The Klein Swartberg at Ladismith forms part of the Swartberg World Heritage site and is definitely a mountaineer’s paradise. Five of the eight highest peaks in the Western Cape are situated within 15 km from Ladismith.
It caters for all tastes – varying between steep rock climbs, long and steep hiking trails through the mountains, lasting a couple of days, and easier hiking trails, was well as one-day hikes. Although Towerkop (2189m) is not the highest in the range, it is certainly the most well-known and difficult to climb.
Towerkop itself is a dome-shaped rock, 122m in height, cleft in two by a fissure 30m wide at the top, tapering to 3m at the base. It is situated north of the town and is visible for hundreds of kilometers, altering in shape and appearance as the traveller changes position. It is visible from near Mossel Bay in the south to Beaufort West in the north-east. Towerkop (Magic head) derives its name probably from its changing appearance, but there is also a legend that a witch was crossing the mountain one night during a thunderstorm and found the rock obstructing her way. In anger she struck it with her wand and split it into two!
The first person to conquer Towerkop was the 23-year old Gustav Nefdt who accomplished this feat in 1885. At that stage it was considered as the most difficult peak in the world to climb. Mountaineers consider Nefdt’s achievement as almost superhuman, especially as he scaled the rock without ropes. The route that he followed is described as extremely difficult and exciting, requiring the utmost skills.
At first site, is seems impossible to negotiate this route. The first stage of about 12m is classified as F2. Following this there is a traverse, followed by a chimney of about 30m high. At this stage the climber has nearly reached his goal. It is stressed that the western route is dangerous and inexperienced climbers should not attempt to tackle it on their own.
There are more than 50 routes up Towerkop, varying from difficult to extremely difficult.
Seweweekspoort peak (2325 m) is the highest in the Klein Swartberg as well as the Western Cape. There is a comfortable cave at 2 000m, as well as a perennial stream which runs even during droughts.
The peak can be approached from Seweweekspoort – the so-called Rocklands route which starts at Aristata. This route is clear and it is not necessary to negotiate steep rock formations. This is the shortest route and takes about 5 hours to climb.
The South ridge route is long, pleasant and well-defined, with a footpath up to approximately 1800m. This route takes you up to a steep climb from the farm Broadacres to the summit. There is also a 4×4 route with a hut at the end of it. From the hut it is a 300m climb to the summit. (Arrange beforehand for access and parking of vehicles)
The North route starts at Vleiland opposite “Op-die-plaas kamp”.
Other peaks to be climbed
- Steenslang (2 228 m)
- Toorkop (2 143m)
- Elandsberg (2 127 m)
as well as several others.