Solo hiking in the Berg

10 Aug 2011 05:47 #3555 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
So, I had an awesome trip out in the berg this long weekend. Plenty of snow around!

The first day was pretty miserable with rain and snow throughout the day but I bumped into intrepid, Harry & Ruan on their way to the Ship's Prow stream campsite as well. It was great to finally meet you Chris - and good to have some company on that first night.



Due to the overnight snowfall, I was planning on giving Cowl Pass a miss but when I rounded the contour path into the Cowl Fork valley, it looked a whole lot less snowed in than Ships's Prow and I thought I might as well give it a bash.



Due to the main gully being choked with snow and making progress very slow, I soon veered off to the true left banks which I followed all the way to the point where the gully narrows. Here I crossed the gully and headed up the steep grassy slopes on the true right banks. Besides some hair-raisingly steep grass scrambling, this route gives fairly easy access to Cowl Cave which took me about 4.5 hours from the contour path. It was pretty alpine right up at the cave with spindrift blowing around and some patches of waist-deep snow. Cowl Cave itself was full of snow and icicles so I opted for the smaller 1-man version just past the top of the pass which was deeper, more sheltered and much warmer.












The next morining, I struggled to find the traverse across to the other fork as there were no cairns visible with all the snow. It looked pretty dangerous in those conditions too so I went back down the same way I came up.



At one point, bumsliding down a snow gully at about 2500m, I decided to drop my pack ahead of me - unfortunately gravity had other ideas and my pack proceeded to bounce about 100m down the gully with tent and camping mat flying off in the process. Fortunately, none of my gear was damaged! From the bottom of the pass it was a quick cruise around to Blind Man's Corner, where I met my wife and her friends and joined them for the walk down Keartland's Pass to Monk's Cowl - the cottage they had in the valley was much more tempting than another freezing night in the Berg!

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10 Aug 2011 06:41 #3557 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Nice photos! That hike is about 4th on my list of hikes to do soon, Monk's Cowl is such an awesome peak and I'm not a rock climber, so thats the closest I'll come to climbing it...
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10 Aug 2011 06:53 #3559 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Well done Stijn! We were wondering what you were going to do. Twas great meeting you too!

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

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28 Aug 2011 05:58 #3826 by Oneye
Replied by Oneye on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Stijn, did you notice above your shadow on the cloud a slight arc of colour?

It is the spectre of the brocken!

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23 Nov 2011 09:18 #4975 by naasjvr
Replied by naasjvr on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
I hiked the Centenary Hut to Lower Injasuti Cave section and also found no path. Also walked off the GPS track with the contour path. Eventually just went straight down the ridge following the digitized track on my GPS from the MAP. Do you perhaps have a GPS track log of your hike?

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23 Nov 2011 10:39 #4977 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Hi naasjvr

I changed my route for this hike and did not end up doing that section so unfortunately do not have a track log for you. I did try to find the track on Google Earth before the trip (which is very high-res in that area) and there were traces of the old path visible, but it seems that it is no longer maintained.

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12 Jul 2012 14:46 #54615 by Fitness
Replied by Fitness on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
I have a few questions,
Is taking a 2 day 1 night hike in the Garden Castle area safe and advisable?
Secondly can someone give me a reasonable route to take, taking into account that I'd like to get to the top of Rhino on Day 2 and come down either Rhino Pass or Mashai.

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12 Jul 2012 18:39 #54618 by Smurfatefrog
I think your greatest risk is injuring yourself & not having help, although I wouldn't want to sleep on the escarpment alone (I doubt this is in your plan though)

When are you wanting to do this?
I'm trying to convince some co-workers to do Mashai>Rhino>Bollard with me

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12 Jul 2012 19:06 #54619 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Remember that in winter the locals move further down into Lesotho to avoid the extreme cold on the top, so as Smurfatefrog says, your biggest risk is injury (or altitude sickness/any other sickness that stops you from moving).

There's no shortage of passes in the area, if you plan on camping on the escarpment or in a cave near the escarpment you can pretty much do any pass between Thamathu Pass (although you would be starting and finishing at different reserves and thats a hang of a distance to cover) to about Pitseneng Pass. My old failed hike in 2010 was a pretty cool route, and if we had navigated better it would have worked. Head up Mzimude (or Tsepeng) Pass camp in the valley north of the Lequooa ridge, the next morning head over the Mlambonja ridge, kill Thaba Ncgobo (I was about to write "kill the rhino", but considering the stats on rhinos at the moment, that was a poor choice of words, the Zulu name is just as good...) and head down Mashai or Rhino Pass. Just remember that it will be freezing and there will not be a lot of water...

Btw how did your trip with your family go? Did you go up to the Hidden Valley while you were there?

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12 Jul 2012 19:29 #54620 by Selous
Replied by Selous on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Hi Fitness it's a very good question and the answers may vary on this forum and in General.

I have done a few day walks in the lower berg and high berg by myself. More in the lower berg. I have three rules when I go up. Fill out the Mountain Rescue Register with a detailed route, stick to the route no matter what, make sure two other people know your detailed route and expected time back. (My wife and a good hiking friend know that if they have not heard from me by 8pm then they are sound the alarm)

I also make sure that I take a lightweight sleeping bag, bivy bag or Bibler Tent and extra food etc

I know have a young family so I won't go up into the high berg by myself to appease my wife but i stick to my well known lower berg walks and following my 3 Rules again

South Routes
Mashai and Mzimude Pass. Stay in Mzimude cave. This I have done as a day walk in July last year with a mate of mine. (Caution: there was heavy snow in Mzimude Pass and we were sinking up to our knees and waist - do this as a solo walk later in the season)
On the forum the guys were talking about Tsepeng and Bollard Passes. Can't give advice here as I have not done them. I would be cautious in winter again.

North Routes (Will be a mission to make your way back to Garden Castle. Get onto Rd via Castle View Farm)

Mashai and Rhino
Or
Mashai and Verkyker Pass
Or
Mashai and Mzimkhulu Passes
Or
Mashai and Stones Pass
Both the Stones Passes are very easy to come down. This is the one I would do.

Summer and Winter will also come into it. Both have their threats. Summer: Storms, rain and mist. Winter: Cold and snow.
Give me cold and snow any day.

The one thing that I have noticed on day walks is that your senses are more in tuned and you do tend to be more cautious

Have fun, be safe and be careful
Regards
Selous

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