General points to keep in mind:
You need a determined attitude, not a fearful one to complete this section, too many folk sit at Trouthaven and listen to stories of trepidation and then toss and turn with worry until they head out the next morning – that’s a waste of energy, many people have successfully completed this section with no issue. Those that have problems generally behave irrationally and waste time and energy.
It’s a kloof, that means it runs up to a watershed, that’s the direction you are headed.
It has steep sides – you are going nowhere near them, even the last part is just a very steep slog
It is a hike, not a climb, you are not going to need any climbing experience, you can’t fall off, so relax.
Keep the main river on your left at all times until you are right at the top of the valley and you finally cross it as a stream.
There is no path, get that picture out of your mind, but there is an easier route through the bushes, you need to be looking for signs of that route all the time, think rationally when looking for a route, not a path.
There will be markers/ hints to guide you, you need to remain alert to see them, look twice or more.
Start as early as possible, the first part is the easiest to find, rather sit in the kloof and watch the sunrise than be sitting in the kloof watching it set.
Follow someone who has gone before if needs be or possible.
When you first see the exit point/ watershed in the very far distance at first light, take out your compass and note the general direction you are headed to get there, remember that direction if it gets dark.
The route doesn’t majorly zig zag up to the top, in general it’s a pretty straight line up the right- hand side of the valley quite low down on the slopes and mostly the gradient is not excessive until you finally climb out
The route is marked primarily by 2 means:
o cairns, which are stones/ rocks placed upon each other, you may need to look carefully to find them;
o broken branches of bushes alongside the route, normally a limb is snapped downward by a passing hiker to show you that the route passed that bush;
o two other minor indicators of the trail are cut branches on bushes and displaced stones – there will be no tyre tracks.
Don’t try exotic options such as climbing the sides/ going higher than you need looking for better routes, this will just result in you losing the trail and expending enormous effort to re-find it if you are so lucky.
Sometimes the route needs to go up or down the slope to negotiate one of the streams coming down from your right, don’t panic if you climb a bit or head down toward the river for a section.
When (not if) you lose the route, STOP, walk back to where you last saw a clear sign of the route (branch or cairn), then look for next one ahead of that, when you find it follow the route again – this will save you a lot of time and effort.
Before you leave this is what you should check:
1. Have a successful mindset, I used to call it a ‘barbarian attitude’, you can’t go in there meekly.
2. Have your gear sorted and ditch only the unnecessary stuff, put the heavy stuff in your backpack and have access to your quick-change rain/ warm gear.
3. Try and eliminate bits that stick out, such as map boards, wobble bags etc – you want to be able to push and pull the bike easily
4. Have an extra full day’s meal stored (which you may not touch until you hit the jeep track at the top), never venture into the mountains unless carry it.
5. If your shoes are wonky at this stage, tape them up properly with duct tape you have been carrying.
The route in broad sections:
1. From the end of the road around the edge of the dam, up and over the hill until you reach the right turn to head up the valley on the marked path.
This is a relatively easy section to find the route, you will be doing it in the dark, so follow the most obvious path and don’t miss the right turn as you head down the slope.
2. The long stretch up the valley to the edge of the crash site and the split down to the scree or straight through the bush
This is where the cairns and broken branches come into play, keep a lookout for them and develop a flow with the route, it’s a fairly logical progression up the valley seeking to avoid either thickly bushed areas or steeper rocky outcrops. I don’t advocate the scree option, so I don’t describe the approach to it here, but you may wish to do it
3. The section after the bush tunnel to the protea forest and down to cross the stream to the start of the ascent
You will know when you have passed the crash site strewn area and have crested the hill and head down toward the stream coming down from your right, keep following the cairns, when you cross the stream you will see a tree to your right, the exit is up the bank to the right of the tree, don’t be tempted to go left the easier route around the tree, you will need to lift your bike up above the steep exit bank to find the path and then almost immediately head into the bush/ reed tunnel which has a stream as a floor, when you pop out the other side you will continue to follow the cairns.
Start looking ahead to the two options to exit the valley and get clear in your mind which one you will be taking, there is the direct route up the left side which is steeper and the gradual diagonal route up to the watershed saddle which has its own inviting hakea stand clear for you to see.
When you finally get to the protea forest, the entry is lower down in the protea stand, ie don’t take your own high line into the proteas, this will cause you mayhem, stick with the cairns and broken branches, you need to look carefully for them on the entry to the proteas.
The route through the proteas and down to the stream crossing is fairly obvious, if you lose the route here, you will know you have lost it.
4. The ascent and exit to the jeep track
When you cross the stream and exit into your first taste of hakea, you will by now have made a call on which route you are taking to exit. Both are a slog and both just need your barbarian mindset, this is the final hurdle it’s a throw and pull affair.
After you have taken your photos at the top, head down and right to the stream in the distance and the now non-existent jeep track, don’t go left, you may cross minor streams in search of the jeep track as you head around and down to your right, but just don’t go down into the main stream and mess around there. If needs be get your compass out and head in a NNW direction to find the track.
Charl van der Spuy July 2022