Fangs - Rockeries Trip Report

20 Jul 2017 20:55 #71902 by jgdvm
On Friday 14 July 2017 at 15:00 we departed from Pretoria for the Mnweni Hiking and Cultural Centre. We arrived at the Centre around 23:00 after picking up our last friend in Midrand. The hospitality was strikingly friendly and good as the Mnweni Village hostess showed us our room and welcomed us even at such a late time. The room was tidy and neat with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a backpackers village. We knew this was going to be our last night of decent sleep and we planned to make the most of it.

The next morning, we all opted for a last quick warm shower since we knew it was going to be the last comfort for the next 3 days. We met our local guide and briefed him about the planned route, initially he looked quite sceptical but confirmed that it was doable if we were fit enough. The planned route was to hike up fangs pass, spend one night on the escarpment and hike down rockeries. In hindsight I understand why he was quite the sceptic on the route or rather the timeline! But never the less we got everything together and we were off at around 8:00.

Day one target was to reach an overnight spot just before Fangs Pass, at the waterfall where the Fangs and Mbundini gully meet. The distance to cover was about 19.6km. The hike started good and we maintained a sturdy pace, the initial gravel road is a bit depressing as some already mentioned on the forum. With the cold front that was expected to hit the Drakensberg Sunday night, an increase in wind speeds was felt as we progressed deeper into the mountain. The gusts were so bad at times that one of our group members were literally blown of their feet. We followed the Mnweni river all the way to where the Fangs valley branched off and hiked up the valley to reach our overnight spot. There was a fairly established trail that one can follow all the way up to where the Fangs valley and Mbundini valley meet, the distance is around 3.2km and the elevation gain is around 450m. We arrived at the campspot at 15:30. The ground was rather rocky and sloped close to the river; a few meters further over the next small climb we found a nice patch of grass to set up camp. With the river running strong closeby and the view down the valley to five star cave and to the opposite side up Fangs Pass and Mbundini Pass we were in for a breath-taking sunset and evening. After sunset the wind calmed and the temperature dropped to about 14degC. The view up to the sky boasted with glistering stars and we dozed off to regain strength for day 2, tackling what would be one of the hardest days in the Berg for all of us.

Day two started early as one of the group members battled coping with the not so soft luxury grass bed and started the morning with a breakfast and three cups of hot chocolate at 3 am. We then dozed off for about an hour more before the others rose, had breakfast and broke camp. We loaded our packs and were on the way to Fangs pass by 7:15. The path started with a nice uphill onto the right embankment of the valley and then dropped down into the river to start with rock hopping all the way to the foot of fangs pass. We all enjoyed the rather challenging rock hopping section and made good progress. We reached the top of Fangs pass at 12:30, completing the climb in just more than 5 hours. Our legs felt the fatigue by now and we opted to have a snack while lying flat on our backs recovering for what was another 16.5km lying ahead. The last section of Fangs was rather steep and your footing had to be good before you took each step. With some strength regained we started with the second part of day two. We had to reach the beginning of the Orange river, past the Mnweni cutback en route to Rockeries pass. This stretch was proving the hardest on the hike so far. The wind was freezing and our legs tiring. Once we saddled the last hill opening up the view over the cutback we were momentarily startled and then struck by reality with yet at least an hour or even more walk to the camping spot. Pushing through, only now walking by involuntary movements, minds tired legs cramping and feet sore we reached the camping spot right before sunset, 17:30. With the last sun rays greeting over the hills toward the now behind us Mnweni cutback the temperature dropped fast to reach 4 degC and a minimum measured at -13deg C when we woke up at 5 am. Who knows what it was during the night, guessing from the cold complaints by the group probably even less.

Rising on day three, with us now fully at the mercy of the cold front, we had to break camp in negative temperatures. This again proved the worth of decent gloves!! By 08:00 we were on our way to rockeries pass. We still had to go down the pass, out of the valley and hike the odd 5 km on the gravel road back to Mnweni Cultural Village and drive back to Pretoria. The descent went well and by 11:00 we had the worst dusted. We continued finishing the dreadful 5km dirt road and reached the village, after a full 23km on day three, tired but healed. It does not matter how hard the effort or steep the hike, the Drakensberg will always teach you to be humble, show you the greatness of our God and prove to you to that you can reach all the heights you set your mind to. This trip surely was one to remember, a great challenge, great friends and the best of time spend!!

Route Detail:

Days – 3
Total Distance – 58 km
Total Hiking Time – 15.5 hrs
Total Elevation Gain – 4200m

Technical After Thoughts:

In reflection as a fairly green group to a Drakensberg expedition this was an unbelievable experience. For some it was the first and others only the second Drakensberg hike, but still all has fallen utterly and completely in love with the berg. The route should have been done over 4 days instead of 3, we pushed limits and our own boundaries to complete this trip. But, never the less it was a transcending experience and should be tackled by any person longing for an adventure.

What is next:
We shall seek another route and continue exploring the great Drakensberg to its fullest…
If you have a nice 4/3 day circular route to suggest, please do so!

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18 Dec 2018 15:30 - 18 Dec 2018 15:57 #74393 by Smurfatefrog
On Friday night 6 of us camped at Mnweni Cultural Centre so we could have an early start to our Fangs > Rockeries loop.
The goal for day 1 was Fangs Cave, so at 6am we were ready to start the walk in along the road.
Just as we were moving our cars to the parking area a taxi arrived... so we got ourselves a good deal on a lift for the 4km stretch to the Mnweni bridge!
As I got out the taxi and starting walking I realised my hiking pole was in the boot of my car... anyway, not a major problem.

It was a warm day in the valley!

We arrived at 5 Star Cave for our 1st proper break and some relief from the sun just before 10am, it was however not such a pleasant sight!

The obligatory waterfall/Fangs pic

We had made good time and hoped to reach Fangs cave by mid-afternoon, however the boulder hopping section just did not seem to end, and when it did the grass slopes felt like they were at 60 degrees!
One of our group was struggling as well, so we shared about 8+kg of his load. The breaks though were welcomed by all.
Water dried up around the 2600m mark so we filled up here with enough for the night


Heading up the side gully to Fangs Cave, arriving at 16:30

We had mist and rain for a short period that night, but otherwise the weather treated us very well for day 1 

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Last edit: 18 Dec 2018 15:57 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Richard Hunt, relihanm

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18 Dec 2018 15:50 - 18 Dec 2018 16:02 #74394 by Smurfatefrog
Day 2 started with a steep ascent of the last 80m with a short scramble right at the top to reach the escarpment
We headed straight down to the river to re-hydrate properly, or as best we could, before continuing south.

Team pic (Michaela, Scott, Mike, Michael, Merv, Kirsty)

Mnweni Needles, Mponjwane, Mnweni Pinnacles, with Cathedral Peak and the North Saddle at the back

We had lunch at the top of Mnweni Pass, before a swim in the mighty Orange river which was flowing quite nicely, then headed to Ledges Cave by 1pm for a lazy afternoon

A couple guys arrived on mountain bikes after heading up Mnweni Pass, they were going down Rockeries the next day! As expected, they said they mostly pushed/carried their bikes and will not be doing it again.
They left their bikes with us in the cave and found a small overhang around the corner to stay in, while another group tented just above the cave.
And no, I did not set up my tent in the cave

The afternoon was spent on the Annual Mnweni handstand Olympics, and the Michael lookalike compo

That evening a storm raged well down in KZN providing us with some awesome viewing, luckily it never made it to us and we had a calm night.

Day 3 we were off by 6am and down Rockeries, this was the hottest day of the weekend with any shade on offer being taken.

At 10:25 we were in the blazing heat, at 10:30 we were in a storm!
We motored to the end of the trail to reach the road by 11am, ready for a last push along the road in the rain.
At the end of the road was a shiny new bakkie... we enquired about the owner and 2 minutes later we were being shuttled back to the Cultural Centre! We really got lucky here as the wind started to pick up as well which would've made the walk out rather miserable!

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Last edit: 18 Dec 2018 16:02 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, Stijn, JonWells, hikingle, tonymarshall, Richard Hunt, Andreas, relihanm

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19 Dec 2018 04:44 #74397 by HenkSeevinck
Nice trip report Smurfatefrog, that is quite a nice loop to do.

How random is two cyclist on the Mnweni Cutback :-D, I would not have expected anybody to attempt that, kudo's for them.


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