Inner Tower

07 Oct 2021 20:34 - 07 Oct 2021 20:40 #77183 by tonymarshall
Inner Tower was created by tonymarshall
South East Arete climb

On the September long weekend, Neil Margetts, Eddie Harvey (edh on VE but not a frequent contributor) and tonymarshall climbed Inner Tower, a well known peak off the escarpment to the east of the Amphitheatre. 

All being Gautengers, we drove down together in Neil's bakkie on Friday morning, and walked in from Sentinel car park to tent at the stream at the base of Mount Amery on Friday afternoon. On Saturday we did the climb, and returned back to our campsite, where I had left my tent pitched with some of our other things in it (Neil and Eddie used bivvy bags) for the day. On Sunday morning we hiked back out down the chain ladders to the Witch, where Eddie and Neil climbed the Butterfly Ridge route while I waited on the summit for them, and then drove back to Gauteng. 

We did the South East Arete route on Inner Tower, using the RDs from the 1945 MCSA Journal, and the MCSA book 'Rock & Ice Climbs of the Drakensberg, 3rd edition'. After our climb, Neil updated the RD, which I include below for reference. 

INNER TOWER: South East Arete updated
Opening Party: Stanley Rose, Liz Burton and Hans Wongtschowski.
Date: July 1945.
Time: Four hours from the escarpment to the summit.
Walk across from the chain ladder directly towards Mount Amery, over the hill behind the hut and cross Ribbon Falls stream. Keep left near the escarpment to a small valley with a stream just below and to the north of Mount Amery. One can camp here if one is not wanting to climb the Inner Tower from the carpark or the Tugela Falls campsite. Collect water at the stream (no water on the route) and walk up the hill to get to the escarpment edge. About 100m left of a big gulley is a shallow gulley going down. This is about 80m south of the Inner Tower and is marked by a number of cairns. The GPS coordinates of where you go down are as follows: S28.76583 E28.93017 3047m
The gully angles down to the left and you make your way down to the nek of the Inner Tower and the Escarpment. There are chains in place for a 15 abseil into the nek down a chimney. This is bypassed on the return by climbing up a ramp/crack 20m to the right looking up from the nek.
Then follow the standard route to the point where it crosses the south east arete
Pitch 1 E2 10 40m
Start from 5m left of the nek and climb up grass slopes, first a bit left and then right up a ramp to make a last crux move onto a pillar with tat.From the top of the pillar climb up a bit and traverse right across a gap onto a grass ledge. The gap can be made easier by climbing down a bit and up the other side. Continue along the grass ledge about 100m to a flat area at the base of the ridge. This is just before you go around the corner towards the Tooth.
Pitch 2 D 8 20m
Continue up the ridge with 6m of easy scrambling, followed by a 3m shoulder with an awkward projecting rock at the top. A walk leads to the next section, a 5m pillar.
Pitch 3 F1 13 with aid or 16 30m
Climb the 5m pillar either free at 16, or with a shoulder 13 or with a short piece of old rope hanging down over this shoulder to facilitate its ascent. The rope is attached to a very solid peg, the rope was replaced in 2021. (As a social service, future parties should consider taking 5m of old climbing rope along as a replacement.) The next 10m step is more sustained. It is climbed just to the left of the crest. There is a tricky move to the left about 6m up, which is followed by a diagonal traverse back to the right for 3m to the arete. A stance is made next to a large block above.
Pitch 4 C/D 6 20m
The arete now falls back a little and gives 18m of pleasant C/D climbing. Climb up 3m on a ridge and then across an extremely narrow and sensational knife edge to a grass ledge immediately under the unclimbable buttress at the top of the arete. Alternatively, you can reach the same ledge by simply walking up a grass slope below and to the right of the knife edge. This ridge is one of the best parts of the climb.Follow the grass ledge to the left for about 40m to a spot almost directly above the Escarpment / Inner Tower nek and below a 15m face with two bolts. Belay from some rocks just past the face.
Pitch 5 E 12 25m
From the belay walk back 8m and up the obvious line of weakness to the top past two bolts.

Descent. Either reverse the standard route, or make three abseils straight down towards the nek of Inner Tower and Escarpment off chains. First abseil is 60m and 3m scramble, second 30m, and third 36m. One can combine the last two in one 60m abseil but you have to down climb the last 6m.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1945, pg 29. 

The first stage of the climb, is the descent to the nek between the Escarpment and Inner Tower, at the top of Inner Tower Gully. My gps coordinates (WGS84) for the top of the descent gully are S28° 45.974' E28° 55.809' at 3060 m, slightly different to the ones Neil uses in the updated RD. The photo below shows part of this descent, which is not trivial. We hid our packs with most of our things near the top of the descent, and continued with just what we needed for the climb.  



Lower down we abseiled off the chains down the 15 m chimney into Inner Tower Gully, entering the Gully about 5 m from the top (on the Tugela side), right where the first pitch of the Inner Tower climb starts. The photo below shows Eddie abseiling down the chimney.  



Neil led all of the climbing pitches, with me following and Eddie coming up last. The first pitch started up a grass slope, then higher up got into rock and grass.  



In the photo below, Neil ascends the rocky ramp up to the first stance, which is at the end of the ramp, the block at the right of the photo.  



Once we were all up, Eddie and I took the ropes along the ledge. In the photo below, Eddie steps over the gap/crack near the start of the ledge.  

 

Two more photos of the ledge, one looking ahead and one looking back.  

 
 

Once we were at the arete, we were ready to climb up the south east arete route, while for the standard route climbers would continue further along the ledge before climbing up. Eddie and Neil sit at the start of the arete climb in the photo below, with the view to the right showing the other two summits of Inner Tower, the top of Devil's Tooth and a bit of Eastern Buttress at the far right.  

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Last edit: 07 Oct 2021 20:40 by tonymarshall. Reason: Correct formatting
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07 Oct 2021 20:42 - 07 Oct 2021 21:10 #77184 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Inner Tower
Neil leads pitch 2, belayed by Eddie. 

  

Pitch 3 starts with a 5 m pillar, where some early climbers placed a piton at the top and attached a rope to the piton to assist climbers on this awkward section. Neil climbed up standing on my knee, as there was no sign of the rope from beneath. The rope was there, on the piton, but cut or broken shorter, so Neil replaced the rope with a new one we had brought with, and Eddie and I tied it onto a rock at the bottom to prevent the wind blowing it out of reach of climbers. In the photo below Neil continues up pitch 3 after attaching the new rope to the piton, the white rope at the left. 

  

In the photo below I climb up using the new aid rope. (Photo courtesy of edh) 

  

The piton from an earlier ascent with the new rope tied to it. Coming up after me, Eddie was able to climb up without using the aid rope. 

  

A view back down the south east arete. 

  

Pitch 4 starts with the climb up the ridge at the left of the photo below, with the unclimbable buttress behind. The RD gives the option of climbing up the grass slope between the ridge and the buttress, but the grass had been burned and hadn't grown back yet, and the slope of loose sand and ash was less appealing than climbing up the ridge. This pitch was quite easy, so Eddie and I went ahead with the ropes onto the next grass ledge, across the sensational knife edge. 

  

Eddie leads on the grass ledge. We made our next stance at the end of the ledge, using a chockstone in a crack at ground level. 

  

A view back along the ledge, with me on the ledge, and Neil in the background on the sensational knife edge. (Photo courtesy of edh) 

 

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Last edit: 07 Oct 2021 21:10 by tonymarshall. Reason: add photos

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07 Oct 2021 20:47 - 07 Oct 2021 20:56 #77185 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Inner Tower
We had a short break, before Neil led up the final pitch of climbing, about 8 m back along the ledge from our stance.  

 

Once we were all up the final pitch, we left some of the climbing gear there and walked up the grass slope to reach the summit cairn.  

 

We spent some time reading the summit book, and the papers in the old summit tin (see the topic Inner Peek at the climbing history of Inner tower), and took our summit photo, before exploring the summit area a bit, and looking down the standard route.  

 

We placed abseil bolts at the top of the final pitch, which was virtually above the nek with the escarpment, and Neil abseiled down.  

 

Eddie on the first abseil, which was 60 m, to the end of the ropes on a sloping grass ledge.  

 

While we abseiled down, Neil placed bolts for the next abseil, in a block below the grass ledge. We repeated the process, with the second abseil being 30 m, and the third one 36 m, and were back in Inner Tower Gully. We then descended a few metres (to the Tugela side), where we could climb back up a steep grass slope to the escarpment. We roped up, with Eddie leading, me second and Neil last, and climbed up to just above the chimney with the abseil chains. Once on easier terrain, we walked up the grassy slope to retrieve our packs and on to the top of the escarpment. 

From the ascent back up the escarpment, we were able to look across to Inner Tower, and see most of the route we had followed. The first pitch wasn't visible, but the photo below shows most of the route along the grass ledge to the arete, the arete climb, and the first part of the top ledge.  

 

The photo below shows the top grass ledge from the knife edge at the right, to out belay point, and the 5th pitch to the top, with the top part of Eastern Buttress behind in the background.  

 

On our walk out on the next day, I took a photo from the viewpoint near the base of Sentinel, showing the peaks at the eastern end of the Amphitheatre, and a distant perspective of Inner Tower. Two of the three summits of Inner Tower can be seen, but the third summit merges into one of the others and isn't visible.  

 

Thanks to Neil and Eddie for an enjoyable hike and climb.

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Last edit: 07 Oct 2021 20:56 by tonymarshall. Reason: Correct formatting

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12 Oct 2021 14:27 #77192 by wildingo
Replied by wildingo on topic Inner Tower
Legends!
The following user(s) said Thank You: tonymarshall, riaan300

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15 Oct 2021 19:57 - 15 Oct 2021 21:54 #77225 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Inner Tower
In discussing the summit box with Tony, I looked through some of my old photos of this route. I happen to have the entire Knife Edge Pitch (Pitch 4) on GoPro video, which came out quite nicely. The pitch is "knife-edgy" throughout and very fun to climb, but the most spectacular and narrowest part starts at about 6 minutes in to the video.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 15 Oct 2021 21:54 by intrepid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, Stijn, ghaznavid, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, TheRealDave, grae22, wildingo

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16 Oct 2021 12:48 #77226 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Inner Tower
Eish!  I was sweating just watching this..... that has to be the 'knifiest' knife edge I have ever seen

Kudos to you guys !

 

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19 Oct 2021 19:42 #77232 by GetaPix
Replied by GetaPix on topic Inner Tower
Thanks for that. Scary stuff and not for the faint hearted. Trusting those anchors…. Eish
 

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