I have a theory that much of the deterioration of the hiking trails is due to runners loosening the rocks and enabling easier weathering and wash-aways of sand in heavy rains. The soft tread of a hiker should not cause damage to the established trails, I would think, but even the well-laid stone paths have widened as people have chosen to skirt these in favour of a softer route through the fynbos at the edges. I mention this because today’s scramble up Elsie’s Peak seemed to be more arduous than remembered due to flat stones being covered in a fine layer of sand, small loose rocks making for hazards on the once firm track and severe damage to the vegetation around the more challenging rocky sectors. Maybe we are just all getting older and forget that we were more agile on previous visits, but I don’t think so.
We admittedly took a different route, starting at the end of Mountain Road with a steep ascent before turning left and proceeding along the flank of Elsie’s Peak to the next cul-de-sac near the sharkspotters’ lookout (no sharks today), which also entailed a downhill bit before heading back onto the mountain. Much puffing and panting took place (guilty as charged) and many opportunities were taken to enjoy the wonderful views up the Fish Hoek valley and across the bay where the sunlight streaked through cloud cover leaving pools of light in shades of silver on the calm waters.
The cloud cover didn’t quite extend to us, and soon jackets were shed and long pants rolled up into capris (mine were capris but being so short they reached my ankles!) and hats donned. There is still little to be seen by way of flowers as we head into autumn, but a few lovely dark pink sugarbushes splashed colour on the hillside, and everywhere we saw the delicate pink gladiolus that appears at this time of year.
As we gained elevation, a welcome breeze blew over the ridge, and still we climbed and climbed. Our usual route is from the Glencairn side, and it was generally agreed that we should have stuck to that one! I did not feel too bad when I decided to park myself on a level piece of rock for coffee and a sandwich and let the more energetic of the group carry on for a further ascent to the beacon, as we had already left four others a bit further back. It was a day of attrition that we normally do not allow as the rules are that you do not separate and do not leave the established route. However, we felt secure in numbers in three groups and there were a number of other hiking parties dotted over the mountain. In the end, we all got the exercise that suited us, the air was like champagne, and only a few slips occurred on the rocky path back to the cars. A good morning out in magnificent surroundings. But definitely from Glencairn next time.