The Arangieskop hiking trail, carved into the Langeberg mountains overlooking Roberston, is located about 140km outside Cape Town, South Africa.
The Arangieskop trail is considered one of the hardest - and is often referred to as "The Everest of the Western Cape"
Arangieskop is certainly not the longest trail you will ever hike - in fact it is relatively short - 9km on day one, 11km on day two. The challenge though lies in the terrain and altitude gain - over 1000m vertical gain that involves rock scrambling and climbing assisted with chains. The descent is equally treacherous. Add your backpack to the mix and you'll see how it becomes challenging very quickly. DO NOT do this trail if you are not fit or an experienced hiker.
The trail starts off innocently enough from the Dassiehoek campsite, with a comfortable stroll of about 1km to the base of the mountain. At this point I was wondering what all the fuss was about. We'd soon find out. The trail starts climbing quite rapidly and is well marked. The sustained ascent becomes quite tiring and the rest point at the water pool a very welcome break and opportunity to relax in shade, grab some lunch and rest your muscles. From there it's a bit bouldering to get back onto the trail and a continuous zig zag up the mountain.
When you do eventually get to the top, mercifully, there is jeep track leading straight to the hut and you'll get there in about 5 to 10 minutes. The hut is exactly as one would imagine a mountain hut to be - built from stone, cosy, with a smokey smell inside and beautiful, panoramic views of the Koo valley below. At that height, you can see very far indeed. The downstairs room has an open plan kitchen and dining area, two showers (with gloriously hot water) a toilet and three beds. The upstairs area has a further three bedrooms.
After a hard day's hike, you certainly couldn't ask for a better place to kick back with your mates and enjoy a couple of stakes and cold ones. We certainly didn't pack light for this one.
The second day starts with another steep ascent, which catches you unawares, since this is supposed to be a "down" day. It's a very steep 200m climb to the top, where you certainly should spend a few minutes admiring the views and inspecting the solar installation at the top of the mountain.
Beginning the descent you are faced with some very steep down hill sections and be warned - this part of the trail is very treacherous as the path is quite overgrown, hard to navigate and you can't see where you are putting your feet. One of the members in our team misstepped and at the time seemed to sprain his ankle quite badly - however subsequent X-rays revealed he had in fact broken it. My utmost respect to this gentleman who, at 63 years old, walked 10km down a mountain with a broken ankle. We were very lucky in that another member of our party was already hiking with an ankle brace as a precaution, so we were able to use that for our injured friend. Without it, we would have been in very serious trouble indeed. In future, for hikes of this degree of difficulty, I would advise including an ankle brace as part of your media kit.
We actually found the descent harder than the ascent, as we had to spend a lot more time concentrating on where we were going and due to the condition of the trail, veered off the path several times. You'll find yourself hiking through a ravine and over a saddle before connecting with the contour path - from their it is relatively easy going down to the bottom of the mountain and back to Dassieskop.
Check out our Arangieskop photo gallery
Download our trail map for Day 1
Download our trail map for Day 2