Dragon's Wrath 2019
Dave wrote: This is very sad to read. Commendations to MCSA Search & Rescue, EKZNW, and SAPS for their dedication.
Perhaps it wouldn't be indiscreet to offer a reflection on judgement here, because presumably, having ascended on the path, she must have known she was off track on the way down. A similar thing happened to me descending Tsepeng Pass, when I knew that I'd missed the exit onto the slopes (because of mist) but figured I could carry on down the gully. At a certain point I saw that I couldn't and that I'd have to re-ascend, yet I still felt a reluctance to back-track and was still eyeing the evidently treacherous, wet ledges in the hope that some overlooked route would suddenly appear. And I think this risky thinking, especially when one is tired - that if I can just get down this one obstacle, rather than go all the way back up, then the descent will be so much quicker and easier - this risky thinking can be a dangerous psychological trap, particularly if one is also disorientated because of mist or darkness as well as feeling anxious or fearful. We can't know exactly what happened here, but my heart goes out to her.
Very well said. Whatever the reason it is very sad to read this sort of thing and yes mistakes can easily happen when we're tired. Having personally been down that gulley at night (we had been hiking for 11 or 12 hours already that day) I can attest that the boulder choke (one massive rock the width of the gulley) well down the gulley is massive. I could not even get to the edge of it to shine my torch over because it is that steep (and slippery), so we tossed stones over and judged by the time taken about a 10 metre drop, maybe more. Above this is already a very steep section required scrambling down the true left. Andy Birkett is as far as I know the only person to have gone beyond this boulder choke (with ropes) and said, never again. He had a Wordpress site and the article was called Mountain Madness but the blog is no longer. It also had pictures and their descent was during daylight and also, in error. When I posted that I had missed the turn off a few VE members also noted that they had missed the turnoff before heading down Grays. My only hope is that anyone reading this can take extra care to not repeat what some of us have done.
Below is how far we got down. The GPS not getting good readings down there:
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We shouldn't assume that she continued straight down the gully.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”