Fangs Rockeries trip report 19 - 22 March 2021

29 Mar 2021 15:39 - 29 Mar 2021 17:05 #76650 by Riaang
 It's been a while since I've last hiked Fangs pass, and I've wanted to hike it again and explore the Black & Tann wall area for a while now. This weekend 4 of us were going to put on our hiking boots to discover new vistas….or so we thought. 

Friday:
We left Gauteng early and arrived at MCC after an uneventful drive down to KZN. Looking at the number of cars at MCC, it was going to be a busy weekend. We kitted up, signed the mountain register and hit the dirt road. Before long we were all sweating (does it ever get cold in Mnweni?) and we were grateful for all the water in the streams. Evidently there had been good rains in the area, and some flooding. On numerous occasions we had to look around to find paths that were washed away by water or landslides. The terrain had surely changed q bit in certain spots. We got to the bottom of Mlambu’s kraal, to be greeted with a pond of sorts, where normally there is only shallow water. By the time we’d hiked through the protea forest and were ready to drop down into the riverbed, we were stopped by a near 3m high vertical cliff. The footpath stopped kinda abruptly. The riverbed seemed wider and deeper than before, with lots of rocks strewn around. Finding the footpath to 5starcave was a non-starter, and we eventually bundu bashed through the riverbed and by chance stumbled upon it. Nice, this should be faster than boulder hopping.We stopped at the spot near the waterfall close to the ridge leading up to Fangs pass, and I found the exact same spot where we camped before. Pitch tent, prepare dinner, kuier, weewee, sleep. 

Saturday morning broke nice and early and I was very happy to see sunshine after the previous nights rainy weather. I wanted to get going early as the sun was going to be hot on the pass. We packed our gear, hoisted our backpacks and set off after taking a couple of nice sunrise shots. Before long the mist rolled in and it became a bit difficult to find our route. I knew the general direction we had to take (up the pass ?), but it’s amazing how different things tend to look in the mist. Before we got to the pass we had to boulder hop up the riverbed for a good while. Mr T took a tumble as a rock slipped out from under his feet, and he was unceremoniously dumped in a mountain pool. He said it wasn’t cold, but I didn’t believe him. I’ve NEVER found a warm pool in the berg, ever!I was still concerned that we were going up the correct gully, and eventually pulled out my gps. It showed we were too far to the right. Huh? Can’t be, the track was on the other side of the mountain ridge. I didn’t check it properly, just assumed it goes under Madonna and her worshippers, but it seems it went to the right of our intended route. Oh well, we’ll just have to wing it, at least I recognized some of the rock formations so I knew we were on the route I have walked before. I’ve never been to Fangs cave and this was to be our sleeping spot for the night. Having looked at the terrain on Google Maps I thought I recognized the rock formation directly opposite the cave’s gully and pointed the group up this gully. Just to be sure I pulled out the gps and yes, it confirmed that this was the correct gully. We got to the cave in no time and made ourselves comfy. It’s not the greatest cave I’ve ever been to, but it had a level floor and ample space for the four of us. I reckon you could fit 6 regular-sized people in easily. Do bring a waterproof groundsheet though as the floor is wet. Not too many drips, fortunately. We needed to get water for the night and so the 3 guys set off to the escarpment to find H20. I remember reading that you can continue up this gully to the escarpment, so I said bye to the wife and started up the steep section to the top. Again, in the thick mist it was a bit difficult to find the correct route, but if you stay on the right-hand side it will lead you to the top. The last 3m is quite steep and in the rain could be slippery. We found water about 500m down, fille dup our bladders and bottles and returned to the cave for an early night. 

Sunday morning:
This was going to be a rather taxing day. The plan was to descend down Ranqwa pass to about 2350m ASL, shoot right, aim for a large boulder above an impressive waterfall and then get back up to the escarpment with the southern gully between B&T Wall and Pins Pass. However, soon after topping out on the escarpment (just above Fangs pass), the mist rolled in and we were, once again, walking in a semi whiteout. Not having done this route before, and not possessing a track for this section, the group decided to leave this route for another time. Getting lost in the fog and possibly rain below the B&T Wall could be a problem, and I wasn’t going to expose Sanet to that. So, what was going to be a rather hard day turned into an easy walk around the cutback to Ledges cave. On the way we met 3 young Basotho herders running past us at full speed. They didn’t even look up to greet us. Neither were they asking for sweeties. I commented that either they were chasing something, or something was chasing them. 5 minutes later we found out what the something was. A much larger group of Basotho’s came running towards us. Apparently the 3 guys had stolen a sheep. Well, it looked like somebody was going to get a hiding today. The larger group took off at full speed and that was the last we saw (or heard) of them. We had an uneventful hike to the cave, and the entire escarpment was once again covered in a white cloud as we approached the cave. Sunny inland, cliff section covered in cloud. Typical summer berg weather. We made ourselves comfortable and spent the rest of the day just kuiering at the cave. As the light began to fade and the temperatures dropped, we made dinner and eventually climbed into our sleeping bags. Apparently the fleas in this area also suffer from the cold, as a couple of them snuggled up to me. Bastards, I’m still itching a week later! 

Monday morning:
We got going bit later today, and found the entire area between Rockeries and Mnweni pass deserted. You would never suspect that half of SA camped on the flat section the previous evening. Clearly some of us need to work on our morning routines or I’m going to have to set the alarm for 4am ?. Once again, the massive rainfall from a few weeks earlier had caused numerous landslides to wipe out sections of the pass. I’ve never seen Rockeries like this, and it was kinda nice to see nature’s raw power on display. Tip: don’t mess with nature, you will lose. We caught up with some of the hiking groups lower down the pass and had a quick chat with them before setting off again. There is this one section lower down the pass where you have to scramble down a sloping rock wall. We got to this section and it kinda looked familiar, but it was much higher than what I recalled. The recent flooding had removed nearly 3m of the soil, and this wall was now a proper wall! Taking care I got down easily and thankfully didn’t slide down the wall of death. I put my pack down as I realized I would have to carry Sanets pack down this section. She had this “deer in the headlights” look on her face. However, after taking a few deep breaths she followed me down and we got to the bottom in no time. From here on it was just a matter of finding the footpath and finishing the 5.3km dirt road back to MCC. We showered, stopped for lunch in Harrismith and got home safe and sound, not too long after sunset.I once again realized that we are privileged to be able to hike in the Drakensberg. Now for that Black and Tan wall.


    
 
 
 
 

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Last edit: 29 Mar 2021 17:05 by Riaang.

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29 Mar 2021 17:31 #76651 by Joe Welman
Riaan I think you should come hiking with me so that you can do the wright ups. Enjoyable read! Curious to hear how the Mweni marathon is gonna go this year after all the landslides.

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30 Mar 2021 11:50 - 30 Mar 2021 11:51 #76657 by Serious tribe
Hi Riaang

Enjoyed the writeup.  Is this the section near the bottom of Rockeries that has gotten more cliff like?  If it is, I understand the trepidation, it was quite iffy b4 any flooding!

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Last edit: 30 Mar 2021 11:51 by Serious tribe.

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30 Mar 2021 12:08 #76658 by Riaang
Hi Serious Tribe,

Nice shot! Yes, that there is the spot. Except that the plants on the right of your photo are gone and the entire wall is smooth. Oh, and the riverbed is roughly 3m lower than before. It's not a difficult section, there are lots of flat spots for your feet. Just go slow and you'll be fine. It could be a different animal in the wet though, or after it's seen some traffic.

 

  

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02 Apr 2021 12:13 #76667 by wespons
Hi Riaang,

Fantastic write up! Thanks for sharing. I just wanted to ask what the condition of the dirt road to MCC is like? Would I be fine in a low vehicle (BMW)?

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06 Apr 2021 09:27 #76674 by Riaang
Hi Wespons,

The road is ok and you can take your BMW, just drive slowly. There are 2 roads to MCC, the one was a bit rockier than the other but both were in fair condition in my opinion. The road we travelled in (coming from the tar road, turn left onto the dirt road and then about 2km further on turn right) had a short section of roadworks that was a bit rough (about 200m), the other road was better (have a look on Google Maps, it's the one from MCC in an easterly direction, the first mentioned route joins this better road).

If my descriptions don't make sense, and the road you are on is too rocky, just turn around and try the other route. However, if going slow you should be fine on either routes.

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