Hike #31: Blinkwater Ravine & Valken Labyrinth (again)

The first hike of 2017 got off to a creaky start. Aside from a little stroll in Cape Point just before Christmas, not much hiking had happened for more than two months (horror). So Alison decided to google ‘most difficult hike on Table Mountain’ and suggest one of those. Funnily enough, only Martin turned out to be available.

This was a new low for hikist attendance, but it was probably just as well. Even though we didn’t manage to find the difficult trail we had intended to follow (Grotto-Fountain-Cairn) and just headed up in the shade of the relatively easy Blinkwater Ravine, it still turned out to be a pretty tough hike.

We had originally planned to catch the cable car down, but decided that long queues of well-dressed, not-stinky people weren’t appealing, and it wasn’t yet beer o’clock anyway. So we headed through the Valley of the Red Gods over to Diagonal. Here we decided to take the short but worthwhile detour to explore Valken Labyrinth (which is Alison speak for ‘lie in a pile of soft reeds and pant pathetically’ and Martin speak for ‘jump around on top of all the rocks like a hyrax on amphetamines’).

Walking back down Diagonal and along the Pipe Track was not fun, because by now there was no shade left and temperatures had risen higher than a worthless politician. Towards the end, Alison’s sausage fingers were so bad that she had to walk with both hands in the air to try to prevent them from bursting. Luckily there weren’t any other people stupid enough to be out in that heat to see it. For the first time in 52hikist history, the need for a cold shower overrode the need for beer – but only temporarily.

Hike details:

Distance: 15km

Duration: 6 hours 17 min (4 hours of actually moving our butts)

Directions: If we had intended to do this hike, we would have used pages 190 – 193 of Tony Lourens’s Table Mountain Classics.

Parking: The lower parking lot for cable car (next to start of Pipe Track)

Post hike eating place: Home for a shower and then an agonising one-block walk to Salisbury’s Deli, for craft beer, breakfast muffins and wraps.

*Stats thanks to Martin, our official record-keeper.

Highlights of this hike

  • Being in blissfully cool shade the whole way up the mountain.
  • Martin getting to do both Blinkwater and Diagonal for the first time, thereby slightly ameliorating the odious fact that both these routes have been covered by 52hikists before.
  • Reaching the top of Valken Buttress and collapsing on a large mattress of bed bush (which is what I call Anthochortus crinalis, and frankly, I think we can all agree that my name is easier to remember).
  • Discovering the ‘Oracle Gate’ to Valken Labyrinth, where two huge pointy rocks hang high above you, ready to crush unworthy hikists.
  • Not actually dying of heat exhaustion on the way back along the Pipe Track.
  • Sitting right next to the beer fridge at Salisbury’s and helping ourselves to all the craft beers we could drink.

Photographs from the Valken Labyrinth hike

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