Let’s be curious.
Curiosity makes us do a lot of things. Curiosity drives us to explore and motivates us to push through the challenging parts that are certain to come with exploring. As we’d soon find out, curiosity will make you get up early, scale a mountain, swim through an ice-cold river, jump into rock pools and dangle from ropes over a cliff edge.
While looking through the monthly upcoming events email sent out by the Mountain Club one entry stood out from the usual 'climbing', 'climbing', 'hiking', 'climbing'. A single line entry, ‘Kloofing, Grootkloof’ piqued our curiosity.
With backpacks crammed full of ropes, climbing harnesses and waterproofed everything we set off from the Kranskloof parking. Our group of ten heads single file through the winter-brown grassland that gently slopes up towards the Magaliesberg escarpment. The trail continues through a small gully, passes the Mountain Club’s campsite and steadily climbs the spur nestled between Ysterhoutkloof and Grootkloof. These kloofs are two of four that form a chicken-claw-shaped network on the Rietfontein farm. The other two being the impressive Woodpecker Gully and Hamerkopkloof.
It strikes me that hikers blaze trails that avoid kloofs like this. We walk past them, around them, up to their edges and look in, but we rarely explore the secrets they hide underneath their canopies of trees.
As we follow the stream into the kloof, the walls steadily grow higher. This kloof is and feels prehistoric. Giant vines grow through the cracks crisscrossing colossal quartzite rock faces. Orange and green lichen, bowing ferns and overhangs are lit up by the reflection of the sun on the water. Sandwiched between the sheer gorge faces it is no longer a question of where to go anymore, but rather of forward or backward. Forwards we go, drawn by our curiosity, deeper into the kloof.
At some places the stream flows into wide, ice-cold pools leaving us two options: prove our commitment with quick, ice-cold swims or turn back, our curiosity unanswered. It’s counterintuitive to climb into a pool with shoes and a backpack. I hope the drybag that my camera is in lives up to the promises on the label.
The path continues to the main abseil point: a single, hopefully sturdy, tree that looms over an enormous boulder. Impossible-to-imagine forces of nature, a very long time ago, wedged this 9 metre in diameter boulder into position. From where we are standing we can’t see the base of the abseil point, just a kloof-wide pool that stretches out about 30 metres below us. The abseil lands us between a rock and a cold place: a pile of slippery rocks underneath the boulder, which means another swim.
Now we’re committed. There’s no going back. Like the water that carved this kloof over millions of years, we can only go forwards, deeper into the kloof.
We boulder-hop, jump into pools and slip-slide our way forward. One of the rapids swallows Mungeen’s prescription glasses. After a couple of icy dives we have lost one contact lens and gained two entirely different pairs of glasses: a pair of sunglasses and a pair of prescription RayBans. We give up and leave Mungeen's pair somewhere at the bottom of that pool to confuse the next group of hikers.
Neil Grimmer, the meet leader, and his wife Justine, know this kloof really well. It’s reassuring to follow someone that knows the route, knows which pools are deep enough to jump into, knows that the rope is long enough to reach the base of the abseil point. As we explore the rest of the kloof I think about what it must have been like to be the first person who followed this path. I think about canyoneers exploring mammoth canyons that are not just a cellphone call away from mountain rescue. I think about all the first ascents of almost inaccessible peaks. I think about the explorers discovering giant caves for the first time. The excitement and the uncertainty, just because someone was curious. Someone said: ‘I wonder what's over there’.
Let’s be curious. Let’s explore.
The week of 8-12 June is national Geographic’s Explorer Week. This post is dedicated to the people that are curious enough to push it to the extremes and explore every day.
During this week National Geographic will host a series of live-streamed events. Tonight’s Explorers Week Live stream is The Battle for Virunga and starts at 19:30.
Trail Head Location (WGS84)
S25º 50' 00.2" E27º 23' 56.1”
Other Trails At Destination
Hamerkopkloof, Woodpecker Gully, Ysterhoutkloof, Grootkloof are all in the same area and offer varying levels of adventure. Non MCSA members must obtain permits for these kloofs.
Only explore with someone that knows the area – these gullies can be very dangerous if care isn't taken.
Total Distance : 6,4km
Trail Type : Circular
Trail Markings : None
Starting Altitude : 1408m
Summit Altitude : 1555m
Lowest Altitude : 1389m
Difficulty Rating : 8 / 10
Dustbins : N
Water points : Y
Toilets : N
How To Book
MCSA - Magaliesberg Section
The MCSA has requested that we do not post maps of hikes on their property.
Hiked March 2015