It had been a week of watching every conceivable weather forecast and prediction, trying to decide if our weekend exercise would consist of a ride, a morning run, or a hike… By Thursday the forecasts were deteriorating sufficiently to show a healthy weather system right on our doorstep that should dump a truck load of snow on the mountain tops before moving on quickly, with good weather tailing. Hopefully. When this happens it’s a treat. In previous snowfalls the days after have mostly been grey and rainy, turning the fluffy white stuff underfoot to ice and slush and making for precarious conditions. Sunshine and a snow covered landscape is a gift not to be wasted. But there was one more ingredient I had been eyeing with eagerness. The moon. With a full moon only a few days earlier, I was desperately hoping for the opportunity to capture through the lens a very very rare combination of clear night skies, moonlight, and snow covered peaks.
Our plans to get out and get some fresh air graduated into one of two options – the standard issue snow run to Victoria Peak, or a hike up and camping out. I was desperately hoping for the latter but with no takers (I couldn’t understand why) it seemed the morning run was the choice, until I got a last minute note that even this was not going to happen and I’d be on my own. I tried numerous friends who were either unavailable at such short notice, or avoiding me (I’m getting more and more of this!), and resigned myself to the fact it was not going to happen at all this time round. For once I listened to instinct, that feeling inside, that said just chill, relax – this is happening for a reason – see what happens in the morning.
And I did. The morning dawned grey and cloudy with intermittent rain that would’ve made a run up into the snow very bleak and I wouldve been guaranteed to lose any remaining friends in the process. Instead I got a surprise nod from brothers Andre and Charl to say they were keen on the overnight camp idea. A quick camera battery charging session followed while packing in record time and we were on the road by early afternoon. The dark clouds brooding above the valley we were aimed for was anything but inviting for a night out up there, and I was having serious second thoughts about the degree of genius thinking behind this dodgy plan. The cherry on the top was the added hour of unexpected hiking from the forestry gate which had been closed and locked at the foot of the valley. Blind bureaucracy just for the fun of it.
It was well after 6pm by the time we had reached the Dwarsberg plateau after the long walk up via the Bergriviersnek. With the dark coming on quickly, and thick clouds enveloping us we didn’t have the luxury of trampling around for hours looking for the perfect camp spot. We sheltered behind some rocks in a valley that was hoped would give us the sunrise and, with some luck, the night time views of the peaks I was dreaming of. It was ambitious and wishful thinking, hoping that all the conditions would materialise into a clear moonlit night surrounded by snow capped peaks, especially after fumbling our way inside the tent shortly after 8, with the clouds now having completely covered us. We were just a tiny orange dot on a big white landscape, hoping to be revealed to the stars at some hour in the night.
The discomfort and cold that crept up from underneath kept us awake constantly – at any hour in the night you could say something and get a coherent reply! Charl was having a quiet fight with his down sleeping bag that left the tent looking like a flock of geese had crash landed in there.
Sometime during the night it suddenly got very light and I unzipped the tent flaps with high hopes of seeing moonlight. And I was not disappointed. The clouds had cleared and the landscape that lay before me took my breath away – the moonlight glistening off the snow, with the massive snow covered caps of Victoria Peak and Emerald Dome looming down. After a 15 minute struggle to get frozen shoes on over frozen feet, I clambered out into the frigid night air to try and capture the scenes I had been dreaming of.
The agonising wait until dawn was broken with spells of clambering out to get photos, and guessing games inside the tent, seeing who was closest to estimating the time. The most common question during the night? “How much longer until dawn”!
We had a magic coffee brewing session as dawn was breaking, and breakfast on the high peak above camp before setting off back into the valley below, tired but all smiles. It will be a long time before we get the privilege of seeing that again.