SA Mountain 85 | June – Aug 2023

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Winter is upon us

As I am sitting here, in my little loft office in Montagu, the rain is pouring down outside and the temperatures are in single digits. Lola the pug is nestled beneath blankets, the fire is crackling in the hearth and I’ve just made myself a second cup of tea. Cape Nature just put out a notice that the Cederberg will be closed to mountain users due to a severe weather warning from the met stations, forecasting heavy rain, cold conditions and snow on the mountains, for the next week. Winter is definitely upon us, a little early this year, but here it is in no uncertain terms.

A lot of people dis winter and wish it away, longing for the return of summer, bringing with it its warm rays and long days. Yes, I also like summer, particularly the long days, but I also like winter. I actually really like winter – the colder and more severe the better! I like it when seasons are very different, then you can really do stuff that you can’t do in summer. Besides the obvious, like ice climbing and playing around on snowy routes, the adventures that open up during winter are big mountain adventures, like long ridges and multi-day high-level traverses. Many of these outings are too hot and dry for summer excursions, but are really perfect for winter – very few problems with water and cool to crisp weather conditions – ideal for high mountain trekking, often in crunching snow.

Now is the time to plan trips like the iconic Hex Traverse – multiple days across probably the wildest mountains in the Western Cape, the Wemmershoek Traverse – two to three days covering spectacular ground between Du Toit’s Kloof Pass and Franschhoek. And probably the finest and most sought-after high-level traverse in the Western Cape, the Swartberg Traverse – a four-day mountain quest connecting Seweweekspoort Peak (the highest in the Western Cape) to the famous Towerkop, arguably the most rugged and unattainable of all the 2000ers in the Western Cape.

Let’s not forget the mid-winter favourites, which come into condition after lots of snow and cold conditions: Du Toit’s Peak – a brilliant, long, one-day outing up the Pinnacle Route. Start early and move swiftly if you want to get back down before dark. And of course, the classic Green Gullies, a beautiful introduction to snowy couloirs on a big mountain. We are really spoilt for choice in the Western Cape, and this is only scratching the surface. I haven’t even mentioned the huge variety of peaks, climbs and treks that are available in the Drakensberg.

Now is the time to take out your winter gear and start planning, but remember, those high mountains in winter are serious places to be. Temperatures can drop well below zero and if you have a change of weather for the worse, you could be faced with pretty arctic conditions, so make sure you have your ducks in a row and have solid big mountain experience before you set off.

Be safe in those wintery hills


Sea Stack Climbing in Portugal
by Tony Lourens

Sintra Magic
Climbing and Surfing in the Pearl of Portugal
by Massimo Cappuccio

Green Gullies
An iconic winter route and traverse of the Mosterthoek Twins
by Richard Schmidt


RAW Exposure

Gear Reviews

Off the wall
by Brenda Marx


The Thin Line
by Terence Livingston

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