DARK Gorge, where UCT student Ilan Blecher died, is a tricky hike above Newlands Forest, usually wet at this time of the year, with loose and slippery rocks.
Rescue workers retrieved the 19-year-old’s body at close to midnight on Monday.
Mountain climber and author Tony Lourens described Dark Gorge as “very narrow and gloomy, but very beautiful”.
It lies on the saddle between Table Mountain and Devils Peak.
“The closer you get to the top the more treacherous the ground. You can also go wrong. At one point there is a fork and if you keep to the left, you are on the right route, but if you go right, you go into the gully. It’s steep and treacherous,” Lourens said.
For Andy Woods, head of the Mountain Club of SA’s rescue team in Cape Town, it was a difficult operation. It was not so much the steep terrain, although that was tricky, nor even the darkness and the loose rocks, although these made it dangerous. It was that he was leading a team to pick up the body of a young man still in his teens.
“As a father my heart goes out to the family involved. You should never outlive your children. One does these rescues with a very heavy heart.”
Blecher, 19, had gone hiking with his older brother, Mischa, 21, on Sunday afternoon. They had set off from Newlands Forest and after some time they parted – Mischa to go to UCT to work, and Ilan went on. It is not clear what led to his fall in Dark Gorge. Blecher’s body was found fairly high up in Dark Gorge.
“It is not a hike marked on the usual Table Mountain walks, it is a route for the more adventurous,” Wood said.
About 20 people were involved in the rescue, mostly from the mountain club, but also from the Hikers’ Network and Volunteer Wildlife Services. The team set off from Newlands Forest.
Close friend Cameron Abrahams, who befriended Blecher in 2004 at Westerford High School, said he was shocked to hear of the accident, as Blecher was an experienced hiker.
He said the UCT student had started hiking at a young age and loved nature.
“He had good traits, like respect and dignity. He was basically like a little brother to me.”
David Thompson, the Grade 12 head at Westerford High School, who taught Blecher geography in 2011 and last year, said school staff were devastated by the news of his death.
Thompson described Blecher as intelligent with a lot of potential.
“He was just a lekker kid to be around. You could say he was a loveable rogue.”
l Wood said most rescues on Table Mountain were of people who were unprepared and not properly equipped.
“Make sure you tackle something within your abilities, never hike alone, read the weather forecast, and take proper gear. About 95 percent of our rescues are people who wander up Platteklip or Lion’s Head in the late afternoon, with no idea that the weather can change suddenly, or when it will get dark.”