7-9 October 2016
Organiser: Stefan Neser with guidance and tight rope from Otti Neser
While climbing at 'The Prow" north of Hanglip in December 1963 a few of us, Explo members, were excited to see to the north-west an isolated cone-shaped koppie with a very interesting looking solid central rock column of about 70 to perhaps 100 m on top, and rock faces all around. We somehow found our way there the same evening, and next day climbed a route to the top. The owner of the property, Mr Oosthuizen, said the koppie was called "Senotwan" but also said, while in the cool, dark room, that some call it "Pramkoppie"- to his great embarrassment when he later realized that one of us, with shortish hair and in jeans (“Miss Enette) van Dyk”), was a “meisietjie”.
“Pramkop” is actually the name on the 1:50 000 topo-cadastral map that Otti dug up in our search for the whereabouts of the place after finally finding the report in an Exploratio 1959 - 64 hand-typed booklet. We were very keen to explore more routes, and in February 1964 did two more very interesting routes to the top (2-3 pitch and E-F superior grading). Our names and routes climbed are on now crumbling pieces of paper left in an aluminium tin on top. Then all went their separate ways, with fond memories, but losing track of the exact whereabouts and even the route to the koppie, which was thought to have become Trust Land and even out of reach by road (coordinates: S24 02’48.96;” E28 37’46.92”). On Google Earth the rocky top was not visible, leading to initial doubts that it was indeed “our” Senotwan.
It sounded like a good idea to consider Senotwan/Pramkop as a 1-2-5-climb peak to summit to celebrate the 125-year celebration of the MCSA on 8 October 2016. By some fortunate coincidences (especially finding a painting of it and learning from the owner where it had been painted, and mentioning the koppie to Makkie and her recognising the image) we managed to contact the present owners, JJ and Ivy Swanepoel. Finally we got permission to go there for a quick reconnaissance (hoping to climb there again). An enthusiastic revisit by three of the original climbers and new friends followed, with a wish to make the place known to ‘trad’ climbers (and romantic dreams to possibly re-climb it after over 50 years during which we thought nobody had made an ascent – but we were wrong…).
Captions: BG with bottomless chimney near top
Below: Sign at farm entrance (allowing selection of routes!)
After seeing the images and reading the E-news item on the koppie, Paul Fatti wrote: Thank you for Alan Carman’s interesting article on your visit there back in the Pleistocene”. He then referred us to a contribution in the MCSA Journal of 1990mn(p120) about a climb, Memory Lane” that he and Russel Dodding had opened on “Olifantskop” in 1990 (i.e. 26 ago, and also 26 years after the EXPLO climbs), and in a next letter: “Yes Stefan, times have moved on! Thank you for the invitation to join you all on the reminiscing visit back to Olifantskop/Sentowan/Pramkoppie. I would have loved to have joined you, especially if I was able to do some climbing, but I suspect that I will still be pretty incapacitated from the shoulder operation that I am hoping to undergo in the next few weeks.”
After rather see-sawing negotiations for a group to go there in October at an affordable price and without risk to the property owners (!), an invitation went out to all ‘trad’ climbers. A group of 20, with two nearly 4-year old prospective(?) climbers enlisted.
Face climbed by Wimpie, Francois and Desiree
Area at start of ALPHA
Crack behind right ear becoming cavernous and tricky to exit
The group consisted of mostly young climbers with generally good ‘trad’ climbing skills, and those arriving Friday, in daylight, got keener and keener to take to the rocks as the left side of the “elephant” became better visible during the approach, and its impressive backside to be marvelled at from the campsite. Around the old farm house near the koppie there were ideal conditions to camp and to relax after climbs, with wildlife visiting at night.
The three for whom this was to be a first serious climb were very excited when they reached the top - ready for more. Walter and Andrew (Louw) occasionally provided tight ropes to the more inexperienced ones (and the aged - just for in case!). I am not sure what the grades of the latest routes were, but to me they all sounded in my terms like at least a difficult "E”, with “F(1-3)“ moves (grades between 16 and 22 were mentioned in passing). Some of the new routes, and the Fatti-Dodding “Memory Lane” were obviously more technical. The climbers liked the rock and the opportunities, including chimneys, clean faces and some formidable overhangs. The routes will have to be "cleaned" because the loose stones and small rocks on some could be a problem. But we now have several people who want to return to re-do climbs to describe them properly, to complete uncompleted ones, and to try others.Otti said that she knew her limitations and after all had proved herself there in 1964 (as "Miss O. Kritzinger").
On Saturday 7 different new routes were attempted (nobody but I was really interested in doing the described routes; finding new ones was more exciting and challenging. Four groups (14 climbers, including myself, 53 years after our first Explo ascent) reached the top with three of these routes, and 9 did not reach the top for different reasons (but said their 3 routes were probably do-able). I and a few others rather turned back at a difficult pull-up on the first pitch of Alpha on the left flank while Walter and Elize continued straight upwards from there on a challenging exposed face. Andrew and others also tried an alternative first pitch to Alpha, and then we resorted to two routes starting behind the right ear which would not require the same strength relative to body mass. It turned out not to be the “scramble” that it seemed to be on the recognisance trip.
On Sunday three pairs succeeded with another three new routes, while others recuperated a bit. Unfortunately I did not think of stressing that we should do proper route descriptions, but I heard some interesting and apt names proposed for some of the new routes. It was very interesting to see in the aluminium tin on top the little pencil and paper with names and routes that we put there 53 years ago. A few more names had been added. Somebody took photos of possibly all the pieces of crumbling paper.
After all of this most of us then went for yummy roosterkoek and coffee, provided by Makkie’s mum Marie, watermelon and a swim at their nearby farm Klipkuile – a memorable, wonderful way and place to end a pleasant weekend
So, we had an exciting and satisfying weekend. I think the "Olifant" part is going to stick to the place, because of the shape of the rocky top from 3 sides; it makes it easy to describe where a climb is, like "behind the right ear", "the crack on the left flank", or "up the butt crack up to ...."! The head side is quite overhanging and probably to be approached with caution by the uninitiated.
Walking around the old farmhouse (now in need of some restoration) with comfortable basic facilities and lots of space was a touching experience: we had seen it in better days when the Oosthuizens received us with so much hospitality. An inscription on the concrete at the borehole at the foot of the tumbled windmill suggests they sunk the hole in their young days in 1946, three years before, according to Paul & Russ, the first recorded ascent was done (a little cairn we found in 1963 proved that climbers had been there). In the present local community there seems to be stories of deaths on the cliffs, and ghosts that would be on top if we went there. It should certainly be interesting to go and check again!
Members of the 1-2-5-climb meet: Stefan & Otti Neser, Roger Diamond, Walter Neser, Francois Pieterse, Desiree Dall, Du Plooy Mocke, Wimpie Nortje, Cara Fleischer and twins Nicola & Andrea Nortje, Maricke du Plessis, Johann van Zyl, Andrew Louw, Odette Lippold, Michael Stiller, Quentin Guignard (post-doc at Tuks from France), Marinus Brenkman & Elize Pretorius, Alex Bester, Hannes de Meyer (Eastern Cape Section), Oan de Waal, Fran & Marco du Plessis