Table Mountain Top 10 trail routes: #8 Three Single Tracks – Rhodes Memorial

At first I did not get trail running. “Why would anybody want to run uphill?”

Two Ocean's Trail Run 22km

Two Ocean’s Trail Run 22km route map

 

The downhill part was obvious and I was used to it, even with a heavy pack, but running uphill seemed energy inefficient to me. The seconds saved over a brisk walk did not seem to warrant the extra effort required. So I started jogging along the jeep tracks from Rhodes Memorial towards the city bowl, choosing the more level ones at first.

In contrast I have always enjoyed single tracks, flying along, having to pay attention in order to avoid a stubbed toe, crash or worse: a tumble. When Trevor Ball introduced the genius Two Ocean’s Trail Run route he connected some of the best single tracks in the area to make a truly fantastic and challenging route. For normal folks this would take 3h plus to complete and a large dose of effort so here I describe a shorter version – manageable in a quick 1h30 to 2h session. My Movescount gps file can be found here.

Three Singel Tracks

PP: Plumpudding Hill, Q: Queen’s Blockhouse, K: King’s Blockhouse, 1-3 indicating single tracks

Start:

From Rhodes Memorial parking area take the single track path for 100m up to the first jeep track contour. There are several variations here that all lead to the same point. Turn right and follow the jeep track for a few hundred meters into a shaded area. The track turns downhill at a gentle gradient. At the first fork stay left as the track turns sharply left and uphill. Immediately stay left and head up Plumpudding Hill. 100% runnable if you are strong and trying to prove your manliness! 2/3 of the way up the jeep track turns sharp left. A lone tree is visible above.

Plumpudding Hill

Lone Pine Tree on Plumpudding Hill

The first of our three single tracks start in this corner on the right. The vague track dips into the gully and climbs up the other side to cross a rusted barbed wire fence to eventually join a jeep track. Enjoy the cruise along this. You will meet a T-junction in a s-curve of the main jeep track. The Woodstock shooting range is below you in the gum trees. Turn left and up the slight hill which levels out after a couple of hundred meters. Just before the dry stream crossing there is a jeep track going uphill to the King’s Blockhouse. (If you continue straight here you miss out the second single track but rejoin the route a few hundred meters ahead.)

Up this hill, once again 100% run-able. After a little distance the track levels out (maybe you get to pass some mountain bikers on this section). The branch to the right is our choice. This ultimately leads to Tafelberg Road and can be used as a short cut, but not today. Our second single track awaits on the right, where the ground turns grey. Easy running through fynbos at its best leads us into a cork tree forest. We slowly lose a bit of height to reach the ruin of the Queen’s Blockhouse.

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The Queen’s Blockhouse ruin

From here it is a short but very steep descent to a jeep track. Turn left. [Turning right would take you back to the top of the hill above the shooting range.] Through a dip and out the other side. At the top of the hill turn sharp left onto a zig zagging jeep track which snakes up the ridge in large arcs. At a point where the track levels out in direction City Centre there is our third single track which starts with a few steps and is marked by a cairn. Up this to the signal cannons just below Tafelberg Road. Cross the tar road onto a single track leading uphill. 50m on there is a left fork. Take this and it will level out pretty quickly. This is the lower Contour Path. All the way along here to just behind the King’s Blockhouse.

When standing at the cannons below the Blockhouse it is easiest to take the gently descending jeep track to the left. This snakes downhill. Once you have completed a complete S-curve you will see a wooden bridge and mountain bike track heading down the crest of the ridge. Down this. Enjoy the baarp! You will be spat out on top of Plumpudding hill to your left (facing out). You can either head down this and back to the start or find the super steep single track directly down from the beacon to the jeep track that you started from earlier on. As you can see from the map there are many options for shortcuts and more (or less)direct lines to be explored.

The coffee and cake at the restaurant is much deserved, the view is not bad either!

 

Hout Bay to Llandudno Traverse. Table Mountain Top Ten Trails #6: the adventure is out there. 

It is not often that I start a trail run at the civilized hour of 8h00 on a Saturday. But we were waiting for the tide to be out.

I was lucky enough to be invited on this route by Mark Preen. This ranks as one of the best adventure trails in Cape Town.

‘But that was easy’

Could quite easily be the response of one of the other runners in our group. Not so fast! The first time I did this trail which is a mere 10km it took us the whole day! Yes as in a 8h whole day! Ask around and you will hear stories of epics, getting lost, scary scrambles, groups being benighted, rescues, and people being washed out to sea – never to be seen again.

I am not kidding. This is serious!

However on Saturday we were lucky with very calm seas and Spring low tide! Richard planned well and we even had an hour to go before the lowest tide – just in case.

Route direction

I have done this route in both directions and I prefer the anti clockwise. Either option is doable. I just prefer it.  Here I will describe the clockwise direction though as this is the way we did it last.

A good start spot is Mariner’s Wharf. Run through the harbour towards the Sentinel. This is along tarmac. You will pass underneath the Hangberg suburb. You will quickly emerge onto some level single track under the cliffs of the Sentinel and towards Seal Island. This section is very reminiscent of the first bit of the Otter trail.

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looking back towards The Sentinel with Chapman’s Peak Drive in the distance

Once you turn the corner things get a bit more serious in that you need to think about route choice. Staying low and close to sea level is best until forced up. It initially seems like you need to traverse over a steep gully with a path visible on the steep far slope. Don’t try this but rather drop into the gully and back down to sea level.

 

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dropping into the initial gully

A few sections of scrambles over damp, slippery rocks follow. Going is slow as one needs to take care.

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looking back at some of the scramble sections close to the water’s edge

This is a great great friction testing lab for shoes as adhesion to a variety of surfaces is tested to the max. Some you walk, others you need a bit more upward momentum…

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There are often several options available and you don’t always need to scramble.

However at some point you will be faced with this sight. Spot the tatty rope. It ascends the black crack onto the platform above the water. The first step is the hardest. I would encourage you to take a rope – in case.

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Mark Preen making it look easy, Richard Sutton in the background

There is a little section of easier going after which you will face another gully.  Once again don’t be tempted to traverse above but rather drop down past the little granite blob onto the floor of the gully and out the other (less steep) side.

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granite blob can be seen between the two girls in blue

Eventually you will do a slow rising traverse on a fair path. This pops you onto the slabs above the Bos 400 which went down in 1994. This is the same bay where the SS Maori is also located. From here it is a fairly straightforward navigational exercise across the burnt sandy slope to the blockhouse at the end of Rocket Road. Find your way to the dunes above Sandy Bay. From here you are pretty much on tarmac back to the start and some welcome fish and chips at Fish on the Rocks.

I can not stress this enough. This is a serious route which requires respect. You will need to go in a group with enough scrambling experience and somebody who knows the route. Also carry a couple of mobile phones in waterproof pouches.

You will struggle to complete this in under two hours. But a fairly competent group should be done in under four. Come prepared for a truly special adventure.

 

Specificity

cape-epic-sprint-stage-3-treadmtb-1536x1024Most of us have seen the photo.
Kulhavy waiting for Sauser to win the sprint.
They knew what was required and they knew what it would take.
They had a plan that matched the desired outcome. They had planned this scenario.
How many of us have the same insight?
Or do we leave it up to the gods on the day and hope for the best?
But where to start?
I was very aware of where I was fitness wise last year. I knew I could only improve at a certain rate – at my gradient. There was no way I could do the volume of past. I had to constantly assess where I was. Running by myself without my ego and those of others as a distraction. Honesty was number one.  That took a very long time to figure out.
So to my training. 
This year is the first time that I have some understanding of what Dr Phil is on about. To be honest it took months until I could even maintain a HR under 140. Probably longer to be honest. But I knew it was the way forward and I persisted. In fact I got injured and it forced me to keep all running easy. Easy and short. And then often.
Slowly building.
And then it suddenly clicked like magic. My body understood.
And now I think I am back to some form of fitness.
Anyway I digress.
I am heading to the Transrockies in August.
When I accepted the entry I knew we were not going to go full blast. The crux would be to run 6 consecutive days at altitude on pretty well maintained trail by our standards.
I look at images of my heroes and what they write and I always try to understand why they are doing what they are doing.
Why, why, why?
The answer is always there if you just look.
When I want to up my insight on finances I seek the council of my financial adviser not my doctor or best friend. I read up what Buffet and the boys are doing and thinking. Specificity. 
I observe and adapt.
So how to prepare?
First of all my partner and I have a pretty good understanding of our strategy. We are there to have fun and not to win. We will have to keep race day egos in check.
The innevitable game of sandbag is being played. I am not sure who is playing a better hand. We will see.
I have no illusion that we are going to be doing a fair amount of walking. Hope Pass etc etc will not be running terrain for us.
So there has been no track for me.
My weeks have consisted of long runs back to back to back, to back. Teaching my body and mind how to recover.
Learning nutrition on and off the trail. Dialling it in so that there are no questions on race day (sorry week).
Altitude is the factor that is most difficult to prepare for. I don’t have enough time pre event to aclimatise properly but I will do what I can.
Most important will be looking after my partner. We can only go as fast as the slowest of us two. Whoever that is. And that role will swap during the week!
Efficiency is key. Not letting any one issue get to the point of becoming a problem.
That is the theory. I am sure we will hit obstacles and make mistakes along the way but at least I have a plan.
The lessons are the same though. Specificity is key to whatever we do.
I can not say it enough.

Hiddingh – Ascension Ravine

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Hiddingh Ravine, The Pulpit, Ascension Ravine as seen from Newlands

My only wish for Christmas was to eat some trifle.

And so my wife went to search the local Woolworths for a) a store with a manageable que and b) one that does in fact have stock of said trifle.

I promptly finished the “serves 4” on my own.

When asked which part of the trifle I like best I had no good answer. I like the different textures and how they feel and taste different. Too much of one thing is not that great in the end but it is the subtle combination that seals the deal. Pretty much like a good trail.

A seemingly endless grassy slope is fun in the same way that caramel is fun – in limited doses. Same with bush bashing through fynbos. Fun for a while. Think the biscuity pieces in above mentioned dessert. The short bit of getting lost: crunchy chocolate bits. Scrambles above a big drop: cream. Too much of a good thing ultimately does make my head spin. The girls in bikinis sunbathing at the top: hmm maybe that was a hallucination.

And so I went. In search of new land, in search of new adventure and in search of a new route.

I wake up every morning looking up at Fernwood Precipice and that impenetrable part of our mountain. The last time that I had this view I was preoccupied with harder objectives.

This is the world between GPS tracks and heatmap lines. Now my mix of motivation and difficulty is just right.

The recce was well on its way.

Finding the quickest way onto the contour path from Newlands Forest parking was easy. A quick navigation to find the right gully and it was upwards all the way. Nice pools in the stream bed. Followed by a steep slope led to the obvious slanting line of weakness. Then another traverse onto the edge of the buttress. The long slope up to the next rockband. I got lost a bit here. Did not trust my instincts but then found the delightful calf burner that would rival Kilian’s best fresh pow. In defence of this comparison fresh pow makes you work way too hard for vertical gain, you end up hot sweaty and out of breath. Fynbos is the same with the added delight of ending up with a whole herb garden in your shoes.

This is old school FKT or TM FKT X

From the Newlands Fire base gate to Maclear’s Beacon.

What time can you post?

Leave your comments below.

 

Ringing the Bell:

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approaching Orange Peal Gap, Cathedral Peak left of center, The Bell further left

I leave the Hikers Parking at  6h00 sharp. Scouting the first river crossing last night helps so it goes quickly and I gain altitude. I see two lights below me. They have chosen a different path. We all have.

I am walking out of the darkness into mountains cast in shadows. As in Magic and Loss there is an equal part hope too.

It is what ever it seems.

‘I was thinking of a series of my dreams’

Patter of my feet on the trail.

‘Was not thinking of anything specific’

Lyrics running my head

I shut them out

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looking back up Bugger’s Gully

I am surprised to reach Bugger Gully in 2:40. The other side has snow and I follow imprints in the snow trying to guess how long they have been there. I meet them later. The owners of those feet.

You can’t listen to metal with the volume low. I drop into the wave.

 

The line between shadow and light is distinct. But we all follow our own line. Some have rumble strips to warn us, others come unseen and deadly. Some are crossed and recrossed, skipped over even? Without a care in the world. Others scare us. Right now one side is sun and heat. The other biting cold. I can’t understand why anybody would choose the suffering unless to learn and ultimately emerge. I carve my own way and leave only a faint sign of my passing. My passage however leaves a huge impression. Not the act but the meaning we give.

050

looking back towards Cathedral Peak

I come across white tufts, not snow. Flags waving I the breeze. I shat here! I wonder if we will ever learn.

I stumble upon Twins Cave quite unexpectedly.

And suddenly it is done.

I find a spot in the sun and out of the wind and eat my old school sandwich.

The descent down Mlanbonjwa is less fun than I thought. Typical berg pass which is too steep to run but I lose height quickly. The obligatory bush whack does not last long.

I am unkind. I enjoy running the flatter sections and catch up to the footprints of three days earlier.

I have to commit to running where I can. Walking always seems so much easier. But then I don’t want easy. There is nothing of interest there. There is interest (and learning) I suffering perhaps?

‘I walk by tranquil lakes and streams’

I don’t have the commitment to break 8h (or 7 for that matter) I arrive at my lone tent in the camp site and think back on one of the best days in the mountains I have ever had.

The lone dear makes its rounds later. I say ‘Hi’ and observe for a very long time.

‘The hard thing is to hold on to what I learn there in those high and wild places – those fleeting glimpses of the truth of reality – and to live it when I am back in my everyday. That is the real challenge.’

Lizzy Hawker

 

Several lines above are quoted (and misquoted) from the below. Thanks for the inspiration.

 

Soundtrack:

Moxica and the horse – Vangelis

Series of dreams – Bob Dylan

Link 2-3-4 – Rammstein

Tell ol Bill – Bob Dylan

Mothers of the disappeared – U2

The medallion calls – Klaus Bandelt

Someday baby – Bob Dylan

Track 5 More Melon – U2

Things have changed – Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler I believe in you – U2

99 red balloons – Nena

Here comes the pain – Farmer Boys

Pa Pa Pa Palavas – Triplets of Bellville soundtrack

Myburgh’s Ravine: Top 10 trail running routes Table Mountain #4

nMyburghs RavineA real mountain run on a remote part of the mountain. The path is remarkably well worn. The actual Myburgh’s Ravine would probably be quite wet and treacherous in winter or after rain.

Myburghs Ravine map to startApproach: Drive up to Farrier’s Way from Valley Road. You will pass through a  and park your vehicle at the end of the road. Take care not to block any driveways.

The path heads up the hill (through a canopy of trees) about 50 m from the end of the Cul de Sac. Just behind the back line of houses there is a gate. You will need to call the number on the board to get the code for the gate.

Continue up to the contour path. Turn right and continue for a short while.

As soon as the path dips down a little and enters some trees, look out for a vague path branching off to the left. This is to the left of the stream. There are a few different options here but they all lead to the same place in the gorge. You will face a few short rock steps requiring care. The Ravine narrows and you will need to follow the river bed for a while. Cairns and a steep path up the right hand slope brings you out of the ravine.

The path winds up into the boggy reeds above. Continue to the crest of the rise where you will find the path. Turn left and up a step. Follow this to the top of Llundudno Ravine.

Down the scramble via some stainless steel ladder rungs.

When you hit the treeline just above the Suikerbossie Restaurant turn left. This path undulates a fair bit and the strong will be able to run it all. Take the first turn right after the wooden bridge to take you down to the start. You will need the code to access the gate again. This last 2.3 km is a great test of fitness.

7.3 km, 630m of ascent.

90 minutes is a pretty respectable time for this loop.

Find my movescount link here.

Dear  Coach

CoachThanks for the challenge the other day on FB and putting my little TT tester on Strava. I hope it has got some interest from peeps. I have been planning my come back quite carefully and as such have been keeping a low profile. So low in fact that I seem to spend more time in the pool than on trails but we all have aspirations so let’s stick with those for the time being. I have been judging my attack to the second in order to exert maximum damage.

So you must be wondering when I would spring the big news of my latest FKT on Table Mountain. Well I thought I would start humbly and not make too much of a splash and upset the fast (like Marten) and big sponsored boys (oh there are so many nowadays). So I returned to my old playground and gave the old beast a go.

I seem to recall that I thought sub 20 min was reasonable but only just. Well I can only just claim to fall into that category (by 8 seconds). The good news is that I should have loads of room for improvement on my comeback AND that I have not been chicked yet (don’t tell Katja, Landie etc). For it seems that if it does not appear on Strava, Twitter, Facepage it did not actually happen.

Yours in running

Leo