The reopening of the Lion’s Head trail has been met with anger and disappointment from residents, particularly hikers.
Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) management announced the reopening of the trail last Friday, March 1.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) announced in November last year that the trail would be closed for maintenance and it had been out of bounds since January.
TMNP said there was a section with new infrastructure along the pathway that still required completion and it would be clearly marked on-site.
They said the footpath on the north facing slope from the Kramat, leading up to the spiral trail, would remain closed for further rehabilitation as a result of the fire in February.
“We ask that all visitors comply with the on-site signage and use the existing ladder or spiral pathway to reach the summit,” the statement read.
It continued: “Many illegal trails have been closed as a part of rehabilitation efforts and we ask that visitors respect these closures and stay on the demarcated trail.”
One hiker, David D’Aguiar, posted on social media that he had hiked up Lion’s head on Saturday, March 2, and was looking forward to seeing the improvements done during the two-month closure of the trail.
He was not impressed by what he saw.
“TMNP have allowed a hack job on Lion’s Head with regard to the new steelwork in place. The workmanship is an insult to all who love the mountain. The ladders and staples look like they were assembled from offcuts of scrap metal (a joint in every rung?) and the staples are an engineering disgrace. I trust the contractor has not been paid,” he said.
Mr D’Aguiar questioned the process that was followed in appointing the contractor and whether they were qualified at all.
“Was pricing the only consideration? TMNP should hang their head in shame. Please go compare the workmanship to the quality of the staples on India Venster,” he said.
He said the work was unacceptable, stating that chains or staples on Lion’s Head are arguably the most memorable few meters of the hike.
Martin Williams posted: “Does this job comply with safety requirements? It certainly does not look like it. If the welds fail resulting in somebody falling, then what? In my opinion, this job needs to be certified by a suitably qualified engineer as fit for purpose and that it poses no danger to climbers.”
Table Mountain Watch also posted on their social media pages on Sunday urging the public to avoid the area. They said: “We are alerting everyone to possible unsafe conditions on the new Lion’s Head trail. Please avoid until a proper and professional assessment can be done.”
Following this outcry, SANParks released another statement stating that they echoed these sentiments and understood the disappointment hikers may feel.
“The tender that was awarded for infrastructure maintenance was done in a fair, open and equitable manner whilst complying with all Supply Chain Management guidelines. The contractor that was awarded the tender met the requirements and commenced work when the trail was closed.
“Regrettably, quality control was an on-going challenge and our conservation team inspected work on a daily basis. Corrective measures that needed to be put in place were communicated to the contractor as these issues arose,” it read.
They said the trail was reopened with the balance of the work completed to a satisfactory level.
“An area of concern has been cordoned off until such time a Certificate of Compliance could be issued to verify that the safe working load of the infrastructure was up to standard. This matter is currently being resolved with the contractor.
“We have encouraged hikers to make use of the existing staples and chains or the trail segment that circumvents the cordoned off infrastructure. Visitors are still able to reach the summit through the spiral trail that completely excludes the staples and chains.”
SANParks said they would be taking the necessary steps to rectify the situation.
“Until such time that we can guarantee safe passage, the newly installed infrastructure will remain closed off and notices will remain in place. We apologise for the inconvenient caused.”