Your First Berg Pass - Let's Hear the Story!

12 Sep 2012 06:50 #55212 by ghaznavid
Good idea. I think almost all stories would be about the Chain Ladders. At the end of GT we saw 3 overweightish looking people heading off from Sentinel car park at 2PM with the intention of reaching the top and getting back again (this was on 1 May this year), shorts and T-shirts, not even a waterbottle. They didn't get very far before they turned around though - probably thought it was too steep.

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12 Sep 2012 09:55 #55214 by thomas
The chain ladder is an invitation to trouble not, as some would argue, a safeguard to exit it. I would bet money that most incidents (and near misses) in the Berg occur because of it, not in spite of. If the chain ladder existed without the road, there would be fewer issues (I forgot which of the two was installed first). The two features combined ensure the inexperienced, the unprepared, the ignorant and the just plain foolish will continue to test their mettles where they should not. It is understandably alluring to want to drive up to the high peaks and then stroll up to the escarpment with the false illusion that there is even a ladder to help you along the way giving lie to a supposed effortless amble in the bush with no dangers. A subtext of a Those Unprepared thread would be just recounting all the mishaps and near misses at this one place only: Sentinel car park up the chain ladder to the Tugela Falls. There must be a few hundred or so illustrative anecdotes out there such as myself and ghaznavid have described. Any takers for a new thread particularly if there is any controversy and especially to inform the unlearned?

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12 Sep 2012 10:06 #55215 by ghaznavid
Its something that scares me about the idea of a cable car. If they want safety they have to go Table Mountain style and build some buildings with electricity etc so that WHEN the route is closed for weeks due to wind there is a place for tourists to stay due to the fact that they headed up before the wind picked up - if there is an unsightly cable car station on the escarpment I guess it may as well come with a nice restaurant...

Just imagine how many people would get lost up there, or get a ride up and expect to hike down and end up in one of Mnweni's many false passes, or try to hike down but be completely unprepared for the reality of the Dragon...

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12 Sep 2012 10:56 - 13 Sep 2012 08:51 #55216 by plouw
First berg trip for me, or any overnight hike for that matter, was a 4 day hike over the Bell traverse and along escarpment, descending the Camel.
It was a big physical challenge on the first day, with leg cramps, blisters and all the usual discomforts a first time hiker experiences. I had to face my fear of heights, experienced snow for the first time and saw a dagga train for the first time. After the first day, waking up to the view from Bell cave, i was hooked!

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Last edit: 13 Sep 2012 08:51 by intrepid. Reason: embedded image
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12 Sep 2012 12:06 #55217 by Trev
Ok, this will sound like I made it up, unfortunately it really happened.

First trip at the age of 6, up Grey's pass with my Dad and two brothers. Sat down for a rest with some other hikers when one of them instructed me to get up and step forward. Turns out a berg adder was about to crawl onto my hand. Became paranoid of snakes after seeing a couple more later on.

We camped next to a stream that night, it rained during the night and the stream now passed under our not so waterproof tent. Spent the night in semi-soggy sleeping bags. Decided to retreat back the next day. All through the trip my feet were in agony, my takkies were too small so I eventually walked barefoot. Back home both my big toenails fell off in a gooey mess.

Hooked for life!
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12 Sep 2012 15:36 #55220 by Fitness
My first berg pass was a failed attempt to get up Mashai Pass and a long winding trek from the top of the pass to Bushmans Nek border post.
I had been planning this trip for ages and convinced a friend of mine to join me, he has climbed, hiked all over the world so I thought that at the very least I have someone with experience.
We planned to leave early Friday morning and be hiking by 9am latest, but as with all plans it didn't work out as planned,
The vehicle we were travelling in had a dead battery so on our way to the berg we had to get a new battery in PMb which meant our planned time to start hiking was delayed somewhat due to us having to wait for a battery shop to open up.
On leaving PMb some 2 hours behind schedule but still in high spirits we headed for Underberg to meet up with another friend that would drop us at Garden Castle to start our hike and then he would fetch us on Sunday from Bushmans Nek.
The hike started in rain at Garden Castle which wasn't ideal but we're "tough" and can handle anything. The going was very slow due to weight of my backpack (rookie error ) and the fact that the rain was coming down quite hard.
It took us over 2 hours just to reach Piillar Cave which was not the ideal considering we only started hiking around 11:30 and that was 2.5 hours behind our scheduled start time.
On reaching pillar cave wet and cold we decided to stop and have a quick bite to eat and hope the rain would stop,
While sitting in Pillar Cave we both realised we'd have to go back to the drawing board with our plans as there was just no ways we were going to make it to the top of Mashai Pass and traverse across to Rhino and hopefully get along towards Bushmans before night fall and the fact that it hadn't stopped raining at all. We decided to set up "camp" in Pillar Cave for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The next day we woke to partly cloudy conditions and thought this would give us the gap to get up Mashai and across to rhino and then on towards Bushmans Nek, however mother nature had other ideas and she decided that myself and my friend would not conquer Mashai nor get up to Rhino let alone make it across to Bushmans Nek because we were forced to turn back with about 150m to go before the top of the Pass due to heavy snow and rain, we turned back and headed down a very slippery Mashai to the relative comfort of Pillar Cave, after what seemed an age we made it down to Pillar Cave, very cold, very wet and feeling rather beaten.
Sunday we woke and decided to head back to Garden Castle and get our lift to collect us,we both were absolutely knackered from the 2 days of fighting the elements .
A few good lessons for me were learnt on that trip:
A) pack light and essential
B) never let yourself get wet
C) always have a backup plan.

That hike got me hooked on the berg property and if I had my way I would hike, walk climb every weekend if I could.
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13 Sep 2012 09:50 #55236 by HFc
First endeavours into the Berg was not passes but Khulu's.

First Khulu climbed was Ben Macdui although not really Berg area as we know it. This is offcourse a relatively easy one, basic hill slogging up to the false Khulu on the ridge above Tiffendell, and then some traversing backwards along a ridge to the actual Ben Macdui Khulu.

First real Berg Khulu, at the same final height incidentally, was Cathedral peak. The standard expedition with Hotel guides. Those who have done this will know it is actually quite an epic if you do not know what to expect. On my side I had some major fitness being a semi-pro cyclist at the time. Yet this was a bit different so I'll admit to suffering badly on the route in. This is really a tough one if you factor in that one climbs 1500m in the morning..... I had some issues with a fear of height back then that had to cured quickly on the final ascend to the peak....
One thing that has irritated me since the first time we climbed Cathedral is the fact that the hotel guides are almost always late, and then sets one heck of a pace early on. This really kills one's legs. I actually had to abort a second attempt (first time with the wife up there) because of the murderous pace set by the guide. A third time this happened again but I took issue with the guide and slowed him right down to manageble pace, to much cheer from the rest of the group as well. We still finished well before sunset so what the heck is the early pace about??? I have since led a group on our own up there for a fourth ascend and it was much more enjoyable to be honest.

First Berg pass was Giant's pass a decade ago with some friends. Luckily these friends were well prepared with good tents and cooking stuff, otherwise I would have been in trouble. Its a steep learning curve as to what nature can do to one out there. This went well despite some bad weather on Day 1.

I believe basic respect for nature is all that's required upfront. If that is present, it will force one to research your requirements before going up there. Rather take a tad too much than a tad too little, suffering an extra kilo or two on the back is much less worse than suffering from hypothermea, illness, dehydration etc.
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21 Sep 2012 07:07 - 21 Sep 2012 07:17 #55300 by ClimbyKel
My first Drakensburg hike was to Lotheni, where we hiked up Hlatimba pass, and down Lotheni pass. I think all my Berg experiences are begining to melt into each other in my mind, but what stands out in my memory the most was that I saw my first Baboon that trip - after only having moved to S. Africa one month prior.

I also hiked with 3 baboons: Intrepid, Warren & Harry!

We got a fair mix of sun with several rain storms on that trip. The passes were challenging but nothing crazy, and I met real Shepphards on top! I do recall a bit of drama on this first trip, as we ran into a sudden brutal wind storm on the first day. This made finding our cave a bit difficult, as I could hardly propel myself forward in the wind, let alone navigate myself up the steep slope leading to our cave!

I also took a nice tumble flat onto my face and scraped myself up a bit. Normally that would be okay, but I was still nursing my bruises until a few weeks leading up to our wedding day.

Oh, the Berg! You can't live with it, you can't live without it. Meeting real sheppards was absolutely the highlight for me!

By the way, my V-E profile picture was taken on that trip.

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Last edit: 21 Sep 2012 07:17 by ClimbyKel. Reason: add pics
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