Mponjwane climb and a Rockeries - Mnweni loop.

17 Apr 2016 17:32 #67863 by Viking
Over the Easter weekend myself, Macc and Jess did a Rockeries – Mnweni pass loop with a climb of Mponjwane peak’s standard route. We spent all three nights in Mponjwane Cave.
We drove in to the MCC early on Friday morning and were greeted by a cloudy scene totally obscuring the view of the high berg but with parts of the little berg visible. On one particular stretch of the dirt road we were faced with the view on the photo below. It is not that clear in the photo but the only part of the high berg peeping out through a small gap in the cloud was our mission for the weeked: Mponjwane! Now if one is inclined to believe in omens, which I am not, this would certainly be a good one!



After signing the register etc, we were soon on our way up the road heading along the Ntonjelana river. Our packs were heavily laden but it was early days and there was still a spring in our step and a lot of chatter.



Once we had passed the bridge it was interesting to note the difference in the level of crops and vegetation between out last trip in late December and this one. What had been fallow fields and ankle high scrub three months ago was now barely recognisable as head high bush and crops.

Some local cash crops well hidden among the grass:


The day wore on and the milder conditions of the morning were soon replaced by heat and humidity. We plodded on fairly slowly and ended up racing the light up the final parts Rockeries pass.




We got to the cave after a full 12 hours of hiking (and resting), having taken only 6 hours to descend from the cave in December. It was cold and windy and we were tired and hungry. Our water levels were not sufficient for climbing the next day so after collecting a few litres from a very slow drip we decided to head for bed and the promise of a day off.

The Saturday was spent roaming the escarpment between Mponjwane and Ledgers caves, collecting water, watching vultures, relaxing in the sun and checking out part of the approach gully down to the start of the climb. We also scrambled the free stander to the SE of the cave. It was a very rare and pleasant experience having a whole day off mid-hike and we certainly made the most of it.

Checking out Mponj


The nesting Vultures


The view down the Mponjwane ridge with the Needles in the background. Please note the large pinnacle which is clearly lacking a summit cairn. :P

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

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17 Apr 2016 17:39 #67864 by Viking
One of my favourite photos from the weekend, not for its quality of image but for a thought inadvertently captured.
Macc in the foreground wearing an earnest expression; the following days climb looming large in his mind and in even larger in the background.


Macc and Jess collecting water – teamwork making the task slightly easier



On Sunday Macc and myself left the cave at 4:30 to start our approach to the base of the climb. It was cold and windy and remained so all day. We headed towards scramble which is at the neck between the escarpment and the free stander mentioned above.

The free stander in question


The scramble down involves one or two technical moves but is not difficult and we were soon in the gully that separates Mponjwane and the free stander from the escarpment. This gully is steep and has a lot of loose rocks in it. This is made a bit more interesting whilst negotiating it via head-lamp. We continued down the gulley and then up the other side to reach the worm hole. From the worm hole we continued further down towards the start of the climb.

Looking back at the gully leading up to the scramble


Looking up to the worm-hole from the Mponjwane side


Looking down the final gully towards the start of the climb


We reached the base of the climb in the dark and waited for first light before we started climbing.

The climb was long, cold, windy and in the shade until the 7th pitch. There were no major incidents and we made slow but steady progress to reach the summit at some time after 3:00pm. We signed the book, had a quick bite and then taking a leaf out of intrepids climb, we simul-abbed back down which saved us quite a lot of time. (I will do a more detailed write-up of the actual climb in the Mponjwane thread)

Macc reaching the stance at the top of the 3rd pitch.


The view back to the cave from the top of pitch 4


Jessica watching our progress


Mark is the lower red dot belaying me leading the 6th pitch

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

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17 Apr 2016 17:45 - 17 Apr 2016 17:48 #67865 by Viking
The first time we felt the sun – below the 7th pitch.


Mark body belaying me up the final scramble – I am roughly at the point of the top abseil chains


Our summit book entry. You will note that some climbers like to write essays in the book (wonder who that was :P )


The two of us simul-abbing – we are at the second set of chains. 5 abseils to go!


After touching down we made our way back up the gullies and the scramble, reaching the escarpment in the dark.

The next day (Monday) we packed up and set off at around 8:30am. We returned to the MCC via Mnweni Pass for a bit of variety and change of scenery. It was another very hot day and we sweated our way down! At some point after the Protea forests, Macc took a couple of tumbles, twisting both his ankles in the process. Luckily he was able to continue. We got back to the MCC at dusk. Four days well spent in the mountains!

Heading to the top of the pass


Looking back up Mnweni Pass early in the descent.


Contouring out of the gully


Making out way through the long grass lower down. It was over head height at one stage.


The view we had missed due to mist in December


The final look back


For the full 300 photo FB album please go here

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

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Last edit: 17 Apr 2016 17:48 by Viking.

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18 Apr 2016 10:21 #67873 by Riaang
@Viking, what was the level of the rivers like, both on the way up Rockeries and down Mnweni? I was there about 5 weeks ago and we had to go through literally waist deep water, which was pretty difficult to get through. No rock hopping for us, we had to wade through every crossing, taking off boots, putting on boots etc etc.

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18 Apr 2016 10:48 #67874 by Viking
@Riaang we were able to make the crossings (3 in total I think) without taking off boots.
Obviously where you cross makes a difference.

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18 Apr 2016 11:00 #67875 by ghaznavid
Thanks for the writeup, looking forward to the bit about the climb :thumbsup:

That gully to get to Mponjwane - do you have more photos of it? I believe Mponjwane has been done from below via the same gully, so presumably this is actually passable route to the escarpment. For arguement sake, Mponjwane Pass. Anyone know if this route has been done continuously from the Small Berg to the escarpment?

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18 Apr 2016 11:10 #67876 by Macc

ghaznavid wrote: so presumably this is actually passable route to the escarpment.


I thought the same thing whilst on it...it is very loose at the top and very steep but from the base of the climb looking down it looked like it would go. Obviously looking from above we couldn't see any potential drop offs though.

"The three rules of mountaineering: It’s always further, taller and harder than it looks."

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18 Apr 2016 11:12 #67877 by Riaang
Thanks @Viking :-)

We had 4 up Mnweni and two down Rockeries, but it also depends on which route you take. Very happy to hear that the level of the river is dropping a bit, wouldn't want to do the Mnweni Marathon in May with full rivers - wastes a LOT of time wading through water, taking of boots, drying feet, putting boots on again etc. etc.

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18 Apr 2016 11:41 #67878 by Viking

ghaznavid wrote:
I believe Mponjwane has been done from below via the same gully, so presumably this is actually passable route to the escarpment.


It would be passable. intrepid and NM climbed Mponj from below so they'd be best placed to describe the low approach.

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19 Apr 2016 14:25 #67890 by Neil Margetts
Hi Ghaz

Last year this time, Intrepid, Andrew P and I did the first ascent of the "Baby' Mponj which is featured in your 8th photo where there was a comment of a missing summit cairn. We should have built a bigger cairn, but there was no cairn when we got there, we were def the first. This was about 6 pitches and grade 15/16.

After this we did the inner Mnweni Needle and after Intrepid and I did Mponj, and it possibly looks like our entry was the last one before Viking's entry.

We descended down the gully all the way to the Mnweni Pass path, the route is not at all technical, just bushy and lots of boulder hopping.

Neil
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