“Mountain Shadows”
Fri to Monday - 21-24 September 2007
29 Hikers from Midlands+Backpackers Clubs

Yet another of the Ashtons Amazingly Adventurous Activities – Lead by our favourite leader – Keith! Everytime we hike with Keith, we discover new ways of doing old hikes and theres always an extra edge to add enchantment to keep us on our toes. Such was this wonderful long weekend at the popular Mountain Shadows, who have built luxurious new cottages and always have a warm welcome for we hikers.

This being a combined Midlands/Backpackers Hike, we had a total attendance of 29 people some of whom joined all the hikes while, for others, there was plenty of opportunity to just relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. A few lucky people arrived early on Friday and warmed up with short local walks. The rest of us drove up though the horrid holiday traffic, arriving at our peaceful destination in time for supper, a quick chat and then bed..only to be woken well before dawn with a continuous cacophony of frustrated roosters who pointed their beaks to the sky telling us their problems, so it was a bunch of muttering, bleary eyed hikers who strapped up their boots ready for Mount Erskine.

Sat 8.30 - Mount Erskine Rockband Traverse. 13.4 km & 600 m. (the top of Mount Erskine is 2151 m)

By now, we were joined by new arrivals, and our group set off for a good day’s hike. Keith had arranged access through the International Backpackers property - a short walk from Mountain Shadows. After a friendly greeting by the owner and a look around his very pretty property with adorable little cabins right on the lake, we started the climb, going southwards. After a diagonal traverse above the top dam followed by a stiff climb with some rock scrambling until we reached an old eland track at about 4.5 km from Mountain Shadows.

After that, we contoured along the eland track (below the white splotched rocks betraying raptor nest sites) At about 1950m we reached an old beautifully built hut, made from perfectly cut stones. The structure itself attached to a massive rock; the rock forming the back wall of the hut. A beautifully symmetrical window gave a romantic view over the valley, which had the recluses amongst us sighing and wishing we could move in right away. A symmetrically correct arch way providing a photo opportunity as well as much speculation as to the origins of such an intriguing home built so far away from any access or water.

0022 - en-route up Mount Erskine - Arthur Bester in foreground

0023 - some of our group taking a breather - en-route up Mount Erskine

0024 - inspecting the ruins of the old well built stone building - high up below the rock band on Mount Erskine.

At about 6.6 km we reached an enormous rock outcrop amongst old Podocarpus trees which provided a shady resting place. After lunch we continued contouring west & soon reached a high valley which, if climbed, would give access into the Kamberg area (Keith intends to explore a full route up this valley into the Kamberg Reserve to develop future hikes).

We continued a bit further until we reached a main valley & then descended diagonally- mostly off path and in places quite steep. (finding a route between the rockbands which, when we looked back, made us feel very proud of our personal achievements!). Eventually we reached a lower track travelling east to eventually reach the lovely dam above Silver Hills guesthouse.

Finally we made our way back to Mountain Shadows via International Backpackers having thanked the new owners for kindly allowing us access over their property. As you are aware, not all property owners take kindly to a scruffy bunch of hikers trudging over their private space.

That evening, we gathered around the “boma” to have our braai. It had been well prepared by the “boys” whilst discussing the latest rugby scores – there’s a comfy TV room for those so inclined! Most of us retired early, as the combination of rooster-deprived sleep and a fairly taxing hike had us yawning and longing for our soft pillows

SUNDAY. 7.30:The "Beacon" & Mount Lebanon. 14.5ks – 600metre climb

AH! Sound sleep! No roosters!! Maybe they took heed of my threats that, although Ive been a vegetarian for 40 years, I would personally spit and roast them all that evening. Maybe Dave-The-Manager took pity on us (or feared the revenge of a sleepless hiker?)

From Mountain Shadows we set off at 7.30 (marvellous idea!) to the "Finger” which is 4 km , where Arthur has an ingenious “Time Capsule” - making fascinating reading. The climb up to the “Finger” is a rather long haul which actually does seem to get easier each time . The rest of the climb can be a little scary with a squeeze through a crack in the wall and then a scramble up a sharp, but short, slope. The "Beacon" is only 800m further, but seems far longer as it involves a few scrambling climbs to reach its height of 2125 m. (The highest point on Mount Lebanon is actually further along at 2164 m.)

The trail to the Beacon itself involves negotiating a spine which seems to get thinner every time … rather like wobbling on a tight rope and its really not a good idea to look down!

Having reached the Beacon, the adrenaline rush gives purpose to this strange activity of hiking…oh and our simple lunches outdo haute cuisine, savoured up there with a soft wind on our faces and that wonderful glow of achievement.

0034 - is en-route upwards towards "The Beacon" at the end of Mount Lebanon

0035 - is still on the way up with Dave Tighe trying to push over "The Finger"

0039 - is of Arthur Bester's (a Mountain Backpackers leader) "Time Capsule" which is hidden near "The Finger"

0048 - is looking way down towards Mountain Shadows

0050 - continuing upwards towards "The Beacon"

0051 - Reached "The Beacon" after climbing 600 metres - From L to R Barry, Margret, Rose (the author) & Lin

Keith knows Highmoor so well and he strode out confidently to the edge of the drop(which he calls Central Gully) which the novices eyed in dry-mouthed horror and the old handers waved aside as “not as bad as it looks” which of course was absolutely correct and which, in retrospect, we all thoroughly enjoyed. All those personal “feathers in caps”.

Having descended to the Mooi we paddled around in the cool water before setting off for the long trudge home along the road, not very exciting after the wonders of the mountaintop.

0064 - Members descending "Central Gully" after taking their tranquillisers.

0068 - Cooling off in the Little Mooi River - with Mount Lebanon looking on
MONDAY – a few hikers stayed long enough to do the short pretty circular walk of about 5ks before packing up and returning to their other lives.

Thank you again Keith for another great weekend – you are such a great leader, with the ability to walk with the young and strong, and yet allow the older slower people to feel an integral part of your hikes.

Thank you, too, for asking me to do this writeup – JUST LOVE IT!

Roseanne Dix