Lion’s Head has been eroded, with boulders loosening and vegetation being destroyed. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - The hiking trail on Lion’s Head is closed for maintenance from today until February 15 after South African National Parks (SANParks) announced the closure of the site in November last year.

“Successful completion of this much-needed intervention on the popular spiral trail up to the summit requires full closure of the trail during the maintenance period,” said SANParks spokesperson Saskia Marlowe.

Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP) will now embark on one of the more intensive phases of the project where the condition of the trail would be addressed.

“During 2017, a Trail Audit Report for the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill footpath network was completed. The outcome of the report resulted in recommendations to improve the longevity of the trail, safety of hikers in the area and the environmental protection of the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill,” Marlowe said. 

She said since the inception of the report, the TMNP management had formulated a phased approach to implement the recommended actions.

Some of the work that will be conducted during the closure of the trail includes closure of unauthorised pathways and desire lines, directional signage erected to guide hikers along the official trails, and completion of the assessment for certification of the climbing infrastructure along the trail.

Former soldier and current tour guide Kosta Papageorgiou, 33, started a challenge in September 2017 to complete 500 summits up and down Lion’s Head to raise R500 000 for five charity organisations.

“I feel very happy about it. I’ve climbed the mountain 353 times in the last 14 months and while I always love climbing Lion’s Head, it was also saddening to see it deteriorate slowly,” said Papageorgiou. 

“The paths have been eroded beyond recognition, boulders are loosening and falling, vegetation is being destroyed not only by rockfalls but mostly by irresponsible hikers who go off the trails and ignore no entry signs.” 

He said many would complain about the timing of the closure and tour guides would complain that it was bad for business. 

"Tourists dying on damaged trails is bad for business and will last longer than 40 days. There have been countless accidents that could have been avoided if the hiking trails were given the appropriate attention and time to rehabilitate. Everybody needs a holiday, even our beloved mountain,” he said.

While Lion’s Head was closed, Papageorgiou said they would be promoting safe hiking and keeping the mountains clean on the other two peaks. They would have another competition again from February 17 until the 500 summits was completed.

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus