Monday, 11 September 2017

FEEDBACK: Saturday 16th September 2017: Vlakkenberg

A smallish group of mostly regulars arrived this morning at Constantia Nek for a well loved clamber up the Vlakkenberg steps, on to Picnic Rock and back via Bokkemanskloof. 

We split into our 3 groups, the Fast group consisting of only 3 strapping lads this week, and crossed the road to the start of the trail as quickly as possible so that we could get back for the SA-New Zealand rugby game. (And don't we wish we had rather stayed up on the mountain for hours longer... 57-0, I think!)

When planning the route, I'd spotted a path on Slingsby's map that I thought we'd never taken before but that led in a sort of square around a slighter lower peak than Vlakkenberg itself and to a viewpoint at the very pinnacle of the peak, and I wanted to see if we could identify it as we ran. There's a camera on the map - and the only thing the Medium group loves almost as much as running trails is taking photos so it was a must-do.

Unfortunately, the lower part of the track, marked 'slippery' on the image, was well hidden, perhaps now on the other side of the fence surrounding the vineyards but, sharp-eyed Theo noticed the other end of the path as we ran over the crest of the hill and stopped so that we could regroup and make a Committee decision about whether we should recce it or not.

Being the intrepid trailers that we are, we headed off along the track, not knowing how deep it would take us down into the valley before leading to the peak and how much distance and time it would add to our run. We were surprised to come face-to-face with Geoff & crew (Fast group) on the path a few minutes later! Clearly the Fast group has been keeping this little gem a secret from the rest of us! As it turned out, we only had to run some 500m before we spotted the beacon. 

It was quite windy on this little plateau but we, the Medium group, posed as best we could for our first ever photo at the Vlakkenberg Peak.

The views from the top were certainly worthy of the little camera icon on Mr Slingsby's map.

We then backtracked, wondering how we could let the Slower group know about our discovery so that they too could summit Vlakkenberg Peak, but failing an instant cairn, we decided that they'd have to wait to read the blog and see the photos.

The next few kilometres of this route are some of my personal favourites on this mountain. I don't know what it is about it but I think the almost secret valley so close to home and yet so rarely frequented by locals makes it feel like a sort of Narnia - that magical land just through the wardrobe. It was lovely to see water flowing up there too. We had to dance across a little stream at one low point.

Picnic rock was our next stop and the turnaround point, so after another photo shoot...

...we headed back to the four-way crossroads and turned left onto the Bokkeman's kloof trail.

Fortunately there were no twisted ankles this time and the run back to the cars was uneventful - unless you count the barking Rottie and his pal at the top of the suburban area. I'm pretty sure his bark is worse than his bite, but I'm always glad to be in a crowd when I pass him!

The distance for the Medium group was about 11km in total, including the detour, and we ran for about 2 hours and 20 minutes. The Fast group covered the same distance in far less time :).  The slower group time and distance to follow.

Thanks to everyone for a lovely Saturday morning.

Photos by Liz.

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