Couple survives freezing night on mountain

Published Jun 7, 2006


By Nathalie Rosa Bucher

What was meant to be a leisurely Sunday hike turned into a night-long trek across the Twelve Apostles. Jenneth Graser and husband Karl from Big Bay had often wondered how tourists got lost on the mountain. But on Sunday they conceded it could happen to anyone.

Jenneth, 30, and Karl, 35, set off for an easy walk up the mountain on Sunday. They started out in perfect conditions, leaving their car at Suikerbossie, equipped with enough food and water, a headlight and a guide to the best walks around Cape Town.

They followed a trail which led them past beautiful waterfalls and cascades, until they could no longer make out the path. They retraced their steps and ensured they had indeed followed the instructions of the guide book but there was no trail.

They set their sights on a nearby ravine and crossed through bush and mossy patches until they reached a river. When they finally reached the top of the ravine, both hikers were worn out.

They then manoeuvred their way down until they finally came across a trail.

There they came across two Californian students, who were just as lost. They had started out from Platteklip, crossed over the back of Table Mountain, all the way to the end of the 12 Apostles.

They called 10111 from the students' cellphone as the sun was setting and were told that a helicopter would be sent out for them.

After more than 40 minutes, they decided to make another call. It seemed that their first rescue call had not been attended to, as no one at the other end knew of their ordeal.

All in all, they called 10111 a total of three times. Reception was poor and so they missed a call made to their phone. Just then they realised that, their cell time had run out.

When it dawned on the group they would not be rescued the students, although they did not have a head light, decided to back-track down the mountain to Platteklip or find a place to camp.

Jenneth and Karl tried to rest in a cave but at about 3am it was so cold that they started walking. It took them more than six hours to walk the whole range of the Apostles to reach the cable car station at about 9.30am.

Senior section ranger Hilton Blumeris organised a search party and rescued the students within a short time.

"We'll go hiking again! Maybe in a year's time," said Jenneth.

Before they went hiking she said she and her husband would ensure they notified family or friends about their route, and packed charged cellphones, sufficient water, food and headlights.

Jenneth also recommended that hikers who had not done a particular hike before, got advice from seasoned hikers or clubs, as hiking books should not be fully relied on.

By late on Tuesday the police had not replied to questions sent to them by the Cape Argus.

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