In a way, walking up Lady’s Slipper has become for Port Elizabeth what walking up Lion’s Head is for Cape Town. At one stage only a few people did it, but lately it has become a very popular outing. Not very far distance-wise, but a tough cookie as far as terrain. It has been on my “To Do” list for so long and the other day I decided to tackle it with the family in tow.
As the trail and mountain peak falls within private property under control of the Mountain Club of South Africa, you can’t accent without a permit. We left our car at the parking area at Falcon Rock Adventure Centre and this is also where you get your permit. The trail is open Tuesdays to Sundays (and public holidays) from 8am to 4pm with the latest ascent permitted at 13h30. Its best to walk early though before it gets hot or the wind comes up. Oh yes, and if you think you may need a rest stop in the next three hours, then do it here cause there are no facilities on the mountain.
The first section of the walk is fairly easy through the gum trees but once you hit the fynbos it starts to get steeper. About a third of the way up, we came to an open rock platform from where there are great views. This is also the ideal spot to take a breather.
When we got going again the gradient eased for a short while and then the big climb began in earnest as we make our way up a rugged section to the base of the rock cliffs. At this stage the kids went up ahead as the Damselfly and I just weren’t fast enough for their taste. Up to now it felt like we were walking away from the summit, but now we were heading eastward (towards Port Elizabeth) and the summit was waiting for us.
At this stage you can see the Telkom tower and all the radio masts to the left on the other summit. That wasn’t the summit we were heading to though. That one you reach walking up the access road from the back of the mountain and a mission for another day.
Although the path to the top is easy to follow and well maintained, it’s often just a rough track with lot’s of loose stones and quite steep in places, i.e. not something you’re just going to do in slops and with no water. In actual fact, you need to be at least walking fit, otherwise you’re going to really struggle to the top.
Reaching the top takes about an hour to hour and a half over a distance of about 2.5km. It may not be that far, but the climb starts at 265m above sea-level at the parking area and gains 338m to the 603m high peak. That’s an elevation gain of 1 meter every 5 meters, but hey, if the Damselfly and I can do it then so can you.
The view from the top is magnificent. To the west you can see Jeffreys Bay, the Kouga Mountains and all the way to Cape St Francis,
to the south the N2 is visible below, you can see the wind farm at Blue Horizon Bay and Van Stadens Mouth is that bit of white water in the valley, …
and to the east you can see Port Elizabeth on the horizon.
Turning around looking north you get glimpses of Uitenhage with the Groot Winterhoek mountain range dominating the skyline to the north with the Cockscomb at its western end.
What goes up must come down and when you go down you have to take it easy not to slip. There is also a second route (the red route) up (and down) which is much steeper, so if you’re a leisure walker like us, then it would be best to keep to the easier (green) route. But before heading down I just had to have this photo taken. Very nearly took the quick way down thanks to the wind that day.
I can definitely recommend the walk and even more so the view. Really worth the outing up.
More information on the hike up Lady’s Slipper can be found on the Falcon Rock Adventure Centre website
DIRECTIONS FROM PORT ELIZABETH
Driving on the N2 towards Humansdorp, take exit 713, R102 (R334) Uitenhage/Van Stadens Pass. Turn right and continue towards Uitenhage, 200m after crossing the railway line turn left onto a dirt road. Look out for the signs to Falcon Rock (1.2km).