Walkers Ridge Pass and Thamathu Pass Hike Report

19 Sep 2016 21:53 - 19 Sep 2016 22:21 #69817 by Smurfatefrog
This last weekend Papa Dragon (Roger), speckwurst (Sonja) and myself headed to Bushmans Nek.
The weather forecast was for a clear but very windy Friday, and snow on Saturday & Sunday.
Heading into Underberg we were greeted with the expected strong winds, but a very unexpected driving rain!
We started hiking at 8am in light drizzle, fortunately this didn't last too long, and soon enough we were just treated to a challenging north-westerly.

The first 4km were along the Giant's Cup trail heading towards Garden Castle, before breaking off towards Walkers ridge

This is where we left the trail, the Whytes Cave valley is on the right. Note the wind on my jacket


There were stops at Painters Cave and White Horse Cave before having lunch at Whytes Cave. This route was a bit of a detour but we were keen to see this area. A big thanks to Elinda for her help with this in the last couple weeks!

Painters Cave


Whytes Cave. The GPS co-ords for this cave are about 350m out, correct co-ords: -29.792753 29.185926


After lunch we headed up the valley before contouring to the south to join the ridge route again, this gave us our first view of Walkers Ridge Pass.
Rough route marked in yellow


The only real scramble on the pass, I'm not sure its necessary though, it seemed to be possible to continue around this and head up an easier spot in the rock band.
Although a fairly easy scramble, the gale force winds coming at us from the right made it a little heart stopping.


We contoured along here before crossing over to the south side via the low point on the left


This is where you cross over to the south side


The lower gully from Mzimude Pass with a 2 man cave


The route after crossing over to the south side


Almost there! One of the small caves ahead, and the top of the pass. The main Corn Cob Cave is around to the right


This was an 18km day, but felt quite a bit longer due to hiking into strong wind most of the day!

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Last edit: 19 Sep 2016 22:21 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian, AdrianT, Redshift3, Papa Dragon

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19 Sep 2016 22:20 - 19 Sep 2016 22:27 #69818 by Smurfatefrog
We had carried water up from Whytes Cave, but were glad to find the river behind Corn Cob Cave flowing nicely.

The main cave is very rocky, and at the moment is comfortable for 3 people, with a bit of work removing rocks it could easily fit 6 to 8.

View from Corn Cob Cave, one of the Mzimude Caves is visible to the right


We woke to an overcast day and the temp at 1°C
The final 100m ascent was done up Walkers Pass before heading to Walkers Peak. As we put our packs down at 3200m it started to snow, it was a really weird snow... it came down as pea sized snowballs, and was falling down very quickly, almost like hail covered in snow. None of us have seen this before, Sonja spent 14 months in Antarctica so has seen a fair amount of snow! A few minutes later and the snow had stopped.

Walkers Peak summit


By now it was really misty, damp & cold, so on our way down Isicatula Pass we stopped at a cave just off the pass for a warm drink. Quite a well sheltered cave that could sleep 3.


Heading down behind Thaba Ngwangwe we passed 100s of livestock and a few Basothus, friendly greetings were exchanged.

The plan for the day was either Goats Cave or Tarn Cave, by this time we decided that trekking through mist & drizzle wasn't that exciting so settled in at Goats Cave.
Lots of dung around as normal, but a much softer floor than Corn Cob.
It started snowing around 5PM.
We woke up to find snowfall during the night was between 15cm and 20cm. Morning temp was -1°C.


What we found odd was hearing barking dogs down towards Lammergeier Cave around 7am, a thought that crossed our minds was that eland might be easier to spot in snow and that locals might know where they would seek shelter, I hope that's not the case though.

We headed back along the path in front of Thamathu Peak to join up to Thamathu Pass


In complete whiteness, constant snow and mist we didn't realise that we had joined the pass and headed 500m further "up" the pass!
I realised the mistake & started heading down. The top of the pass had at least 20cm of snow in places.



We stopped at Thamathu Cave for a final drink & snack



It continued to snow almost all the way until we dropped down off the ridge. Snow had fallen down to about 2000m


Got back to the car to find a note on my car, let's see if our return note was found :)
Another great weekend in the berg with some interesting weather!

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Last edit: 19 Sep 2016 22:27 by Smurfatefrog.

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19 Sep 2016 23:02 #69819 by Papa Dragon
Thanks Smurf and Speck for another awesome hike.. first with Speck...

Interesting weather indeed, freezing mist and rain on Friday morning when it should have just been very windy and clear, and then those weird snowdrops on Saturday morning... perfectly spherical, a bit bigger than a pea, and definitely not hard like hail, some even "exploded" when they hit rocks etc..

This was only my second hike in this area, and I don't know why I've missed out on it. Truly a beautiful part of the berg with interesting rock formations in the little berg, and the escarpment varied and worthy of exploring..

Saturday's forecast was for snow, instead we had a very damp and drizzly day, with the snow only starting at 5pm as Smurf said...

As I said to Smurf when he dropped me off at home on Sunday, these awesome hikes are becoming a pleasant habit!!

Thanks again
Papa D
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20 Sep 2016 07:36 #69820 by JonWells
Nice one guys, pity I couldn't make this one.

Does this describe the weird snow drops you guys encountered?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graupel
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20 Sep 2016 08:21 #69821 by Papa Dragon

JonWells wrote: Nice one guys, pity I couldn't make this one.

Does this describe the weird snow drops you guys encountered?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graupel


Yep, you missed a good one..
Graupel it was, though I would have said slightly more than 5mm diameter.

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20 Sep 2016 13:46 #69825 by ghaznavid
Nicely done guys :thumbsup:

Bushman's Nek is definitely different from everywhere else in the Berg.

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20 Sep 2016 20:21 #69828 by elinda
We found your note, Smurf....glad to hear you guys had a great hike and made it back safe and sound! Richard and I had a fantastic hike to Tarn Cave and Sehlabathebe surrounds and really timed it right for the snow...report to follow shortly :)
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20 Sep 2016 21:34 #69832 by Papa Dragon
Glad you found the note, it was drizzling quite persistently, and I didn't know where else to leave it where it wouldn't get soaked :)

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