Cockade pass report

13 May 2013 09:53 - 13 May 2013 10:17 #56876 by plouw
Cockade pass report was created by plouw
Thanks to Worker’s day, we organised our annual Berg hike from a Wednesday to Sunday. We had perfect, mild and calm, yet somewhat boring weather for our 5 day hike. I drove through from PE on the Tuesday night (spotted an owl, duiker and a honey badger on the road from Winterton), arrived at the Cathedral Peak campsite at 3am and just slept outside the car. Neil, Johno, Roch and Donna only arrived from Joburg at 11am that morning, so we set off a bit late. (Not that I could complain, had a good nap from the long drive) Neil is a regular hiking buddy of mine, his wife Rochelle hiked five years ago with us (yes, it took her 5 years to get over the hardships of the last one ;) ) and Johno and Donna on their first overnight hike in the Berg. I don’t know how Johno did it, but he managed to fit sheepwool slippers, flask of whiskey, bag of rusks and all sorts of other luxuries into a 65l bag!



We made good progress the first day and camped on level ground in the riverbed on the way to Cockade pass. I’m glad we ditched our original plans of a contour traverse from the Tseke valley! The “contour path” around Cockade is overgrown and littered with brambles!


The next morning we set off to ascend Cockade pass. What a spectacular pass! Thanks for suggesting it Stijn. The one girl in our group, Donna, was battling with her pack weight and the guys made turns carrying it up the pass for her. (mostly Neil and Johno, I was conveniently lagging behind and appreciating the impressive scenery :whistle: ) We spotted a troop of baboons, or rather they spotted us as Johno went to relieve himself, the three of them sitting in a row like the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil monkeys. We also spotted three klipspringers and vultures circling the high peaks overhead the whole day. We arrived at the top just as the sun set and made camp underneath the Elephant. The original idea was to do the Bell traverse the next day, but the girls had a few vertigo scares while ascending Cockade. Not that the exposure on the pass is bad or dangerous, it’s just that feeling of vertigo when looking back down. The pass gives you a very ‘high’ and closed in feeling with sheer cliffs on either side.







So we decided to ditch our Traverse plan for another day and figured the easiest pass to get the girls back down safely would be Organ Pipes pass. We headed to the Lower Ndumeni caves via Cleft Peak. Another perfect day with vultures all around and even a lammergeier swooped in just above our heads to have a closer look at us. I forgot, to the dismay of my fellow hikers that the Lower Ndumeni caves are not “just there beyond Windy gap” and actually quite a bit up and over into Thuthumi pass. We found a blue foam mattress in the cave and I decided I would exchange it the following morning with my old mattress. Unfortunately the new mattress didn’t survive the rocky cave floor too well during the night and I am still stuck with my 10 year old battered mattress.





A rare klipspringer enjoying the freedom of the mountains:



The following morning dawned with clouds moving in, at last a change in weather! We descended Organ Pipes, spotted more klipspringers, Lammergeier, vultures and two berg adders. Just beyond the Old Fire Lookout, we contoured back towards the hotel and camped the night on contour level underneath the Camel. Dark clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and we were holding thumbs for some kind of storm! At midnight the mist was thick but a strong wind came through and blew all chances of snow away. (Apparently that front only reached the southern berg with snow in Barkley East) Next morning dawned clear and we hiked the last 4km back to the hotel.

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Last edit: 13 May 2013 10:17 by plouw.

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13 May 2013 10:48 #56878 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Cockade pass report
Thanks for the report.

There are some absolutely choice photos in that set!
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13 May 2013 10:57 - 13 May 2013 10:58 #56880 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Cockade pass report
Mnt_Tiska stole the words out of my mouth/keyboard :thumbsup:

Very nice indeed, especially that one from around the top of Thuthumi Pass ;)
Last edit: 13 May 2013 10:58 by ghaznavid.
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13 May 2013 14:41 #56885 by Grandeur
Replied by Grandeur on topic Cockade pass report
Nice images Pieter. Thanks for sharing
Brings back some nice memories from the hike I did in that area in Nov last year.
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13 May 2013 20:29 #56891 by Hermann
Replied by Hermann on topic Cockade pass report
Thanks for the report...awesome pics!!!
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14 May 2013 00:54 #56892 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Cockade pass report
Nice images. Lots of wildlife which is great to see. That cave looked rather crowded for me, glad i was not the guy at the back!
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14 May 2013 05:57 #56895 by Grandeur
Replied by Grandeur on topic Cockade pass report

Serious tribe wrote: Nice images. Lots of wildlife which is great to see. That cave looked rather crowded for me, glad i was not the guy at the back!

... and needing the toilet in the middle of the night :blink:
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14 May 2013 06:18 #56896 by plouw
Replied by plouw on topic Cockade pass report
Thanks for the positive comments. That cave was pretty crowded, there was space for one more person down the tunnel behind that guy, but quite honestly, i'd rather sleep on an exposed ledge than a tunnel that deep in the bowel of the mountain!

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15 May 2013 06:37 #56907 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Cockade pass report
Some really great shots in there of a favourite area. I see we have several photographer-types on this forum. I didn't manage to find references though to all of the wildlife in my Field Guide to the Natal Drakensberg...

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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15 May 2013 08:25 #56910 by diverian
Replied by diverian on topic Cockade pass report
@ Intrepid I think we are looking at the lesser Coanscey oreotragus

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