It was early afternoon in August last year. I was back down at the car beaming a broad smile after one of the most spectacular trail run. I had just been introduced to a new area and a new range of absolutely breathtaking mountains and scenery.
We had run the Jonkershoek valley outside Stellenbosch, and ascended up onto the high peaks and into beautiful white snow that was our playground for the morning. I came back with the most vivid images in my mind, made even more crystal clear by the incredible photographs taken by Owen, a professional photographer and mountain goat of note who has been running these mountains for years.
Ironically there is also a quiet and unspoken sense of sadness that comes with doing something like that. A kind of melancholic acceptance that those kinds of experiences are seldom repeated. Everything happens at the right time, in the right place, and for the right reason, and you have to take the best of those moments and leave them as memories, for trying to recreate them will only result in disappointment. I’ve been blessed with many incredible moments and memories over the years, and it is something I am acutely aware of, each experience is there to be savoured and enjoyed with arms wide open. And then left behind.
I knew that I could never hope to have the same experience as that day, the weather gods were clearly on our side, dishing up an absolutely perfect combination, a mountain of fresh soft snow, bright warm sunshine, and no wind. I know that rare moments like those are very few and far between and you have to be in the right place to catch them at the right time. Even lucky.
A year later and I got lucky. It’s been a year of waiting patiently, scouring weather websites for the area, learning the patterns, and trying to understand how and when the snow comes. In-between we’ve made a good few many trips out that way again, in all kinds of weather, from crystal clear scorchers to rain to pea-soup mist to sleet to icy winds and falling snow, trying to get an understanding on the routes, of the peaks, the deep gorges, and the valleys that connect Stellenbosch to Franschoek to Grabouw to Somerset West. There is still much learning to do, but at last I’m beginning to feel like I have another playground to romp in, to fall on my back and gaze upwards at the dark rocky crags between the cliffs and smile and feel at home.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, leaving home long before it got light to be at the gate as it opened. With no expectations and no assumptions trying to remember the beauty of last year, it was another new experience, and great to be able to introduce running & adventure racing teammate (if I can call him that after being conned by him into the most insane race around!), Rob, to the area.
By mid-morning we were on top in the snow, the cold front forecast to hit Cape Town a day later was making itself known and an icy north-west wind whipping off the top ensured we were dressed in every possible layer up there to try and keep warm. We had the top of the mountain to ourselves for at least 2 hours until a few groups of hikers started emerging over the ridge. Enough time to make the highest cappuccinos around with melted snow (they somehow do taste better that way!) take in the surrounding views that stretch endlessly in every possible direction, and even to build a snowman before leaving the solitude behind and heading down the jarring descent back to the bottom of the valley.
frothy cappuccinos in the making
our trail running companion, Witbooi