SATURDAY 4 JULY 2009
Practice time is starting to run out for the Hout Bay Trail Challenge. Whilst many of you may not have got into the official race, you might still want to join us on the rehearsal runs just to check out the course. This coming weekend we are going to be tackling Leg 2 from Suikerbossie to Constantia Nek. I was going to include Leg 3 from Constantia Nek to Hout Bay Harbour but I figured that we still have time to fit in both other Legs still. Anyone wanting to carry on to do Leg 3 this weekend is perfectly welcome to do so though.
But Leg 3 can be scheduled for 11 July and a re-run of Leg 1 for 18 July.
The Route for Leg 2
This is an "extract" from the race guide, but you will notice that none of the Checkpoints are indicated because Claire likes to keep these a well guarded secret until Race Registration and briefing:
We will start at the “Public Footpath” just outside the Ruyteplaats gate. Follow the Suikerbossie Restaurant fence line upwards until you find the path on the left leading up the mountain. Follow this path until you reach the contour path above the pine forest. There are a few paths in this area and it can get confusing but they all seem to lead in the same direction. You need to make sure that you pick one of the paths that proceeds in an easterly direction (towards Constantia Nek) above the pines until you reach and intersection where a clear path to your left leads directly up towards the mountain. Take this path which climbs quite quickly to the ridge above you (300m) - Hout Bay Corner.
Follow this path along the ridge to your right, scramble up a few ledges until you are under the cliff face. The scrambles are far less of a challenge these days as they now have steel staples secured to the rocks to help you climb. After the second scramble, you are up on a ledge. Head towards the sea and follow the path round to the left (towards Camps Bay) and towards the bottom of Llandudno Ravine. The path runs below the cliff face and is narrow and sometimes fairly exposed – please take care, especially if visibility is poor. After traversing for a short while the path climbs steeply again and begins a second traverse in the same direction. At times the path appears to climb but suddenly comes to a dead end. If this happens, don’t panic. Just retrace your steps a little and you will find that you missed a turn where the path suddenly dropped down to your left and you didn’t see it. At one point on the second traverse here is an unclear path to the right (marked by a small cairn) which leads to a serious scramble and you don’t want to be going that way. Keep going until you get to the entrance to Llandudno Ravine.
The correct path up the ravine starts at the second stream, which you need to cross carefully. There are hand holds (trusty steel staples again) to assist you. The surface may be slippery and there are patches of loose gravel/stone. It is recommended that you walk up this section in groups, to avoid rocks falling on runners below. The path up Llandudno Ravine has been rehabilitated and is far more secure than in previous years – thanks to previous years’ donations which helped repair this path. Nevertheless it is quite merciless as you still tend to slide back one step for every two that you take.
But suddenly you pop out almost unexpectedly at the top of the ravine. The climbing isn’t over but the worst is behind you. Follow the clear path which keeps climbing gently eastwards until you reach some green anti-erosion fencing. At that point the path you want to be on swings off to the left and upwards. It levels off quite quickly though and heads northwards over solid rock so watch the path carefully. If the visibility is poor please be careful. The path itself is initially unclear, however it has been well marked with cairns (little man-made piles of rock), so keep a look out for them. The path swings east- north-east (to your right….for those who were never boy scouts / girl guides / Voortrekkers) again and climbs a wide shallow valley which is soggy under foot and there are numerous paths which become streams in winter. But all of the paths come out more or less in the same place so just try and keep slightly to the left of centre in the valley. At the top of the valley one proceeds in the same direction along a lovely flattish and very runnable section and onto the southerly slope of a small hill. As the path opens up it starts swinging north again. There are a few paths in this area but when in doubt, look for and aim at a medium sized boulder, standing alone, which has been described as looking like a large baboon dropping. When you reach that, the path is clear and you head north-east and swiftly downhill into another broad valley which leads across to Grootkop. Grootkop should be clearly visible unless there is low cloud. But you will know you are on the right track if you are bounding along some easily runnable single track which will remind you just why you do trail running.
You then start the climb up the right (eastern) shoulder of Grootkop. It is a steep narrow path which can sap your strength quickly so treat it with respect. You will pass Grootkop and find yourself going down through a tunnel / window formed between two large overhanging boulders as you descend along a rocky path which then undulates fairly gently towards the Front Table of Table Mountain. You will pass through the tops of numerous unmarked ravines which descend to the Camps Bay side of the mountain. First is Oudekraal Ravine, then Corridor Ravine and then a fairly steep descent into Slangolie Ravine. Along the main path you are following you will notice other paths leading down into these ravines and their associated buttresses but your path is clear and unmistakeable. As you approach the last little bit of the drop into Slangolie Ravine you are confronted with the choice of scrambling down a simple rock band or taking the path to the right which traverses around the rock band but soon returns to the foot of the scramble. The scramble is not difficult at all. It looks quite hairy from above but once you start climbing down it becomes obvious how easy it is, particularly if you start a little off to the left hand side of it. At the bottom of the drop you will find a sign saying “Dangerous Decent” which refers to the path down Slangolie to the Pipe Track. But you are not going that way.
Proceed in the same direction you were before up the slope on the other side of the ravine. Next you drop into Woody Ravine which is marked as such and then up a little more on the other side. The path levels out and after a short while you will encounter a large cylindrical SANParks “cairn” right in the middle of the path with direction markers on it. This is your signal to take the path to your right along the “old railway track” towards Woodhead Dam. Upon following this path, as you approach some tall trees and a few huts, look out for a path to the right. This leads directly to the wall of the dam which you run across.
On the far side of the dam you encounter the concrete jeep track. Turn right onto the jeep track and stick to this until you start the proper descent of the mountain. You pass two dams on your left, the larger Victoria Dam and the smaller Alexandra Dam. Then you approach a stone cottage on your left and another dam, the De Villiers Dam, on your right. Thereafter the road starts dropping steeply down to the south-west and then suddenly hits a hairpin bend to the left which you follow. Just after the hairpin there is a “shortcut” path off to the right. But experience has revealed that this is not really a shortcut. Stay on the road where you can run much faster and you will beat anyone who takes the shortcut. If you stay on the road, which is then intermittently gravel and concrete, you come to another hairpin to the right, followed by a tight zig-zag and then continues down to the south-west. When you get to the next major hairpin to the left, look out for a path dropping off to the right. This is a “must-do” shortcut which brings you out at the gate at Constantia Nek. Run down the tar road and into the carpark at Constantia Nek .
The parking area just outside the Ruyteplaats housing development just below Suikerbossie Restaurant. For anyone unfamiliar with the area:
Approach from Southern Suburbs / Hout Bay (you surely know where the Suikerbossie hill is; notorious on the Pick 'n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour) - drive up Suikerbossie Hill towards Llandudno. Just before yo get to the top of the hill on the Hout Bay side, there is a little road off to the right which goes to the Suikerbossie Restaurant (sign posted). Turn into the road which swings left almost immediately and you will see the gates to Ruyteplaats straight ahead of you and a parking area on your left.
From Camps Bay - just after you have passed Llandudno and crested Suikerbossie, look out for the turn on your left to the Suikerbossie Restaurant. Turn into the road which swings left almost immediately and you will see the gates to Ruyteplaats straight ahead of you and a parking area on your left.
As close to 07h30 as possible - car dropping may mean a slight delay - see below.
Time Out on the Moutain
Despite the relatively short distance, it still takes me about 2 hours to do this Leg when I am racing it. So at an easier pace I would count on at least 2 1/2 hours. Those at the back on Saturday could be looking at 3 to 3 1/2 hours (including rest stops).
I will split this run up into chunks for the purposes of rating:
Suikerbossie to the top of Llandudno Ravine - TOUGH ! This is mostly fast walking. 5% runnable at best.
Top of Llandudno Ravine to the Woodhead Dam - MODERATE. 70% runnable at least. Tough climb at Grootkop.
Woodhead Dam to Constantia Nek - EASY. 100% Runnable.
You will have noticed that we are starting and ending in different places so we need cars at both ends. I would like to suggest the following: anyone coming from City Bowl / Atlantic Seaboard / Hout Bay to go straight to the start unless you really want to leave a car at the finish. Anyone coming from Southern Suburbs / Rhodes Drive / Constantia Main Road approaches to Constantia Nek - please meet me at Constantia Nek at 07h15 just to makes sure we have some cars at the finish to give lifts back to the start.
CAN I ASK THAT IF YOU INTEND RUNNING THIS ROUTE ON SATURDAY PLEASE RSVP TO ME BY EMAIL SO THAT I GET AN IDEA OF HOW MANY CARS WE HAVE.
Special Points of Mention
- Carry some water at least although there should still be lots of clean water on the mountain.
- Dress according to the weather. If there is low cloud or wind, things can get quite nasty on top of the mountain. That windroof / waterproof top could be very important.
- If there is low cloud on top of the mountain, please stay in groups. Its very easy to lose your way in the clouds.
- Don't exhaust yourself on the initial climb. Save some energy for the SUPERB trail running on top of the mountain.
- No swearing on the way up.
- Don't forget to RSVP if you intend running so that we can get enough cars sorted.
- Now go back to the beginning of the Route Descrition and re-read.
Have a wonderful week.