I grew up on a farm in the mountains near Montagu and it would snow in the Winter.  Not much, but enough to build a snowman and to have a snow fight.  There are some peaks in the Western Cape that get enough snow for skiing and we even have a ski lift on Matroosberg.  For about the last 10 years I’d wanted to go up Tafelburg after a good snow storm but I never got around to doing it.  Eventually in the winter of 2012 I did it, and here is my story:

I was planning this trip for a couple of weeks, waiting for a good storm to come.  The weather forecast was in my favour, a big snow storm on Saturday and then Sunday the weather would be clear.  So I packed my bag, set my alarm and went to bed early Saturday evening.

At 4am my alarm went off, I got up and by 4:30am I was on the road.  Three hours later my bakkie was parked and I was getting ready to start hiking.  I put my boots on, packed my bag, slung it onto my back and turned around to start.  But only to see that the little stream at the start of the hike has swollen to a waist deep river of icy water pushing up its banks.  So I took my bag off, got naked and carried my rucksack on my head through the icy river.  On the other side I got dressed and started the hike.

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The snow only started at Welbedaght cave halfway up the mountain, it got thicker quickly and became harder to walk.  I saw some deer in the distance and some leopard spoor in the snow.  By now walking was difficult and slow.  I followed the leopard spoor for an hour or so, hoping to see it, but luck was not on my side.

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Next up was the scree slope that proved to be difficult and I made extremely slow progress.  The weather had also started to come in now: the top of the mountain was covered in clouds and the wind was getting stronger.

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At the end of the scree slope there was a wonderland of ice stalactites dripping from a vertical rock face and big ice waterfalls.   I slipped and fell a couple of times and without any crampons it was almost impossible to walk.  I had to use the ice axe I had with me to pull myself up the slope in a few places.  The area above the spout cave was completely frozen with sheets of ice and walking on it reminded me of my first visit to the ice rink: believe me it was not a good memory.  By now the wind was howling and visibility was almost zero so I decided to turn around without summiting.  It was not a huge disappointment, I saw what I had come to see, not being able to summit was a reality and big possibility.

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Some hours later I was standing at the river again, getting undressed to cross it.  The water level has risen and now being warm from the hike the water felt extra cold and I really had to put effort in to cross it.  Exhausted I got in my bakkie and started the drive back home, only to find that the low water bridge I had crossed earlier that morning was now completely under water.  Luckily there was an alternative road that I could take to finish my mission safely.  Tafelburg with my camera after a snowstorm, tick.  What’s next?

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