Seychelles, Morne Seychellois

Morne Seychellois – 2969ft

Eric Gilbertson

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On the summit

August 4, 2016

Day 1 – Fly Moscow-Seychelles, drive to middle of the island, bushwhack up highpoint (no trail)
Day 2 – Drive to airport to catch morning flight to Mauritius

I had an extra week between climbing in Russia with Matthew and meeting Katie in Madagascar, so decided to hit a few extra country highpoints in between. I first flew to Armenia to climb Mt Aragats, then had just enough time to squeeze in stops in Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion Island.

The Seychelles are a group of islands near the equator in the Indian ocean, and are quite popular vacation spots for Europeans. Americans don’t make it out there quite as much, since the Caribbean Islands are so much closer.

I landed in Victoria, Seychelles on the morning of August 4, and soon picked up a rental car. As usual in small countries the car started out with virtually no gas and the rental agents told me I was free to return it with any amount of gas. This is pretty funny, since they make it sound like they’re being so nice and accommodating, when in reality they know it’s impossible to return it at the same level, so they will be earning some free gas every time.

Luckily there was a gas station across the street from the airport, and I filled up. I then drove up the Providence Highway towards central Victoria, and turned onto Sans Souci road. There wasn’t much information online about climbing Morne Seychellois, but I found a hiker’s report on Peakery that said there was a trail to the summit. It was supposed to start exactly 4km along Sans Souci Road, across the road from an old barrier pillar.

I carefully set my odometer, but 4km came and went and I never saw anything that looked like a trailhead. I kept driving to almost the west coast of the island, then decided to try again. I drove back to the start of the Sans Souci Road on the east, reset my odometer, and this time slowed down when I was close to the 4km reading. I was just past some houses, entering a jungle area, and spotted an old concrete barrier on the left side, and a small dirt pullout across the road. This must have been the spot the report referred to.

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At the start of the bushwhacking route

I pulled out my gps to check that my location matched the coordinates I’d found on peakery of the supposed trailhead (4° 38.590’S 55° 26.977’E), but my GPS would not turn on. I would later learn that the GPS required a hard reset, by pressing a sequence of 4 certain buttons, but at that point it was basically useless. I had loaded topographic maps of the island on my phone, though, so at the very least I could know when I was on the summit.

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Heading up the stream

There was a small trail heading into the jungle here, and I appeared to be at the correct location, so I packed up and started into the jungle. The trail went a few hundred feet, then disappeared at a stream. I searched around carefully, but could find no indication of any more trail. The other reports mentioned following some red dot markings or yellow ribbon, but those reports were several years old, and I suspected perhaps the jungle had regrown over any trail since then.

The summit was only a few miles away line-of-site, though, so I decided I would just bushwhack up on my own. I followed the stream for a while, at times scrambling up wet boulders. I soon encountered a deep impassible canyon, and cut through the jungle to the side. A few small rodents scurried away, and I later learned they were tenrecs. They looked like little pigs with striped spikes on their backs. I also encountered quite a few large, hand-sized spiders in webs in the forest.

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Big spider

I returned to the streambed, and scrambled up higher, until the undergrowth got too dense to easily pass. At this point there was a large cliff to my left, and I could see a summit above me to the right. This appeared to be the northern sub-peak of Morne Seychellois.

I cut through the jungle at the base of the cliff until I found a weakness, then scrambled up to the top of the cliff. Here the jungle opened up, and I followed a small ridge-crest under palmetto trees, wrapping around to the southeast side of Morne Seychellois. I eventually reached a small local maximum, which was just southeast of the summit, and stopped to take a break.

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Looking up towards the summit

From there I down-climbed some steep roots and rocks to a small pass, but took a nasty fall when one of the roots broke. My shin and hands got pretty bloody, but I washed the dirt out of the cuts with a little of my water, and pressed on them to stop the bleeding. [I actually now have a permanent scar on my shin from that slip].

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Steep bushwhacking

From here I headed due north through the dense jungle, and soon stumbled upon what looked like a faint game trail. It just started out of nowhere in the jungle and headed north, with no obvious trail leading from the south. I followed this path, and it improved slightly, and it looked like it must have been made by humans. I’ve found when bushwhacking up mountains these trails often exist near the summits, but only near the summits. This is because, while each person bushwhacking through the woods may take a different route, odds are these routes will come closer together near the summit, until they converge on one route.

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On the summit

I followed the faint trail to the edge of a near-vertical bushy cliff. The route wove up, and I followed it, pulling myself up near-vertical terrain by roots and fistfuls of bushes. Eventually the steepness lessened, and I broke out onto a small ridge. My phone GPS showed the summit just a few hundred feet to the north, but here the trail disappeared. I bushwhacked up the ridge, through dense growth, until the vegetation opened up and the terrain was downhill in all directions. I was on the summit, which I verified by my phone GPS.

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Interesting orange flagging at the summit

Some trees on the summit had orange flagging tape on them with numbers written in black, and a few trees had metal wrapped around them. I walked all around the summit in all directions, but could find no indication of any trail. Perhaps it was just retaken by the jungle since the last hikers came there. It’s surprising that, if there did exist a trail to the summit, it wouldn’t be popular enough to be maintained.

I took some pictures, and looked around again for a possible trail. It would have been awefully nice to follow a trail back then to bushwhack again. But, there was no trail to be found. I backtracked along the dense ridge to try to find the faint trail I had followed up, but I couldn’t even find that again, the jungle was so dense. I tried downclimbing the bushy cliff, but this seemed to dangerous.

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Brief glimpse of the ocean on the descent

So instead, I climbed back up to the summit, and decided to descend the much more gradual northeast side. The bushwhacking was extremely dense here, but I eventually descended to the col between the true summit and the northeast subpeak, then followed the drainage down. This was the same drainage I had ascended, and I eventually rejoined my original ascent route.

When I was almost back to the car, I decided to stop at a large pool in the stream and take a bath. I was pretty filthy and bloody from bushwhacking all day, so rinsed off in the cool water and washed out my dirty clothes.

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Sunset of the west coast of Mahe Island

I then walked out to the car, and still had a few hours of daylight left. I took advantage of this to drive out to the west coast of the island, then follow the coast south, wrap around, and follow the east coast. I caught an amazing sunset, then drove back to the same parking area in the jungle to sleep.

I brought a tarp out into the jungle and laid on top of it to sleep, but after a few hours was awoken by rain. I hadn’t brought a tent, so ran back to the car and slept in the driver’s seat the remainder of the night.

In the morning I drove back to the airport and prepared for my next country – Mauritius.

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