Chasing Snow in Ceres – 16 July 2017

The weather forecasts for the past week had been showing a strong cold front pushing through the Western Cape on Saturday evening into Sunday morning. Of particular interest with this front was the forecasted freezing levels, which suggested that we may be in for a good snow event across parts of the country. With the weather keeping the birding quiet, I had arranged plans with Monique and her family, for us to head through to Ceres in an attempt to chase the snow, which would be her first time to experience it.

A Damn Early Start

The night before, we tried to get an early night. However, we were kept awake most of the night by my flat mate who came home drunk in the early morning. At 4:15am our alarms went off and with a mere 2 hours sleep behind us, we set out on our adventure. One could feel that snow was likely falling on the mountains, as even at sea level the temperatures were enough to reduce feeling of the fingers. We met up at her parents place and were on route by 5am.

Chasing snow is Ceres can be a challenge. Snow forecasts are extremely hard to predict and rely on several elements to come together just right. In this case, the freezing levels were looking good, however moisture was always a concern. In cases of very low snowfall (uncommon) one can access the snow without the need of a 4×4 vehicle and without need of going to Matroosberg Nature Reserve. Matroosberg offer 4×4 trails to higher elevations where snow is more reliable, and plentiful.

We had planned to head through to Matroosberg, and hope that the snow was down at reception, but it was always a gamble.

Road With Snow Near Ceres

Snow near Matroosberg

SNOW SNOW SNOW

While on route, passing through Ceres we got a Facebook status update from Matroosberg, a dejected message about snow not being present down at reception. That was alright, we thought; we were still in a Land Rover after all and could do the 4×4 trail (at a cost of R50 per person). The starry sky which seemed to make up its majority was not a good sign, moisture was clearly very isolated and we would rely on orographic weather effects to bring snow to the mountain.

Klondyke Cherry Farm Snow at Entrance

Klondyke Snow

Klondyke Snow Orchard

Snow on trees in Ceres

Snow at Klondyke

After seeing this message we began to question whether we had made the right decision. But just then, while a mere 20km outside of Ceres on one of the main roads, we began to see the light start to illuminate white on either side of the road. The sun was still a way from making its presence felt, yet the darkness was slowly beginning to lift, making way to a winter wonderland. While snow wasn’t very deep, it was quite widespread, and as we approached Matroosberg’s turn off, we found ourselves in the middle of some pretty heavy snowfalls.

With the comments from Matroosberg about there being no snow at reception, we decided to not join in the line of cars queued up to their reception and instead spend some time exploring the snow covered fields around the road. First we stopped at a farm near Matroosberg which had some orchards visible from the road that I wanted to shoot. After getting some shots there, we then moved on down the road. Klondyke Farm is a location that I had camped before, and is located right next to Matroosberg. The snow at Klondyke looked excellent, perhaps 3 centimeters in some areas.

Snow Landscape at Klondyke Farm

Panorama of Snow near Ceres

Monique Van Der Meulen

Klondyke Snow

Morning Snow Landscape

Making The Most Of It

Most of our time was then spent around Klondyke farm, thankfully having spent time there before I knew the compositions and the areas I’d like to shoot. The snow had stacked up on many of the orchards, as well as small buildings around the entrance. Monique and her family seemed to be enjoying the experience in the snow, something that many Capetonians don’t get to experience.

After photographing across most of the farm, we then headed back, stopping a couple of times along the way to grab some additional landscapes. Once home,I grabbed a couple more shots – this time of the Helderberg mountains from the front yard. Overall it was a very successful time out chasing, and always good to be able to see the landscapes covered in white.

Ceres Landscape Snow

mountain of snow near Ceres

Hottentots Holland Snow

There was some birding involved after this involving a Eurasian Black-Cap, but I’d rather not talk about that.

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Bryn De Kocks

Bryn is a passionate and opinionated antinatalist and naturalist with a love for nature, the ocean, photography, severe weather and music. He spends most of his time looking for new birds within the Western Cape, taking landscape photographs or behind his computer being a nerd.

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