Great Eastern Traverse

01 Mar 2016 19:27 #67241 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Hi Andrew...just some questions. What was the rating of the bag in which you got cold? How cold did it get? Would you say the interior of Lesotho is colder than on the main Drakensberg this time of the year? What was the rating of the bag you were going to continue with? By the way, Elinda and myself were waiting for you on Saturday at the contour path/Elandshoek Pass turnoff. Just joking, we happened to be there and due to the thick mist and wet could not go any further and pitched tent for the night on the contour path. Sunday morning greeted us with magnificent blue skies overlooking a misty KZN Midlands. A pic of our tent spot at the E Hoek turnoff on Sunday morning and the path you and Ghaz planned to go on :)


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02 Mar 2016 07:48 #67245 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Hi Richard

I had a 15 year old +5 degree bag, which I assume is not even that anymore. For some reason, I think that is the bag I used in Twins Cave last year, where I was warm enough. But, then on deeper digging I recall getting cold at Monks Cowl campsite (next to the car) in this bag as well, in late March. So, obviously I did not have the ultra light/thin one at Twins.

Lesson is very simple: for a hike this long, you need something you can look forward to, so I should have taken my -8 as I did for the 5 day GT with Ghaz last year.

Pity we missed meeting you guys up there.
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02 Mar 2016 08:00 - 02 Mar 2016 08:22 #67246 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Day 3:
Back to Afriski (65.2 km, 2533m altitude gain, 6500 calories)
I expected a day of about 40km, so slept in, leaving just after 6am. I left my heavy bag at Afriski and had a tiny day bag that weighed almost nothing! I expected to be back at Afriski about 2pm.

I worked my way up the hill to bag the high peaks behind the resort, Mahlasela. Naturally, they would have 50m prominence from each other, but thanks to the works of man, the raised road through the saddle drops the prominence to 49m 

About here, I told my GPS to follow the route for the day and got a bit of a shock when it indicated I had over 55km to go.

I then followed the same path Kyle and I had used to reach Pitsong a week earlier. Here though, I did a 180 degree turn and dropped steeply into the Motete river. This was flowing swiftly and I had to look hard to find a safe place to cross. No hope of keeping dry feet here.



I worked my way up through vegetation similar to that closer to the escarpment, passing obligatory cows, kraals and shepards along the way.



I finally got back up to 3300m. Since the previous day, I had been looking at Tsepeng, thinking it was huge. Up close it dwarfs anything else. I was about to learn the hard way that each of the high peaks in this part of the world is surrounded by a band of rock 5-10m high. Tricky to break through from below, and annoyingly slow if trying to downclimb.



From here, I could start working my way south, my target being a small but high summit way off in the distance. I first had to cross a number of huge peaks along the way.



Somewhere along the ridge, a dog suddenly appeared out of the bushes in front of me. It had one look at me and bolted, tail between its legs. Had I really been eating that little?

Later, felt more than saw a shadow fly by. A proper look revealed about 50 vultures flying just above me, some of them even hovering briefly in the air a mere 10m away. A lovely sight.

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Last edit: 02 Mar 2016 08:22 by AndrewP.
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02 Mar 2016 08:31 #67247 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Day 3 continued, with more pics

I finally reached my target, a pointy but high peak called Ntsupe. I had lunch (10 provitas which were actually still intact and some cheese wedges). A road runs just below the summits for this portion of the ridge, so I used that to head back north. Near Tsepeng, I then turned east along the ridge to bag more summits. The towers on top of Mahlasela were a long way away and I was heading away from them. Silly.

I bagged several summits along the ridge.



Every direction you look, you see and endless array of ridges and valleys. You really feel wild and remote.



The most interesting thing for me was the kraals. They are built in typical locations tucked behind a north facing cliff and out of the wind, but at an altitude of 3290m, they seem unusually high. One kraal had an army of dogs guarding it. I noticed that the 3 largest dogs were held in place by chains. The puppies ran out and wanted to play. I avoided that as I did not want them following me. They were adorable.

I stumbled upon another dog hidden in the grass that also took one look at me before dashing for cover.

I saw 2 malabalaba boards carved into the rock, both in positions ideal to watch your sheep while your opponent plots his next move.



Shortly after Baneiseng, which is the highest mountain in the area at about 3360m, I came across this chap. He was very talkative and walked with me for about 2km as I was heading towards his kraal anyway. He told me his name, the name of his cow (each of his cows has a name). He tried hard to convince me that he was the only person between here and my finish and that I could safely give all my sweets to him, but I had about 12km to go and did not fall for that one. When that failed, he even asked me for a diamond. Full marks for trying I guess.



My final surprise for the day came a few kilometres short of Afriski. I saw 3 donkeys walking along slowly, and hidden underneath sheets of galvanised iron.

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02 Mar 2016 08:34 - 02 Mar 2016 09:08 #67248 by andrew r
Replied by andrew r on topic Great Eastern Traverse
AndrewP wrote:

Somewhere along the ridge, a dog suddenly appeared out of the bushes in front of me. It had one look at me and bolted, tail between its legs. Had I really been eating that little?

Later, felt more than saw a shadow fly by. A proper look revealed about 50 vultures flying just above me...

I stumbled upon another dog hidden in the grass that also took one look at me before dashing for cover...

Hay, two scared dogs and a flock of vultures following you does indeed suggests you need to up your calorie intake ;)

Makes me think of Mowgli in the Disney version of the Jungle Book:
Mowgli meets the Vultures
Dizzy: "Hold it lads; Look; Look what's comin' our way..."
Flaps: "What in the world is that?"
Buzzy: "What a crazy lookin' buncha bones.."
Dizzy: "Yeah, an' they're all walkin' about by themselves!"


Epic adventure Andrew, thanks for sharing.

make a difference. today.
Last edit: 02 Mar 2016 09:08 by andrew r. Reason: added dialogue
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02 Mar 2016 08:57 #67250 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Day 4:
To Sentinel Car Park (33.1km, 1072m altitude gain)

After a second night in a row with a warm and comfortable nights sleep, I rose early and set off just before it got light.

I backtracked along the jeep track to reach Flat Top, covering the 15km in an easy 3 hours.

Here, I started bagging khulus and saddles again, making my way steadily along the ridge leading initially along the escarpment and then cutting inland to head towards Mont-aux-sources. I finally took the ridge leading to Crows Nest so that I could bag its saddles.
By now though, I had failed to find a way to motivate myself to continue. I came up with all sorts of plans to bounce from KZN campsite to KZN campsite, but all of those involved bushy contour paths instead of the lofty peaks and saddles of the escarpment.

I could also not figure out a way to keep motivated if I knew I was going to get colder each night as my energy levels drop after multiple long days and lack of sleep.

So, it was actually pretty easy to come down the chain ladder. Coming down the mountain with 10 days of food in your bag though is hard.

I managed to work out a sneaky plan via Ghaz to get back to the hills with a warm sleeping bag, but that failed due to lousy weather and a tummy that went wrong somewhere after Witsieshoek.
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02 Mar 2016 11:10 - 02 Mar 2016 11:12 #67256 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Great Eastern Traverse
Thanks for the writeup :thumbsup:

Day 5 - after Andrew took a few days off and made his way to PMB:

2:30AM at Giants Castle, myself, AndrewP and Hobbit were up and about. 3AM we began walking.

After signing the mountain register, we set off up Oribi Ridge. There was intermittent drizzle and plenty of mist about.

Around 4AM, I almost stood on a berg adder.

Around 5:30AM, we reached the old vulture hide where we waited for it to get light and took a breakfast break. We were all feeling rather apathetic!

At about 6:30 we hit the contour path, and turned left towards Highmoor. We were all cold and wet, so about 3 minutes later we turned back.

On the way back, we found (probably the same) berg adder, and found a small tarn.

At 9:30AM, we were back at the car.

Stats for the day:
Total distance: 21km
Total altitude gain: 700m
Total photos taken: 0 (a personal record)
Total view seen: almost nothing

Good training nonetheless :laugh:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
Last edit: 02 Mar 2016 11:12 by ghaznavid.
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