultimately on my own for a few days too.

Trail running wise, Cederberg has been brilliant and I will endeavour to impart a bit of useful information about how to get there and where to stay etc ( based on our own experiences of course) before giving a bit of a run down on the trails and terrain:-

The place is awesome, from Hot thermal springs and accommodation in old Victorian Spa houses to cottages in the middle of nowhere, it is an area maybe 3 times the size of Snowdonia with only a handful of gravel roads running through it and so empty of people….

Helen and I stayed here for a few days mountain biking , running and horse riding

An Oasis of green in the midst of the rocky landscape, a cool place to stay with a lake for a swim too!!

The landscape is made up of  mountainous ridges ancient heavily weathered sandstone it seems with amazing rock formations on a grand and a small scale- myriad shapes abound and make for a stunning landscape, as all the hills and mountains bristle with these shapes. Cast in between are Oasies of green and water where private farms are part of the reserve management team and provide accomodation and camping in great surroundings

We spent a total of around 2.5 weeks in the area and could have spent many more here, as  the scenery lures you on to see what is round each corner. The variety in the place is huge too, some areas remind me of Balochistan in Western Pakistan, or Omani jebels with grass on, and others look like limestone pavement areas in the Yorkshire dales (only grander).

Fresh water in pools and streams are unexpected in this dry looking place, but seem to pop up out of nowhere when least expected although I suspect these dry up as summer pushes on.  During my runs I drank many mountain streams big or small, as long as the water was flowing as the crystal cool water was tooood to pass up and in the heat I was draining my Salomon SLAB bag quickly. ( Although caution should be advised – I am not recommending this just in case I develop a case of worms later, but I was sure the waters were clean…)

How to get there:-

Well the area is a designated wilderness area 200km North of Cape Town, the terrain rising from around 600 metres up to 2000m in places and remote and unspoilt. The nearest town you would pass is Citrusdal, a strange place – a one road town with a good Spar Supermarket for provisions. Picketberg about 30km before this is also good for stocking up. Don’t rely on Citrusdal Tourism office for good information, they seemed a bit out of touch when we visited it.

The Cederberg website has plenty of info as has Cape Nature, and generally from all the tourist camps there are many trails accessible for bikes or walks / runs etc up into the hills. I also booked some accommodation through Cape Nature, who own cottages in and around Algeria, some with and some without electricity but all in great locations. There is also a

We had a car to get in and out , which gave us a lot of freedom, we stayed in a number of areas and didn’t waste time getting about. From the Baths, South of Citrusdal to Kromsrivier and Algeria in the middle of the park we got a good flavour of the place and really enjoyed our time there.

If you want direct access to the trails and reduce travelling time, then it is worth staying inside the area as outside the area the number of trails are limited due to private land issues and there is not the same history of paths and access that there is in the UK and Europe. I do recommend a trip to the Baths, such a cool place to chill out in hot springs under the sun or stars… either before or after a trip into the area.

Allow about 3 hours to drive into the Cedeberg Wilderness from Capetown, and maybe an extra hour to account for shopping on the way. Cost of accomodation ranged from around £19 pp per night for 3 of us in a self catering apartment at the Baths, to around £40 per night for 2 in a cottage in the reserve areas themselves – kromsrivier/ Algeria etc etc. The Algeria house cost about £44 per night but could accomodate 4 people comfortably..

The parks raise money through a permit system for using the paths and trails. Usually if you are staying one particular area, the trails / park fee is included for that particular area, but if you go to another zone you will have to pay, usually around £5 to £8 per day maximum to access trails . A bit different to the UK but it seems to work, as a lot of conservation management work goes on in the areas, for wildife and plants , and the area is a world heritage site….

Whilst in the area with Helen and Cori ( my wife and stepdaughter) we walked , looked at San rock art, saw great rock formations, cool waterfalls, rode mountain bikes and horses and generally had an awesome time.

I am looking forward to writing about the running bit next but wanted to put the place into context for any would be visitors because in my opinion the lonely planet is a bit hard to follow for the area and doesnt do it justice.

(By the way a 1:50 000 map can be purchased from the permit offices in the park  ( Algeria/ Kromsrivier / Dwarsrivier  or from Cape nature  in Clanwilliam..

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