Skip to content

SANParks.org Forums

View unanswered posts | View active topics






Post new topic Reply to topic  Page 3 of 3
 [ 44 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3
Author Message
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:41 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 1:47 pm
Posts: 262
Location: DURBAN
There have been recent articles in various magazines recently. I quote from the November 2009 Go magazine.

Tips for Day 4.

Don’t take a chance. – “Don’t cross the river if you’re not confident that it’s safe. Rather take the escape route and call the emergency number (072 917 4474). There is cellphone reception at the top of the path. A SANParks official will come and pick you up and drop you off at the next hut”.
Another magazine (?) mentions this service as fast and efficient. I don’t know how long the escape route is or how long it takes.

Quote from one of the hikers “You walk as far as you can on the rocky bottom and then swim with one arm strokes while you can either push or pull the backpack”.
Your backpack should be securely covered in a survival bag. IMO and I am in the swimming teaching profession, unless you can use your back pack as a personal flotation device, assisted by another strong swimmer I would not recommend you getting into water out of your depth.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Just be careful and enjoy this truely magnificent hike.

_________________
"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope."


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:09 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:38 pm
Posts: 24
I've registered just to ask this one question (for now, that is).
Very useful info I have already gathered thus far.
We're doing (DV) the Otter in mid July 2010 - our winter-hike - done a couple of Outeniquas in winter and it was GREAT weather - coldish in the mornings but excellent during the day - weather always beter than even some October hikes - love it!
My question on the Bloukrans crossing that everybody is talking about, especially after the 2008 floods:
Our plan is to do the crossing via the swim option - will be taking +/- 70m ski rope (seems it should be enough) - my question is: to what will we be able to tie the rope to, on either side? - or how?
Thanks in advance and regards
Andrè


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 3:54 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:39 am
Posts: 3
JPCoetzee wrote:
Is it easy to tell if the Bloukrans is safe to cross?


IMO, No it isn't.

This is our story, and IMO Bloukrans is a tragedy waiting to happen.

We did the trail 12th to 16th July, crossing on 15th. There were 8 of us from Sydney plus Cape Town family/friends making up the 12. My eldest brother (in CTN) did the trail twice before and on both occasions 'walked' across at point A without any issues (last time in '95). Though our group contained two non swimmers, we also had a pool 'lifesaver', another strong swimmer and myself with extensive canyoning experience in the Blue Mountains near Sydney** - so river crossings and floating backpacks are my forte.
**Edit: Not my site, but have look at Claustral Canyon at least.

We were 'lucky' in one respect that the low tide was at 12:16 pm, so with the slower ones starting before 6am the last arrived at river at 11am ( I myself was the 'sweeper' and took less than two hours starting at 8:30am).

We had excellent weather leading up to that day, probably 23 deg day before at Oakhurst lapping up the sun and next morning I was surprised to have reception and get a text from a friend in CTN asking how we were faring in the cold and wet as it was apparently bucketing and cold in Cape Town (oops edit..said Sydney by mistake), yet we were looking at another sunny calm day.

When I arrived at the river almost two hrs pre low tide I thought "ok, perhaps its going to drop a fair bit still". However the cold front heading from CTN was probably causing a swell, and if you didn't know you would just be thinking "its not really low tide yet". My brother had told us of walking through and we were waiting for that level. We waited (some now in trepidation) until 12:15pm came and still it didn't look like low tide.

So I said "ok, trust the time charts, its not going to go lower than this. I'm going over now and either we all go once I get through or we back out".

I walked over inland of where ropes are (little cove) and backpack loose and high (clothes and food all in tough garbage bags inside pack as per my canyoning). Walked about thigh deep waves pushing in then current/river pulling you hard back to sea, when suddenly without even noticing the river bed changing, there was absolutely nothing under me. For moment I breaststroked then had to duck under and get out of pack, and swim with pack in front, dump it on rocks and scramble out. By then with current, I exited at ropes, just inland of point B. I made sure, with all eyes watching my progress, that I portrayed confidence, because if I found it ok for weakest to come over at some point, then I didn't want them being nervous.
I walked around rocks, then back as far as necessary inland (quite far actually) and crossed back at a point where it was ok to walk all the way, when timing the waves, but current back out was extremely strong and one had to be steady on feet even without pack.

We made decision to go over into that furthest inland point, get into cove and regroup, then do the rock scramble if it was ok for weakest to do it safely. I made 4 crossings in total, as we helped each other over.
We were still at a time where we could go back and my brother and someone else first went around the rocks and reported that all could follow.

Now we faced another issue. Within the time that we were crossing, the CTN weather had arrived. It absolutely changed from sunny/calm to very windy and rain within hour. So the swell was definitely due to that, but to the uninitiated it would not be known. The scramble around wasn't too bad, just sharp rocks (good hand holds though) and barnacles on footholds, but now people were getting wet as well and the waves were coming up quite high onto rocks.

As we rounded into sandy exit at point A , I retrieved a bottle that earlier had dropped into river near where we crossed, showing how far the current had taken it.

The last 4 km to hut it started raining harder, and once up on escarpment it was stinging into face as we walked into wind. Rained the whole night, then was clear the next day for a good walk out.

If you have a group that even had someone who had easily crossed before (as we had) , but with less experienced people, and lulled into false sense of security about getting there at low tide, you could so easily have someone go over where he/she thinks..."this must be the normal low tide, lets go over at route A".

There was absolutely no way even a strong swimmer could have been advised to cross at point A on that day. I will try and post some photo's when I get them.

Other than that, the experience was great, even with that crossing. In fact the weaker ones in group, having crossed Bloukrans, have gained the confidence that they can "now do more things in life they thought they couldn't", and that's one of the main objectives of doing something like this together.

cheers


Last edited by OzKaapie on Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:00 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 21, 2008 4:08 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Wierda Park, Centurion
This must have been an awesome day to remember always :clap: .
I had to postpone my Otter walk and are goiing now the 6th of September. Cannot wait. :D
I read this post the first time I would have gone and cannot believe how many answers and advise there is. Anyone can go on the Otter Trial now with all this info.
It will be intresting to know who else has booked for the same time....?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:21 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:38 pm
Posts: 24
We also did the Otter very recently - a couple of days after Ozkaapie - we couldn't have asked for better weather during the 5 days - stunning - crossed the Bloukrantz on the 22nd July 2010 - low tide was at +/-07:45 and we started our walk from Oakhurst Hut at 04:00 - thus covering the first half of the way to Bloukrantz in dark, we've found the going a bit slow, due to the darkness and markings difficult to find on the coastal section, where a lot of rock scrambling had to be done. This part caught us unawares, because we had done the trail way back in 1992 and the trail was re-routed since then - in 1992, the coastal section wasn't done - it was all the way on the contours of the escarpment well above sea level and made the going thus much easier at the time - nevertheless, this time around, we reached the river at 10:15 - 2 1/2 hours after low tide - the "front runners" were there at 09:15 and waited for us backmarkers - we were 9 in total.
Although the crossing is not for the fainthearted, we experienced it very different compared to the Ozkaapie group - we tackled it differently:
We all had big survival bags for our backpacks - we had first put our backpacks in strong black refuse bags and then in the survival bags, which were tied tight with cable ties.
Also we had more than 70 metres of ski-rope.
We've also done the B route - but just a bit left of the cove were the fixed ropes can be seen.
One of us (Jane) swam over with one end of the rope, whilst the other end was held by another hiker (myself) and a third hiker (my wife, Margaret) made the knots when a rope length ran out - we had several 10 metre lengths - it was very important to have a secure knot (google albright knot for detail), for it not to come loose midway through the crossing.
The first one over (Jane) then securely tied the rope around a rock and all the others then crossed one by one - holding onto the rope with one hand and the survival bag in the other - we "walked" for most of the way - about chin-deep up to +/- 10 metres from the "bank" where the water got too deep and we had to "swim" - if you could call it that - still with the one hand on the rope and the holding the survival bag - we just had to keep an eye on the swell, which was quite HIGH, but all got through safely and our kit were all dry as a bone - I was concerned especially for my precious camera - not a drop of water in our survival bags or kit - when entering the water it was also important to carry the survival bag until it could be floated - dragging it wasn't an option - the rocks would puncture it!! Once one had crossed the river, you needed help to get onto the rocks with your bag. Also it was important to remember to keep a small knife available, to cut the cable ties once crossed.
Once crossed, we've opened the survival bags to put on our backpacks and scrambled up and over rocks to the left - to the sandy exit of route A.
What also helped to exit safely on the other side: we all crossed with good shoes (Salomon TechAmphibians) which is GREAT for something like this - it lets water out, has extraordinary grip on rocks and just overall a brilliant shoe!!
Not all of us were "strong" swimmers, but we've done our planning realy well - it took us +/- an hour to cross and everybody was in high spirits.
Another thing we found is that the bottom still has a lot of sand on it - from several posts we were made to believe that it was all "washed away" by the storms of a couple of years ago - not entirely true - it changed it most definitely, but no sand? and only rocks? - not true!
I agree with Ozkaapie - the crossing could be daunting and a "tragedy waiting to happen" - IF the crossing is tackled in a careless manner - if you feel it's not safe to cross once you're there, then rather opt for the escape route - BUT, if you do your planning well and respect the conditions of the day, it is very crossable - an experience you'll never forget.
The full trail is still something very special - 5 golden pages in our book of life - indeed!
Should anyone have questions, then you're welcome to mail me and I'd answer them gladly - if I can.
Regards
Andrè
PS: The earlier post 3/12/2008 by CapeDoc helped us a lot with our planning and I thank him for that!!
Pete crossing, rope in one hand and survival bag in the other - click in image for larger view:
Image
The Bloukrantz, showing where & how we crossed - click in image for larger view:
Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:28 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:39 am
Posts: 3
Thanks Andre,

Seems like you guys had a great time too, and the weather must have been awesome as it was 26 deg in CTN on 21st July.

andre w wrote:
....and markings difficult to find on the coastal section, where a lot of rock scrambling had to be done.


Yes, even when I came through at approx 9am, the markings were quite difficult and no existent and I had to doublecheck a few times. Must be quite hard in dark.

andre w wrote:
Although the crossing is not for the fainthearted, we experienced it very different compared to the Ozkaapie group - we tackled it differently:
We all had big survival bags for our backpacks - we had first put our backpacks in strong black refuse bags and then in the survival bags, which were tied tight with cable ties.
Also we had more than 70 metres of ski-rope.
We've also done the B route - but just a bit left of the cove were the fixed ropes can be seen.


From your photos, the water looks a lot lower than when we crossed despite you getting there 2 1/2 hrs after low tide. The route you followed is to the left of where I first crossed and it was too deep and current too strong and you needed to all be strong swimmers (on our day) to cross there. Most of our group shared survival bags. I didn't have one, instead relying on contents being secure in bags, which works for me...the water drips out of bag quite quickly.

andre w wrote:
We've also done the B route - but just a bit left of the cove were the fixed ropes can be seen. ///
Once crossed, we've opened the survival bags to put on our backpacks and scrambled up and over rocks to the left - to the sandy exit of route A.


We actually crossed at the extreme right of your photo, into that rocky cove, then regrouped, made decision to continue or bail out once it was deemed safe for weakest to go all the way around rocks. Once there you can't see around the rocks, but on the photo it actually looks harder than what it is. We went in and out of that cove you mark ..there is a rock you can step on in between waves.
From your photos, the tide is further in but the water appears lower- no swell.
The bed of river, though not rocky, is very inconsistent. I went from walking thigh deep at exactly low tide to well above two metres within one step.

andre w wrote:
I agree with Ozkaapie - the crossing could be daunting and a "tragedy waiting to happen" - IF the crossing is tackled in a careless manner - if you feel it's not safe to cross once you're there, then rather opt for the escape route - BUT, if you do your planning well and respect the conditions of the day, it is very crossable - an experience you'll never forget.


We were mindful of the fact that if the weakest couldn't get through, we turn around and at one point I said to others that we had a 30min window to see if rock scramble was passable or go back over river.

However, my point is this. What sort of trail is this? Is this an 'adventure trail' to be done by very experienced adventurers/canyoners etc only or is it for 'all comers'? If this is for extreme sports people, then fair enough advertise it as such.
Why have 'assistance' i.e. steps etc at lots of other places, but at a point where you have to make sure everybody is safe, there is not even a foot hold?
Why not have steps/path/anchors-foot holds from where we crossed (safest, and a large cove to regroup), to all the way over rocks?
Is this somehow going to ruin the mystique and uncertainty of Blaukrans and Otter itself?
Many people read this and know what 'may' be expected. Others may have someone who did the trail twice (like we had) and they had 'always walked right over at route A- including two 14 yo's'.

What is 'expected' to some is not the same for others, even if you read people's experiences here, you still can't measure it.
We were smack on low tide, yet in retrospect the waves were too huge, but we had no way by means of comparison whether that was 'normal' or not at time, i.e. is it the same for everybody who crosses every day.
The warnings at escape route about not doing it is meaningless, unless you know whether the conditions re normal or not.

Edit: Another important point. Why are those ropes there if it is not advised to use it and there is no indication of where it ends up? It should be removed as an option as it encourages people to use it. From the far side it looks like an official path that is easy enough.
Your decision to bail should be before the river.
What will happen when someone falls there?

When I got back to CTN we met someone at a braai who had done it (again walking through) but knows of a group last year where the leader nearly got washed to sea. Someone else knows of a group who 'lost' two bags.

I googled before , and found two deaths on that crossing ...didn't find that incident now, but here's another one...so there my be more, and the 'tragedy is not waiting to happen'. Another article on same incident- 5 were washed to sea and one died.

Google some more and you find more scary reports.

This is a controlled trail, where you officially register, pay etc- and that, and the fact that people's fitness to do extreme sports is not gauged-makes it even more important that the managers of the trail minimise risk.

Perhaps I have been cocooned in this cautious, litigious society in Oz too long. But when we have had deaths in canyons -wilderness where the access is not managed at all and the onus is on the hiker- there have been coronial inquiries and recommendations.
On a managed trail, those recommendations would be enforced on the owner/manager otherwise you would have lawsuits and criminal negligence.
People think my canyoning is dangerous. But because we know it is uncontrolled, we take responsibility and therefore always have the minimum equipment, experience etc and take precautions (i.e. not after rain etc) , such that it is safer than walking over street.

However where it is a controlled environment, advertised to all comers with passages that are subject to huge variance, then more should be done.

We still had an awesome time, and people are 'better and more confident' for it, but I hope my views are taken on board in the spirit intended, so that it can be safe and fun for all.

cheers :)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:25 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:38 pm
Posts: 24
Ozkaapie,
Great post of yours - I actually agree with everything you say.
We were surely blessed with good weather which made a big difference.
I also felt the fixed ropes on the other side are missleading and should be removed - the further one goes to the right of the leftest cove, the more difficult it will be to get back safely on the trail.
I always felt that Sanparks should seriously consider a suspension bridge of some sort over the Bloukrantz - I know it must be very costly - BUT - it WILL save lives - as you mentioned, the crossing already claimed some lives - and the Otter is world famous and generates +/- R 3 000 000 per year - surely they can "make a plan" - and for people who might think it's taking something "away" from the whole Otter experience - well, they can still do the crossing as at present - then just don't do the bridge!
Thanks for your post - makes interesting reading for sure and people should take note!
Regards
Andrè


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:15 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:16 pm
Posts: 2
Greetings!

I hiked the Otter Trail back in June and have to say that the Bloukrans crossing was anticlimactic. I was concerned while planning my trip to South Africa and during the hike, primarily about the temperature of the river in that I am very sensitive to cold. I figured that I wouldn't have a problem swimming so much as tolerating the cold river water especially in winter.

The tide table we received noted that the day of our crossing was going to be a new moon which meant that the tide would be especially low. This ended up being the case. We left camp two hours before sunrise at 5:00 and arrived right at low tide at 9:45. The direct route across was about chest deep, but the alternate route was calf deep. Seven of our group of nine took the direct route which required packing backpacks in those red survival bags and carrying them across. I took the alternate route and didn't even have to use my survival bag. I just put my water sandals on and walked through the very cold water carrying my pack on my back. It was perhaps 30 yards in distance and my feet were numb probably half way through, but otherwise it was a piece of cake. This alternate route required scaling the side of the hill to get back to where the direct route takes you, but there were anchored ropes that made it quite manageable if you are strong enough to pull yourself up with the ropes. Just when I thought I was home free, I found the rest of the hike to camp to be very demanding so keep that in mind.

Regarding the crossing on day 3, I was able to get across by stepping on stones. The stones were very slippery, but if you have a walking stick and focus, it's not bad. I slipped a couple of times but my boots didn't get wet inside. Most of our group got there much later and the river was much higher and problematic so beware of the low tides times for day 3 if you don't want to create problems for yourself.

What caught me by surprise was the river crossing on day 2. No where on this forum or anywhere else was this crossing mentioned! There was no chance of getting across with your boots on, and the current was very strong, perhaps because it rained most of the morning on day 1. Although it was only 10 yards in width, I would have to say that was the toughest river crossing! The combination of cold knee high water, strong current, and the uneven rocky river bottom made for a challenging crossing, especially with a pack on.

I was very pleased to have been able to have gotten a reservation to hike the Otter Trail on such short notice. This was probably possible only because it was winter and I was hiking alone. I posted my experience because it seems to be so much different than the typical experience you read about on this forum. Although the hike is very doable, I don't think you should underestimate the hike as it tests your endurance and strength in many ways by hiking up and down, through boulders, and rivers, and ofcourse is five days long so you have to come with the necessary equipment and food to be prepared for anything and be able to endure through it all.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:16 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:39 am
Posts: 3
That's the key.

Go at new or full moon. Spring tide- That way your low is very low and high very high. However I suspect that low tide will be either morning or evening.

We had combination of close to neap tide (where diff between low and high is at its least) and a cold front from heading up from CTN and getting there just after we crossed (so the effect on waves were already there).

I wonder if bookings are harder to get at new or full moon?

The water being so cold also means that hardly any sea water was entering mouth where you walked, so tide was very low. We had typical Indian Ocean temp in water - I don't like cold water either and it was quite comfortable for me.

So water temp is another giveaway sign of amount of current pushing in and how far it goes in.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:25 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:03 pm
Posts: 2
Hi folks,

I am researching my trip on the Otter Trail which happens in early Dec 2011. It seems from looking at the tide tables in crossing the Bloukrans that low tide on Dec 5th is either at 6am or 7pm. Any suggestions on when best to cross.. a long hike in the dark by sunrise or an easy day and then hike after dark? Any suggestions on the terrain and what is best? Also be great to hear from folks around managing swells when the low tide is not so low.. seems the low tide will be quite high on this day. thanks Stephen


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:37 am 
Offline
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Tue May 19, 2009 2:15 pm
Posts: 1886
Location: Johannesburg - too far from the closest Sanpark
Either leave super early or take the escape route

_________________
The 'mite formerly known as joshilewis

FGASA Level 1 Guide

Glen Reenen TR

15-18 June: Berg-en-dal


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:58 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:16 pm
Posts: 2
I remember the hike after the Bloukrans took a couple of hours roughly, but I stopped and watched some whales playing for a bit. The last mile or so was pretty steep downhill and would advise against the last part of the hike in the dark.

Finding the path after the dry river about 2 miles in on day 4 isn't obvious. So think of heading to the left as you cross the dry river ( I think it's the Witels River). Besides finding the path after the dry river, hiking through the dark to arrive at the Bloukranz at 6:00am shouldn't be that bad, except for waking up at around 12:00am.

Good luck!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 6:10 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:03 pm
Posts: 2
Thanks folks for the info... it looks like a super early morning start... I will also look or an easier start date!
Stephen


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: River Crossings on the Otter
Unread postPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:04 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:38 pm
Posts: 24
Stephens,
I would suggest either an early start - at just after 00:00 - we've done it (last year winter) in the dark and the going is really slow due to the terrain, darkness and the markers not so clearly visible in the dark. OR, start at +/- 06:00 (I see sunrise on that day is 05:09), enjoy the 10km to the Bloukrantz, see what it looks like - seems that the tide will be quite high - and whether you feel up to a crossing - if you DO cross, just prepare extremely well with ropes etc etc but I would suggest rather take the escape route and Sanparks will transport you to a point where you can pick up the trail again.
Don't - like a lot of people - let the Bloukrantz crossing "high-jack" your whole hike - it's only a small (although very important, yes) part of the hike and should you do the +/- 10.5 km in the dark, you would have missed out on about 25% of the full route - not really worth it - but an experience nevertheless, to hike with headlamps and crossing the Bloukrantz.
Regards


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 44 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group

Webcams Highlights

Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Submitted by swartj at 19:10:55 Submitted by Zienne at 15:55:08 Submitted by Luriebird at 15:46:59 Submitted by DSchwartzel at 10:40:03