Sunday, 3 February 2013

Feedback: 9 February


Recovery Group showing off Eleanor's ankle!

A less dense part of that kloof

Saturday 9th February 2013: Constantia Nek-Vlakkenberg

Saturday’s saw a record number of 40 turn out for what would become an eventful sortie.  

All started well as we climbed up the many steps leading over Vlakkenberg pass. We saw a magnificent sunrise breakthrough the low lying clouds threatening rain.   Then Eleanor stumbled and turned her ankle. Fortunately Elaine was at hand and she expertly strapped it up and we decided that it would be better for her to continue down Bokkeman’s kloof where we could get her to a car as opposed to retracing our steps and going down all those steps.

The main group continued at a fine pace up to Skoorsteen berg and we of the Recovery Group searched for the trail down the densely wooded Bokkeman's Kloof.   We found it well hidden in thick bush and we had some good bush wacking experience before the terrain opened up a bit.   

The Main Group decided to try the alternative path which was in fact the better option and soon caught up and overtook us going down the kloof. The rain set in but at least Eleanor’s ankle was holding up and she made good progress downhill and decided to continue along the pipe track to the end.

Meanwhile Fay’s walking group were being slowed down by a newbie who was neither fit nor strong and was tiring fast.   They unfortunately missed the beacon and sign we had left indicating where to turn down the kloof and seeing the Main group on the other side of the valley followed them down only to miss the point where the stream is crossed.    

By now the rain was falling steadily but the Main and Recovery groups were soon back at the start and the shelter of their cars.

Back to the kloof and the struggling walking group.  Fortunately Felicity had taken her cell phone and called me to say they were lost and were having problems with the tiring newbie.  I decided that Neil and I should drive down and wait for them at the bottom of the kloof to reduce the distance they still had to cover.   We also managed to telephonically guide them back up to the board walk where they found the previously ignored beacon.  

Meanwhile Neil had started back up the kloof to escort them down.  They met up and returned down in the now pouring rain at a snail’s pace to stay with newbie!.   Eventually they reached the bottom after taking four and a half hours for what should have been a 2:30 walk. Clearly Neil is the hero of this as during the course of that morning he did Bokkeman’s three times.  Those who ran that day will understand that was no mean feat in that thick bush.
We then drove a gaggle of soaking walkers and a very embarrassed newbie back to Constantia Nek.

A few lessons to be gained from this incident which could have ended on a far more serious note.
  1. Even trail walking is not easy.  We need to be careful about how we “sell” trail running/walking to potential newbies.   We must stress that they must be fit and able to cover at least 12-15kms on tar at a modest running pace or at a fast walk if wanting to join Fay’s walking group.   What we do is tough going and we should not overlook the fact that what we now find relatively easy is in reality well beyond the capabilities of the average couch potato.
  2. Group leaders and sweeps should monitor any newbies and if it is clear after say 15minutes that they cannot keep up then they should be tactfully asked to turn back and return to the cars.
  3. Cell phones are essential.  Without one we would have had no idea what had happened and would not have been enabled to effect a rescue.
  4. Rain proof jackets are essential on all sorties.   Only two of the walking group had rain jackets and the rest were clearly very cold and wet.
  5. Whistles helped Neil locate them, need I say more. 

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