A Walk up Lions Ridge - Amphitheatre

17 Jun 2014 18:03 - 23 Jun 2014 20:35 #61096 by elinda
I have often looked out at Lion Ridge from Thendele Hutted camp and thought that it would make an interesting day hike. This is the long ridge that runs parallel to, and rises steeply up on the other side of the Tugela and has the Lion Head on one end while the other end meets with the foot of the Eastern Buttress. It is marked on the Parks Board maps and from Intrepid’s write ups I know that this is the route that climbers mostly take when wanting to access Devils Tooth and Gully. Richard and I camped at Mahai this last long weekend and decided to take a walk up along the ridge and enjoy the views. (Incidentally a big thumbs up to Parks Board for the spotless ablution blocks at Mahai Camp site) We set out from the car park for the Tugela Gorge trail in a very strong gusting wind which did not let up the entire day. We crossed the Tugela River, which is extremely dry and made our way up the bank on the other side, barely making out a vague path as the grass had recently been burnt. We eventually picked up a trail that led us up to the old Game Guard huts and from there you keep ascending, following the boundary fence until it runs into the sandstone cliffs. Here we crossed the fence and out of RNNP territory and on to AmaZizi land. Shortly after this we came across a lovely large cave, which does have a Zulu name (Intrepid perhaps you can enlighten us?) but for now I will just call it ‘Lion Cave’. Pretty sheltered and although there was a small drip coming over the front of the cave, in summer there should be a lot more water. There are indications that people have stayed here given the fire and ashes and sadly the ‘artwork’ on the cave walls. We continued working our way upwards and then ascended a steep grassy slope along the firebreak which has also been burnt. Here we were pretty exposed and at the mercy of the wind which was vicious in its intensity at times. We were rewarded with spectacular views once we reached the top of the ridge, in front of us the firebreak heading away and up towards the foot of the Eastern Buttress. Apparently where the ridge meets the Eastern Buttress is the start of the route called ‘Lionheart’ which has only ever been climbed twice. I can see why as it looks very intimidating I have to say! On our left are the valleys of the Obanjaneni (which neighbours the Busingatha area) and to our right and dominating the scene, the massive wall of the Amphitheatre. It’s very impressive seen from this view point and the views quite breath-taking. We had our lunch on the slightly more sheltered side of the ridge overlooking the Obanjaneni and observed literally hundreds of cattle trails on the contours of the hills below. Those cows can get places, as evidenced by the dung on the high ridge on which we were sitting. We decided it was not worth going any further as the views would not be changing that much and the wind was as determined as ever to make life unpleasant, so returned the way we had come up. If you want a day hike that is away from the day trippers that usually frequent the Gorge Walk, this is an interesting and scenic alternative and offers a different view of the Amphitheatre wall and surrounds. Thanks to Intrepid for his advice and information on the route.


"Lion Cave"












Game Guard Huts

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Last edit: 23 Jun 2014 20:35 by intrepid. Reason: Fixed broken image tag

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18 Jun 2014 19:16 #61103 by Stockhausen
Thanks for this trip report. We did this route in August - it is spectacular and a really great day walk. I love walks where you get close to the escarpment and really "feel" the power and majesty of the Berg - this is one such walk. Do you know what height you climbed to? The ridge walk doesn't have a clearly defined start and finish.

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19 Jun 2014 18:09 #61112 by elinda
Hi Stockhausen

The main ridge tops out at just over 2000m (which is as far as went ) . Yes, the ridge walk is not clearly defined at all, on our return route we took the path heading down from the Game Guard Hut which takes you to the river - and then disappears. There are no cairns or definite path from here onwards and we ended up boulder hopping back down the river and made our exit at the carpark

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21 Jun 2014 22:32 - 21 Jun 2014 22:33 #61118 by intrepid
Thanks for the write up and the pics. I love how dramatic Sentinel is from this angle!

elinda wrote: Shortly after this we came across a lovely large cave, which does have a Zulu name (Intrepid perhaps you can enlighten us?)

I have managed to get confirmation that the name is Emvakwenthaba.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 21 Jun 2014 22:33 by intrepid.

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22 Jun 2014 18:43 #61120 by Richard Hunt
Wondering what "emvakwe" means, will ask the zulu chaps tomorrow! Just past Emvakwenthaba Cave (100m) is another cave but did not have time to explore it (see photo)...... there was a narrow but accessible ledge heading into it. The path going up was between the 2 caves.

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23 Jun 2014 09:22 - 23 Jun 2014 09:24 #61124 by tiska
'Emva' means 'after'.
kwe is a preposition I think.
Last edit: 23 Jun 2014 09:24 by tiska.

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23 Jun 2014 15:12 #61133 by spook
Emva is behind

inthaba is a hill or mountain

so it's "behind the mountain"

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23 Jun 2014 17:57 #61136 by Richard Hunt
Yes Mnt_tiska and spook, you are both correct, confirmed today by the Zulu chaps....it is the cave behind the mountain. The valley with the cave is behind the Lion and out of view from the local dwellings so this cave would be to them "the cave behind the mountain" a real simple and descriptive language :)

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