Western Cape - Scuttle Rental

Towerkop with Céline Gimenez

By | Hiking | No Comments

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: Maps.me 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!

Tell us about your experiences by sending us an email to adventures@scuttle.co.za. Alternatively share it with us on Facebook. We would love to hear from you.

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Bikepacking in the Western Cape

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Bikepacking is a great combination of cycling and camping

Combining cycling and camping has resulted in a new adventure called Bikepacking. It is especially popular in Europe and the USA where roads and campsites are more geared toward it. There are no specific rules as to what constitute bikepacking so for those less fit out there, grab an e-bike to make it as much fun as you like.

The Western Cape has many great options when it comes to bikepacking. There are many gravel roads that are quieter and reasonably safe to use. Campsites at the right distance or time of day are sometimes more of a challenge but adding in a night in a B&B is not against the rules. There are no rules. That is the beauty of it.

Our trip was an overnight trip and the schedule very relaxed. This meant that we stopped wherever and whenever we felt like it. It was a perfect contrast to life's organised chaos. Coffee shops, wine farms and beer breweries are in full supply and a nap or rest in the shade is all part of the journey. The destination is often just a place to pitch your tent and get a good night's rest.

Here are a few more articles and resources to get you into the groove that is bikepacking:

Locally Bicycle South is a great platform that links many players in the industry from trips to parts to gear.

Bikepacking.com take things to a whole different level from an international perspective.

Scuttle Tip – Make your first trip a short one to test your gear. The right equipment (panniers) to carry gear and the right camping equipment is important to get right before a multi day trip. Lighter is better. Much like hiking.


Tell us about your experiences by sending us an email to adventures@scuttle.co.za. Alternatively share it with us on Facebook. We would love to hear from you.

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