Two Spitzkoppe Scrambles:

Gross Spitzkoppe left and the Pontoks (1 - 4) to the right

Gross Spitzkoppe left and the Pontoks (1 – 4) to the right. (the gully between Pontok 2 and 3 is just to the left of where the road dissapears)

The Matterhorn of the Desert stands proud of the flat plain below, Visible for many kilometres in any direction. The best way to take in the surroundings is to get some altitude. The Rock climbs are fairly well documented over the years. See several links at the bottom of this post.

However if you are not carrying all the gear to scale these more serious objectives then there are still some pretty cool adventures to be had.

Spitzkoppe is a granite peak with many large boulders strewn about. Camping is very basic. Long drop toilets are available, showers can be had at the gate entrance, you need to provide everything else. The best is to buy all supplies in Windhoek (including all water – 5l per person per day should be a minimum). Security is not a huge problem but you are advised to keep valuables locked in your car. There are many camping sites dotted about and you have the choice of many different vistas and getting away from it all.

To access the Spitzkoppe take the B2 from Windhoek to Swakopmund. 23km past Usakos you will see signs to Spitzkoppe and Henties Bay. Follow these until you land on the D3716 and drive through the Spitzkoppe Village. Shortly after the shacks finish (with roadside stall selling stones from the area) you will see the main gate on the left. Day and overnight entrance fees are payable here. Cabins are also available.

Spitzkoppe Overview showing the Swakop scramble in blue, Pontok 3 in multi colour and the A indicates the gate to the reserve

Spitzkoppe Overview showing the Swakop scramble in blue, Pontok 3 in multi colour and the A indicates the gate to the reserve

Swakop:

IMG_1824

at the rock pools look at the Gross Spitzkoppe

The easiest scramble ascends the dome between campsite 1 and The Bridge (a natural rock arch best viewed at sunset). This is south of the gap between the gap between the Pontoks and Gross Spitzkoppe. Park at Campsite 2 and ascend the gentle ramp to the left. This curves up and after a couple of minutes you will pass rock pools (these will obviously only have water after heavy rains) There is a nice shady spot here. Continue up to the left, curving to the right where it steepens slightly. You will find a rock step here with one tricky move. The rest is an easy slop to the top with great views.

pontok 3 close up

Pontok 3 scramble from Movescount

Pontok 3:

IMG_1820

the obvious gully gives access to the nek between Pontok 2 and 3

Park at Campsite 17 and walk up one of the rounded ribs of granite towards the gap between Pontok 2 and 3. You will find cairns here. Soon these will split into a higher and lower ascent. The lower crosses some exposed slabs but follows a more obvious line. The higher winds through some bushes and is probably more direct and possibly quicker. Both options take you to the gully between Pontok 2 and 3. Once here you find a fairly well defined path which goes steeply up. Once at the neck you will find the obvious dyke line to follow. It might feel exposed in places but is not too bad. There is a short step up to be negotiated but otherwise the rest of the route is no problem and can be done quite easily without a rope.

The round trip car back to the car should take between 2 to 3 hours depending.

In theory the Nek can also be accessed from the north but this involves a rather long walk around the base.

IMG_2068There are many other scrambles that can be done here including getting to the top of the South West Wall via the left hand gully but I will save that for my next visit. The Standard Route on the main peak is a must do for any climber irrespective of grade. It is a brilliant feat of route finding and sheer determination.

Check Alard’s Bigwall Page here.

Climb.co.za here.

Top Ten Table Mountain Trail Routes: #2 Arboretum, Silvermine Loop

This is the second installment to document my Top Trail routes on Table Mountain. The first is here.

Tokai Silvermine trail run 260614Overview:

Super steep but (only just) runnable ascent to the fantastic loop around the Silvermine Dam. The route starts in forest plantation and takes you into the fynbos higher up.

Distance: 13 km (1h45 to 3h)

Total Ascent: 770 m

Total Descent: 770 m

Style of route: lolly pop

95 % single track, 5 % jeep track

Description:

Start at the Tokai Arboretum parking lot and go through the thatched arch. Up the main path and then find the single track which takes a pretty direct line up the hill. You will cross several jeep tracks to eventually get to the highest (Level 5) cross this and zig zag up to the ridge line. The last section is the most technical. Once you have reached the nek turn right towards Elephants Eye cave. Just below the fire lookout turn left and follow the level jeep track. This will join another dirt road heading up the hill. After a very short distance you will branch off left on a single track path. This traverses and climbs basically doing a long loop above and around the Silvermine Dam. You will hit the same dirt road as before (but on the other side of the valley). Down this to the dam. Skirt underneath the dam wall and into the parking lot. On the far side go up a single track path to a ridge line seperating you from Tokai. Left along here to where you came up. Follow the single track down to the start.

Recommended Tactics:

It will take some determination to run all the way up to the initial ridge and fire lookout. The angle is such that the temptation is rather big to walk in places. This route is 100% runnable bar the odd step around a boulder or two. A really good tester.

Water en route:

In wet weather you will find plenty streams. In dry months the dam is about half way and offers a great swimming spot!

Other info:

Park your car at the Arboretum. This is located at the end of Tokai Road. There is a security guard on duty during office hours. Don’t leave anything in your vehicle as break ins happen outside of these hours.

Public Transport: There is no public transport access to the start.

Supporter Activities: The Arboretum is a great spot for family and children to play and have some coffee and cake while you play on the trails. The nearby Porter Market on Saturday mornings is just around the corner. This is also the launching point for Cape Town’s best mountain biking.

Other Info: Trail and Tar is a great mountain biking and trail running store only a few minutes away. Staff are active and knowledgeable and can assist with directions, gear and the sale of last minute nutrition.

leo_rust’s 1:43 h Running Move #RunningMove.

Top Ten Table Mountain Trail routes: Kringe in die Bos

The trails are wet, evenings are dark and temps are cool: perfect for hitting the trails.

I want to list my top ten trail routes that showcase the best of Table Mountain in no particular order. All can be completed in 1 to 3h depending on speed. Today I feature one of my old and all time favorites.

Kringe in die BosKringe in die Bos was inspired by trail legend Andre le Grange and came about when I started to lead some CRAG runs. I wanted something unique and interesting. Something that in theory is 100% runnable for most and connects some cool little single tracks with more well known features. Many variations exist and part of the fun of this route is that you can change the overall feel of the route by just changing some little sections. Enjoy the explore!

 

For those new to Newlands Forest:

Park at the Newlands Fire Base. (Free parking) start at the boom and head left up the short section of tar. continue taking the left most option until you are forced to go straight up next to a fence line. This marks the boundary to Kirstenbosch Gardens. At the dirt road turn left again and down the steep hill. Right at the bottom and up up up to the Rollercoaster jeep track which goes up and down little bumps to just above the top gate of Kirstenbosch. Sharp left down the paved section, left, first left. Down the stairs and first left again. Make your way back to Newlands. Yes it is that easy. total trip should be around 8,5 km with 350m of climbing. Enjoy the exploration.

Check out the link here:

leo_rust’s 0:57 h Running Move #RunningMove.

What are your favorite trail routes?

In the next few weeks I will add to this list. watch this space.

Suunto Quest gear review

The Quest comes supplied with wrist unit, HR belt, footpod and Movestick mini. All packaged in a neat, very appealing looking box. Other optional extras include bike accessories and GPS pod. The Quest does not have integrated GPS but gets speed and distance data from external pods (footpod, cycling or GPS). I was only able to test the footpod supplied.

RRP R 2699.00

First Impressions: 
The advantage with the various pods (especially the GPS which uses the most battery power) is that you have a wrist unit which you can wear every day as a watch without having to recharge it every few days in order to have a working day to day watch. I really like that. Obviously having various pods means that there are more things that you can lose. I am happy to take that risk.

The first impression I got when I unpacked the Quest was how small it looked compared to the Ambit, Fenix and other units we have gotten used to in the past. The Quest feels incredibly light on the arm and I hardly noticed that I was wearing it. It got the nod from my girlfriend immediately and I had the wrestle it off her arm within minutes of unpacking.

What I really don’t like even on a relatively straightforward unit like this is that the Quest only has three buttons and no “back function” if you overshoot a menu. Some of you may not care about this at all but it frustrates me.

Running:

Hit the start button once to select activity, again and the Quest finds the HR and footpod quickly and I was good to go. Push it again and the activity starts. Pretty simple. Then just scroll through the data pages to view the relevant info that you want. Two lines of data is displayed over several pages. One line is bigger than the secondary data line. It would be nice to have the choice of how much data is visible per page.

I was initially surprised at the low level of data that was available on the wrist unit. Maybe looking at it as a “glass half full” perspective means that you have access to a relatively large amount of data (on Movescount) at a fairly cheap price compared to the Ambit or more advanced units. After all who needs to know all that info while on the run? The two pieces of info I did miss on the watch were lap distance and some form of altitude info. You can only change the number of data pages and what is displayed on them on Movescount and not on the wrist unit.

If I do a longer trail race and I know that CP3 is 20km from CP2 then by having lap distance I have some idea of how far I still have to go. For those of us who run on the road it is quite nice to see one’s cadence “on the trot” without having to do arithmetic. With the use of the footpod you can monitor your cadence and work towards the golden Kenyan 90/min.

The real power of the Quest is in Movescount which is the Suunto website. Having said that the Quest is a great standalone unit if all you want to see is your info on the wrist unit. I would say it is probably the best of this test for that kind of user.

Once you complete your activity the Quest will give you a few pages of summary which is quite nice.
Easy enough to jot down into your Excel logbook if that is what you prefer to use. Can only see last training activity on wrist unit, not longer training history. Need Movescount for that.

The Quest also gives you the number of hours that you will need to fully recover from an activity in the form of the recoverytime page. I was a bit sceptical of this at first as the unit gave me 37h as the recommended recovery after my first session with it (I did not tell the Quest that I had another session planned for that afternoon ;))

The bezel has got a little indicator that counts down how many hours you still have to recover from 120 downward.

Data Analysis:
Suunto has the most impressive PC software of the four brands featured. Movescount is free and easy to install. It saves all your activities online. It is very easy to edit, add and plan activities. It is not possible to send these activities to the Quest for use later.  It was easy to download activities. Everything seems to work quite seamlessly and smoothly.

Suunto also has a mobile app which is basically an extension of the website. It gives you a very brief
overview of your activities. Great if you want to show off to your buddies but only after you have downloaded your race info via a PC. It would be awesome if you could transfer data from the wrist unit to Movescount via your mobile phone. Bluetooth technology should make this possible. Garmin Basecamp is halfway there and other manufacturers should learn from them and take this app type thinking all the way!

On Movescount mobile there is an option to track an activity using your mobile phone onto Movescount. I guess that is the main point of the app.

Suunto covers this growing sector of the market very well with this app. If I was using a mobile phone to track runs then this would certainly be my choice of app and the PC Movescount software.

Another feature which I really liked on Movescount and I have not seen before was the ability to put
comments next to laps. Ie “warm up lap/ran with girlfriend/ tried to keep up to Ryan Sandes/got
dropped by bunch” etc (update I believe this feature has been dropped by the latest software update.)

Movescount also has a social side which I did not really look at but you can follow heroes like Ryan
Sandes and Kilian Jornet.  You can obviously also bore the rest of your twitterati and facebook friends by sending them daily updates of your every bead of sweat.

Summary:
All in all a great little unit. Made even better by Movescount. I hate to say it but the perfect unit for those with a smaller wrist where other units look like water wings.

I have two bugs for the Quest: One is the lack of back button. I found that I always had to look at the screen to see what button to push next.
The second is the only way to get a lap is to tap the screen.
By tap I mean smack it fairly hard (even on its most sensitive setting) I initially did not find the Quest to be hugely intuitive to start with but got used to it quite quickly.

I have used a footpod from another manufacturer for many years and besides loosing it twice and only recovering it once I still like to use a footpod to check on cadence. I would probably buy a GPS pod and use that as my main source of speed and distance. It is far less likely to get lost in Cape fynbos.
20h max data recorded to this will be perfect for most bar the few ultra junkies out there.

The Suunto HR belt was by far my favourite of the test. The transceiver connects the belt on either side of it. Others should follow this example!