We found the perfect day to tackle the steep slopes of Cradock and George peak. Starting at the Witfontein forest station, we followed the plantation road up towards the mountain. From early on we could see George Peak towering above us – luckily Cradock Peak (roughly 250m higher) was obscured from view; keeping our morale high. The road soon gave way to a track that lead down to the Power Stream, which we crossed twice. This was the last major water source for the rest of the day. From here on we would be climbing, rising roughly 1300m in order to reach Cradock Peak
As we ventured on, we could soon see George behind us, as well as the Outeniqua pass to our left. With the near-silence that the mountain provided, we immediately noticed the Power Van on its way. Given that we were still some distance from the railway track, we decided to run up in order to see it passing.
After a short break and a very inviting walk on the railroad track, we turned left into the fynbos. This section was inundated with King Proteas (Protea cynaroides) and we managed to spot a few of the relatively rare Three-flowered Pagodae (Mimetes pauciflorus). Further up, the green turned to pink as we walked amongst the Watsonias, and the Outeniqua Ericas (Erica densifolia).
Just before we were to reach the neck, we came across the designated water source – a small stream that just-just managed to fill our water bottles. With tired legs we scrambled up to the neck, from where we had a wonderful panoramic view. To the north we could see Kransberg, to the south, the sea – to the west and east were Cradock and George Peak respectively, awaiting our arrival. Tyron (with his jeans) decided that he would wait here for Joe, Bronwyn and me as we headed up to Cradock Peak. In just under an hour we had reached the top.
I remembered the technical section just before the top as being particularly terrifying – this recollection is from the 1st time I hiked up Cradock Peak, over 10 years ago. One has to maneuver up rocks, with the cliff-face to one’s left, making sure to follow the blue arrows (which none of us did then). This time around the experience was not frightening in the least. The 1st time I had gone around the left of the rocks (which one must not do), with a hefty fall just a foot-slip away – this may be part of the reason why I recall the experience so clearly. If one simply follows the blue arrows, safety is certainly assured.
The view from the top (1578m) was astounding – we were at the highest point in the Outeniqua mountain range. Formosa Peak (which one can see on a clear day) is the next giant to the east.
From here we made our way down to Tyron at the neck, and headed to George Peak for lunch. With no cloud cover, George Peak made for wonderful views of George as well as of Cradock Peak behind us.
With lunch over, we made the knee-mangling journey back down to Witfontein; eager to get out of the sun.
The route is well marked – one must simply take note to turn left soon after joining the train track, and further, one must not venture left near the top of Cradock Peak. The abundance of fynbos as well as the 360 degree view from the top of Cradock Peak makes for a wonderful hike.
Max elevation: 1562 m
Min elevation: 256 m
Total climbing: 1880 m
Total time: 10:15:06