Since reading Leo Rust’s blog post about the Hex Traverse in a day, and glimpsing the route from the summit of the Mostertshoek Twins last year, we have been talking about giving it a go. On Saturday (4 Mar ’17) we finally got our ducks in a row and did it. Kane Reilly was the only of our mountain crazy friends who admitted to being available for the day to venture into the unknown with us.
From Fairy Glen outside Worcester to the UCT Waaihoek parking on Vredehoek farm via Thomas Hut, passing near Perry Refuge, and descending from Pell’s Hut. (This is not a true traverse of the whole Hex Mountain Range, as mentioned by a guy named Richard on a Climb ZA forum, but it is a great section which is commonly referred to as the “Hex Traverse” and we’re following the convention.)
These mountains are spectacular and wonderfully wild! The traverse follows a beautiful ridge line and offers views of endless mountains with dramatic spires, shear faces, bottomless gullies,… A complete overload of inspiration for mountain lovers! Underfoot the route includes a short section of excellent trail, some runnable (but ankle taxing) plateaus, boulder strewn dragon’s back ridges, seemingly endless off-camber fynbos / scree slopes, a few moderately steep rock steps, and some (optional we think) fantastic knife-edges.
We played by the simple Marble Rule: when the marble rolls backwards you walk, when the marble rolls forwards you run. It turned out, however, that when our marble was not rolling backwards it generally rocketed off to one side, bounced off a cliff ahead, or got jammed by a boulder – exceptions which we decided to group into the walk category unless bumslide seemed more appropriate. Maybe not such a simple rule after all?
Moral of the story: we didn’t run much but moved pretty consistently all day. Except for when Mike lost the map and had to go back and find it; and when Robyn stopped to repair the trekking pole she broke; and when we searched for the camera lens cap Kane dropped; and for the Christmas Cake stop to celebrate the discovery of fantastic airy Ridges from Heaven which bypass the infamous Gullies from Hell in the Jan du Toitskloof Neck area.
Okay, except for quite a lot of stoppages “for being general Lemons” (as Kane elegantly summarised it), we moved smoothly but without a rush to finish in 8h9min. As far as we know that’s the shortest time it has been done so far, but we don’t think it is yet deserving of the “Fast” in a FKT (fastest known time) claim. We would love to see how fast it can be done! (If you read this and decide to try it we’d be keen to hear how you go.)
From Fairy Glen to just past Thomas Hut and from Pell’s Hut to Vredehoek there are good trails, but in between there is no trail. The route follows the logical ridge line which is fairly straightforward to find with a map in clear weather. A keen cairn-spotting eye is useful in finding the easiest lines! Kane forgot to start his watch so we cannot offer a Strava or gps file, but we think a map and compass method is the best way to find the route anyway (maps give you an appreciation of the whole mountain layout and where your route fits into it much better than a tiny screen and are far more useful when things don’t go according to plan).