Tossing off my pack into a pile of grass at the top of Kuerkloof allows for me to take in my day’s climb. I turn to look back at the valley I’ve ascended, but my eyes are drawn to the mountains I left just three weeks ago. I have returned home. I can fill my lungs with the wild air. The sun drops, I drink my water, and I evening feels like a reunion with a friend.
The route description for Keurkloof was simple: aim for the green slide in the middle of the kloof and go up it.
The reality of this was much more difficult. You might be able to appreciate that the climb is rather steep from looking at the above photo, but what you cannot spy is the walls of bushes, vines, and dead vegetation that impede the way towards the base of the climb. From my journal —
I would wander, find [animal?] trails, lose trails, follow stream beds, get stuck in thicket that was than I was taller than I was, then finally take a line up the rocky south side of the streams. Thinner bush, but still slow going. Towards the last of my time crossing the river bed I put on my head torch, switched the fuel heads for the stove, had some cheese, and prepared to kick it up the slope as the light faded away. Tough going, but great to turn around and see beautiful layers of jagged mountains on the horizon and a blue shadow in the valley. Tired. Not enough food. Low intake of water. But slowly pushing up. Last light slowly faded, now the stars and lights of the outskirts of Montagu. My red light on the map and journal to the chorus of crickets. No wind. So good to be here. Boom — day one down.