Berg Alert 2016

26 Apr 2016 16:29 #68000 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Berg Alert 2016
I think that Stephens no1 is the most important. Tent away from main paths, kind of hide yourselves....I suppose easier with one or two tents. Tenting on high ground, choosing a more difficult to approach spot makes sense. Being aware of the surroundings will give you the upper hand.
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26 Apr 2016 16:34 #68001 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Berg Alert 2016
I would say high ground is worse as you can be seen at a distance. I have often been forced to camp in sight of kraals or locals, but I generally try to make friends with the people when this happens.

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26 Apr 2016 18:24 #68006 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Berg Alert 2016
@ghaznavid.....I did not say tent on a high place for all to see!! but tent higher up the slopes (not exposed in the bottom of an open valley for all to see) and of course hidden as I mentioned if possible....and maybe tenting right next to a kraal would be the safest with the owners permission, and as a guest he would protect you at all costs....this is an African way..just a thought if all else fails :eek:
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26 Apr 2016 19:52 - 26 Apr 2016 23:53 #68007 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Berg Alert 2016
First off I wish to express my sadness at the incident and my sympathy to the victims. I hope you have a quick recovery and that you are able to fully process what has happened to you. I also hope that this will not keep you away from the Berg.

It is difficult to know to what extent there is a new trend in this area since not all incidents are reported, and strangely enough the exact details and interpretations of some some incidents in the Berg are not even that clear. To have a mugging incident such as occurred last year, and an aggressive attack like this so close together, is definitely felt among the Berg hiking community and is very unsettling. There have been dark periods of this nature before in Berg history as has been pointed out earlier in this thread. This particular incident doesn't necessarily mean that the whole Berg is going to go this route, and history has shown us that things can settle down again.

Some of the shepherds responsible for one of several bad attacks at Giant's Castle in the 2005/2006 period did in fact stand trial in Lesotho. It is speculative, but this might be why we haven't seen incidents of this nature in that area since. This I believe is a key strategy in combating the problem. While the policing and judicial system may leave a lot to be desired, it can work, and we should insist that it does. Never be apathetic in reporting even a very minor incident to EKZNW, and if a crime has been committed always file a report with the police, regardless of what the attitude of the individual may be who is taking your statement. Insist on it, and even follow up on it. At the very least we need proper statistics of what it going on in the Berg. Without this it is difficult to justify more resources towards combating the problem. Bear in mind that there is a cross-border co-operation between the police and the conservation authorities of both countries. Please also report incidents on this forum, even if you heard it through the grape-vine and don't have all the facts. These reports are a vital gauge for people heading out there. The aim is never to frighten people away from the Berg, rather to help everyone make informed decisions that will help them enjoy the Berg.

As has been pointed out, please do be very careful, informed and properly skilled in how you choose to defend yourself along the escarpment, as things that happen across the border can become very complicated, even if you are innocent. Also bear in mind that this should not be seen as a reflection on the Basotho nation.

Take note of VE's specific advisory for the Ampthitheatre area. It was written in 2007 but is still accurate. However I think a revision is now in order.
www.vertical-endeavour.com/blog/20-drakensberg/security/16-amphitheatre-hotspot-for-theft.html

Camping along the Khubedu has always discouraged in the advisory. I have never felt totally at ease about the Bilanjil area, and the advisory reflects this. It is better than camping right at the Falls, but it is still too close and the same shepherds are well aware that hikers camp there too. It is also very visible, especially if you are walking to the Falls from the kraals along the Khubedu. Some may consider the Bilanjil area to be OK, but in light of the seriousness of this recent incident I will be updating the advisory to reflect that camping at Bilanjil is not recommended at all (i.e. it is a "red" area). Naturally people are free to debate this and have their own opinion, it is ultimately only an advisory as with anything - but this will be VE's official recommendation. I am not sure what to think about Ribbon Falls, so I would consider it to be an "orange" area, and would recommend that you go a bit further South, over the ridge and camp at the base of Mt Amery. I also consider the valleys connecting Ifidi and Icidi Passes with the Khubedu to be "red" areas, since there have been incidents even partway up these valleys. Rather camp in or near Ifidi and Icidi Caves (i.e. at the head of these valleys). Bear in mind that these are only areas of relative safety. I have encountered Basotho at Icidi Cave in the dead of winter in freezing weather.

Safe travels to everyone!

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 26 Apr 2016 23:53 by intrepid.
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26 Apr 2016 21:43 - 26 Apr 2016 21:44 #68008 by LouisvV
Replied by LouisvV on topic Berg Alert 2016
Not good at all. Difficult to enjoy your hike when you must be in a constant state of vigilance. No more sleeping at night I guess. A lot of friends that I'm getting into hiking in the Berg will be put off by this, especially with the state of things happening in our own country. Very sad news indeed, and this just after that beautiful timelapse sequence that has been doing the rounds on the net recently...

:angry:
Last edit: 26 Apr 2016 21:44 by LouisvV. Reason: Edit

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27 Apr 2016 02:16 #68011 by Jody MB
Replied by Jody MB on topic Berg Alert 2016
Good Evening.

I was one of the 3 guys on the hike that was attacked recently. I firstly want to thank Stephen Richert, Conservation Mgr of RNNP, and his amazing team of rangers.You guys where nothing less than amazing, and we will forever be thankful to you and your team. And to Brenda from Witsieshoek for sending your guides to help, and for feeding us and trips to the hospital. I can tell you from the start, it was nothing like i ever experienced or would even dream of something that vicious happening to us. The 3 of us are really lucky to be alive. my friend Dave has the worse of the injuries, he is still in a very bad way, he has been taken back to hospital and from the scans they have discovered he has a depressed scull fracture and has had blurry vision in his one eye. I am still waiting to find out the full result as they are waiting for a neurosurgeon. he also has to have surgery on his left hand to fix his 3 fingers. I was hit in the head and bitten by the dogs on my back, and am now going through the rabies treatment for the next couple weeks, my other friend Cameron has massive welts all over his body with serious bruising, between the 3 of us we got hit, counting the marks over 16 times from rocks and knobkerries... Its really sad as we had been dreaming and planing this trip for a very long time and had spent lots of money on gear and food, only for it all to end on our first night..... we where lucky enough to come out with our shoes and few cloths we were able to scrounge before retreating and hiding in the mountains till first light, other than that, everything was taken.... It started off with them throwing rocks at the tents, and as we tried to come out they hit us with knobkerries, we knew we had to get out of the tent as the rocks started coming through, so we rushed them which pushed them back for a bit but then the rock throwing became unreal, they had clearly collected rocks before they attacked as they came faster than pullets. they kept coming closer and the dogs had surrounded us and kept on trying to bite us, after going down from a hit one of the dogs ran up and bit me on my back. Dave managed to pepper spray on of the one guys and the dog, but not without taking a rock and knobkerrie to his head, we kept shouting why and to please stop, all they said was, money. after the pepper-spray we managed to get a gap and we said to each other grab what we can and get out as fast as we could. we crossed the river and walked for many hours to get away as we could still hear the dogs. i have never been so scared in all my life, i really thought we where going to lose our lives that night..... it might sound like im being over dramatic, but i can assure you it was not joke, they where ready to kill us for our stuff, and the 3 of us have no doubt of that, the striking of the knobkerries where only aimed at our heads and with some serious force behind it. Im only writing this so that its made aware of how violent they are becoming. We had 3 young basuthos asking us for money straight off the bat, as we climbed the chain ladders. I can only wish that more could be done to aid Stephan and his team. there is only so much he can do and we need to help him, this needs to be sorted out before someone is killed..... We go to the mountains to get away from the crazy lives we have to live already, but this now too has been taken away from us, i cant see us attempting the Grand Traverse anytime soon, dont like the fact that we now have to worry about our lives when trying to be out in those beautiful mountains..... When we walked back to the car park with the rangers, we came across a family with 2 young kids out for a over night, which is great to see, but after those parents had seen us come down full of blood and bashed up, i dont think they will be doing that again.... this is truly sad.. Stephen i wish you all the best and i cant thank you enough for your guys efforts. We will be happy to assist and do what ever we can to make it safer for everyone to enjoy those mountain. I hope someday we can attempt this amazing trip again, but until i hear from Stephan that he is getting the help and support he needs, think ill stick to day hikes....Thanks again to all.
Regards Jody Main-Baillie. Cameron McLean and Dave Moldenhauer

Im sure Dave and Cameron will have a little say as well. Just so we can get more awareness on this issues Stephan is faced with.

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27 Apr 2016 05:35 - 27 Apr 2016 06:00 #68012 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Berg Alert 2016
Hi Jody

On behalf of this forum I would like to commiserate and to send our sympathies to you, Dave and Cameron. This has to be the worst way to spend a few days out in the mountains.

It is indeed place of solace for all of us here on this forum and to feel threatened in this way is not right. :thumbsdown: :thumbsdown: :thumbsdown:

Thanx for the report, it must be traumatic to have to relive these details.

Are you happy to answer a few questions as regards to the area that this incident occurred.

The initial two bits of information given by Ranger mentioned the following.

'On the 24th of April 2016 at around 01h00, a group of three South African hikers who were camping on a path junction in the valley leading up to Fangs Pass, were attacked by three Basutho males with dogs. One of the party sustained serious injuries and police dockets are being opened. Authorities are investigating the matter. The current modus operandi of the individuals at the Amphitheatre area is as follows'....

The hikers who were attacked were camping on the Kubedu River directly in line with Icidi Pass, so not strictly in the Amphitheatre area

Could we clarify near which pass the incident took place, Fangs or Icidi?

The next few questions are not attempt to minimise the ferocity of the attack, or your ability to deal with it, more of how can we be more prepared to deal with this if it happens to us.

Did you all have hiking poles and how many of you had pepper spray?

A silly question, but did you guys have headlamps, or handheld torches? Two hands to defend while being able to see could be useful knowledge to have.

Also of interest, was that the incident took place two days after the full moon, which rose at 19:30 and set at 08:15. They would have been able to see you guys a mile off, and would have made planning and coordinating an attack much easier for them.

Just a thought, perhaps it is best to plan escarpment trips on or near the new moon, which makes visibility more difficult for attackers.

Once again, we are all sorry this has happened to you guys, and we hope that Dave recovers physically, and all of you emotionally as well.
Last edit: 27 Apr 2016 06:00 by Serious tribe.

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27 Apr 2016 06:46 #68013 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Berg Alert 2016
Hi Jody, so sorry to hear of this terrible attack. The hiking community is shocked at what happened to you guys and it has punctured us at our core!! Thank goodness you survived and were able to escape this ordeal. Great to hear about the amazing people who rallied behind and assisted you. Also thanks for coming onto this forum and openly sharing with us....we can all learn from what happened and would be grateful if you could share with us and advise us on any safety issues we can employ for the future. We sincerely wish both you, Dave and Cameron a speedy recovery and strength for the future. Thanks
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27 Apr 2016 06:58 - 27 Apr 2016 07:02 #68014 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Berg Alert 2016
Jody, Cameron and Dave, this is a terrible incident and we are shocked and outraged! We are grateful that you survived! Thank you for sharing the details as these are incredibly important to us. Kudos to all that assisted, and I have always been very appreciative of the efforts of Stephen Richerts and EKZNW in this area.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 27 Apr 2016 07:02 by intrepid.
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27 Apr 2016 07:02 #68015 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Berg Alert 2016
I had a look at the various incidents that have made it onto this forum since 2010. This was to check my full moon hypothesis.

Here are the results. All the night incidents occurred between 2-6 days after the full moon. 3 out of the five were in April, one in March and the other in July.

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