4 days in the Mnweni: A Fangs - Rockeries loop.

19 Jan 2016 13:42 - 19 Jan 2016 14:19 #66555 by Viking
We had planned to do this 4 day loop in the 2014 Christmas break, but threat of huge rains caused us to cancel it.

Our plan for the four days was to make it from the MCC to at least 5 Star Cave for night one and then ascend Fangs pass and camp in the vicinity of Rwanqa/Black and Tan wall for night two. We hoped to spend night three in Mponjwane cave and return via Rockeries Pass on day four.

So on Boxing Day of 2015, we (mark_mctaggart, Jess McTaggart and I) arrived at a cool and misty Cultural Centre and after paying for our permits we set off down the road, splash covers and rain jackets on, happy to finally be putting the plans of more than a year ago into action.
We were soon off the road and winding our way up the short hill and then soon afterwards past the last homesteads and herds of livestock. The ground was wet but streams and rivers low. The weather stayed cool and misty for the rest of the day with intermittent drizzle. We took a few short breaks and reached 5 Star cave in time to have lunch, which consisted of leftover Christmas dinner! We also decided that as everything outside was wet; we’d stay at the cave for the night.
After a quick visit to the upper cave and having collected water from the Mbundini stream, we settled in for a pleasant evening which brought a few short showers but no major down-pours. Our gps read 17kms for the day, which is interesting as the VE U13 – MCC track shows 14 odd kms. (Edit I have just seen the elevation profile for our track and that shows 14.7km)

Day two was to be a bit shorter in distance but certainly tougher and longer in time than day one, so we set off early after a good breakfast and were soon making our way through the long wet grass en-route to our first break at the waterfall. It was already very hot so we took a swim at the waterfall and tried to dry out our trousers and socks which had seemingly collected the dew of the entire valley.

From the waterfall our speed was much slower as we started up the ridge past the dagga field and then dropped into the bushwhacking and boulder hopping sections before finally breaking out onto the steep grass slopes. It was very hot and the going was slow. Our last water was at around the 2500/2600m mark and we filled up here.

After summiting we turned south and started contouring toward Rwanqa. We passed a number of shepherds and their livestock and asked some of them about the water situation – they pointed down to the valley below where we could see some pools that didn’t look like they were flowing.
Due to the number of shepherds we could see and the fact that we needed to start finding a campsite, we decided to take a break and have something to eat at the pools till it got a bit later and hopefully by then the shepherds would have started moving off for the evening.
In our tired state, we didn’t fill up with water immediately and while we were lazing next to the pools someone remarked that they thought they heard thunder. Well the thunder turned out to be the thundering of hooves as droves of sheep were headed toward us, well I say us because it took a while for us to realise they were coming for their last drink of the day- at the very pool we hoped to fill up at. Well it was too late to do anything so we watched them all drink their fill and eventually move on. We had no choice but to fill up after them, but as we were going to treat this water anyway, we were not that upset about it in the end.

While we were sitting at the pool an older chap (older than any shepherd I’d met before) with grey hair and only three teeth came over to us. He was wearing a yellow high-viz safety jacket, had a red and white pair of Oakley’s in his hand and was accompanied by three good looking albeit slightly thin dogs. We greeted him with “Dumelang” and then also “Sawubona” as we didn’t get an immediate reply. He eventually replied with” Dumelang” and when he got closer he promptly gave us a lesson in Sotho greetings – in fluent English, which went something like this: “Dumela is a Sotho greeting which one can use at any time of the day”. He wasn’t being rude about it but merely sharing his knowledge to visitors and we certainly appreciated it.
We went on to have a long discussion with him about various topics, including the “standing cairns” which he says is to fool Jackals into thinking there are more Shepherds around. He also asked for a contact for a 4x4 “dif” because he couldn’t get one in Lesotho. He mentioned too that he had come across a bunch of hikers earlier in the day who were really battling and they had asked him for help getting off the mountain. He said that he had lent them 2 horses and a 2 of his people to get them to what I can only guess would be Mnweni or Rockeries Pass – he had a seSotho name for the pass but I don’t remember it, nor was it familiar to me. Whilst discussing this situation I pulled out my map and when he saw what I was doing, he pulled out his reading glasses from a case buried inside his jacket and we pored over the map together. He could read English pretty well, but wasn’t familiar with any of the names on it.
After asking us for a light for his single cigarette, he bade us farewell and continued down the valley, so ending a chance, yet incredibly remarkably encounter.

We then started up the valley in search of a camp-spot, which we found not far up the stream coming off Rwanqa. It was well hidden and the valley was empty by the time we headed up there. We did see the old guy’s two people and their horses heading home at last light.
The night passed without incident and temperature got down to 1.5degC. The day’s gps track showed just shy of 11kms. (10.3kms on the plotted track)

Day three was another hot day as we made our way to Mponjwane cave roughly following the GT track. Early on we saw a guided trip collecting water at the pools we had used the evening before and during the day we kept passing the porters as they raced ahead and then rested for an extended period. Around the hanging valleys they took a much faster line and dropped down into the Senqu valley far ahead of us. We took a high contouring route around the hanging valley staying on the Escarpment side for the view. The porters took a route on the Lesotho side.

We had planned to visit the top of Mnweni pass and then take a circular route along the edge of the Ncedamabutho headland to the cave, but after visiting Mnweni pass and then collecting water from a pool close by, which, it must be said, is the dodgiest pool I have ever used for drinking water, the clouds started looking threatening and the thunder was rumbling over the cutback, so we headed straight up to the cave.
The threatening storm didn’t amount to much and there was a brief passing shower, after which we spent time exploring near the cave as well as the gulley down to the first Rockery tower.
Our track for the day showed 14kms. (13kms on the plotted track) The night was not as cold as the previous one but was rather windy.
There were also major lightning storms over KZN which we watched for hours.

Day 4 was simply a hike down Rockeries pass and out via the road. It was another very hot day but we made decent time getting back to the MCC in 6hrs 50mins which included a detour to have one last look out over the cutback before we headed down the pass. The only real water that I remember being close to the path was the stream at around 2500m, the one which is pouring out of a hole in the side of the mountain. Our final gps tally for the day read 19kms exactly. (17.7kms on the plotted track)

The only negative of the day and the entire hike for me and I feel it needs mentioning, was the asking for sweets by the kids and even some adults in the Ntonjelana valley. I must add that we did not give a single sweet, mainly because every single child we greeted returned our greeting not with a wave and “Sawubona” but with that familiar cry of “sweeeet” or the more demanding “give me sweet”. In fact only one adult returned our greeting with anything more than a half-hearted wave.

The negative aside, this was a fantastic hike in what is hands-down the most beautiful and unique area of the berg for my money, with Fangs pass by far the most scenic I have done.

I will attach a few photographs below, all of which are posted with the kind permission of Mark and Jess. My phone was broken so I did not take a single pic. (Don’t climb McLeod’s chimney with your phone in your pocket the week beforean exceptionally scenic hike)

For the full 300 odd Facebook photo album please follow the link below:


www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10208406817987070&type=1&l=2c4afc776e

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
Last edit: 19 Jan 2016 14:19 by Viking.
The following user(s) said Thank You: JonWells, ghaznavid, LouisvV, Smurfatefrog, ChrisPatient, Richard Hunt, Macc, saros, Papa Dragon

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19 Jan 2016 14:12 #66558 by Viking















“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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19 Jan 2016 14:14 #66559 by Viking















“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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19 Jan 2016 14:17 #66561 by Viking













“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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19 Jan 2016 14:36 #66563 by ghaznavid

Viking wrote:

Did that view get your climbing shoes itching?

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19 Jan 2016 14:52 #66564 by Viking

ghaznavid wrote: Did that view get your climbing shoes itching?


It really did hey! I could hear them calling all the way from PMB!
Mark and I spend ages discussing the lines and other climbing related topics at a number of places!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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20 Jan 2016 13:30 #66596 by eisbein
Stunning photos Viking! I completely share your sentiments with regards to the Basotho shepherds and their attitude with asking for food. I experienced exactly the same in that area during december. I can only assume that they must be having tough times up there with the water situation

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20 Jan 2016 13:39 #66597 by Viking
@eisbein

Thanks re photos, but none of them are mine.

I have no problem giving food to somebody, especially somebody that is in need. Nor do I have a problem inviting someone to share a meal with me.
I do have a problem with the demanding of sweets though but I don't really want to get into it here.

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
The following user(s) said Thank You: saros, eisbein

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