Dragon's Wrath 2018
This is the place to gather and discuss all accidents and rescues in the Drakensberg for 2018. The most common are hiking related, though they can also result from other activities such as climbing and paragliding. This thread is inspired by the book "Dragons Wrath" by Reg Pearse & James Byrom, and is an endeavour to continue on in that spirit.
The purpose of this is to:
* concatenate all information about these accidents to keep a concerned Drakensberg community informed;
* express solidarity and concern to those involved in the accidents;
* learn from mistakes made and to heed warnings of risks.
The purpose of this is NOT to:
* criticise or embarrass those involved;
* create media hype about other peoples accidents;
* create undue negative publicity for the Berg.
5 hiking-related deaths in 2008
Dragon's Wrath 2010
Dragon's Wrath 2011
Dragon's Wrath 2012
Dragon's Wrath 2013
Dragon's Wrath 2014
Dragon's Wrath 2015
Dragon's Wrath 2016
Dragon's Wrath 2017
A police chopper is reported to have crashed in the Cathedral Peak area today (1 Jan 18). The chopper was looking for a missing hiker.
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Pietermaritzburg - A hiker from Centurion is feared dead after going missing on Boxing Day in the Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg.
It is understood that Mark Grobler (25) from Pretoria had planned to ascend the route from Mlambonja Valley from Cathedral Peak Hotel, and ascend through the pass to Twins Cave, and then return along the same route.
The Mountain Club Association of South Africa (MCSA) said Grobler had set out with enough supplies for five days, and that he was expected to return on December 29.
“When he failed to return … and his vehicle was found in the car park as recorded on the mountain rescue register, a search operation was initiated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife who deployed an advance search party of Ezemvelo field rangers to follow the planned route,” it said in a statement.
An initial search failed to find Grobler, at which point search teams from the SAPS and the MCSA were roped in.
During the course of an intensified search, an SAPS air wing and private helicopter were deployed to search for Grobler, as well as ground teams. In addition, a 30-strong team from Ezemvelo and MCSA were deployed.
They were also supported by five dogs from the SAPS K9 search-and-rescue team to search through bushy areas.
But one SAPS helicopter crashed on January 1, causing the occupants to sustain minor injuries.
- Read more: Police helicopter crashes in Drakensberg
“In spite of this setback, the search effort was intensified and has continued [on Tuesday] and [Wednesday] with field teams covering the areas of lower probability of Grobler’s location as well as re-searching previously searched areas,” MCSA said.
At the time of writing, all search efforts had not produced any clues, MCSA said.
“In parallel with all the airborne and ground search efforts, the search management has checked cellphone records and Grobler’s mobile phone has not been active on any network since December 26 when he last sent an SMS message before turning the phone off.”
The search team have also been interviewing other hikers to establish more information on his possible whereabouts.
“In the complete absence of any clues, despite intensive searching and combined with the fact that Grobler is now five days overdue, the search management team has to accept that the probability of finding Grobler alive is now very small,” the MCSA noted.
The statement said rescue operators will continue to search in the next few days, and missing person notices will be distributed.
Grobler’s father was not willing to speak to The Witness when contacted on Wednesday night.
Sources involved in the search described Grobler’s disappearance as “baffling”.
According to a source, five police dogs deployed in the search had failed to pick up any scent.
Rescuers did not find any signs of Grobler along any of the three trails he may have followed in the area, “not one piece of clothing or a rucksack”, and he seemed to have vanished without trace.
Search teams were questioning whether he had even set out on the hike as planned.
It is believed that before setting out, a hotel employee had warned Grobler that it was risky to hike alone in the Berg.
The weather on the Tuesday when he planned to set off was described as “a bit misty”.
Update on Search for Mark Grobler
The search team received further information from a hiking party that had ascended the escarpment from Mnweni Valley. This indicated that Mark had been in Twins Cave and intended to hike the Bell Traverse and return.
A SAAF Oryx was planned to be in the area for recovery of the crashed SAP helicopter. This made it possible to deploy a team of 3 SAP K9 dog Search and Rescue teams and 4 MCSA Rescue team members.
The team overnighted in Twins Cave which enabled them to do a thorough search of the area around Twins Cave, the Bell Traverse and the Mlambonja Pass. Unfortunately no trace of Mark Grobler has been found.
The family are devastated by the loss and would like to include the following message.
"Mark was an Engineering Geologist on the brink of a promising career. He was passionate about the Drakensberg and enjoyed hiking there. As a family we are heartbroken. We have beautiful memories. We would like to thank all the rescuers involved in the search. They put in an enormous effort."
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
Our intended itinerary was in the opposite direction to the one Mark had planned – Sherman’s Cave – Cathedral Peak Plateau - Bell Traverse - Twins Cave – Mlambonja Pass. However, after coping successfully with the Bell Traverse Gulch Gully and the sketchy sections around the base of the Bell, I turned my group around at the exposed ledge with a heart-stopping drop somewhere below the Chessmen/Mitre fearing it too dangerous – especially in misty wet conditions with a heavy pack.
I can’t help feeling Mark may have come short somewhere along this bit (if he did indeed end up taking the Bell Traverse from Twins) though granted there are hundreds of possibilities of what could have happened. I would like to caution others attempting the Bell Traverse, specifically those (like me) who don’t have heads for heights and climbing experience. It is of course a most beautiful and exhilarating pass.
What a nightmare this must be for the Grobler family – wishing them lots of love and strength and hats off to the brave and tireless search party team for their efforts to help bring closure.
Strange to go up Malambonja to twins, down the Bell traverse and then backtrack along the route to return to Twins.
For one, I don't think that the dangers are highlighted clearly at all and people don't know what they don't know so I think that each access point with permits should have proper communication in place...