Hiking in Mauritius

02 Jan 2019 15:58 #74426 by ghaznavid
When people talk about Mauritius, they rarely talk about anything other than the beaches. I guess this is a bit like people who would never dream of venturing more than 1km from their resort in the Drakensberg.

If you would like the full story of the holiday (including how on earth someone who never enters the water ended up in Mauritius), check out the full story on  my blog
- I am just posting the parts of it that relate to heading up large pointy objects, which some may classify as mountains. The question of whether or not Mauritius has mountains is trivial*. But the beauty of these large volcanic summits is unquestionable.

I will be trying to post here and on my blog concurrently - currently parts 1 and 2 are up. My blog is the story of what happened, here I am just summarising what the hike is like, so it is handy for anyone else who might want to have a go at these peaks.

Anyway - short summary of tips for hiking in Mauritius:
1) If there isn't a trail, don't bother. The island is covered in dense vegetation, so anything off trail will be wildly unpleasant.
2) Don't take what you can do in the Drakensberg as an indication of what you can do in Mauritius. At a push I could clock up about 20km in a day in Mauritius, and I wasn't exactly unfit when I arrived there. The heat and humidity are deadly! I clocked up 102km in my week on the island.
3) Take at least double the water you usually take, as well as extra rehydrate.
4) Don't assume just because the total height is under 1000m, it will be easy, unexposed or safe.
5) Every peak I did/attempted had at least some scrambling and exposed sections.
6) Download GPS tracks from wikilock, especially so you know where to park your car and how to find the trail head.
7) I didn't have to pay anyone for access, no entrance fees at all. Guides are never compulsory either - contrary to what many on google claim.
8) The basalt will feel familiar - but it isn't the Drakensberg, this rock is incredibly solid.

I set myself 6 peaks as goals for my trip:
1) Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire/Black River Mountain, highest point in Mauritius
2) Le Morne Brabant
3) Rempart
4) Le Pouce (French for the Thumb, 3rd highest summit)
5) Pieter Both (2nd highest summit)
6) Lion Mountain

I will post about each as a separate post with photos.

* Fun fact - all 6 of the above have over 210m prominence, meaning that if they were 3000m peaks, all would qualify as mountains by the 7% definition. By contrast, only about 51 Drakensberg peaks (including Lesotho) above 3000m fit that criteria.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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02 Jan 2019 16:14 #74427 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Black River Mountain - 828m

My first peak was the highest point in the country. And, in keeping with tradition, it is probably the most boring of them. Don't get me wrong - it is a really awesome peak, but if you only have time for one, rather do Le Morne.

Finding the trail head is a bit tricky. Don't bother asking google maps, it will take you to a private hunting lodge! If you are coming up from the Grand Bassin side, the parking lot is on your right not far past the turnoff to Alexandra Falls. Looking at Google Maps right now, it is marked as "Black River Peak Hiking Trail", so no clue why google gave me such terrible directions on the day. But anyway.

There are three car parks, one is right at the trail head and only takes 2 cars, the second one takes 3 cars and then large one by the lookout over the gorge (which is really worth visiting). The difference is less than 500m each way, so it doesn't really matter if you end up at the far one.

The trail itself is very easy to follow, there are no turnoffs. It is about 8km round trip, and the route follows the top of a ridge, so there is a lot more up and down than you would expect. Annoyingly due to the thick overgrowth, you rarely get to see much of a view, but from the summit you get a view in every direction.

The last short stretch is exceptionally steep. This will sound ridiculous, but I am not exaggerating - the last 50m in altitude is put on in about 80m of horizontal distance. That is easily on par with many of the harder Drakensberg passes. It is also on loose terrain. Ok, it doesn't last long and there are ropes if you need them, but still - this isn't trivial.

There are two summits, I did both just in case, but my GPS confirmed that the first one is higher.

I did it in just under 3 hours, the usually suggest around 5 hours.

 

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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02 Jan 2019 16:38 #74428 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Le Morne Brabant - 556m

Just to clarify, the summit of this peak is off limits. You are only allowed to go as high as 490m where you find a large metal cross, which is a small subsidiary summit. From there to the actual summit is roped climbing (fixed ropes were removed a while ago). But the main reason the main summit is off limits is that it is home to various animals and plants that are only found on this summit, so please don't try to "get away with it".

Almost all my research told me that you have to have a guide to do this one, I can confirm that you don't - I was not the only person up there without a guide, and no one asked me why I didn't have a guide. Actually no one was even there at the start, so I just wrote my name in the book and started walking.

The history of this peak is very important, so go and read up on that before climbing it. The very shortened summary is that escaped slaves used to live here, and when a group of people came to tell them that the trade had been abolished, they thought the people were coming to recapture them, and many opted for death over recapture. Absolutely tragic. But go and read up on it properly beforehand.

This is the only peak on the island where I was able to find a mountain register.

The turnoff to the trail head is sign posted. It is on the south side of the peak. I was driving in from the east on the coastal road, just as the road curves right to go around the peak, there is a dirt road to the left that leads to the car park. If the gate is locked, you can slip around it to the left as they leave a gap wide enough for a person to slip through.

The trail is initially surprisingly steep, but on basically a road. After gaining lots of altitude (you start at sea level, as in the parking is 5m horizontally from the sea). When you hit the fence with the warning sign, the fun begins! The rest is a mix of easy scrambling on very good rock, and exposed walking above large cliffs. The places where a fall would be really bad are generally the places where you probably won't fall.

The view from the [almost] top are really awesome.
   

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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03 Jan 2019 09:35 #74432 by Dave
Replied by Dave on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Awesome stuff. Pukka views from that second one. I've definitely turned my fantasy of a Mauritius holiday into a mountain fantasy rather than a beach fantasy after reading this.

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03 Jan 2019 09:58 #74434 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Rempart 777m

As far as I know, this is the 4th highest summit in Mauritius - although there is a distinct lack of a list. It will have at least 400m prominence and is one of the most spectacular peaks I have ever seen.

I did a lot of research on this. I found a video of the via ferrata from 2006, and Stijn provided a Strava Heatmap which showed lots of people hiking nearby, but no one going up. I asked on forums, asked local guides - and no one really had any answers.

I eventually decided I would have to go and figure it out for myself.

Step 1 was to identify how to get there - as google maps has the tag allocated to the wrong peak. I was on my way from Trou aux Cerfs and asked for directions to Flic-en-Flac beach (I could see Rempart from Trou aux Cerfs, so I knew where I was trying to go) - this took me right by it. I asked locals, who didn't know how to get up either. I even asked a zoo that was right below it if they knew how to get onto the land and they didn't know.

Over 2 days, I took 3 different spots and tried to find a line, but with no luck on any of them:
1) The farm where the video on youtube had started - but there was a large locked gate that formed part of a 2m high game fence that hadn't been there in the video
2) I tried a road from the road nearest to the peak
3) I tried to approach it from the south west

1 with trails that died in thick vegetation or hitting the game fence, while 2 and 3 ended with hitting other parts of the same game fence. Eventually I decided that it was more meaningful to go and climb other peaks than it was to keep looking for the elusive approach line to reach a possibly unsafe via ferrata.

Here's what the overgrowth looks like:


Overall I walked 12km, and drove 30+km looking for a way through. It accounted for more than 6 hours, and I only once managed to get as high as 400m, so just past halfway between sea level and the summit. But don't get me wrong - spending hours walking below a massively impressive peak is not time wasted by any means.

If I do ever end up back in Mauritius, I would have a crack at the peak just north of Rempart, not sure of the name - it is publicly accessible and almost as high. Doesn't look amazing in photos, but is very impressive in reality. Actually - there must be at least 20 summits on the island worth heading up.

These photos are different angles on the peak:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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03 Jan 2019 11:10 #74436 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius

Dave wrote: Awesome stuff. Pukka views from that second one. I've definitely turned my fantasy of a Mauritius holiday into a mountain fantasy rather than a beach fantasy after reading this.


Nice! It is an awesome place to visit, and surprisingly cheap the way I did it.

Hiking in Mauritius is a funny task - in good weather, the routes would have the best view to effort ratio I have ever encountered, but the weather there is generally very hot and humid - which kind of makes you not want to slog up a big hill!

3 most worthwhile hikes, IMO, are Le Morne, Le Pouce and Lion Mountain. Amazing views, good trails and harder than you would expect. But there are tons of spiky peaks on the islands, many right next to the sea - so plenty to chose from.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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03 Jan 2019 15:10 #74437 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Le Pouce (The Thumb) - 812m, 3rd highest summit in Mauritius

This is a surprisingly steep and well placed summit on the ridge that splits the capital from the central region of the island. There is a good trail the entire way, so as long as you can find the parking spot (which is south of the peak - and was just a case of following the roads to the start of the track off wikilock), the rest is pretty straightforward.

It is about 500m in altitude gain to the summit, and is steep, but not as steep as Le Morne or the final bit of Black River Mountain.

I summitted in the mist, so not much in the way of scenic shots - but still a worthwhile peak. The views from Pieter Both will be very similar (as they are right next to each other and are 12m different in height), so refer to scenic shots on that post - when I have posted it.

 

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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04 Jan 2019 19:09 - 04 Jan 2019 19:10 #74444 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Pieter Both Mountain - 824m, 2nd highest summit in Mauritius

To call Pieter Both dramatic is a bit of an understatement, and please don't take this one lightly. Scrambling on this route is not a joke and it is very exposed in a few places - this is a route for the experienced only. And I highly recommend taking ropes, even if you are only aiming for the saddle.

I was aiming for the top, but sadly the information about there being a via ferrata on the route was out of date. The route is now a trad climb.

Seeing as the story of my attempt is on my blog  - I won't repost it here. Here's a video showing why I stopped where I stopped, showing what the exposure looked like:


A local showed me where to park - there is a large enclosed sports field with parking outside. This is right at the trail head.

The approach is on a good clear trail, but not wide like the others. The summit looks like a large boulder balancing on top of a spike - it was named after a former governor-general of the Dutch East Indies. Apparently it looks like a profile of his face from the right angle. I could definitely see the profile of the face from the nearby highway, although it doesn't really look like a specific person to me.

The trail very quickly turns into a sequence of very steep scrambles. The easiest line was wet when I was there, so I took the harder but less slippery line.

The trail then goes right through a very exposed section before you reach the shoulder. There is an obvious crack climb up to near the top from here - but since the via ferrata has been removed, I was not up for free-solo climbing this.

To descend, I anchored my 20m chord off a fairly loose bush and used munter hitches to abseil until the bolt midway through the first scramble. I used the bolt to abseil down the rest of the main scramble (yes, I know, don't abseil off a single anchor and don't run a rope through a bolt - but I didn't see any other options on this occasion). Below this was a further short 5m abseil, which I anchored off a large tree. An epic descent, and I was very happy to have my rope.

This peak isn't for the faint of heart!


Looking down from the top of the lower 5m scramble:

The start of the main 15m scramble. You can see how wet it was:


The exposed traverse out to the shoulder

The main summit - the obvious crack system would probably swallow a lot of cams and nuts, in addition to the two easy to spot bolts:

Abseiling back down:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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Last edit: 04 Jan 2019 19:10 by ghaznavid.

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05 Jan 2019 16:46 #74453 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Hiking in Mauritius
Lion Mountain - 490m



If you only have time to do one peak, and want a fairly easy one - take Lion Mountain. It is right above the Blue Bay area, so the views are spectacular, but is relatively easy to get up. There is a proper scramble near the top, and it is steep in places, but even if you only take the east mini-summit, the views are still worth it. It is also very close to the airport - I was looking at it from my boarding gate last time I was at this airport.

The peak is said to look like a lion lying down, which is visible in the photo above.

I took a track off wikilock, which takes a line up to the east summit, across the lions back to the main summit and down via the alternative descent back to the starting point.

I parked outside a locked garage, which is where the police suggested I park when I asked at the station below the peak. This one also starts just above sea level, on the coastal road on the south side of the mountain.

The trail splits as you enter the vegetation. Initially there are some steps to climb.


This is followed by some easy scrambling.


The trail climbs surprisingly steeply before you have the choice between going left and right. Right takes you to the lower summit lookout.


From there, follow the trail towards the main summit. If you see some wooden banisters, you have gone too far, go back and look for a red arrow painted on a cliff. Scramble up here. I don't have a good photo of this scramble - it is about 5m high, be careful on it.


Continue up till you reach the main summit.


To get back down, reverse the scramble and follow the trail back towards where you came up. A trail goes straight down the hill, follow it to get back to where you started (by a different route).

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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