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Joshua Penny’s Cave

Leader: Charles Morrison 9 January 2018 Joshua Penny’s Cave

This was the third time I have led an MCSA scramble up to visit Joshua Penny’s Cave and as before it proved to be a popular venue. Luckily I had some very experienced participants to help out and so could take a larger group than I might otherwise have taken, on 6 January 2018.

Joshua Penny was an American seaman who wrote a book in 1815 about his experiences as an impressed conscript (essentially a slave) on British Naval vessels, including the Sceptre, in the 1790s. Although American citizens were exempt from conscription into the British merchant navy, by removing his documents from him, he was taken into service against his will. He was determined to escape from the Sceptre and took his opportunity to get off the vessel in Cape Town by faking an incurable illness. He then escaped up onto Table Mountain with just a few possessions and claimed to have survived for 14 months alone on the mountain. In 1892 a member of the newly formed Mountain Club discovered a cave in Fountain Ravine which contained signs of occupation and artifacts that confirmed that at least part of Joshua Penny’s account was true. This cave has become known as Joshua Penny’s Cave although he probably used a few others while on the mountain.

As before I led the group up Cairn Ravine and across to the cave. The day was misty and cool. Ideal for a summer outing and as we climbed we could see blue skies above. The traverse to the cave was shrouded in mist but from there on we were treated to a cloud sea hiding Camps Bay and Lion’s Head below us. A stand of pines along the way were sampled by the hackers with plans being made to deal with the rest in time. From there we completed a traverse to Grotto Ravine before doubling back along the Grotto-Fountain-Cairn traverse and through to the Kloof Corner ridge to take us back down to the cars. It was a shady route that linked together a feast of scrambling and classic ledge traverses which makes it a particularly enjoyable route. My thanks to the very pleasant group who joined me.

Charles Morrison


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