On track to Oppelskop

The trail to Oppelskop, a small peak perched on the side of the more challenging Devil’s Peak, is described in the hiking guides as moderately challenging. The challenge differs according to weather conditions, recent fires and degradation of the pathways that have been scraped from the sharply inclined slopes of the mountain. This is not a trail for the vertiginous, and it is easy to understand how a panic attack can ensue if you pay too much attention to the drop and not enough on where you are putting your feet. The grasses bending across the path can act as a trip wire, sending you tumbling down the slope with very little to stop the slide (as occurred on a hike a few years ago). The devastating fire last year acted as a catalyst for the proliferation of new growth in some unwelcome species, mainly the dreaded wag-‘n-bietjie with its spiny leaves which has all but obliterated the paths, making it difficult to avoid being spiked as you lean into them to remain on track. The path is little more than 50cm wide in good places, and where erosion has taken place, somewhat less. Recent heavy rains have caused a small landslip, exposing bedrock which has been the saviour of the trail, as it is unlikely that a deeper gouge could be easily repaired.

Yet, having said all that in fair warning to those who should not consider this trail, for the fleet-footed and agile hiker, this has to be one of the most rewarding hikes in terms of the views across the Mother City and far beyond, cradled in the sheltering cliffs of our beloved Table Mountain, warmed by the bright winter sunshine and patched with greenery wherever it finds purchase. In spring the flowers are just beautiful, and early signs are already showing themselves. The perennial streams that seep from this giant sponge tumble in little waterfalls that gather in dams along the road far below and provide refreshment for the thirsty hiker. Yesterday was wind-free, enabling us to climb to the very top of Oppelskop to enjoy the fruits of our labour! When the southeaster blows, the wind can be gale force, making it impossible to stand on the pinnacle without being blown away. Many a hat has been seen heading towards town from this viewpoint.

Although this is a circular loop, we decided against the climb up to The Saddle and made our way down to the road, a quite long but gentle gradient still requiring a careful boot placement. The walk back along the road to the cars was long, as a barrier was placed many years ago to prevent people driving along the road which is slowly falling victim to rockfalls and landslides as nature continues the weathering process of these ancient mountains.

A lovely morning out in perfect weather, with a cautionary rider.

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