Everyday Hiking Hero: Henko Roukema

Climbing the SE ridge of Sentinel peak in the mighty Hexriver mountains.

Henko Roukemo is a great example of what can be done when you focus all your energy into your passion. When he’s not working as a navigation officer at sea, he’s a brand ambassador for a few leading outdoor brands, mountain lover and explorer at heart.

HSA: Name, age, city / town where you live?
HR: Henko Roukema, 27, Durbanville

HSA:Where, when and how did you start hiking, and who introduced you to hiking?
HR: My first hike was with my father when I was 7 years old, we hiked up Platteklip Gorge, Table Mountain. But the bug only caught properly after I was fortunate enough to join the South African explorer Mike Horn on an expedition to Baffin Island to traverse glaciers and climb some big walls – we even summitted a previously unclimbed peak!

HSA: Your favourite hike / hiking area(s)?
HR: Every hike is special in its own way, but my favourite is probably Suid-front route on Pieke in Jonkershoek, which is my favourite area. The joy of hiking and scrambling up the face of Pieke is hard to beat for views, beauty and ease of access.

The tranquil Nerina kloof with its huge fern trees, Jonkershoek.

HSA: What does hiking mean to you as a lifestyle choice i.e. what motivates you?
HR: I think it has a lot to do with the “explorer” in me, I always want to see new areas where I haven’t been, even if it’s just the other side of a mountain. It gives me the greatest of pleasures. That, and the added bonus of being in nature, being healthy and capable.

HSA: Describe your best hiking achievement / most memorable hike.
HR: Most definitely climbing Nevado Copa in Peru, which is a 6188m ice behemoth. There was a massive build-up of training, skills and confidence to finally climb the mountain. When we finally reached the summit we were engulfed by a white out spoiling the view, but the summit meant so much more to me. As if the time and effort of the years before finally paid off.

Climbing Nevado Copa 6188m in the Cordillera Blanca – Peru.

HSA: You recently experienced first-hand how things can go wrong quickly in the mountains – tell us about your accident, your recovery, and what keeps you going back to the mountains?
HR: Whilst rock climbing at Kleinmond, I took a lead fall, and my belayer dropped me by accident, resulting in a 14m fall to the ground. Torn muscles, broken tibia and fibula took months to heal, and the process is still ongoing; only recently have I been able to start hiking and climbing again. I kept myself sane with smaller timid excursions, just to be able to be out with friends in the mountains. I found value in appreciating the small things and the beauty around us, rather than long, hard days covering big distances or climbing hard routes. But I still do long for that feeling of being utterly thrashed after a hard day in the mountains! It makes the sunset coffee and a view so much sweeter if you’ve worked hard for it!

Carrying massive loads in Peru, this was the heaviest carry of 37kg! Knee breaking stuff!
Climbing Nevado Yannapacha 5460m, with the clouds rolling over the lower ridges from the Amazon basin.

HSA: How do you balance your job as a navigation officer and being away from home for long periods of time with your love for outdoor adventure?
HR: Usually the 6 months while I’m away for work, I focus on training and becoming fitter/stronger. And it is a great motivator knowing the fitter I am, the more I will be able to do when I am finally home to explore and climb! And my philosophy is that I should be so gatvol of the mountains after 6 months leave that I want to go back to work to take a break!

HSA: Who is your favourite hiking buddy and why?
HR: Michael Schaff, he taught me most of what I know regarding climbing and being safe in the mountains. The vast experience of over 35 years exploring every nook and cranny in the Cape’s mountains helps too!

Nevado Pisco 5752m. Michael Schaff silhouetted against the Huandoy massif.

HSA: Your favourite piece of hiking gear?
HR: Good boots! I swear by my La Sportivas!

HSA: Your favourite hiking / inspirational quote?
HR:These are privileged and exceptional occasions…go out alone on the hills and listen. You will hear much: the winds will hold for you something more than sound; the voice of the stream will not be merely the babbling of hurrying waters. The trees and flowers are not so separate from you as they are at other times, but very near; the same substance, the same rhythm, the same song binds you to them. Alone amidst nature, a person learns to be one with all and all with One.” – Frank Smythe

A special sunset, immersed in the clouds during golden hour on Pieke, Jonkershoek.

HSA: What is your dream hike / adventure?
HR: To go and explore & climb unclimbed peaks in Leh Ladahk, Indian Himalayas.

HSA: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while hiking?
HR: Mostly definitely waking up, finding out a donkey ate my shirt and shorts, ripping them to shreds during the night… and the same night a cow had diarrhoea all over the flysheet of the tent. Crazy times in the base camps of Peruvian mountains!

Base camp of Nevada Yannapacha, waiting for better weather to climb.

HSA: What is the best tip you can give to newbie hikers?
HR: Go out and explore. You don’t need a trail. Not just following the conventional hiking routes can be the most rewarding exercise of all! That being said we shouldn’t be daft and take unnecessary risks – be prepared and make sure you have some form of reliable navigation.

HSA: What’s the worst/best thing you’ve seen on a trail?
HR: Litter on our trails is definitely the worst. The best is certainly the shared experiences and camaraderie between friends.

Follow Henko’s adventures on Instagram: @henkoroukema

About Hiking South Africa 107 Articles
Hiking South Africa aims to serve and grow the South African hiking community as a central, national community resource.

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