Tucked away in Table Mountain’s back of beyond and located near its middle of nowhere is Bosch Kloof, a humble ravine with no claim to fame and no significance other than the mapmaker’s dutiful use of its name to indicate its existence. And far from evoking scenes of grandeur or thoughts of adventure and discovery, its name – old Dutch for ‘wooded ravine’ – merely states the obvious. Surprising, then, that a whopping 45 members of the Mountain Club of South Africa (almost 10% of its member) elected to toil up the tediously long approach slopes on Sunday morning, the 25th of August 1935 to derive some sort of enjoyment from this tree-choked little gully. That happened more than two decades after the first recorded ascent of Bosch Kloof, on 15 August 1911 by Ken Cameron and M. Webb. So what is it about this far-flung ravine that merits a visit – or even a blog post? Nothing much apart from the fact that it’s one of the most unfrequented locations on the mountain (clearly not the case in 1935) and that it offers a most delightful tea spot with enough solitude to make a recluse feel lonely.
In almost 20 years of hiking Table Mountain, probing the length and breadth of the mountain, descending Bosch Kloof the other day was only my second visit to the place. Very few people know of its existence, and even fewer use it as a way up the mountain. The only sign of human visitation is a line of cairns that run up the crest of the diminutive buttress between Bosch Kloof’s left- and right-hand branch. The route leads up the left-hand branch to a point where further progress is barred by a massive boulder wedged between the perpendicular sidewalls. Here, the route sneaks out onto the aforementioned buttress along a narrow ledge and follows the crest via some fun B-grade scrambles to the summit plateau of the 12 Apostles directly south of Grootkop.
Despite serving as a descent route to climbers pioneering rock routes on Grootkop in the 1960 and 1970s, Bosch Kloof is not a recognized Table Mountain hiking route. Few people set foot there. Its inclusion in the Mountain Club’s exhaustive route book published in 1952 belies its popularity. The thought of 45 members clad in 1930s hikers’ garb trudging up there back in 1935 is amusing. One wonders why they opted for Bosch Kloof when Table Mountain offers so many grand ravines with easier approaches. No doubt, it was done in the spirit of adventure and exploration. Curiosity fuels exploration. Those with an inquisitive mind and a love for nature find themselves drawn to salient features of nature, and on a shrub-clad mountainside, Bosch Kloof’s pocket of forest, visible from below, drew the eye of those early hikers, whetting their appetite for exploration and causing them to wonder what might be found beneath the canopy. It certainly was the case with me.
Through all the facets of Table Mountain hiking – unique flora, dramatic rock-formations, diverse terrain, stunning views, peace and quiet, adventure and exploration – runs a thread of history that enriches your experience of the mountain if you take the time to learn of it.