Chapman’s Peak Trail – Hout Bay
Chapman’s Peak Trail – Hout Bay
Belinda and I got the chance to do this hike on Wednesday 18 July 2018 as part of our hiking club’s (SAPSTAP) day hikes plan for 2018. We were joined by Roderick who recently accompanied us our our somewhat dramatic hike through the Fish River Canyon in May this year. It was a surprisingly warm Winter’s day with a maximum temperature of 26°C. It was for that reason that we did not bring our dog, Nina, with us. Nina does not do well in the heat and we had planned to begin the hike at 12h30, during the heat of the day.
Before I begin to relate our experience of this trail, I think it would be helpful to find out a bit about the history of the area that we hiked through and how the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive was constructed. It really is quite a story!
A brief history of Chapman’s Peak
Chapmanspeakdrive.co.za has, for perhaps obvious reasons, the most detailed online history of how this Peak got its name and how Chapman’s Peak Drive came about. Here are a few excerpts from their webpage:
Apparently, “Chapman’s Peak is named after John Chapman, the Captain’s mate of an English ship, the Consent. The peak which looms overhead was not named after a governor or brave mountaineer, but a lowly ship’s pilot. In 1607, the skipper of the British ship Contest (sic) found his vessel becalmed in what is now Hout Bay and sent his pilot, John Chapman, to row ashore in the hope of finding provisions. The pilot later recorded the bay as Chapman’s Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck, becoming official on all East India charts.”
The Captain of the Consent, a 115 ton English trading vessel, at that time was a man by the name of David Middleton, the younger brother of Sir Henry Middleton. David Middleton later attained the rank of General and sailed again in May 1614 to a place called Bantam in the East with a fleet of three ships, the Samaritan, the Thomas and the Thomasine. These ships also docked at the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived in Bantam in February 1615. Unfortunately in April 1615, his ship the Samaritan went down with all hands on the return journey near the coast of Madagascar, although the exact details of his demise are not known. He was survived by his wife and three or four children.
How was Chapman’s Peak Drive Built?
Again Chapmanspeakdrive.co.za provides us with the following answer to that question:
“The road was cleverly planned with the road surface based on the solid and conveniently located 630 million year old Cape Granite contour, while the many roadside cuttings would be carved out of the more workable Malmesbury series sediments.
In 1915, with the use of convict labour supplied by the newly formed Union Government, construction began from the Hout Bay end, and in the following year work began from Noordhoek. The first portion of the road to the Lookout was opened in 1919.
The spectacular roadway took seven years to complete, at a cost of 20 000 pounds. The Hout Bay Noordhoek Road ‘hewn out of the stone face of Sheer Mountain’ was opened to traffic on Saturday 6 May 1922, by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.”
How to get there
The start of the trail is located on Chapman’s Peak Drive in Hout Bay. You should enter Hout Bay from the direction of Constantia Nek and head through the village to Chapman’s Peak Drive on the other side. At the Chapman’s Peak Drive tollgate you need to inform the staff member that you are going to hike the Chapman’s Peak Trail and that you need a ‘Day Pass’. A ‘Day Pass’ entitles you to make use of designated picnic areas, viewing spots and mountain trails. In summer, the applicable hours for a ‘Day Pass’ are 06h00 – 20h00 and in winter 07h00 – 18h30. A ‘Day Pass’ will be issued to you free of charge and will allow you to travel up Chapman’s Peak Drive until you reach the ‘turn around’ point. There will be someone there to check you ‘Day Pass’. Once your ‘Day Pass’ has been checked, you should turn immediately to your left and into a relatively large parking area where you will see the trail head for the Chapman’s Peak Trail. Park there and put your valuables away and out of sight. Keep your ‘Day Pass’ because you will need to produce it at the tollgate again when you leave.
It’s really important that you remember to ask for the ‘Day Pass’ – Belinda didn’t, and ended up paying nearly R100 (R47 x 2) for the toll fees…
The Speedy Review [tl;dr]
Chapman’s Peak is one of those iconic locations in Cape Town that is steeped in history and stands as a leading example of human ingenuity and engineering. Chapman’s Peak Drive is arguably one of the most scenic drives on the planet and connects the villages of Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The Chapman’s Peak Trail guides you up to the summit from where you are able to enjoy a 360° view over Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Strandfontein and as far out as Simonstown’s on a clear day. It is a short but challenging route that reminds one of sections of another iconic location, Lion’s Head. It would be an ideal trail to hike to enjoy the sunrise or sunset without the constant foot traffic of the more popular Lion’s Head Trail. In our opinion, the Chapman’s Peak Trail is suitable for children aged about 10 years and older, who enjoy walking. You do need to have a certain degree of fitness to enjoy the trail and there are plenty of flat rocks at the summit to sit and lie down and enjoy the view, or recover from the climb. It is not an easy hike as some might tell you.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, as she did not accompany us on this trail. Although dogs are allowed in the Table Mountain National Park and on this trail, but we decided not to take Nina along due to the high temperatures and the time of day we were planning to hike the trail.
The Nitty Gritty
We started the hike from the parking area at about 12h45. Before you even realise what is happening you immediately begin climbing a rocky pathway that runs on the left of a mountain stream. There were 3 of us hiking. Roderick, Belinda and me. After about 200 m, the tail began to veer to the left away from the stream.
At about 13h00, we crossed a steadily flowing stream after covering a distance of about 400 m. We stopped for a photo and then carried on. The path started to turn back to the right and the lower peak rose directly in front of us for the first time.
At about 13h10, we crossed a second stream (600 m) and continued climbing. Soon after the stream, the trail flattened out, and turned to the left. We then came upon a cairn at the centre of a t-junction on a plateau. We took the path to the right and followed the gravel path around the right shoulder of the lower peak.
At about 13h20, the trail began climb again after being relatively flat since the cairn (1.1 km). At 13h55, we reached a small saddle between the two peaks. We got our first view of the Southern suburbs on the other side of the mountain. We recognised the suburbs of Strandfontein, Noordhoek, Sun Valley, Kommetjie and Simon’s Town is the distance. The hiking distance to the saddle was about 2.2 km with a total hiking time of 01h05m. We had walked closer to the far end of the saddle to get a good look, so we had to turn around a head back a short stretch and turned left to get back on the trail to the summit.
The last stretch to the top was quite steep and lasted about 15 minutes. On reaching the top, you have to walk straight between two large rock formations and then turn left and follow the path as it winds its way to the trig beacon above you. We reached the summit at about 14h15. The ascent had taken us around 01h30m with a hiking distance of 2.6 km. Chapman’s Peak is about 567 m in elevation.
We ended up relaxing for about 40 minutes at the top soaking up the spectacular views and snacking on all sorts of hiking food stuffs, including bananas, naartjies, salted peanuts, dried pears, boiled sweets, crisps and biltong.
We began our descent at about 14h55 and completed the hike at 16h00 making it in around 01h05m.
The total hiking distance for this trail is 5.2 km. It took us about 01h30m to reach the summit (567 m) and just over an hour to descend again. The elevation gain for this hike, according to Strava, was 405 m. We spent about 40 minutes at the top taking in the magnificent views and taking lots of photos. I left my Garmin GPS in my vehicle so I was not able to gather any further stats for this hike. I still cannot believe I left my GPS in the car.
Watch the Relive video to get an idea of the route and the elevation profile of this very special hike.