Walking up Lion’s Head: a personal challenge, and walking in my Camino shoes!


On Easter Sunday I was challenged to walk (well more like scrambled, slip and slide, pulled, supported….)  up Lion’s Head, the reward being a beautiful pair of blue eyes waiting for me at the top. I had to admit that despite having lived in Cape Town for 28 years, I had never been up the mountain before, a Cape Town icon. 

Two days prior I had been invited (a very kind word, there being no judgement or questioning my ability of making it to the top of the 670 meter above sea level mountain) to meet new friend Jörn Merkel and his friends at the top of Lion’s Head, for an Easter Brunch, the most unusual I have had the pleasure to experience. 

Given the invitation, and having serendipitously received a photograph of the brand name of the walking shoes I should buy for my Camino walk from my friend Gail on Saturday, I went off to Cape Union Mart to buy my Salomon XPro shoes, and decided that it would be a good opportunity to induct them on the Lion’s Head walk. One is advised to buy them one size bigger than one’s normal shoe size, given that one wears thick socks with them, and that one’s feet swell. The advice was perfect and the shoes served me well, becoming the start of our (i.e. my shoes and I) journey on the Camino, commencing on 18 May. 

I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the top of the mountain, or what to expect in terms of the difficulty of getting to the top. I had read of persons falling, hurting themselves, or even dying, despite being experienced climbers, and that chains, ladders, and staples would be involved on the journey.

I had to park close to the traffic circle that leads to Table Mountain, there being so many cars, so that was quite a walk to the starting point already. Perhaps it was best that I did not know any detail, and that I boldly climbed up the mountain, knowing that a special person would be up there already. I was surprised at the amount of kindness and goodwill expressed towards me from fellow walkers, walkers greeting each other, and encouragingly telling one that one was near the top, despite what one’s eyes could see. There is no fear of walking alone, as other walkers pass or walk alongside one, and others walk (or even run) down the mountain. As it was a picture perfect day, it was probably busier than usual. I started walking at 7h30, perhaps an hour too late, the sun being irritating on the Sea Point side of the mountain. 

The kindest set of three persons supported me as we neared the top, and told me where to step, and helped pull me up when the step size from one rock to another was very big. Even though they were experienced walkers and that I was holding them up, having to take breathing breaks, they never abandoned me, until we reached the top. I am extremely grateful to them. 

My friend Jörn and his friends had amazingly brought up a table, with tablecloth, and served an Easter Brunch of fruit salad, hot cross buns, dyed German Easter eggs, and coffee to everyone arriving at the top, highly praised by those lucky enough to experience this unexpected treat. My friend Jörn and his friends had so much energy that they did egg and spoon races on the top of the mountain! From the top one has an amazing 360 degree view over Cape Town, well worth the walk. The most welcoming hug awaited me, having made every bit of the two hour effort to get to the top worth it. 

Jörn left ahead of me, and I took my time to descend, it being more difficult than the way up, it being easier to slip, with loose soil on some of the rock surfaces. The kindest young lady walked the first part down with me, supporting me at times, guiding me as to where to place each foot, and we did quite a few ‘bumslides’ to move from one rock to a next.

I imagine that the camaraderie on the Camino will be equal, fantastic to experience on Sunday. I received a fabulous pat on the back What’s App message from my friend, being proud of me for having made it. The feedback on Facebook has been astounding, I jokingly saying to my friend Jörn afterwards that either there was nothing else to read on Facebook on that day, or that many Capetonians have also not been up the mountain! 

I realised that I am not as fit as I thought I would be from dancing, and my upper leg  muscles were the ones which made themselves felt the next few days. I was very proud that I could do four hours of dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek, followed by one and a half hours at Dizzy’s, that evening. 

The Lion’s Head Easter Brunch was the most unusual and memorable I have ever experienced. The view onto Lion’s Head from my new apartment will never be the same again. Now Table Mountain looms, pardon the pun….! 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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