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Descending Jan Du Toit’s Kloof

Kloofing 4 March 2018 Descending Jan Du Toit’s Kloof

Visits to Jan Du Toit’s Kloof are usually a highlight of the summer season. You get a chance to explore the beautiful kloof in a relaxed atmosphere of boulder-hopping and playful swims. You get the opportunity to sleep under the stars Overhang or Forest camp, and, if you’re feeling energetic, pay homage to the waterfall at Buchu Ladder.

This was not going to be that kind of trip. No, not at all. The plan this time was to make our way to Perry Refuge and, from there, descend into Jan Du Toit’s Kloof, taking in the main tributary of Jan Du Toit’s, that takes you past Mount Brodie and the Woolworth Building, in a relentless series of 14 waterfalls, before you finally meet familiar territory at the Buchu Ladder. This route down is a serious undertaking, with a 200m waterfall section that has to be navigated in the upper reaches of the kloof, followed by a narrow gorge that is dark and long, and offers little opportunity for an exit, other than abseiling down from the chockstone falls that characterize this gorge.

So we set off for this adventure with a mixture of excitement and trepidation at what was to come. We did the necessary car shuffling on Friday morning to have one car at Waaihoek and one at Waaihoeksberg. We then marched up to Point Hi, taking advantage of the cool day, and across to Perry at a brisk pace, to get there before sunset. We settled in for a relaxed evening in the last of the sunlight, with plans for a prompt start in the morning.

Drying off dew-soaked sleeping bags made the morning start a little less prompt than planned, but our party was scrambling down into the deep, dark depths of the kloof by 9 am, as the sun was lighting up the red cliffs of Brodie to our left. There was plenty of nervous anticipation as we surveyed the massive descent below. A black, yawning gulf with a thin ribbon of white that marked the floor of the gorge we were aiming for. It looked a long way down, and hidden from view was the 200m waterfall we had to pass to get there. Old abseiling points were located, but few of them seemed ideal. The rock of this upper kloof had plenty of boulders and spikes protruding from the grass and scree, but, upon closer inspection, everything felt like a good pull would extract it. So we took our time, discussing the merits of various fractured rock structures, as we gave them kicks and pulls to test their durability. Once satisfied, we set up the abseils. In this way, roaming the slopes like a baboon troop looking for a proven line to follow, we took the morning to navigate our way down bulging cliffs and overhangs, slowly dropping deeper into that dark abyss.

We weren’t alone. We had the company of a more conventional troop of baboons, roaming the cliffs opposite us, turning over rocks and looking for insects to eat. On less steep ground, this is a pleasant distraction, but from our vantage point, the constant clatter and boom of rocks, large and small, careering down, exactly where we were planning to go, was a little less entertaining. A narrow defile with nowhere to hide. So we kept an eye on the baboons as they roamed backwards and forwards, seemingly impervious to our verbal attempts to chase them away, as we slowly moved closer to the line of fire.

As with many things, patience and the intricacies of our progress saw the difficulties overcome, and the baboons moved on to fresher pastures. Perhaps they lost interest in our antics? After the last big drop on the open slopes, and a relaxed lunch in the sun, we took the plunge into the slot canyon part of the trip. This proved to be spectacular, narrow and enjoyable. Our steady progress down the series of chockstone falls was marked by bright sunshine and deep shade beneath the looming, red, rock towers, and the steady cycle of people and ropes abseiling off trees and chockstones, until we finally recognized the ground above Buchu Ladder. We surged on down to get to our preferred camping spot in the trees, below this last significant waterfall, in the fading light of the day. Camp was set up on gravelly sand and leaf-litter, under the shelter of ancient trees that have resisted the floods that shaped this kloof.

Sunday dawned, and the familiar forest and blue pool reaches of Jan Du Toit’s provided a pleasant descent, filled with boulder-hopping and swimming, as we made our way past Overhang camp and back to the world of cars and more mundane things.

Charles Morrison


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