Bollard Pass

24 Sep 2011 09:31 #4146 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Bollard Pass
These are some images from Waterfall Cave. I will send some others of the interior in a few days time.

The shadows are our version of cave shadow art.

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24 Sep 2011 12:13 #4147 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Bollard Pass
Thanks for the pics ST, I recognise that rock formation in the second photo, its that funny unnamed rock just past Swiman Rock (on the other side of Grimm's Castle), do you have a pic from the outside looking at it? The only pic of mine I can find that looks like where I expect that cave to be is the following:

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25 Sep 2011 10:03 #4149 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Bollard Pass
I will scan an image tomorrow and put it on the site. I think that it is close to this feature.

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26 Sep 2011 01:42 - 26 Sep 2011 02:37 #4155 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Bollard Pass
Here is a shot from the outside looking in at ST2 getting comfortable ensconced. Not long after this, he fell asleep and almost slept through the biggest hailstorm that I have ever experienced. It was not the very loud thunder that was continuously roaring through the cave, but rather my insistent arm tugging that finally dragged him out of his slumber to look at the hail cascading down Grimm's Castle. Excuse the quality of the shot, I had to shoot a slide with my digital camera on my lightbox.

Also the rock sangers that can be seen, were the result of a race. After we had got cleaned up down at the river, and were sitting in the cave with nothing to do, I, as is usually the case got bored and suggested that we have a race to build the walls on each side of our sleeping areas. It became a construction race, the likes of which I don't think the berg has ever seen.

Perhaps we should call the cave Serious Tribe Cave (STC for short) to avoid any confusion with the other Waterfall Cave in the Mweni.

I have also added a screen shot from GE to better get an idea of the caves location.

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Last edit: 26 Sep 2011 02:37 by Serious tribe.
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20 Jun 2014 18:31 #61114 by Cave Man
Replied by Cave Man on topic Bollard Pass
Hi All,

Has anybody got any decent information on bollard pass, stealth cave and mashai peak, thinking of going up that way in a month or 2, but the info i can find on it is scarce, or perhaps im just looking in the wrong places.

my plan is to go up bollard pass, summit mashai and overnight in stealth cave. yet i am not quite sure on the terrain or the grade of the pass itself? if anyone has any information i would really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance

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20 Jun 2014 20:12 #61115 by Smurfatefrog

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21 Jun 2014 14:43 #61117 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Bollard Pass
I haven't done Bollard Pass (yet), but I have done Mashai Peak twice.

Note with the approach to Bollard Pass - you pass Sleeping Beauty Cave and the trail kind of disappears under a small waterfall (ice this time of year). If you go straight you are in for a rough time - below the waterfall follow the little stream to the main river, climb the bank on the other side of the river and you'll find a trail through to Engagement Cave. From there the approach is easy.

Mashai Peak is an awesome one - it was the first khulu that I repeated, and one of only 2 I have done twice. To get to the top from Bollard Pass - find a locals trail from near the top of the pass and walk around the base of Bollard Peak (has a really awesome view - but pick your line carefully at the top as you may be facing a 600m drop if you go up the wrong side - its also a real slog to get up, but well worth it). Zig-zag up the bank to the saddle between Mashai and Tspeneg, the saddle is narrow and around 3275m. From the south (Mizumde valley) side follow the base of the cliff back towards the escarpment edge. You will see an obvious narrow point where the rock is about half a metre high. Jump up there and follow the narrow ridge to the high point.

Budget for at least an hour up and 45 minutes down to get between the top of the pass and the summit. Bollard from the trail below is a good hour detour minimum if you get up quickly. Khulus in this part of the Berg aren't the Mickey Mouse things we are used to further north (e.g. you can bag Potterill, Bond and Erskine in a day from the car park).

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23 Oct 2014 10:03 - 23 Oct 2014 10:06 #62154 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Bollard Pass
Reading up on this old thread in preparation for the planned trip up Bollard Pass this weekend. This is a photo from my Dec 2012 hike (Tsepeng to Mashai Pass via Sleeping Beauty Cave), if I am correct, the features of the pass are as follows:

If I am correct, it looks like its best to follow the south slope till the open book, then follow the gully to the top.

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Last edit: 23 Oct 2014 10:06 by ghaznavid.

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27 Oct 2014 18:37 #62176 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Bollard Pass
The day the Dragon fought back

One of the first lessons that the Dragon taught me was this: no matter how many times you fight the Dragon, you will never defeat it – all you can do is live to fight another day.

So this is a story of how a hike can go from being exactly according to plan to being stuck on a ledge doing an overnight bivy in the space of around 5 minutes.

Our plan was pretty straightforward – head to Garden Castle on Friday around midday, hike up Bollard Pass on Saturday morning, traverse to the top of Mashai Pass with bagging Wilson, Matebeng and Mlambonja on the way. Sunday morning we would bag Rhino and cross the Verkyker Ridge with the goal of dropping down Verkyker Pass and traversing back to the car park. On paper it’s an easy route, no long days or extreme passes, I had done all of the route (aside from Bollard Pass) before, had GPS tracks for the entire route – I was confident this was going to go well.

Myself, Fitness and Hobbit left the car park and made our way up past the Monk and Sleeping Beauty Cave. For the first time I actually knew where the trail went from the waterfall behind Sleeping Beauty Cave to Engagement Cave (after coming down this way when we did Wilson’s Pass in December). We checked out Engagement Cave along the way. It was very hot, so we were finding ourselves to be pretty drained – but it was an easy day.

We pitched tents near the base of the pass around 2450m.

The weather forecast had shown rain from around midday on Saturday, so we wanted to at least be above the crux by then. Having read the reports on VE and looked at every photo on hand a few times before the hike, I knew that the hard part was getting to Stealth Cave. We also knew that the pass would be unsafe if wet – so the goal was to reach the cave before the area got wet.

We packed everything up and began walking around 6AM. The weather was perfect – there was some mist around 2200m, but we were well above that. We filled our bottles and began the slog. We hoped to be on top by midday, but it’s always hard to judge how long a pass will take.

Our goal was to stay near the river on the flattest ground available until we neared the lower waterfall. We wanted our feet to be in good order for the tricky middle of the pass. This was done by carefully choosing which side of the river to stay on and crossing where necessary.

The weather was perfect, the surrounding grass was dry, although more on the crumbly side – but one way or another, I thought to myself that the odds of me ever getting better conditions to do this pass are slim.

As we approached the first waterfall we identified our line to avoid it by taking the south slope. This bank was very steep and often exposed, but didn’t seem too bad. We hit a spot probably around 2800m where I was unsure of a line, so I dropped my pack, went ahead and found the higher less exposed line to be good enough. I needed to down climb it to get my pack, but half way down I realised how exposed it was. No problem, Simon tied in the pack, threw the end of the rope up and I hauled it up. This is probably the steepest grass ledge I have ever ascended.

In retrospect this was the point where we had really committed to ascent. I imagine at least half of the readers of the report right now are internally criticising me for this, but the reality is that we were repeating a pass that has seen quite a few ascents, weather was perfect and we had no reason to think we wouldn’t reach the summit. On a first ascent of a pass one should never get into a committed position that they cannot reverse, but this was not a first ascent, nor was it a climb up a pass that we knew nothing about. It was by no means the first time I have committed to a pass knowing that the safest way out of the pass is through the summit – and it won’t be the last. If you wish to never be committed to a route, you should never go anywhere without phone signal (so that includes most of Giant’s Castle) and you probably shouldn’t ever be more than 3km from the nearest car park. In cricket the batsman who doesn’t commit to the shot usually bats around number 11, the soldier who doesn’t commit to the commands on the battlefield is likely to have a few extra holes in his body. We all know the old saying about rugby and half-hearted tackles.

Above this grass scramble I could see the roof of Stealth Cave and could see the open book. The good news was that the open book was short and looked easy enough. We grass-scrambled up to it. We dropped our packs, I took out my 10m 6mm access chord, and climbed it. I am not very clued up on rock climbing grades – having never done anything harder than 13 on sport or 12 on trad. The first move was quite similar to the crux move on the Impossible Slab (12 - sport) at Rumdoodle, Kloof Gorge, but the remaining moves where relatively straightforward. I’ll put it this way – I am a very nervous climber, but I got up this with little hesitation, so it can’t be harder than a D. After the 3rd move you are back on grass anyway – it is very short.

I hauled the packs up, then Simon soloed it. I threw a sling down with the chord for Mike so that he could use a sling harness to protect the climb. He probably needed it less than either of us, and was up in no time.

We all sat down in Stealth Cave for an hour. I knew the worst of the pass was over. From Stealth Cave it’s a doddle, I knew we had this one.

During our hour long break I walked around the ledge at altitude with the cave, there was a rocky arête that looked unsafe between us and the gully, so I made a call that we should take the lower ledge (just above the Open Book cliff line).

When we eventually started walking again, we followed the lower ledge, but we saw it practically disappeared just before the pass gully. It didn’t look safe and had over 20m of exposure (or so it seemed from where I was standing). We agreed that it wasn’t worth chancing it, and the ledge that we had been aiming for was a short scramble up what looked like good rock. So we did the scramble. I looked at the pass gully and noticed that there was quite a drop off between us and the gully. I told the guys to sit and wait while I looked around. I scrambled the grass slope above us, it was very exposed and we would have to haul packs again, but the grass slope above it wasn’t any closer to the gully, and the cliff between the gully and the slope was just getting bigger, and the grass slope more exposed. With the mist that had rolled in, I couldn’t see if we could connect this grass bank to the top. I was of the opinion that we probably could – but fortunately Simon was the voice of reason on this occasion. He basically pointed out that once our packs are up there, we won’t get back down to this level, and there is no guarantee that it won’t be more exposed the higher we get.

So I looked to see if you could make use of the rope, slings, belay device and biners that I was carrying to get down into the gully. I eventually came to the conclusion that the only option would be to jump. But I could only get to about 2m from where the rock disappears, and from there it would be another 3m. I also couldn’t see what I would land on and it was right next to a large waterfall. So to summarise – I was not willing to jump 5m onto what might have been sharp pointy rocks or loose/slippery ground that could have ended in me falling down a waterfall. We knew we couldn’t down climb the bank to get back to Stealth Cave, and even if we could get back to the cave, it would just be nicer accommodation, we would have needed a full length rope to get from the cave to the bottom of the pass. This meant, quite simply, we were stuck.

So after spending an hour trying to figure this one out, I tried phoning anyone whose number I had that had done the pass. No luck. So I phoned the mountain rescue number – as Simon pointed out, that was our only way off the mountain. Now what most people probably won’t know is that when you phone mountain rescue you get the department of health. After hanging up and trying again they put me through to the right people. Eventually Gavin tried to phone me back, and after a few calls not working very well we started to communicate via sms. I told him we would be able to survive the night, and he told me to expect a rescue team on Sunday morning.

We gave them our altitude, GPS co-ords, how we got to where we were, a description of where we were, colour of tent, who was in the team etc.

We knew we had to survive the night, and the biggest risk was hypothermia, and possibly dehydration – but that unlikely as we did still have about 2 litres between the 3 of us.

It was starting to drizzle, so we took my tent outer and used some pegs to attach it near the rock wall (pegs bashed into gaps in the rock by Mike – he has become very good at handling these kind of situations in recent years). Simon and I made sure that the structure wouldn’t blow away, we used our trekking poles to hold the roof up, and climbed under with our packs.

It rained for a while. When it stopped for a short while, myself and Simon jumped out, got out my tent outer and used the snow flap loops to connect the 2 outers together. Thus allowed us to move the packs to the lower cover (which was also heavily pegged as we were quite vulnerable to wind), and we were able to sit through the next round of rain with a much greater degree of comfort.

But as time wore on the rock behind us was becoming more of a stream. Water was pooling on the outer, we managed to collect more than 2 litres from this. So the next break in rain, myself and Simon scouted out the flattest spot we could find (about a 30 degree slope) and pitched a tent as quickly as we could. We then got everything into the tents as it began to rain again. It was cramped and the tent was getting pulled at funny angles. The frame was also under great strain.

When the rain stopped the next time, we got out and adjusted the outer a second time, but this break in rain lasted about 2 minutes, so we were soon back in the tent, and watching the rain drip through the one window that would normally not be pointing straight up.

The next gap in rain must have been close to 7PM, it was getting dark quickly. The tent had already moved a lot, we agreed that it probably wouldn’t slide the 5 metres that would get us to the top of the nearby cliff, but we knew we couldn’t move much in the tent if we wanted this to work. The ground was very soft and the pegs weren’t really helpful. So for this final rain break we tied the outer to the inner, re-pegged all the guys and poles, the corners that kept coming out had guys attached to them and we built a stone wall at the bottom of the tent to stop it from moving as much. We also put rocks on some of the pegs.

We were now back in the tent, 3 people squashed in a 2 man tent on a steep slope. If I lay down with my head near the top of the tent, it felt like I was sitting in a Lazy-Boy chair.

I knew we wouldn’t sleep well, so the MP3 player came out and I listened to a few chapters of Children of Hurin – incidentally the really boring chapters about Mim the Dwarf.

I think I slept quite well considering, but it was a long night. Even with the water dripping in and the inner frame doors not closing due to the disfiguration caused by the slope, the tent was nice and toasty. I had lost my food and was quite badly dehydrated.

Around 6AM I sms-ed Gavin with an update about the team (shame, I’m sure he wanted to sleep on this Sunday morning) – he replied that the team was on their way. We didn’t know if they were heading up Mashia and coming down or if they were approaching from above. Around 7AM, Paul Roth (the leader of the rescue team) smsed me that they were on their way. I smsed him with an update on how we were doing and that we would use a space blanket to increase our visibility.

It was very cold and wet outside, where we had taken shelter at first was now a waterfall, so a good thing we moved!

We got out of the tent around 9AM and packed our packs, but we didn’t take the tent down in case it started raining again. Unfortunately our spot didn’t have great visibility from the pass – so we used rocks to put 2 space blankets on the cliff above us.

Around 10:30 we heard what was clearly human whistling (we heard plenty of human sounding whistles, but these where probably birds – we did reply to every human sounding whistle we heard). I now realise that a whistle is better than a person whistling as it sounds quite different.

As they began to shout and we could hear them, we put a 3rd space blanket on a trekking pole and began to wave it around – the saw it. As it turned out they were at Stealth Cave, we had been waiting for them in the gully below.

We packed up the tent and prepared to leave. My food bag that had gone missing was literally under the middle of the tent – that is how much the tent had moved! Credit has to be given to the designer of these tents, the fact that we only had a few leaks when the entire frame was being held out of shape is actually really impressive. Can’t fault the manufacturers when you pitch a tent in such a spot.

The rescue team set up a double rope for a front and back belay and each of us went around the arête we had declined the previous day. In retrospect this was a great call as the rock was loose and the exposure was bad. Paul joked that Mike was trying to show us all up – he did the traverse very quickly and without hesitation.

At the end of this section we sat in Stealth Cave and considered our options. We thought it would be quickest to head up the pass and down Mashai Pass, the rescue team disagreed (and in the end turned out to be correct). We were all lowered down the open book. First 1 rescue team member, then all the packs, then everyone else. While I was being lowered I heard a sound and turned around to watch my backpack rolling for a few hundred metres (probably about 60m vertical) before it fell into the riverbed. My camera and GPS would probably be broken, but as long as we could all get out without injury – this would be a small price to pay. (For the record – the only casualties of the fall in the end were my plastic plate and my biners)

We down-climbed the steep grassy bank, and Mike (from the rescue team) collected my pack for me – it was surprisingly dry for something that had sat in a riverbed for close to an hour by that point. All looked ok, and I didn’t have the time to see if it was ok inside.

We entered the riverbed between the 2 waterfalls, and then abseiled down the lower waterfall. The team suggested that we go ahead – it had been drizzling for hours and we were all rather wet, more so after having to abseil down a waterfall (we took the grass slope to the right for the top main section, but had to cross the river and go down the river course for the final few metres). We were cold and wet, but had agreed to keep going till the car park without a break. None of us had had more than a few biscuits to eat during the entire day.

On Thursday I had bought a new rain coat from Bush ‘n Bundu – Cesar had recommended a Sprayway jacket, apparently it is a new brand in SA. The jacket is heavy (about 600g), but he had told me it was very good. A big thumbs up to Cesar, because it worked really well.

So the 3 of us slowly walked down the rock bed before the ground became grassy and easy once more. We did not stop, eventually passing the spot where we had camped on Friday night. Simon reminded me that I had remarked that we would be camping on better ground on Saturday night when we left this spot – how ironic life is sometimes!

We eventually picked up the trail, the river had swelled substantially making the section behind Sleeping Beauty Cave an interesting experience. By now water was already in all our shoes, so we really didn’t care.

As we passed Sleeping Beauty Cave the rescue team caught up with us. We kept going until we reached the car park just after 6PM.

It had been a hectic day, but we had safely returned. Words cannot describe the degree of gratitude we have for everyone who was involved in the rescue. There was no safe way out of the situation we had been in.

As for Bollard Pass, I rate it as a proper rock technical pass – in the same league as what I would expect from Injisuthi Pass and Hilton Pass. I have a great deal of respect for the likes of Intrepid and Elinda for being able to do routes like this, but we all have a limit of what we are able to do. I cannot stress enough to people considering this pass – if you are not competent and experienced with rock climbing, don’t even try this pass. I would recommend taking up at least one 50m rope.

Paul (the leader of the rescue) is a professional mountain guide who specialises in the Southern Berg. He doesn’t think this pass is safe for use. I would not recommend trying this pass without at least a 50m rope and a trad rack.

I am not one to admit defeat easily, but the Dragon won this round. I am just very happy that everyone (including the entire rescue team) got home safely. I have run the scenarios through my mind, I cannot see any way in which this hike could have ended any better. I can think of many ways it could have gone worse.

Photos to follow shortly.
The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian, JonWells, Selous, Smurfatefrog, Sabine, pfoj, Fitness, AdrianT, Dillon, andrew r

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27 Oct 2014 20:18 #62178 by Fitness
Replied by Fitness on topic Bollard Pass
Great write up, felt like I was back there all over again :blink:
I must make comment that at no time did I ever feel we were being reckless choosing the lines we did.
You know I think the saying "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" is to true for this, we are all now wiser for the situation we got into and I think we handled the event really well.
Ghaz I must make comment that you are a great hike leader who is thorough and mindful.
I look forward to our next challenge.

Saturday morning sunrise from 2450m

Camp site

Looking up Bollard, with Hobbit (Mike) in picture

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