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Spitskop - A Karoo Winter Hike

Submitted by: 
Cyril Bratt
(@cyrilgbratt)

Where is your MicroAdventure located? 
Eastern Cape, Steynsburg

How long is the MicroAdventure in total, out and back? 
24km, 6hrs 20min



Give the people a short description of your MicroAdventure.
The goal was to climb Spitskop, 2,055m above sea level, a prominent peak on my uncle's farm Springfield. I would traverse the mountain range and end up on his second farm, Pylfontein. 60% dirt road, 40% no trail.

I started the hike at 05:30 in the dark. As always, I hiked in shorts, but in mid-winter in the Karoo, I wish I'd had longs. After 2km I arrived at the foot of the mountain. There is no path so one can either head straight up or zig-zag. I chose the former. After 230m gain in elevation, I reached the gravel road as it was starting to get lighter. Baboons in the cliffs above were barking at me. Followed the road to the top where a Vodacom tower is stationed. Managed to make it in time to view the sunrise. It was too windy to boil water for coffee, so I carried on hiking until I found a nice spot.

After a short break, I continued on top of the mountain range, making my way for Spitskop. The road quickly disappeared, so had to orienteer my own way. The wind was getting stronger and the misty clouds were rolling in. By the time I reached the foot of Spitskop, the wind had probably reached a good 60km/hr. It was very difficult to breathe when having to walk straight into the headwind due to the cold air.

The climb up to the peak is fairly steep but the adverse weather conditions made it that much tougher. The real effect of the wind was felt right at the top where gale-force winds tried to blow me off the peak. Thankfully I was wearing a quality down jacket that endured its first wind test (passed with flying colours), but my hands and face were freezing, so I didn't spend much time admiring what view I had, with all the clouds blocking the great expanse of the Karoo anyway. I quickly made my way down the mountain where the wind subsided slightly. Hiked to the neck of the mountain which joined to the other range.

Came within about 5m of some bush pigs which were oblivious that I was even there, probably due to the heavy winds. The sun started breaking through and the winds died down after a few more kilometers. It was easy going along an old dirt road. The route then joins a badly maintained jeep track as it gradually winds its way down the mountain. Reached the old dilapidated farm buildings of Pylfontein.

The last 3km followed a jeep track all the way to the main gravel road. Not the most fun way to end a day in the mountains, but it afforded me the opportunity to view the spectacular mountains I'd just hiked on.

Incredible to think that just a few hours ago I had stood on top of that barely noticeable peak in the distance. I arranged with my uncle to pick me up at the gate and drive the last 5km back to the farmhouse. All in all a fantastic micro-adventure in some very challenging weather conditions. One to remember!


How do you get to the start? Please share some directions. 
From PE, drive to Cradock on the N10 and to Steynsburg on the R390 and R56. Take the R390 out of Steynsburg and drive 20km. Turn left onto the gravel road towards Skietnek. Drive 12km to the farm Springfield on your right.

How much did it cost (per person)? 
Free!

Best time to go? 
Day, Spring and Autumn


A quick note about safety. Can you do it solo? Do you need a crew? 
I did it solo, so can be done. There is cell phone reception for most of the route. 


What sport is this adventure most related to? 
Hiking

Do you need any special permissions / permits? 
Yes. 

Permission must be obtained from David Alberts on 082 889 6046. Booking should be done a few days in advance.

How difficult is the MicroAdventure? 
7 out of 10

Any tips...? 

  • Bring all the water you need, as there are no water sources on the route.
  • As experienced on my hike, weather conditions can be extreme, so bring windproof gear and rain jacket.
  • The high altitude may affect your breathing, so don't push too hard if you're feeling out of breath.

 

 

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