Mac from the North

We have climbed Mac via many routes but never this one

Basecamp MAC View campsite

When we heard about the availability of a campsite at the Steytlerville side of the Baviaanskloof mountains we thought it would be a good opportunity to fulfil a longtime ambition to climb Mac from the North. Even though I had been on top of Mac many times before this was an unknown route.



This is the map of the area we walked in, complete with the waypoints I set out for the gps and the actual track we followed. Note the scientific names, at Nana we had a banana and at cookies, well, we had cookies.



Even though the road through Hadley's drift is quite bad we decided to go that way, partly because it is significantly shorter but also a lot more scenic. We were impressed however with the work being done on the Elandsriver road. Here we take a coffee break with Mac already in the background.



Once the Grootrivier has been crossed the road improves and winds along the northern slopes of the Baviaanskloof mountains. Dodging the cows on the road make this stretch quite interesting. We had some trouble finding the correct turnoff but in fact it is clearly marked with a large sign saying "Mount Mac"



We were made very welcome and got permission to pitch our tent inside the boma. The sky was very threatening and when we went for a short stroll up the kloof in the late afternoon we got soaked to the skin by a heavy downpour. It cleared again but no sooner had we started supper or it started again forcing us to cook in the tent. It rained most of the night.



The next morning we started off a little later than planned (sound familiar?). The initial route is up the hill on the left, first on a path but that ends at the edge of the farm.



I was well prepared for the trip with the route marked on the map, waypoints in the gps plus spare gps, always important when venturing into an unknown area.



Fortunately the fynbos is still recovering from a fire a few years back so mercifully short, here we are getting to the top of the hill and from there we followed a steadily rising ridge which took us to a neck where we lost precious height before tackling the main massif.



The swirling mist and low visibilty made it difficult to choose a line, especially because so close to the face everything is foreshortened so we decided straight up would be the best even though we couldn't see the top.



In the neck the vegetation is shielded from the sun and the fynbos was absolutely beautiful.



Ellie with the imposing route on her left.



Ellie looking back to from where we came, a little lighter there but still the clouds are low.



In spite of the daunting look from below the actual climb was surprisingly easy. One just has to pick one's way carefully through the rock bands and pretty soon the welcome sight of the beacon appears after a climb of nearly a thousand meters. It took us three hours including one hour of picture taking, resting and munching.



There are two concrete slabs on top, obviously part of some old antennae system. I hope someone can shed some light on this mystery for me.



In the wet conditions we thought it prudent not to descend the steep slope but rather do a circuitious route back so we headed for the impressive westerly neck. We were amazed that the previously clear path has all but disappeared. Here I am at the edge of the kloof with the clouds still swirling around us.



We also had a good view of the way out on the opposite side of the divide. Looks pretty daunting but in fact an easy scramble. What we didn't enjoy were the large hailstones pelting us on the way accross.



The views were well worth it though.



The Protea cynaroides were flowering profusely. They are a lot more pink here at altitude than at Van Stadens.



Personally I have soft spot for the pretty Protea mundii, also doing well on the southern slopes of Mac.



A birds eye view of the rugged kloof running to the north, nicely wooded in the upper reaches but the thick, scratcy vegetation at the start of the kloof is rather discouraging. The farm dam and our base camp is just visible in the background.



We also paid a visit to the well hidden shelter


After the hail it cleared and we had good views of the ridge behind Enkeldoorn.



We could even see all the way down to Bergplaas, hopefully they had also good rains.



This is the ridge leading back to camp. On the old map there is a clearly marked footpath but that has now all but disappeared as well. We could pick it up in places but lost it soon after.



Our old campsite with plenty of good memories including some hooligan trying to set the mountain alight.



Another Protea taking our fancy, Protea nerifolia?. No, it is P.lorifolia (thanks Libby)



Still the "table cloth" on Mac persists.



Pity we can't look back to the neck where we had the hail, it looks pretty grim there again while we are now basking in the sunshine.



Some amazing folds in the mountain side, no wonder they are called the Cape Fold Mountains.



From here the ascent route doesn't look at all impressive.


The final descent was quite rocky and ended in a steep drop so we opted for an equaly rocky gulley but at least that led all the way down before the final scratchy bit through the Karoo "bossies"



Some very fine specimens of Tierhout are dotted around the northern slopes.


After a well deserved lovely supper and a good night's rest we still went hunting for the elusive cave only to learn that it is in the next kloof. I suppose good enough reason to come back one day. It certainly was a terrific weekend and we are sad to be homeward bound again so soon.



One last look back from the Hadley's drift road, more rain to come by the looks of it. Thanks to our hosts Shaun and Ron Robertson

Name:
Jonathan Mercer
Message:
Beautiful report Rudi and a great website too! I've forwarded the link to Elize in the Maldives (where the max height above sea level is 2m!!) and said to her that THIS is why she must get fitter when she returns in November and why we must get into hiking! I hope it inspires her! Certainly makes me want to get walking again! Also need to find out from you how you set up a website like this!! Really great!!! I guess one can get contact details of the owners of the campsite from you?
Name:
Elize Benecke
Message:
This looks incredibly good, and yes, Jonathan, this really has inspired me a lot!! Wow, beautiful views and Proteas!! I am really looking forward in coming back to South Africa to enjoy it's beauty! All the best wishes from the Maldives, Elize
Name:
Linda Howe-Ely
Message:
Hi Rudi, how nice to read about your trip. Lovely photos. Makes me homesick for the EC mountains. Leave that question mark next to Protea Nerifolia. Nerifolia has black tips at the top of the flower and the leaves are thinner.
Name:
ingrid van den hoek
Message:
wow, dit is pragtig, wat van 'n mcsa trip soontoe?????
Name:
Rob Mac Geoghegan
Message:
You certainly had a good mnt experience, exploring the north route. I have some photos somewhere that my folks took back in 1953-55 on this route. The club only used to climb Mac from the North in those days. Well done.
Name:
Libby McGill
Message:
Your photos made me VERY homesick! I haven't laid eyes on a protea in the wild for 5 years, but the one you called Pr nerifolia? looks to me to be more like Pr lorifolia. What do you think?
Name:
Annabe
Message:
Hi Rudi Pragtige foto's en lekker beskrywings by elkeen. Ek kry sommer lus vir die berge.
Name:
Mervyn Brouard
Message:
Great report bringing back memories of our misty descent from Mac. Did you see that rare protea again?
Name:
Mary Yates
Message:
Such superb photos Rudi - Libby sent on. Absolutely NOTHING to beat 'our' mountains is there! Your storm made such stunning pictures for us to be even more appreciative.
Name:
Taz Zacharie
Message:
Hi Rudi. Tks 4 sharing. Pls let me know nxt time u go again, I would luv 2 go 2. Grt photos.
Name:
Jenny Eldridge
Message:
What a wonderful weekend it must have been. The cynaroides may be a subspecies. I have never seen P.lorifolia but it is not P. nerifolia ,very beautiful. Jenny
Name:
Ingels Marga
Message:
Prachtige foto's. Des photos de toute beauté. Je suis aussi assez passionnée de belles photos. Bye
Name:
Ben Scherbeijn
Message:
RUDI en ELLIE, mooie foto's, mooie trip, leuk beschreven, prachtig landschap! veel groeten, BEN
 
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