I’m quite surprised by CapeNature’s policy of requiring a minimum of 3 people to get a hiking permit. I understand it’s for safety reasons, but I’m quite experienced, I carry a Garmin InReach and I’m willing to take full responsibility for myself, but apparently I’m not allowed to hike by myself. Am I missing something here? As far as I know, pretty much anywhere in Europe and the US you can hike alone.
Does anyone have some info on this? Are there hikes in the WC that you can do solo? Would it be of benefit to join MCSA?
They told me the same thing when I tried to climb Tierberg in the Swartberg a few years ago. I was rather annoyed - I drove over 1000km to do a cluster of peaks and I now have one arbitrary one left in the region that I have to go back for. There’s a road most of the way up on the north side, it wouldn’t have been a risky ascent by any means.
I get the rule, but I don’t agree with it - I’m not sure that three inexperienced hikers are any safer than one or two, and an experienced solo hiker is probably fine as they know when they aren’t ok and need to bail - which is essentially the most important aspect of hiking safety whether in a group or solo. Its really a case of experience and risk tolerance. For anyone without significant experience, solo hiking in regions that aren’t crowded is a bad idea. Conversely - solo hiking with tons of people around isn’t really solo hiking, if something goes wrong there’ll probably be someone there to help. When I did the Three Passes Circuit in Nepal solo last year, I rarely went more than an hour without seeing other people, so it really didn’t feel like a solo hike.
Re MCSA: it depends a great deal on what you are trying to achieve. I’ve been a member for about 10 years (KZN Section initially, now JHB Section) - there are a number of areas where access is only open to MCSA members. E.g. the Hex Mountains are very difficult to gain access to if you aren’t a member. Notably solo hiking in the Hex is allowed, but be very careful of that as the Hex is no joke - plenty of risk of serious injury or death if you aren’t careful. I did a solo 3 day hike there a few years ago - it was amazing, but at times also terrifying.
Agree 100%. It’s such an illogical rule. To me it seems to be purely a liability issue to prevent anyone from suing them. Apparently they used to allow you to sign an indemnity form if you wanted to hike solo, but that is no longer the case. Surely as grown adults we should be able to make these kinds of choices for ourselves?? As you say, experienced hikers know when they’re out of their depth and when to turn around.
I mean, even in the European “nanny states” with all their insane rules and regulations they allow you to go it alone…
Thanks for the info on MCSA, I do think it would be worthwhile to join even if not strictly to access areas for solo hikes. Looks like I’ll just have to head overseas for that!
If you are really experienced, you would know that it is not wise to hike alone, especially in remote areas. There are many places in our mountains where you will not have cell phone reception. And shit happens…
It will not help to join the MCSA. We also have some safety rules and you will not get easier access to hike alone. Get yourself a hiking partner…
I whole heartedly disagree with anyone advocating hiking alone no matter your experience
Personally I’ve pulled someone off a ledge below “fountain ledge” on Table mountain at around 16:40 in July shed Sindhis gotten there and hurt herself - it’s about 3m below fountain ledge and she broken her phone screen do couldnt press any buttons to dial for help
Despite this being an incredibly busy section on TM she’d not heard anyone coming past and by the time I’d got there she could barely wheeze out noises
No water left insufficient thermal protection (hiking clothes and wind proof Mayer) she was borderline hypothermic on a pleasant winters day.
There’s no way she’d have survived the night - and no way anyone would have found her ever as the ledge is basically inverted and invisible with no paths looking into it or passing it.
I ended up pulling her up fed her water then snacks snd frog marched her to the upper cable car where she refused further assistance or medical help and went her own way
The reality is that Wilderness Search and Rescue are pulling hikers off the mountains every week not always alive and often solo.
It’s a ridiculous expense and CN have sensibly tried to put a stop to this.
Over the last 5 years I know of four solo hikers who’ve died on Table mountain - one trail runner on Kloof Ridge who id engaged in an argument about safety with the week before when he passed me with someone on a rope going up the second chain.
I still reflect on that with mixed emotions.
Having all the preparedness in the world doesn’t help you if you’re unable to get help and have broken technology plus it’s bloody selfish.
The minimum should be four - 1 to stay with the patient and two to go for help
Just my public thoughts. Do whatever you want to do
I use to be one for solo hiking till I got my leg stuck in-between two rock on my way to Xeni Cave. No cell reception, no one any where - luckily I managed to get my leg out. If it was broken or really stuck - lets just say it could have turned out very different. And I am an experienced hiker.
I also think that due to the fact that there are a lot more inexperienced people out hiking, the risk of injury also increases dramatically - so I do understand the feeling of some people about wanting to go solo hiking - and it is fine if nothing happens but lets be honest how many people have a Inreach system or how reliable is cell reception really.
Each person to them selfs but I will rather hike in a group as its not only safer but I also enjoy spending time in nature with like minded people.
Can’t help but leave my 5c worth on this subject:
I find the min.3 hiker policy unreasonable yet understandable from the land and trail owner. It’s foremost to save their backsides more than anything e.g. they can then claim to have done the most logical thing to reduce the any rescue efforts NOT the accident potential, e.g. there is potential greater chance of survival of the patient as s/he has someone close by that could administer FA, and a second person that can go solo for help or into better cell phone reception etc… And here you have the perfect potential scenario for a serious casualty e.g. pressure of rescue, finding reception, time constrain, getting lost etc and NO one will find him/her in time.
What I’m saying is there will always be accidents, we make plans, we tell others and when out there, we WILL change them.
A Garmin InReach or similar, is definitely one of your best options! As a solo hiker myself since more than 30 years, I’ve learned more through my mistakes than from restrictions of authorities. I’m talking about hikes and climbs all over Africa and Europe. Safety is not always in numbers. It’s in being prepared (Right gear, shelter, food & water, orientation etc) and knowing what to do when the sh!t hit’s the fan.
But just to show the flip side (Not disagreeing!) of Scubafrique, for 20 odd years I searched and rescued hikers along our Gecko Trail and in the Nuy River Gorge… these were NEVER solo hikers (!) but groups of up to 14 hikers.
What they all had in common was: Insufficient gear, wrong timing, disorientated (going South, thinking they are going East or even North), could not read a map, no Garmin InReach nit even a GPS, underestimated their fitness or the trails terrain, did not stick together. This happens way too often: Even a group of people, when hiking, needs to be a “solo” UNIT for their own safety.
And what did it teach me? As a Land/Trail owner I was the one that got pissed off waiting for the hikers to call that they have started or arrived (50% don’t!) and so created rules to curb the (stupid) ignorance of hikers not just solo but all, yet you can’t cancel out the human factor: Restrictions creates resentment and lawbreakers, Freedom comes with responsibilities. Allow hikers to become responsible, show then how and trust!
So in short, Solo hikers or “trail” runners are welcome on our Gecko Trail and the rest of the farm, as long as they have an InReach or similar for their own safety.
As for myself, I’ll keep hiking/climbing solo be it here or in the Alps until there’s another “crazy” one that what’s to join. The experience you gain outweighs the rest.
And yes, that might be shellfish… so don’t touch, you’ll be safe.
Thanks for all the input, guys. Appreciate all the different perspectives. I still don’t think it’s a sensible rule though. Issuing a permit to 3 inexperienced hikers that have never done more than a day hike and refusing a permit to a single person that has years of experience doing multi day through hikes is just devoid of logic. And like @Waya says, a group splitting up during an emergency would most likely just create a more dangerous situation. And I’ve heard the same from friends in the SAR community that most rescues involve groups of inexperienced hikers. Folks that didn’t plan, have the wrong gear, etc. To me, it’s just a blanket rule being applied by the landowners/authorities to make their lives easier because, like @calypso said, most people are potatoes. But I guess that’s their right and we have to respect it.
Respect? Nah. Not, as in, respect. Begrudgingly accept more like. But now I’m being a pedant.
Thing is it feels awfully like mollycoddling too doesn’t it? And an attempt to cover their own arse in this a-la-American litigation state we all live in now. Grates at me.
I completely understand the analogy with rebreather diving where the buddy system goes out the window
I completely understand the notion of inexperienced vs experienced
but if we’re being honest in the cold light of day, as a percentage of the representative population there have been a far higher percentage of deaths amongst the rebreathing (and very experienced) community than there have been of scuba divers in the scuba diver population regardless of experience
And in reality this may be the result of depth, equipment and physiological issues or all three but a buddy system “might” have changed those odds.
India Venster 11May solo higher sho knows the route this is literally 8 minutes drive from Groote Schuur hospital.
I agree about numptee’s getting lost 1 or 10 I’ve returned from an overnighter ending at Wolfberg Arch on a beautiful day to find a dozen hikers lost between the caves and the arch literally 20m from the point the arch can be seen (and they had a Slingsby map) they’d spent the night there and were walking the wrong way still trying to make it to the Arch.
There is nothing that’ll help people like this
Yes most rescues are groups of people as inherently most hikers do so in groups - the survival rate for a group is far higher than for solo hikers.
Off the record I think the minimum is 4 not three for the exact reason you point out - one injured and then one lost
I will never publicly advocate solo hiking
What I love about the inReach is how it gives the rescue person Elle the route you took going into the dwang so they can figure out not only where you are but how best to get you out.
On the thoughts of a land owner with a hiking trail what’s your insurer say about solo hiking?
From a liability perspective an indemnity doesn’t preclude you from liability if there’s negligence involved - how negligence is determined is a whole different story it may be the trail is “uncompromising” or some other BS excuse - many many years of guiding Americans has taught me that in Africa our best “insurance” is to be fiscally worthless all activities conducted under shell corporations do if /when you’re sued there’s nothing to loose
All I like to add is: Please stop trying to protect someone from your experience. Allow people to make their own choices and let (make) them take responsibility for their own actions. If you want or don’t want to rescue a “stupid” hiker/diver/driver/glider etc that is also your choice. No one expects you to do either. Responsibility is a great thing, it’s been there since the beginning of time (and should in fact be our only human “right” or e.g. we have a human responsibility to be so) yet business, and suing someone for crazy amounts of damages is just that: business (!) has sadly make us into control freaks over each others freedom… If I, in your eyes, am a candidate for a Darwin award, let that be my choice, please.
For what it is worth, CapeNature are an exceptionally risk averse organisation. Currently (9-11 June 2023) all trails in Limietberg, Kogelberg and overnight trails in Cedeberg are closed due to poor weather. I think some of this is warranted in terms of damage/erosion to certain trails but they definitely take a very cautious approach. I think this matches their stringency on size of hiking groups.
Reminds me of my first attempt on Simonsberg where I got an angry phone call telling me to turn around and come back down because of bad weather on the mountain. It was light mist - no wind or anything, and the mist wasn’t even that thick. I went back and got up a year ago in clear conditions (although it was misty on the way down, got up just as the clouds rolled in). There’s a good trail the entire way and I had a GPX of the route, so I wasn’t worried about the mist - mostly just hoping the summit would be above the clouds when I got to the top so I could get a good view. I would have returned to redo it in better conditions if the top had been in the mist, but I would still have liked to get to the top that day. Although those rules are the local wine farm, not Cape Nature.
I’ve been on top of the Drakensberg when a cold front comes in on more than one occasion, and have hiked in many thunderstorms and winds too strong to stand up straight - so a bit of light mist on top of a peak with a summit lower in elevation than my house really wasn’t something to stress over. Notably I wasn’t on my own either, and my teammates were also experienced hikers. But I guess the same rules have to apply to everyone, and for some reason experience is never factored into those rules.
…we just had a young couple from the UK camping over the weekend.
While he lay in his hammock for the day she climbed solo for 6h to one of our peaks - despite the trail not being clear (needs maintenance after our fire and 3 floods…) she came across very confident, so I allowed her to hike on her own and she had a ball of a time!!!
Another positive review of SA still has wild stuff on offer, coming our way.