A Night Under The Stars at Wolfberg Arch
Wild, rugged and captivating- the Cederberg always delivers stunning scenery and fun adventures! But there is something particularly special about spending a night camping under the stars and properly experiencing the wilderness and true expanse of the mountains.
A friend of ours asked if we fancied joining her and a few others for an overnight trip to Wolfberg Arch. I had seen photos of this impressive rock formation and heard other people's fun stories, so of course we said yes!
We quickly started planning and finding all the gear we required to make it possible. This would be our first overnight hike so there was quite a lot of equipment that we had to invest in- sleeping bags, multi-day hiking rucksacks, ground mats, survival bags and cooking equipment.
All the preparation was worth it! Wolfberg Cracks and Arch was an exciting and unique hiking route. We had a really fun weekend away in the mountains and I will always have great memories of it.
Wolfberg Arch at sunset. Enjoying the last few minutes of light before we tuck ourselves into our sleeping bags for the night.
We enjoyed a slow morning at Gecko Creek campsite before driving to the start of the hike.
Sunrise views from our tent at Gecko Creek.
Entrance gate to Wolfberg Cracks and Arch- let the adventure begin!
Full of energy (and lunch) and high in spirits, we were ready to start the route. The hike starts by winding up the side of the mountain through Wolfberg Cracks. It's a fairly steep ascent with sections of scrambling and boulders and narrow gaps to navigate. In normal hiking gear I wouldn't have thought much of it, however, the 55L bag on my back made it all the more interesting!
Once you're out of the cracks it's a mostly flat (6km) hike up to the Arch. We enjoyed a few snack breaks along the way and took the chance to take in the views and rest our backs. The path was fair well marked- with a few misleading cairns (rock stacks), but after a couple of kilometres you can see the arch in the distance and navigate by that.
The Cederberg really is a hikers paradise. It was proclaimed as a wilderness area way back in 1973 and is still one of South Africa's most pristine regions. The mountains, burnt orange by iron oxide, dominate the landscape and the jagged sandstone formations, which pop up all around you, are very distinctive to the area.
We made it to the top of our hike- Wolfberg Arch at 1,560 meters.
Cooking up dinner. Our instant risotto and apple pie in a bag was surprisingly yummy. Or maybe you just appreciate it more when you've had to carry the water to cook it up a mountain...
The evening was a lot of fun; slowly making dinner, watching the sunset and star gazing until we fell asleep. These are the moments you really gain when you decide to spend the night outside. It was peaceful and felt like we were truly in the middle of nowhere. No sight of roads or anything manmade, just a 360 degree views of mountains all around us.
I was glad when I could see daylight peeping through my sleeping bag soon after 5.30am. It had felt like quite a long and uncomfortable night. Having said that, it definitely hasn't put me off doing it again!
Let’s be honest- the ground is not comfortable when you’re sleeping on a very thin role mat, but the thing that made it the hardest to stay asleep was the cold. The temperature dropped down to about 5 degrees. Our sleeping bags were rated to below this, but clearly my cold blooded body couldn’t handle it! I spent most of the night trying to contort myself into the smallest ball possible to stay warm.
John laughed when he saw me at first light. I was cocooned in two jumpers, a puffer jacket, hat and snood, plus my sleeping bag and survival bag. All that was visible was my nose sticking out from under all my layers. I stiffly unwrapped myself from my nest very happy to stretch out and stand up again.
Our sleeping set up for the night
We were lucky that the rain stayed away all night, but everything was still very damp from the dew. We hung everything up and left it to dry in the sun while we went to go and cook up some breakfast.
There was a beautiful sunrise over the valley beneath us as the sun popped up from behind the rocky horizon.
Breakfast was simple but yummy- porridge and coffee is all you need (and nice and light to pack too). I had started to thaw through and began delayering as the sun got higher in the sky.
The best way to start the day- sunrise and coffee on a mountain
Fuelled up, wet stuff dried and bags packed, we were ready to begin the decent back down the mountain. We were just following the same route as we had come up which made it nice and simple.
The cracks were more difficult to descend than ascend. The big rucksack made it hard to drop yourself down the boulders and often pushed you forwards more than you wanted your centre of balance to be!
It was surprisingly quick going down and we made it back to the bottom soon after lunch. Faces a little red and legs a bit achey, but full of fun stories to tell and memories to look back on.
We even had enough time for a refreshing dip in an icy waterfall before starting the journey back to Cape Town!
I would recommend Wolfberg cracks and arch to any keen hikers. It's not too technically challenging, it does involve a bit of scrambling in places and it's definitely harder if you are carrying a lot of weight. But it is really unique with amazing panoramic views over the wilderness area of the Cederberg. You don’t need to do it as an overnight hike, but I believe that it added to the experience and made it more enjoyable.
Let me know if you have any questions. Safe hiking!