Hiking: Perdekop in Franschhoek

FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA

Justin Hawthorne

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

An epic mountain scene at Uitkyk.

The valley floor glistened gold in patches as the wind blew grand Wachendorfia thyrsiflora blooms which lay ahead of us on the trail. These dense stands of beautiful bright yellow flowers stole the show among the young regenerating fynbos.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Wachendorfia thyrsiflora in flower!

Just beyond the pretty town of Franschhoek lies a small nature reserve with a big mountain peak which affords panoramic views of both Cape Town as well as Worcester, simultaneously. Perdekop stands at 1575m elevation and being the highest point within the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve it makes for a great reason to conquer the summit.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Franschhoek Valley

More so however you’ll hike through diverse natural landscapes in pristine conditions. Older, dense stands of proteas and psoralea, recently burnt mountainside now regenerating in vibrant young montane fynbos, and high elevation restio fields on wide swept plateaus.

DSCF1703 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Hyacinthaceae

DSCF1603 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Asteraceae

On the particular day that we set off to photograph this route the weather was a tad gloomy as an incoming cold front was beginning to make its presence felt. The cloud was hanging low, and Du Toitskop along with the other peaks in the range were all hidden.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Wachendorfia paniculata

Gearing up and preparing for a mixed bag of weather we departed the car park and set off along the footpath before veering onto jeep track through low fynbos. From the get-go whites, yellows, pinks and blues were attracting the eye as is the norm during the spring season. The vegetation was damp due to the thick cloud and hints of Buchu caught our nose in the fresh morning breeze. Diosma was in bloom – pretty little white flowers yes – but it’s the oil glands in the leaves which hold that powerful herbal & citrus scent. Magic!

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Looking back soon after leaving the jeep track and starting off on footpath.

Within a few minutes you reach the reserve signage near the stone buildings and your warm up is over. You’ll follow the single track through beautiful, lush fynbos before needing to decide whether you want to walk directly to Uitkyk via Breakfast Rock, or if you’d like to get those stunning Franschhoek views from the steep Vista Trail.

DSCF1418 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Conebush details

Adding on the Vista Trail loop certainly makes this a tougher day out as it adds a solid up and down section early on in the hike. But…the views! We passed above a small troop of Chacma baboons before reaching the main vantage point where we strategically chose to take a swig of water.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Stunning vantage point along the Vista Trail section.

The Berg River Dam can be seen on the far end of the valley, and across Franschhoek Pass you look towards Theewaterskloof Dam. Both are important supply reservoirs to Cape Town and Theewaterskloof Dam was soberingly low.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Cloud hangs over Franschhoek, covering the iconic ridge-line of Simonsberg.

Proceeding sharply your calves get back to work. Avoid cutting corners where other mountain users have created shortcuts – these are totally unnecessary and lead to degradation. The flora was vibrant with pinks and purples (mostly tiny Erica species) standing out among the shades of green foliage. Turning right at the marked junction you’ll zig-zag down to Breakfast Rock to link up with the main approach to Uitkyk.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Trail conditions are mostly excellent.

Details of burnt proteas always turn heads, and so did the currently blooming Sugarbushes which remained unscratched on the other side of the footpath. With this area in the early post-fire years, it will remain extremely colorful over the next spring season or two, before maturing into diverse and vibrant fynbos.

 The cloud seemed to be lifting with us as we gained further height, and the nek at Uitkyk was visibly in the clear.

DSCF1474 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Antelope tracks and droppings are passed by every so often, indicating the presence of the small mammals that survive up in the mountains. One such species is the Klipspringer, which you could get lucky to sight as the bucks are diurnal and inhabit rocky terrain – mostly the peaks/ridges and plateaus. Keep your eyes peeled for cat scat or fresh tracks too – this is leopard country after all!

DSCF1515 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Dilatris viscosa

The cloud seemed to be lifting with us as we gained further height, and the nek at Uitkyk was visibly in the clear.

 

 

 

 

The Wachendorfia thyrsiflora (Bloodroot Family) looked magnificent. You will only find them growing in wet areas, such as along streams or damp valley floors. After crossing the little footbridge at the stream we continued up the gentle ascent to cross the Perdekop junction and head directly over to Uitkyk for brunch.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Wachendorfia thyrsiflora en masse!

Uitkyk has wonderful views over the Wemmershoek Valley: surrounded by big mountains one feels as though you’re sitting in an amphitheater totally cut off from the rest of the world. The only other hikers we saw that day had just finished up their break and proceeded onto the Perdekop route. That was last we saw of anyone until returning to Franschhoek that afternoon.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Uitkyk

Uitkyk is well worth a sit down and we did just that to enjoy a croissant with steaming coffee brought up in our flasks. Although the high peaks were still shrouded in cloud, we were below the soffit and had excellent views over the valley.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Wemmershoek Dam

DSCF1550 Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Coffee with a view of Wemmershoek Dam

Retracing your steps for a couple minutes takes you back to the Perdekop trail junction which once again gets the lungs working in similar fashion to the Vista Trail. Before long you begin to level out on a lovely undulating ridge path.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Continuing the ascent view fine views all the while.

The views in all directions are good enough reason to pause every so often. Had it been a clear day we would have looked back at Table Mountain and Lion’s Head far, far away.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Pausing to look back across Wemmershoek Valley one more time.

Orchids, Irises and Erica’s were all adding pretty colors to the low level fynbos along the footpath and the rustling sound of everlastings and restios was music to the ears as the wind gusted now and again.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Schizodium (Orchid Family)

Route markers are ever present which ensures navigation of the hike is seamless, and the pathway is in excellent walking condition. The terrain is rugged of course, but it is all standard A-grade hiking without needing to use hands at all.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Route marker slowly enveloped by a termite mound.

With us gaining elevation we finally got our taste of the moist air as the cloud engulfed the upper peaks. Visibility decreased and the air temperature went down a notch forcing jackets out to combat the crisp air.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Hiking through the cloud en route to Perdekop.

After a long high level trek you’ll notice Perdekop in the distance, lying just beyond a small valley. Stepping over the stream takes you past your return footpath and up the 10 minute climb to the summit.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Looking back whilst on the final assault of the peak.

 

A solidly built stone cairn marks this high peak. You will catch sight of another reservoir lying in the direction of Rawsonville & Worcester: Stettynskloof Dam. We summitted in the clear, but only briefly before the cloud swooped over us once more to reduce the views to nothing. We’d had a couple minutes to admire the scene as tea bags drew in boiling water. If conditions allow, spend time on the summit.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Summit cairn on Perdekop, 1575m.

Back at the junction swing left and continue up onto the ridge before leveling out onto the gentle vlakte (flats), before you stumble upon an old rusty milk can in golden colored grasses. Coming from a farm in Villiersdorp one can only wonder how and why it landed up near the summit of Perdekop!

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Rusted milk can…

Walking leisurely in the direction of Theewaterskloof Dam one thinks to themselves “I can do this all day…” before the trail abruptly changes to steeper terrain and that thought hastily disappears from your mind.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Wonderful hiking terrain through sparkling fynbos.

Getting to the summit is no walk in the park and it requires good fitness levels. Apart from a few short, steep climbs the bulk of the ascent route is gradual. Your return (when hiking clockwise) starts off linearly, but later becomes rather steep and you’ll need to stay focused to ensure you don’t slip and slide your way home.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

The final steep descent to the river confluence.

Once the two old buildings seem within grasp you’ll know you’re near the end of the trail. Although this pristine reserve could pull you immediately back to go walk for another hour or two, your knees will tell you otherwise!

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Before reaching the footbridge you’ll get a good view of the two buildings across the ravine.

As with many Western Cape mountain ranges the high peaks of Mont Rochelle can become blanketed in snowfields during the winters, and summer can be brutality hot with fynbos offering no shade whatsoever in the higher altitudes.

Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Aristea macrocarpa

Pencil this one in for next spring – it’ll be extremely colorful once more!

Key information

  • Start/end – Parking area at the access gate to Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.
  • Duration – 7 hours (incl. lunch & the Vista Trail extension)
  • Distance – 16 km (full loop)
  • Altitude gain – approx 850m AMSL (Start 720m AMSL)
  • Grade – A
  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Exposure – Mild
  • Water – 3 small streams/rivers along the way (wet season more notably). One small stream between Breakfast Rock & Uitkyk, one stream just prior to Perdekop, and finally the main crossing lies 15 minutes from the gate.
Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

The incredible view towards a near empty Theewaterskloof Dam beneath intensely gloomy clouds which threatened to unleash serious rain…alas.

Tips

  1. Hiking Permits cost R40 pp – you can pre-book these online via webtickets, or just pay at the gate (08:00-17:00).
  2. The trail is very easy to follow in good weather as it has regular trail signage. In foul weather the area can become trickier to navigate, so always head out prepared, and know how to read a map.
  3. Work has been on the go with path maintenance along the Perdekop circuit, so heading out now things should all be in tip-top shape.
  4. Visit www.montrochellehiking.co.za for all Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve details.
  5. If you’d prefer a professionally guided mountain experience with interpretation of the natural environment, contact me at justinhawthorneblog@gmail.com.
Hiking Perdekop with pro mountain guide Justin Hawthorne

Intense variety of color on this Asteraceae.

5 thoughts on “Hiking: Perdekop in Franschhoek

  1. Pingback: Hiking: Perdekop in Franschhoek – Justin Hawthorne – Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog

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