The last of the big fires of the 2015 season was causing devastation in the Bainskloof area and started creeping over Groot Wellington Sneeukop towards the Springstygbeugel area. The 26 year old fynbos that was burning did not make the firefighters job easy. Cape nature closed all hiking routes with our planned hike was just a few days away. Fortunately some light rain later in the week turned the tide against the fire and on Friday we got the go ahead from Cape nature management to go ahead with our hike on Saturday.
Slanghoek peak is situated just northeast of Du Toits Kloof overlooking the Slanghoek valley on its northern side towards Wolseley. At 1697m it is one of the higher peaks in this range.
We started our hike from the Kromriver hut parking - you need to be a member of MCSA to access this area. We decided to hike a circle route using the Witteriver route for summiting and returning past Grassy Dome, circling around Kromriver Dome back towards Kromriver hut. The start is a nice gentle stroll down one of the Witteriver main tributaries. This area still has a lot of King proteas in bloom. A newly cut firebreak made the hike easy and fast and within 1h40min we reached the Junction pool area. From here we started climbing up the Springstygbeugel area along the foot of Groot Wellington Sneeukop. Not far into this climb the devastation of the fire became apparent. It is amazing to see how the fire is able to spread over rocky terrain and cliffs.
On the saddle before the final push you are surrounded by spectacular boulders which also serves as a camping spot if you want to overnight. We will definitely come back to camp at this area and bring our climbing gear for some exploring.
Once we hit the burnt areas it was only the gradient of the climb that could slow us down, and it did. There is a fair amount of false summits on the way to the top. But it was a very interesting climb, moving in and out of the burnt areas we could actually see what the fire does to the land. In some areas there was just a desert landscape left and the only signs of life the tracks left by the firefighters.
In the parts that did not burn we spotted some very nice proteas. First the Protea Effusa - Scarlet Sugarbush. A low creeping shrub that took a double take before realising that those recognisable leaves must be from a Protea. Upon closer inspection it revealed one of the more beautiful protea flowers. Another protea that we spotted is the Protea Amplexicaulis - Clasping-leaf Sugarbush. Also a sprawling shrub protea, part of the rodent Sugarbush family, so called because they are pollinated by mice.
We reached the summit in 4h30min and settled down for lunch on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Slanghoek Valley. The whole peak was burnt and the smoke still hung thick in the valley creating a rather surreal scenario.
After our lunch break we hit the trail in the direction of Grassy Dome. The hike back went through some amazing valleys and past some great views down some of the Du Toits kloof valleys. I have always looked back up into Tierkloof when driving in Du Toits kloof thinking that I would really like to explore those mountains and valleys.
We ended up back at the car in 8h30min, 27km 1400m climbing. Great day out.