Swimming and cliff-jumping at Die Hel, Groot WinterhoekDie Hel, Groot Winterhoek

10 of us tackled this 2-day hike in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area in February. The area is a Wilderness Area like the Central Cederberg, so you can hike anywhere within the area. We followed the fairly standard route to De Tronk, on to Die Hel, and returned via the Groot Kliphuisrivier.

Road to Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
Road to Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Distance: 19km + 11km (+9km)
Difficulty: not difficult at all, but very long
Permits: conservation fee per person (free with WildCard) is R60 per adult, R35 for children (3—12)
Booking: You need to book the trail through CapeNature at 0861 22736reservation.alert@capenature.co.za
Website: www.capenature.org.za

Getting there: The area is 33 km beyond Porterville. Take the N7 from Cape Town to Piketberg. Take a right at the petrol stop and head to Porterville. At the T-junction turn left to Cardouw — you are now on a good dirt road. Take a right up Dasklip Pass at the sign reading Groot Winterhoek, the pass is tarred on the way up. Just after you have crested the pass you will see the large sign for Beaverlac on the left. Pass this and continue south for 12km on the dirt road, following the sign boards to the office and parking area.

Groot Winterhoek is CapeNature Wilderness Area like the Cederberg Wilderness Area.

The trail is well-constructed and maintained. Whilst superbly signposted, unfortunately, one or two key signs were missing from their posts. Neither the map in Mike Lundy’s book nor the map supplied by CapeNature really give you much detail, and they are both inadequate for any kind of navigating should you become uncertain of your way.

Upon leaving I had a look at the info board and was not surprised to see the hottest month of the year listed as February!

Day 1

19km (6hrs)

Leave your car in the parking lot. Don’t forget to pick up a key if you have rented one of the huts.

The first swim of the day was in a pool on a beautiful stream crystal clear stream: Disa Pool. And sure enough, hiding in the fynbos on the banks was one lone Red disa.

The area features plenty of classic rock formations which make the Cederberg instantly recognisable, but the vegetation is far denser. Waboom, restios and ericas abound.

As the terrain opens out again the trail takes you over a rise. As you descend the other side you will reach a T-junction. We took a left here to make a quick detour to where we stopped for lunch under one of the oaks at Groot Kliphuis which is a large rock outcrop. The huge oak trees provide welcome shade and as out-of-place as they may seem, surprisingly similar trees are to be found elsewhere in the Cederberg and are reminders of farms that once existed in the area.

Back to T-junction and on down into the valley of XXX river. The river was tantalisingly close but it was some distance before we came to the water’s edge and stopped for tea and a swim. The cheeky little fish that will come and nibble at you are Cape kurpers (Sandelia capensis).

Jeep track. Concrete bridge across the river. The bridge is about 4m above the surface of the water, so we climbed down the bank to swim. After enjoying the cool clear water we followed the jeep track up to the overnight huts at De Tronk.

De Tronk Huts

Because this is a Wilderness Area, you can actually camp out wherever you like, with the exception of Die Hel.

  • Disa, Klipspringer, Suikerbekkie (Max 8 people) 1-4 persons per night R440 (off-peak) R840 (peak),  additional p/p/n R100
  • These huts are self-sustainable due to the fact that they are so difficult to reach for regular cleaning. Visitors need to clean these huts themselves before leaving. This will ensure that the next group of visitors will also have a pleasant stay.
  • Rainwater is captured from the roof of the huts and stored in tanks. The availability of this water is not guaranteed. Water is however available en route to the huts. When we were there the tank at Disa Hut was empty, but the one at xxxxx was almost full (we guessed Disa Hut saw more use)
  • Sun-dome toilets (basically fancy long-drops) are available to each hut (excluding Ribbok which has a flush toilet). Please use these toilets as instructed on the door.
  • Bunk beds with mattresses are supplied at the huts — these were in excellent condition and very comfortable
  • No electricity is available, no fires or braais

Die Hel

9km (3hrs)

I am separating this from Day 1 and Day 2 for a few reasons: you may decide not to include this as it adds too much distance, the weather does not allow it, and you want to do different routes.

This is truly the most breathtaking pool I have experienced. The water was warm and crystal clear. The deep kloof is dramatic and the cliffs around you add the splendour of the setting.

Set off from De Tronk in a southerly direction, continuing along the jeep track on which you arrived the previous day. You will soon reach a clearing from which a single track disappears into some small trees which are actually along the banks of a stream. If you have chosen to avoid the water in the hut tanks, or if there was non, this is a perfect opportunity to fill up (remembering that there is abundant water at your destination). The first kilometres are easy-going, the final few drop down slightly, and only the very end of the trail drops steeply down into Die Hel itself.

The descent into hell and the climb back out is on a very steep trail that has rock and concrete steps built on it making it a bit safer on the way down and a lot easier on the way up.

Day 2

11km (3hrs)

The profile shows the route starts at 643m and climbs to 950m in a pretty steady fashion, with maybe a bit of extra hill toward the end.

We visited Die Hel in the morning, getting back to the Huts at lunchtime.

After packing up we headed back north up the jeep track and then over a concrete bridge. After passing the junction from the previous day you will come to a shallow stream: there is a railway sleeper along the left to test your balance and keep your shoes dry. Immediately after this crossing, turn right onto a single track with the river now on your right.

Moss Waterfall Pool was the last pool we got to enjoy: a broad moss-covered rock ledge up to 2 meters high with a deep pool for swimming. Delicious!

The very last section of the trail was closed, and the alternative route took us left to Bosdorp from where we walked along the road to the end. This meant missing Protea Pool and judging by the other pools in the area, we will have to go back if only to see what we missed!

Weekend Trails in the Western Cape by Mike Lundy.
Weekend Trails in the Western Cape by Mike Lundy.
CapeNature logo

By David

Outdoor adventure enthusiast living on the Garden Route.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.