The route travels up from Fernridge, through Tonnelbos and around the front of Vandalenspiek, to the George dam (old George dam). From here the path winds up to Tierkop, and finally down to the Saasveld campus.
We walked to the top of 1st Avenue and climbed through the fence, entering the state forest. We soon crossed the railroad the Outeniqua power van uses and continued up the forest road. The gradient increased as the path narrowed into a footpath bordered by fynbos on either side. After about a 3.5 km steep climb, we entered a section of forest called Tonnelbos – the shade was heartily welcomed.
This small section of forest (with many Keurbome) was completely blanketed by ferns. This was the largest collection of ferns I had seen to date – this includes any section of the Outeniqua or Tsitsikamma hiking trails. Just before the end of the forest, we stopped for coffee and a sandwich – luckily it had rained heavily over the previous week, so water was in abundance.
The elevation had evened out, but any difficulty eased by this, was compensated for by a wildly overgrown path and many spiderwebs. The view of George from here at least made all the effort worthwhile.
Once we had ventured around Vandelenspiek, the landscape and views changed completely. We could now see Skurwekop and Kransberg to the north, as well as Tierkop in front of us. With the path having cleared up, we soon made it down to the George dam. With no knowledge of how the dam looked, we had planned a swim, but decided otherwise upon arrival. The dam wall (which one has to walk across) was extremely high on either side, and the effort required to reach the water was much too high.
We now made the final ascent up to Tierkop. Although initially easy-going, the final kilometer before we reached the hut was tough in the afternoon sun. From the hut we could clearly see Melville peak to the east and the section of forest (Platbos) below Cradock peak to the west – this is where the Swartrivier starts, which flows into the George dam.
Sadly the Tiekop hut was dismally vandalised and in need of repair. Having spoken to a lady at Witfontein two weeks prior to the hike, we were informed of the condition of the hut. She had stated that the vadalism was of growing concern, and that fencing of some kind would be required to overcome it. I do hope they manage to solve the problem, since it would be wonderful if the Tierkop hut was open to the public once again.
With this in mind, we made our way to the Saasveld campus 5 km away. We followed the road with the Kaaimansrivier to our left and soon reached the other car parked at the end point. The trail is very beautiful – especially with the continuous panoramas of George – yet some maintenance is required to restore both the trail and the hut.
Max elevation: 706 m
Min elevation: 206 m
Total climbing: 1021 m
Total time: 05:40:12