Poachers Stream and Emangqibeni Gorge route to Centenary Hut

06 Nov 2020 17:19 #76275 by wildingo
Hi,

On the old Peter Slingsby map for Central Drakensberg (the lovely tyvek ones), there is route that carries on from Poachers Stream up the valley as an alternative route to the top of the little Berg to Cloudland Col and ultimately Centenary Hut. I have marked it on the uploaded image. This route doesn't appear on the latest map: Giants Castle Monk's Cowl Hiking Map No. 3.

I was wondering if anyone had been on that route lately and what condition the trail is in--and if it is a viable alternative, albeit, longer route to the top of the little Berg?

Talking to Denis the Manager at Injisuthi Camp recently, it seems that route is little used these days. It must be quite spectacular given it proximity to Emangqbeni Gorge.

I'd be keen to hear from anyone with experience of this route.

Thanks

Chris

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08 Nov 2020 15:03 #76279 by Paul J
Hi Chris

We went up this route in May 2019.

It does not appear to be used very often and the trail is a little faint in places - but it is still fairly easy to follow. There are great views across the valley to Emangqibeni Gorge and the three lower valley systems all with waterfalls and caves - which also looks like an interesting area to explore. We saw quite a lot of game and two Martial Eagles in the upper reaches of Poacher's Stream.

The lower section of the branch up Poachers Stream from the Lower Injasuti/Marble Baths Cave path has pretty well vanished. From Injasuti camp you are better off walking across the bridge and heading up the path that zig-zags up the hill on the Eastern Side of Injasuti River (have a look at the present paths drawn onto OSM and satellite overlays below). After the initial zig-zag section up from the river, the path contours for about 500m. Shortly after the turn off up the hill to the ranger's outpost there is a trail that branches left - follow this - it gets more distinct as you go.






As you enter the mouth of the Poacher's Stream valley there is a branch that heads up the steep valley to the left and then up onto the management track leading to Injasuti outpost. The middle section of Poacher's Stream is easy to follow. We chose to break out of the Poacher's Stream Valley by climbing the ridge leading up opposite Emangqibeni Gorge. The Poacher's Stream path continues up on the western side of the stream from here. Once on the escarpment you can easily follow the management track to Centenary Hut branch off.


Poachers Stream mid section


Climb out of Poacher's Stream valley opposite Emangqibeni Gorge to the Injasuti Management Track

Paul

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08 Nov 2020 17:15 #76281 by wildingo
Hi Paul,

Thank you for the reply. It looks like a really nice valley to explore (the caves and waterfalls you mention). I'll update the thread once I done my exploring.

Thanks again.

Chris

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09 Nov 2020 11:24 #76285 by Riaang
Hi Wildingo,

I can give you a partial answer. I hiked a part of your suggested path about what, 5 years ago, and pretty much as soon as you enter the main valley all paths disappear. We did see what looked like a path on the opposite side of the valley, but we stayed on the ranger outpost side of the river as we wanted to go more towards the left. Also, we weren't entirely sure if that path wasn't just a game path, and it disappeared quickly.

Here's what we did, if you want to replicate our route and walk on a path. We went up to Poachers stream, then up towards the head of the valley. Here we crossed the stream and stayed on the left-hand side (true right-hand side) of the river. We continued up the valley until we eventually walked into a dead-end of sorts. You could go forward, which is basically what your route in pink suggests. However, we turned left and went up a very steep section. When I say very steep, I mean it! However, we knew we would find the jeep track from the ranger section on top of this section of mountain, and so we eventually got to it. Note: there is no water here, you will need to carry on till you get to what is left of Centenary hut for water.

Anyway, form here it was fairly easy walking to get to Centenary hut. What was nice is that you approach it from a way different angle as opposed to the usual heartbreak hill. BTW - the climb up from the river to the top of the ranger hut path is way steeper than the gentle incline that is heartbreak hill. Especially when your pack weights over 20kgs and you attempt to do it around noon.

So yes, your route is walkable, but there is no path until you get to the junction with the path we took.

Whichever route you take, it will be fun.

Enjoy!!!

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10 Nov 2020 07:01 - 10 Nov 2020 07:47 #76291 by wildingo
Hi Riaang, (and Paul)

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience! I'll update the thread once I have explored the valley and if I was able to re-discover any "ancient" paths...Yes, it is very dry in that part of the Berg. I was there 3 weeks back--plenty of water at LIC but when I traversed to Centenary Hut all the streams dried up. It was typical Berg weather 30C in the morning, traversing from LIC, and 12C and fog and raining by 4pm that afternoon at Centenary Hut. That's how I came to be interested in the valley in question: next morning, trying to find the trail down to Heartbreak Hill (which I hadn't done before), in the pea soup, I ended up on the Management track. This turned out to be a very easy way back (except for the ladders at the end which are in a state of disrepair***)-- with periodic, scenic glimpses of the valley you hiked up.

***The first ladder is missing the top rungs which gave me pause :-) I've been carrying a length of paracord for ages, but never used it. It came in handy to lower my pack down that first ladder...

Here are a few photos of the trip, including the valley.

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Last edit: 10 Nov 2020 07:47 by JonWells.
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10 Nov 2020 11:02 #76295 by Riaang
Wildingo,

The path that goes down heartbreak hill branches off the main firebrand path, to the left, whereas the firebrand path carries on straight. To describe it more visually:
When you stand on the southernmost corner of Centenary hut, the green water tank will be on your left, and the firebrand track on your right, going up to the contour path behind you (i.e. escarpment side). Simply hop onto the firebrand path and walk away from the escarpment, i.e in a SE direction. Within the first maybe 100m you will notice a path branching out to your left. It's a bit faint here, which is possibly why you missed it. Simply follow this down the hill. It soon becomes very distinct, if within say the first 300m you don't see a distinct path, you're not on it. Hope this helps.
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