Ascent of Dutoitspiek on 2018-12-09

Climber: Denise Mclellan

Others in Party:Richard Mclellan -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, December 9, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:South Africa
    Elevation:6542 ft / 1994 m

Ascent Trip Report

Overview and access:
This hill is a long but non- technical day walk with c 13.5 miles walking ( return trip) and c1500 m of ascent. The upper part of the route is marked with sparse cairns and is well vegetated. There are two short easy sections of YDS 2 scrambling. No water is available. On the rocky summit plateau are fine views, a comms array and two trigs.
The mountain is located in the Dutoitskloof Mountains and the trailhead on the south side of the N1 Huguenot tunnel (fee) and road col (free), about one hour’s drive from Capetown, on the opposite side of the road to the Dutoits Lodge and trout farm run by Cape Nature:
The upper slopes are part of a nature reserve and you are required to buy a hiking permit for a small cost. CapeNature call centre on +27 021 483 0000;; We actually found this hard as they did not reply to e mails and when we eventually contacted them by phone when we arrived you had to have a South African bank account details to pay the fee as credit cards were not accepted.
The lower slopes are on private farmland. (We saw a sign saying Fizantakraal tel 023 349 1133) The owner is non-resident and staff are apparently not permitted to give access through the 4 m high razor -wired electric gate and have instructions to turn around anyone met without permission. The owner has apparently made an agreement with the Mountaineering Club of South Africa (Cape Town Section) for their approved members to give permission/ escort walkers over the private land. We emailed the Du Toitskloof hut convenor, via details found on the MCSA Capetown website - He said he had never been asked by a non-South African for assistance before but after some assurance we were experienced mountaineers who understood this was a challenging ascent, he was extremely helpful. He arranged for us to stay at the hut (R70ppn) whilst a club maintenance weekend was ongoing. He briefed us on the risks of snakes, forest fire, thirst, fog, benightment, crime and navigational difficulties and checked we were prepared for benightment. None of those at the hut had climbed it. Daniel personally accompanied us for the initial lower section of the route through the private farmland and awaited our return at the hut. He planned to call the army if we had not returned the following morning.
The pleasant Du Toits Kloof hut (at c 460m) has 12 bunks, a drop toilet, no electricity, limited stream water and a locked parking enclosure. You need to take sleeping bag, stove/ BBQ charcoal, food and probably water. You cannot access the parking or hut without a MCSA member with keys. If you could obtain permission to cross the farmland you could park/ stay at the relatively luxurious Cape Nature Dutoits lodge referred to above. I believe there is a second MCSA hut without vehicle access within the private farmland which is roughly equidistant from the peak.

We left the hut at 5:00 in half-light led by Daniel. We exited the hut compound by the small plunge pool and followed a narrow path south through thick vegetation, crossed the river easily and then ascended to the tarmac farm road on a bend marked with two cairns at 05:15. Daniel commended us to mark this unobvious spot. It was 19C and the clouds on the ridge were clearing in otherwise blue skies. We turned left (SE) up the road to reach a large electric gate at 05:39, the boundary of the private farmland. As the gate is only opened 07:30- 19:30, we scrambled (YDS3!) up the 2 m high vertical banks and cut through the vegetation- the razor wire ended after about 10 m -hence it was possible to return to the track the other side of the gate. Daniel warned us to be back here before 19:30.
We continued up the tarmac road to a col with a large circular water tank (05:47) and then turned left on a farm track, ie east, through cultivated reedy plants, passing an automated weather station on the left. We followed the broad shoulder of a ridge which led to an obvious rocky turret several hundred m high. This turret is also obvious from the hut, from where it is useful to identify it. The track ended and Daniel left us. We continued on a steep, roughly cleared firebreak which led to the base of the rock turret. (06:45; 1096m). Either side were proteus flowering plants There are some outcropping rocks and undergrowth near the base of the turret. There is a path close to and around the base of the buttress. We initially went left but the correct route is right ie South. We ascended on a steep narrow gritty path close to the turret base to reach another, broader col at 07:21, 1200m c 180 degrees away from the initial turret base. Here, as Daniel had advised, we found cairns which we followed to the top. The cairns do not go straight up, following the ridge line as one might expect; they trend right, (SE) ascending a series of rock layers in a complex set of zig zags with two short YDS2+ scrambling sections of 5m on a slab and 20m up a gulley- note for descent.
We reached the broad rocky vegetated ridge at 07:54 1374m. The cloud was continuing to break, and some fog swirled, but it was pleasant in a t-shirt. The proteus flowers were beautiful, varied and profuse. There was a variably obvious path through them with sparse cairns which ascended gently up the broad ridge in a generally south easterly direction.
At 08:32 we paused for a drink on flat slabs beneath a steep buttress, enjoying spectacular valley views. The ridge ahead was cloudy and route not obvious, but cairns took us left (north) , bypassing several steep buttresses on a vague, well vegetated and relatively high path. At 09:23 the cairns took us onto the ridge via a short c 10m YDS2 scramble reaching 1710m of altitude. From here there is less vegetation and the path is easier to follow.
We turned left to follow cairns and the ridge uphill, crossing its spine several times. With various buttresses ahead, we were not sure which was the summit (actually none- it’s off to the left). At 09:56 1810 m we passed a small bivvi cave to our right (cosy for 4) with no water.
At 10:15 the cairns took us abruptly left (north) on a rocky balcony beneath a steep cliff face, with steep drop left. This delightful path followed the cliff, right, around a corner and we saw the summit for the first time- a jumbled ridge of boulders ascending from a col above us. We exited the balcony ledge and climbed up steep grass and boulders c 100m to reach a col at 1924m at 10:32.
Here, we turned left, north and followed the obvious cairned route up the ridge through a jumble of large boulders, including a short YDS2 scramble, to the summit plateau at 10:43. We headed across the boulder and gravel plateau to the summit at 10:48.
The Highpoint was a large outcropping rock near a solar panel. There were two aerials with solar panels and control huts, two cylindrical concrete trig s of c 1.5m height on 1.5m concrete plinths, a small rock wind-shelter/ bivvi site and no apparent survey marks. We enjoyed lunch watching the views come and go as cloud swirled. Below was the N1 motorway and steep sided pass. Beyond were more rocky ridges. Apparently one can continue the route NE along the ridge to another hut?
We left at 11:43 and retraced our route down, using our GPS track where we were unsure especially on the lower more vegetated sections. When we looked back the summit was clear of cloud. We reached the 1200m col by the turret at 14:37 and then cut down on a slightly more direct route to the tarmac road at 15:41 under clear blue skies and hot sun. We regained the hut at 16:20 where Daniel was waiting for us. We had seen no one else for the whole day. After a cup of tea, we helped him shutter the hut and drove back to Cape Town, pleased with our ascent.
Thanks very much to Daniel of the MCSA for his assistance.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy

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