Safety hike group formed after horror attacks

Dave Pena with his wife Samantha, Abigail and Daniel.

The recent spate of horror attacks on the mountain has spurred the formation of a group dedicated to safeguarding certain trails.

Dave Pena, of Fish Hoek, organised the first Elsie’s Peak Proactive Hike this past Saturday, and 90 people took part.

It was a great example, he said, of what could be achieved with security firms, neighbourhood watches, law enforcement, SAPS and SANParks rangers working together, volunteering to protect the hikers.

Mr Pena is thrilled with the response and already another hike is being planned.

A week before the attack on nine hikers in Echo Valley (“Call for hiker safety”, Echo, January 18) his brother-in-law had been mugged on a morning run by six men, one wielding a machete. Then Douglas Notten was murdered above Kalk Bay (“Murder on the mountain, Echo, February 1).

“It drew too close. My family and I love hiking Elsies Peak, and even though it’s not one of the hot spots, I thought we have to act now and secure what we love,” Mr Pena said. “I committed myself to fighting back somehow; it’s unthinkable to have the freedom of the mountain and beaches taken away from us, so we are taking them back.”

Mr Pena attended a meeting with like-minded folk at Tokai library earlier this year to be part of the start of new group called Table Mountain Security Action Group, which is led by Andre van Schalkwyk, a law enforcement officer with specific experience in this field.

“When these attacks happen there is a lot of finger pointing at SANParks,” Mr Pena said.

“Our approach is rather to help in whatever way we can. In this instance, it is hosting protected hikes.”

The initiative relies on men who go ahead of the hikers to scout out the area as well as communication between lookouts posted along the trail with binoculars.

Mr Van Schalkwyk spoke to the gathered hikers before the Elsies Peak hike on Saturday, on the Glencairn side, giving advice on how to stay safe and take responsibility for their safety by working together.

The hike on Saturday was closely guarded and it included children and an 87-year-old woman, Bette Davis. She has hiked all over the world, including the Himalayas, and is part of the Mountain Club of SA.

Mr Pena said he wanted the hike to be a family event.

“I am speaking about it, but please remember this is a collective effort. It simply could not have happened but for the willingness of every organisation and person involved,” he said.

While the idea itself is not
new – Mr Van Schalkwyk has
been running it for some time – Mr Pena wanted to bring it to the Valley.

Table Mountain Visitors Care Group is available to talk with people who have suffered attacks or tragedies on the mountain. Their role is to provide counsel, follow up and help in whatever way they can.

One of these ways is a meal roster that is drawn up for the families in need, provided by members of the community. To support this combined initiative, follow the Table Mountain Watch group on Facebook as a resource for information and the Table Mountain Security Action Group.

For more information you
can email Dave Pena on: