That was a tough one! How could we have forgotten that the climb to Chapman’s Peak from the Drive below is the rockiest and steepest we do? There was a vague memory, as I suggested that those with bad knees should avoid it, and what a great recommendation that was. A fierce southeaster swept over the ridge and met us head on as we started the ascent on a path that is mainly paved with large flat stones. This in no way makes it easier, as the treads are for the long-legged and in many places the slabs become small, loose rocks just waiting to twist an unwary ankle. The wind blew through our party of determined hikers, doing its best to blow us into the fynbos but without success. Clouds added to the coolness, a good thing as hats (mine) were cast to the wind and needed frequent retrieval.
The path was treacherous and needed close attention, but the views down into Hout Bay and out past the Sentinel drew the eye often and allowed us to catch our breath. There can surely be few places as breathtakingly beautiful in every meaning of the words. And so it was upward and ever onward. One foot in front of the other, grateful for the incredible labour of the past that provided the steps (even if they were built for giants). If it weren’t for them, the sandy soil would have eroded into impassable dongas and denied access to one of the best hikes on the Peninsula for the young and fit. This is not a trail for the not-so-nimble! In places it was hard to even imagine a path.
The fynbos on the slopes doesn’t grow much above knee height, no doubt due to the natural pruning of the winds that prevail, and so you can enjoy a wide variety of special plants along the way – restios in the many seeps and streams, gladiolus dotted everywhere, tall spikes of impossibly blue aristea. It was good to note a small patch of mimetes growing robustly.
At last we reached the ridge between Chapman’s Peak Minor and Chapman’s Peak Major and settled down to much-needed coffee and snacks while a few who had not had enough exercise continued up the last tortuous stretch to the absolute peak. I enjoyed watching them climb as I gazed across the Noordhoek valley to the peak we had conquered on Friday, Spitskop (another steep scramble – we must be trying to burn the Christmas calories before we actually eat them).
Going back was surprisingly easier than anticipated, but still needed intense concentration, as a slip in our eagerness to reach the cars and take off our boots would have been mortifying. The wind ceased in the lee of the mountain and the clouds had dissipated, leaving us baking in the heat and grateful that we weren’t the party still on the way up. An early start is always advisable in summer. But true to form the breeze returned, allowing us to descend in relative comfort, marvelling as we gazed up at the path we had followed and patting ourselves on the back as always. We will doubtless return.