Towerkop with Céline Gimenez

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Towerkop… Pourquoi pas?

Location: Ladismith, Western Cape

It all started in a room with friends at New Year’s Eve, a challenge for 2023: “Céline, I challenge you to climb the highest peak in the Western Cape, Seweweekspoortpiek!”

A little bit of research was needed… The Swartberg mountains (black mountain in Afrikaans) are a mountain range in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is composed of two main mountain chains running roughly east–west along the northern edge of the semi-arid Little Karoo. The Swartberg consists of two officially named ranges, the Smaller and the Greater Swartberg Mountains.
The Smaller Swartberg are the westernmost of the two, however, this range is the higher one, including the province's highest peak, Seweweekspoortpiek (Seven Weeks Gorge Peak) at 2325 m. The famous Towerkop towers over the Klein Karoo town of Ladismith at a height of 2189 m. The peak is named after its cleft peak and according to legend, was split by a spell and subsequent bolt of lightning.

The possibility of sleeping in a cave at Towerkop peak was the most attractive idea! Seweweekspoortpiek will have to wait!
We chose to do the hike over 2 nights and 3 days.

Day 1: Start of trail to The Shed
Time: +/- 3 to 4 hours through beautiful protea and fynbos
Distance: 6,5km
Ascent: 900m
The first stage is quite a challenge and to do the full hike to the cave in 1 day would be even more so. The Shed is literally that, nothing fancy but a shelter none the less. There is water close to the Shed. A nice stream of fresh mountain water. At night, with the almost full moon, we could see Towerkop and its split in the background under the clouds and the stars…

Day 2: From The Shed to Nel’s Cave
Time: +/- 2 hours through bushes and on scree (a mass of small loose stones that form or cover a slope on a mountain) quite precarious, as well as very steep passages, literally climbing some rocks with 15kg on your back. There is fresh water dripping in the cave in one corner. A basin has been brought up, making it very convenient for filling up your bottle and for cooking. Small luxuries become big ones at this altitude.
Distance: 2,2km
Ascent: 860m

Day 3: From Nel’s Cave back to the Farm
Time: +/- 5hours of down, down and more down. Be sure you will feel your legs the next few days after the hike. All worth it and a reminder of the effort.

Best season to do it
You want to avoid the heat of the summer and find enough water on the mountain. April-May seemed to be a good option. We opted for the beginning of May. In a last minute decision, we moved the trip one day earlier to avoid a cold front announced over the weekend. The possibility of being flexible over 4 days was worth it.

Make sure you are going with someone that knows where to go or that has a good GPS and location pin for The Shed and the cave. The trail is quite well maintained, but the rocks are moving and vegetation is often taking over as it should. The cairns are well positioned and many however are also subject to weather conditions and movements.

Scuttle Tips

GPS: is a great app to use to follow the trails. The GPS is accurate, working even with no signal. It has been tested on a few trails and it has never failed. There is signal almost everywhere on this mountain, even in the cave. For emergencies, take a Spot X along. It allows you to send text messages and request emergency evacuation in a life threatening situation.

Backpack: choose a good one that fits properly - we hiked with Osprey packs: every strap is adjustable, multiple pockets adaptable to your needs, breathable back section.

Sleeping: nights can be cold, the Ice Breaker from First Ascent is a very good option to which you can add a light sleeping bag liner to add extra warmth ; we recommend a lightweight mattress like the First Ascent Aero 5.5 mattress (600g for air pockets that will keep you off the ground). Take a thick plastic sheet to protect against thorns and wet ground.

Cooking: plan for easy cooking, as lightweight as possible. With the Fire-Maple Fire Fleet stove, a set of pots and cutlery from Sea to Summit, you are sorted for your coffees and dehydrated food.

With a minimum of preparation, this adventure is highly recommended, for the silence, the challenge, the different terrains, the views… breath-taking views!

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Hiking the Mnweni Circuit with Cobus du Preez

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Mnweni Circuit: A majestic section of The Great Escarpment

Location: Drakensberg, South Africa

The Mnweni Circuit is a mind-blowing, multi-day hike in the dramatic Drakensberg. It will test your grit across approximately 42km, depending on which detours you choose to take. The route is unmarked, the terrain is challenging on many levels, and you need to be completely self-sufficient. Add a cold front and 50cm’s of snow, and it becomes an adventure to remember. It’s the only part of the area that doesn’t fall under the Natal Park Board, making Mnweni one of the most remote hiking areas in the region.

We chose to do the hike over 2 nights and 3 days – but if we had a choice, we would have spent an extra night in the Ledges cave. It is the perfect spot from which to explore the escarpment a bit more and to take in the magnificent views.

Day 1: Mnweni Cultural and Hiking Centre to Shepard's Cave

Total time: +/- 6hours
Total distance: +/- 17km
Total Ascent: +/- 750m

Day 2: Shepard's Cave to Ledges Cave via Mnweni Pass

Total time: +/- 6hours
Total distance: +/- 10km
Total Ascent: +/- 1400m

Day 3: Ledges Cave to Mnweni Cultural Centre via Rockeries Pass

Total time: +/- 7hours
Total distance: +/- 13km
Total Descent: +/- 1400m

Scuttle Tips

Take a Spot satellite messaging device with you. It offers emergency communication in the event of an injury (or extreme weather) as well as live tracking for family and friends back home. (Click text for more info)

Our Vango Mirage Pro 300 Four Season Tent is the perfect companion for the Berg and all the climates it might offer. It only weighs 3.6kg so 1.2kg per person. Read more by following the link.

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Hiking the Fish River Canyon

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Fish River Canyon

The mighty Fish River Canyon

The second largest canyon in the world

Location: Southern Namibia

The Fish River Canyon is majestic. There are few other hikes like it and it is absolutely worth it. What makes it so special is the feeling of remoteness. Once you descend into the Canyon, your only option is to carry on down the snaking river. The high canyon walls initially make it ominous and scary. Almost like going down a tunnel. Not to scare anyone but there is only one (emergency) exit out of the Canyon during the route, about halfway. My two excursions down the Canyon has luckily not led me down (or up) that route but I have heard it is an absolute last resort. So, 5-6 days of following the flow of the Fish River. Absolute magic.

Lots have been written about the hike and many guides exist to make your journey easier. (Our friends at Hiking South Africa has a great resource article. Just click on this text to follow the link.)

Scuttle Tips

There are a few things that we have experienced and which will make your experience much more rewarding:

Make sure you have a good backpack that is properly fitted for your dimensions. Of course it is advisable to have used it before on previous hikes in preparation of this one, but that is not always possible. We have a range of great Osprey packs and can assist you to find the most suitable one based on your requirements. That said, the key is "lighter is better", always.

One can braai (barbeque) in the Canyon, so take meat and a small grid for the first 2 nights. It is worth it. Use the heavy items first and leave the dried food for later.

Nights can be cold and if you are not sure if your sleeping bag is up to it, throw a sleeping bag liner in your pack for extra warmth. It creates another layer of insulation in between your sleeping bag and you. It is small and light with a big benefit.

Take a lightweight mattress like our First Ascent Aero 5.5 mattress. It only weighs around 600 grams and punches way above its weight when it comes to size, weight and comfort. No restless nights touching the ground as the air pockets keep you well off the ground. Take a thick plastic sheet to protect against thorns and to provide another layer against the cold. (Click link to read a review by Hiking South Africa)

The Jetboil Flash cooking system is a great combo for an all in one cooking kit. It also boils water in only 100s so great for a quick tea break. (Click text for more info)

There is no signal in the Canyon, so the only form of communication are fellow hikers. Alternatively you could take a Spot satellite messaging device with you. It offers emergency communication in the event of an injury. (Click text for more info)

Camping at Ai-Ais the night before you start is a great idea. Another, even better idea, is to book into the hotel at Ai-Ais after the hike (pre-book). A soft bed with fresh linen together with the warm springs is just what the doctor ordered after 5 days in the Canyon.

A short film about hiking the Fish River Canyon by Arno Pouwels.

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Hiking the Otter Trail with Jay Caboz

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Otter’ly worth the effort.

Distance from Cape Town: 7 hours

One cannot even begin to explain how truly magical the Otter Trail really is until you’ve done it yourself. Over the 4 days and 5 nights of the hike, I was filled with a sense of wonder. The Otter Trail has no end to a vivid display of nature: from captivating deep green, wooded forests to waves pounding jagged rocks, to cliffs littered with blooming pincushion proteas.

On day 3, a few meters from Oakhurst Camp huts, set above the Lottering river mouth, I stood watching sea spray dance on beams of light as the sun set. It was full moon and waves smashed against the cliffs like bomb blasts. As the late afternoon light glowed between the sharp rock formations, I reveled in my good fortune at the chance to capture a hidden part of South Africa and tell a story that landscape photographers dream of.

Beyond the jaw dropping vistas right on the doorstep of our camps, it was the little things that also stood out for me. Before the Lottering river crossing, I remember vividly a single valley filled with arum lilies in bloom, the only ones on the 45 kilometer trail. The location really stood out with the scattering of lilies accompanied by a family of dassies sunning themselves on the rocks.
I was completely captivated by the little droplets clinging to their giant white spathes, which were screaming at me to photograph them. Happy to say I can add one more picture to my collection of indigenous plants under one light. This time in a 100% wild environment. I just can't get over the incredible detail I managed to capture in those droplets.

There was one spectacular moment on our very last day of the trail which will forever remain etched into my memory. Standing on the pebble beach, in the shadow of the massive cliffs, kit loaded and backpacks on, we looked back onto the Andre huts one last time. “Otter!” one of my hiking buddies shouted, when he noticed a shape moving on the rocks. To our surprise it was the elusive Cape Clawed Otter heading out for a spot of breakfast. Cameras hurtled out of bags and phones grabbed out of pockets just in time for the otter to make a graceful exit into surf.

On the trail there is always something to capture your attention and a half hour later, as we made our way up the steep cliff face en route to a well-deserved lunch, a pod of dolphin surfed by just offshore. From our vantage point we enjoyed watching as they played in the crashing blue waves. It’s the unexpected moments like these that stay with you long after the sweat, aching muscles and stinky (stinky!) clothes are forgotten on the trail. A hike to otter-ly cherish. I can’t wait to go back again next year.

Scuttle Tip: Book your hike through Afritrails.

Follow Jay on Instagram.

Photos by Jay Caboz

See more photos by Jay Caboz

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An overnight hike in between cold fronts

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Take a chance, win a prize

Distance from Cape Town: 1 hour

It was Friday lunch time, no plans for the weekend and the weather looked good. The last couple of weekends were spent in the comfort of home while the winter weather rolled through. No more sitting in front of the fire, listening to the rain. This weekend's weather seemed perfect for a quick overnight hike. No clouds in the forecast, so crisp but great for watching stars from your warm down sleeping bag.

For most, a lastminute decision like this leads to an increased heartrate but the reason for it can fall into 2 categories. Either it leads to stress due to the lack of planning and the unknown of what lies ahead or it leads to excitement knowing that from great risk comes great reward. Ideally it should be a bit of both as not all great adventures are planned to perfection but all great adventures lead to excitement. Our lastminute decision paid off. A fairly cold night was crowned by a beautiful sunrise the next morning. The colours were mesmerizing and after the third coffee it was time to explore. Luckily there was no rush to get back home. The rugby was only in the afternoon. What a trip. What an adventure. We made a note to do this more often.

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Hiking with Afri-Trails

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Afri-Trails is taking the hassle out of booking a hike

Whether you are planning a weekend hike or a 5-day trek, Afri-Trails are making it easier to get it done. They are a booking platform where you can check availability and cost and book your next hike. They even provide details on transfers and where to stay before and after the hike. No more delays, no more hassles with logistics when planning your next adventure.


In the words of the Afri-Trails team:

We are a centralized platform, providing comprehensive information and real-time bookings of overnight hiking trails in South Africa as well as optional bookings of additional services making these trails more accessible from start to finish.

Beyond the services we provide, Afritrails aim to build and grow a community of like minded adventure seekers.

The platform allows you to:
- Find trails by location and pricing
- See availability in real time
- Book trails directly on the platform
- Compare trail distances and duration

Scuttle Ideas – Afri-Trails truly add value to the hiking community. Any hiker will have many stories to share about the hassle of booking or securing a hike. In today's digital world, this idea makes so much sense. Book your gear with us and your next trail with Afri-Trails

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Lowveld Hiking – Greater Kruger NP

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Immerse yourself in Nature on a Primitive Trail with Lowveld Trails Co.

Lowveld Trails Co.

Led by professional Wilderness Trails Guides, with thousands of trails hours experience, you will spend three self-sufficient nights (four days) in the wild. By carrying all your equipment on your back, you’ll enter a world accessible to a privileged few. There are no demarcated campsites or routes for these Trails. You set your own pace and explore according to your interests and capabilities, sleeping at a pristine site under the stars each night (no tents) and packing up in the morning to leave no trace.

Distance from Johannesburg - 5.5 hours

Lowveld Trails Company

The Lowveld Trails Co. team has extensive experience and the highest qualifications in their field, ensuring that they are able to safely and confidently lead Trails in wild and unpredictable environments.⁠

Furthermore, they act as trainers, mentors and assessors within the Trails Guide industry and are passionate about sharing their experience and expertise with others.

These Primitive Trails take place across exclusive properties in the Greater Kruger National Park, including the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve.

Everything Lowveld Trails Co. do comes from a place of principle to maintain the integrity of the natural world. They endeavour to leave no trace when in wild places, value all wildlife equally and engage with animals in a calm and non-confrontational way. It’s about acknowledging our responsibility to the world around us, and our impact on those who come after us.⁠

Primitive Trails offer an alternative model with which to explore and conserve. It’s a shift from the spectatorship of the traditional safari and encourages direct interaction with wild places. ⁠

There are Trail options available for group and individual bookings:

‘Primitive Trails’ are for group bookings of up to 8 participants.

‘Mentorship Trails’ are for individual bookings, for both qualified guide and guest participants. There are 5 ‘observer’ spots, on each scheduled Mentorship Trail, open to guest participants, offering them the opportunity to go behind the scenes and observe first-hand how Trails Guides are trained and mentored. ⁠

For bookings, availability, tariffs and more visit the Lowveld Trails Co. website.

Scuttle Tip: Rent all your gear from Scuttle and we will deliver it to your door.

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Leopard Trail – Baviaanskloof

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The Leopard Trail Slack Packing Experience

Leopard Trail

The Leopard Trail is a 4 day, 3 night slack pack hike in the magical Baviaanskloof. The trail is beautifully diverse and well laid out, winding through the unique and ancient landscape of the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve. Hikers will enjoy incredible views of the Kouga and Baviaans mountains, many rockpools to cool off in, be surrounded by magnificent flora along the way, and bask in the silence of the region.

Distance from Cape Town - 7 hours
Distance from Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha - 4 hours

The Route:

Start point: Go Baviaans Base Camp
End Point: Go Baviaans Base Camp

The Leopard Trail is a circular hike staring from, and returning to, the Cedar Falls Base Camp where vehicles are left. The route is moderately difficult, with the longest day being 22km. It is designed for people of good hiking fitness. There are many opportunities in the first 3 days to cool off in one of the many mountain pools.

Day 1: 9.75km (3-5 Hours)

The hike starts with a pretty decent uphill and makes one wonder what lies ahead. The rest of the day’s trail takes one past a lovely kloof which is an ideal lunch spot and further down the valley to the overnight huts.

Day 2 : 18km (5-8 Hours)

The second day is a mix of easy flat sections with a few up-and-overs after halfway. Take the optional detour into the kloof before the first climb of the day. It is worth it.

Day 3: 22km (6-9 Hours)

Day 3 is the longest and a 6am start is a good idea. The halfway point at Wegdraai is a good lunch spot and running water can be found upstream. From there the trail follows the kloof all the way down to the overnight huts through the most amazing rock cliffs and unexpected forests.

Day 4: 13km (5 Hours)

The last day follows the kloof upstream untill a steep exit. At the top there are beautiful views of the Baviaans. From there it descends into a few up-and-overs to the finish. Look out for leopard tracks down the final kloof. (pic below)

For bookings, availability, tariffs and more visit the Afri-Trails website.

Scuttle Tip: Book the Hikers Hut at the Go Baviaans Basecamp for the night before and the night after the hike. Make sure you visit the Ceder Falls, an absolute highlight.

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