Caves or tents?

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Poll:Do you prefer sleeping in caves or tents?

28 Jul 2011 08:44 #3443 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Caves or tents?
My main sources of info when I started hiking where berg.co.za and David Bristow's book Best Walks of the Drakensberg. Took a while before I found this forum (and then the become a member function wasn't working so I took forever to acually join).

Top of my list of caves to check out is Upper Injisuthi Cave, I'm hopefully doing it in October this year...

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28 Jul 2011 13:19 #3447 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
Hi ghaznavid

Sounds like my story. Also use Best Walks Drakensburg, Thanks for the site www.berg.co.za . Wow on the face of it it does not seem like much, but more you dig in to it the more really good information you find.
Also had the same problem in registering on the site.

About the caves:
I have had only really two good reasons to stay in the Cave: 1. do not need to carry a tent (risky) and 2. Closer to nature ie you really experience the berg in a cave. Besides this at this stage I still lean towards a tent. Maybe with experience I will change my mind.

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28 Jul 2011 13:49 #3449 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Caves or tents?
i have slept in all 3 (tent, cave and mountain hut), both tents and caves have the same problem, that 1 small rock jabbing you in the side. It really depends on the cave though, eg pillar cave on the route up the rhino is flat, large and well sheltered, pillar cave annex is also flat and well sheltered, but not large. By contrast most caves are unflat, and some aren't as sheltered as you would like. But context is always important, eg many southern berg pass top caves (eg the 3 mzimude caves, the 3 hlatimba caves etc) are very well sheltered, fairly flat and look down the pass, so locals on the escarpment can't see you in the cave. In these areas a tent would not be nearly as good as the cave.

By contrast, if you are hiking up bannerman pass and elect not to stay at bannerman hut, while spare rib cave is well placed (80% of the way up the pass), its reknowned for theft and attacks, its unflat, wet and cold. Although you can't set up a tent on the pass (which is only 3km long so you don't really need to), you can atleast reach the top, hike north past the popple ridge and set up a tent there (although that is too far for 1 day from the car park, but NEVER sleep in a tent or cave between langalibilele and bannerman pass without a night watch). My point being, as one of the previous posts says, when planning a hike, run it past this forum and see what people who have done the hike before think, get their opinions and form your opinions based on experience...

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23 Aug 2011 09:41 - 23 Aug 2011 09:49 #3771 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Caves or tents?

dunmor wrote: The reason this question came up was that:
1. I don't have the experience
2. All over this forum people talk about the caves. No mention of tents

This made me concerned. Why the talk about caves... no mention about tents.

I think people talk a lot about caves here simply cause the Drakensberg is a very special place that has a lot caves and shelters that one can use. You don't find that in many places in the world. It's something we should really appreciate in the Berg (and also look after). Cave-talk is relevant because there are so many of them, and people want to know where to find a particular cave on their hike, how well sheltered they are, if there is water nearby etc. It's important for hike planning. And of course there is something very special about sleeping in a cave, especially the classic ones. You have much more flexibility in where you pitch your tent, than where you can find a cave, hence less discussion needed.

The classic caves aside (that almost everyone enjoys), I find that there are cave people and tent people. I, for one, love caves. I love looking for them, love watching bad weather and lightning from them curled up in my sleeping bag, love the social atmosphere they create (instead of everyone isolated in their tents), love rolling over in my sleeping bag in the mornings and firing up my cooker for coffee while watching the sunrise. I love the wilderness experience and sense of freedom caves offer. I find pitching a tent a lot of faffing, and even worse packing away a wet or iced-up one. I hate condensation build-up inside a tent. And a tent in strong wind is no fun.

Tent people, on the other hand, like the freedom of having a lot of flexibility of where you camp, and the assurance of a shelter. This is valid. They generally don't like the dampness, breeziness and dirt that can be associated with caves. And tents offer them a barrier against snakes and insects.

As much as I love caves, many of them are definitely not the best shelter. In some caves I've been rained on, snowed on, dripped on, wind blasted, sand blasted, flooded, and had mice running across my sleeping mat throughout the night. I've put up with litter and toilet mess (from hikers and smugglers alike), wet floors, and odours from animal dung and carcasses. I've shared caves with rodents, bats, snakes and a variety of insects (hiking buddies aside!). Yet I still love them. I've had many unforgettable experiences of being snug and comfortable in them with howling winds, rain and snow outside, grateful I wasn't in a tent. I've seen unforgettable lightning, sunrises, sunsets, moonlight and clouds below. And many good times with the people I was with. What a joy to enter a cave when you are cold and wet, and you don't have to pitch a tent, and have space to get dry and comfortable. And what a joy to find a cave you've had a long search for, or if you discover an unmarked cave, especially if its barely been used.

Mostly I take a tent along, even if it doesn't get used. This is recommended practice. You never know if you will reach the cave or even find it. You don't always know if it will be occupied, or offer acceptable shelter. The only time I will leave a tent behind is if everyone in the group is strong, fit and loves caves, and has a bivy bag. This along knowing the area well, and where the caves are. This is a special kind of hiking, with a special kind of freedom that I love.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 23 Aug 2011 09:49 by intrepid.

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23 Aug 2011 12:14 #3774 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Caves or tents?
The reason I would choose a cave over a tent every time, regardless of how wet, windy or icy a cave was, is simply the security aspect. In a tent you are a sitting duck. With a torch on in a tent you advertise yourself for miles around. People outside can see you and you have no chance of seeing them. Notsurprisingly, most (all?) attacks on hikers at night that I know of have been on tents. I don't know of a case when people in a cave have been attacked. In a cave its much more of a 50:50 contest. In a tent, you tend to find out when its too late.

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24 Aug 2011 08:13 #3780 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Caves or tents?
I generally feel a little more secure in caves too - no interfering tent flapping noises, and no packs in the vestibule which can be grabbed. In a cave I'll pack my gear at the back of the cave, behind my head. However, some caves have been associated with security issues too - the most notorious is probably Bannerman Cave. The problem is when the shepherds cotton onto the fact they some caves are frequently used, and that if they can surprise or outnumber you, you are a little off guard wrapped up in your sleeping bag.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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24 Aug 2011 11:42 #3789 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Caves or tents?
I agree with Intrepid - in theory one is vulnerable in a cave too if those who are attacking are minded to take you on. But the evidence points to far more frequent attacks on people in tents. For whatever reason the guys don't fancy their chances as much when taking people on in a cave.

Some caves have a relatively steep approach in front of them (e.g. Upper Injasuthi & Crow's Nest) and these must be more difficult to attack than, for example, Twins, or caves which are more 'open plan' and can be approached by flat ground and from both sides. It would certainly take a brave fella to have a go at you in Rolands.

Where tents are particularly vulnerable is when those attacking choose to throw rocks at the tent. In a small 2-person tent, you're more or less guaranteed to be hit. And the attackers will know which end you're going to stick your head out of to find out what is going on. I don't fancy any of that at all.

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24 Aug 2011 11:55 #3790 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
Hi intrepid

Thanks for the great response. Really interesting.
So many people are taking about security issues. This is starting to really worry me. On Friday I’m going up Organs and then crossing to Cockade. Then down Cockade and back to Cathedral Peak Hotel. Now I'm worried, people have been saying that the Organs Pipe pass is prone to security problems. If I'm going to pitch a tent at Organs then where should I pitch it and should I be concerned

Probably should start another thread on this topic, but there is a lot of talk about security problems in this thread

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24 Aug 2011 12:19 #3791 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Caves or tents?
You'd be better off pitching a tent near the top of Cockade - preferably out of sight. I wouldn't pitch one at the top of Organ Pipes or in the valley which leads there from Lesotho.

Best place by far would be Rolands cave although there is a bit of an exposed step to get in to the cave. If you were worried about this, then a short length of rope attached to someone else would probably sort your head out.

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24 Aug 2011 12:21 #3792 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Caves or tents?
I don't think you should be worried dunmor, rather informed and alert. Security topics have been a strong emphasis on this site from the beginning because we felt there was too little talk and information about it, and that with awareness a lot of problems could be avoided. The aim is always to keep people safe while out there, never to stop people from going, nor to create undue negative press for the Berg. Yet we want the facts to be on the table, not under the carpet. People have been put off the Berg because of their trauma and shock from suffering a crime there. Foreign tourists have been affected too (even raped), imagine the negative image of SA caused by that. Perhaps some of these people are saying "If only I had been told about this...". Along with warnings about security (and these will definitely continue), I also want to promote a healthy appreciation for the lovely country Lesotho is, and how fantastic and enjoyable the people can be. And don't let a lot of security talk cloud the fact that many, many a hike has been done with no issues at all.

Have a look at the Drakensberg Security section in the Blogs. Read through some of the articles, especially on Cathedral Peak area - which while I'm on it, is due for an update, this is on my to-do list already. Read through the threads in the security sections in this forum too- lots of facts and insights there - if you have further questions carry on with those on one of the threads.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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