Lion’s Head has become an incredibly popular hiking trail, with people of all fitness levels, ages and genders participating in the health and recreational craze. With the increase in popularity and initiatives, such as Rock Girl, such trails have also become safer for women to do on their own.
Previously Lion’s Head, like many parts of South Africa, was considered a no go for anyone alone- especially women. The isolation was taken advantage of by opportunistic muggers.
In reaction to the restrictive environments for women who are concerned for their safety, a group of Grade 7 pupils at a Manenberg school started the Rock Girl project. Its aim was to create safe spaces for women and provide awareness for the necessity of safety for women and girls.
This project has since spread and there are now more than ten benches throughout Cape Town, with one in the shape of a Lion being situated at the base of Lion’s Head.
Emma Strumpman, a third year UCT student, rests on the Rock Girl bench before the hike up Lion’s Head. The colourful mosaic benches are spattered around Cape Town promoting the Rock Girl non-profit organisation which looks to promote making public spaces safer for women and girls in the City.
Emma looks back for a moment as she begins the seemingly never-ending spiral of red ochre sand that starts the Lions Head hiking trail. This steep, continuous incline tests the cardiovascular strength of even the fittest hiker. This is considered the hardest part of the climb as it is strenuous on the heart on the way up and a killer on the knees when coming down.
Sturdy shoes are required when attempting this trail. While most experienced hikers would opt for proper hiking shoes, the increase in popularity of this trail has led to the average person attempting the trail in their less supportive gym takkies.
After having broken through the cloud bank which cloaked the west side of the mountain, Emma takes a break to document her surroundings on Instagram. Mountain trails have become a popular sight on social media. A hike did not happen unless it’s well documented with hashtags.
Lion’s Head is known for its varying terrain and miniscule pathways. The throngs that make the climb over the weekends often have to cling to the walls to ensure they are not pushed over by trail runners who whizz past. On the off chance the path is free; it’s just a nimble hop and jump over rocks jutting up from the ground.
Emma waits for other hikers to slowly crawl along the chains set up for the steeper embankments. On parts of the climb that are incredibly narrow, queues to go up and down can be akin to those at the banks on payday. This increase in numbers has been considered to have helped the mountain reduce the number of muggings that used to be frequent.
Having made her way up most of the way, Emma faces her last challenge- the head of the Lion. This is where all limbs are required as climbing over large boulders that make up this stretch are a better bicep workout than any at the gym.
Emma smiles at the relief of assistance in navigating the terrain. The challenge of the rock face is somewhat mitigated by the ladders put in place by SANparks. These ladders can be incredibly slippery, with this one sitting next to a specifically precarious drop down the side of the head of the mountain.
Emma pushes herself over the final boulder to her goal, the summit. While Lion’s Head is considered an easy hiking trail, do-able for even only the walking-fit, the last stretch puts everyone to the test. This could be why reaching the top feels like you’ve reached the top of the world.
Emma sits and looks out over Camps Bay and Sea Point with Table Mountain framing her recline. Lion’s Head provides a comprehensive view of the city, taking in a full three-sixty of the sites that make up the City Bowl, Harbour, Table Bay and Coastal roads.