Cathedral Area Contour Circuit: Sept 2013.

25 Sep 2013 13:20 #58567 by hasamatt
For our 4th wedding anniversary, I planned to take my wife on her first overnight 'Berg trip. I was desperate to share in my love for the 'Berg, and I settled on a makable route that would ease her into 'Berg Backpacking. We were both extremely excited about the prospect, and took leave on Friday the 20th of September, and we left Middelburg (MP) at 4am.


I could see that my wife, Kelly was as excited as I was! We arrived at Didima at about 10am and the weather looked like it was going to be good. I had kept an eye on Mountain-forecast, and it looked like it was going to clear up on the saturday. So set off to our first overnight spot, Xeni Cave.






This was Kelly's first overnight hike... ever! 9 Months ago, she gave birth to the second of our two boys, and has been primarily concerned with looking after two busy kids than engaging in fitness activities. I was planning on making it a memorable trip, preferably one that left her wanting to come back for more! It was a gamble. I decided to let it be somewhat of a trial-by-fire for her (and me). :unsure:

By the turn-off to head to Xeni Cave, Kelly was taking serious strain! Her backpack was just not sitting comfortably, and I was getting death stares...





We adjusted her backpack (again), and I egged her on a cup of soup right next to the lower Xeni Cave. This was just the medicine. We both perked up and boulder hopped up to Upper Xeni. Upon approaching the start of the zigzag up to the cave, we stopped and collected a bit of water in case the waterfall at the cave was not flowing - there was no water flowing into the riverbed, so we decided to be safe. Halfway up, my poor wife was taking serious strain. I could see the signs of exhaustion. I think the heat got to her a bit, so I told her to sit, and I went on ahead to drop my pack off, and then returned to take her pack up. We got to the cave, and I could see that she was exhausted, and I was very concerned. Her speech was slow, and she lacking co-ordination. I pitched the inner of the tent in the cave to make her feel a little more secure, ensured she drank regular fluids, made and early supper and got her into bed. I decided that if she did not make a recovery by morning, we were going to head back down to the car, and call it quits...

After a good nights' sleep she bounced back remarkably. We redistributed the weightier items from her backpack into mine, and got her pack down to about 12kgs (from 15kgs). I lumped the rest. We headed up the Xeni river valley keeping left and following the main stream of boulders all the way until we found the intersection between the riverbed and the contour path. We had woken up to thick mist (and I was praying that it would lift throughout the course of the morning).







When we glimpsed the cockade break through the mist, my spirits lifted, thinking that we would both be blessed with amazing views from the contour path. I have done this particular route twice before (both times not seeing a single bit of the escarpment throughout their entire journeys due to thick mist and rain). I was hoping that this time it would be different. Alas the mist closed back in and it started to rain. We continued boulder hopping up the river, having to constantly stop and check our positions on the map.

I was reminded of one of Intrepid's posts regarding the flood damage that had occurred in Tsekesteke last season (or thereabouts). Evidence of severe wash aways on the sides of the valleys were evident (making pathway identification difficult), and in thick mist trying to find the intersection of the contour path and the riverbed was nearly impossible. Miraculously we stopped to check the map (again), and we turned our heads and our eyes fell upon a cairn marking the contour path. We had prayed for wisdom and protection that morning, and we had such an amazing sense that God had come through for us in the most remarkable way!

We exited through a gully up the side of the river bed, and the mist totally closed in. It was getting pretty wet as well. We were aiming to make camp on the relatively flat plateau beneath the North-East face of the pyramid.

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25 Sep 2013 13:39 #58568 by hasamatt
Kelly has all of a sudden turned into a Berg hiking machine. I could see that she was in her element! She had this broad smile on her face, and despite the deteriorating conditions, I could see that she was hooked! The gamble had paid off!

We decided that we would not camp beneath the Pyramid, but headed for Tsekesteke instead to find a good spot to pitch the tent. By now we were soaked. Gaiters and K-Way's "waterproof" jackets and only delayed the inevitable! Just opposite our intended camp spot on the plateau beneath the pyramid, I noticed a pine tree that was located right on the contour patch, that had not yet been ring-barked. I snapped a photo FYI.



We made it to the base of Tseke pass just half a hour too late, as a large school group from Treverton was in the process of occupying the prime lawn spot on the pathway next to the river bed. We had to settle for a second-rate spot just downhill... our spot make Treverton's camp spot look like a putting green.

With great difficulty, we got the tent up and out of our wet clothes - our fingers were really cold! We got supper on the go. I was thrilled that despite all this, my wife was still in her element... so much so that she was keeping my spirits up after what thrashing through the wet bush en-route to our sleeping spot.

Its amazing what a meal consisting of pasta rice, with creamy pasta sauce and chopped german sausages can do your morale in foul weather. (I also sneaked a hip flask of Old Brown Sherry, which also helped get the giggles going, as we reflected on our day). Outside the weather was soupy and wet!



The next morning, I realised that K-Way's jackets aren't the only items that are not waterproof. Lets just say that I won't be taking a Treklite into the 'Berg again.




The mist looked like it wanted to lift, but our brief glimpses of blue sky, only set us up for more disappointment. We left Tseke camp by 9:30am, and headed towards Ribbon falls. I heard another group of Treverton students up higher while we travelled beneath the Camel - they were obviously going up the camel while the group that slept in Tseke valley were heading up the pass.

It didnt take us long to get down to the top of Ribbon falls. By now, Kelly was having the time of her life, and she was already planning the next hike's menus, as we chatted about what we would do differently next time, what not to pack etc. Success!!! We have created another 'Berg-loving hiker! Were were back at the car by 12pm.


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The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian, JonWells, plouw, Bigsnake, ghaznavid, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, Sabine, ruthtbl, Spykid

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25 Sep 2013 14:04 #58569 by ghaznavid

hasamatt wrote: The next morning, I realised that K-Way's jackets aren't the only items that are not waterproof. Lets just say that I won't be taking a Treklite into the 'Berg again.


Which K-Way jacket do you have? I just took my mid range one (one down from that massive fleece one, but it is breathable and waterproof) back for repairs after having it for 3 years/about 900km/an estimated 45 hours of hail/snow/rain + many hours of mist and wind. They told me they'll replace the lining and re-coat it. Fortunately they have that guarantee that they'll repair their gear when something goes wrong with it.

As for the tents - I used to own a Treklite. It wasn't a good tent, sadly half of mine went missing on GT last year, so I replaced it with a 360 Degree Cool Mountain. The Treklite has since been replaced by the Nerolite. Fitness, myself and Johan slept in a Nerolite above Tsepeng Pass in December last year. It rained during the night and the inside stayed nice and dry.

K-Way makes some really good gear and some other not so good gear. My Venture 70 just went in for repairs after passing the 1000km mark (including it rolling down a hill) - it had some stitching that had started to come out on 1 of the zips and the splash cover is no longer waterproof. By contrast I once tried their R600 hiking pants - took them back straight afterward.

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25 Sep 2013 14:50 #58570 by Smurfatefrog
Congrats on converting your wife!
If she loved it this much in wet conditions with no view then she's got a lot to look forward to on the next hike!

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25 Sep 2013 20:16 #58571 by hasamatt
Ghaz, i do agree with you regarding K-ways clothing. I think their jackets are generally good. I hope it didnt sound like i was slamming CUM. I have the romulus jacket (says "expedition series" on the label). It comes with a softshell inner. I got it for about R900 at the CUM factory outlet in Attebury value mart in pretoria about a year and a half ago. Great jacket, however with us bashing through thick, water-laden vegetation, i found the ventilation zips on either side of the jacket (just beneath the armpits) let water through. Other than that, its a good jackey IMO. I will definitely be investing in rain trousers in the future. I wore a pair of senqu river wear quick drying pants for the first two days of the hike. Suits me fine, as i just dont have the cash for cape storm or FA technical pants right now.

Regarding the tent. I own an isodome, but for just the two of us, i decided it would be two heavy, and asked my dad if i could borrow his treklite that he uses for missionary work in Malawi. The tent has been well looked after, and both him and I were keen to see how it held up. We found the leaking issues to mainly be as a result of moisture coming through seams at the ventilation covers on the flysheet, as well as where seams under tension were stretched over pole lines. Due to the treklite having mossie netting sections over most parts of the inner, water dropped into the tent through there. We used a coghlans emergency blanket as a footprint for the tent. I missed not having a vestibule on both sides of the tent too. Would i use the treklite in demanding conditions? Not likely.

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25 Sep 2013 20:34 #58572 by ghaznavid
Not at all - its a fact of gear, most manufacturers have good stuff and bad stuff.

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25 Sep 2013 21:02 #58573 by ASL
A small piece of advice regarding the wife... I took mine on hikes for years and really enjoyed it but I got carried away. I kept doing the harder escarpment trips and I also overloaded her as I didn't have the lightest gear. After a couple of years she suddenly quit on me!

So get her a lighter pack and keep checking if she's enjoying it...
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26 Sep 2013 01:56 #58574 by Serious tribe
Thanks for the write up. Gr8 that the wife can go out with you. I had a kway pack similar to the one that your wife has, and it was the worst pack i have ever owned, I could never get the hip belt to take the weight and was continually having to adjust the thing. I used it on one escarpment trip and that was the last time it saw service.

A pack that site correctly will make the difference between a good and bad hiking experience! Fortunately you were able to reduce the weight of her pack.

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26 Sep 2013 06:20 #58575 by plouw
Did you have both vents open on the Treklite? It is crazy the amount of condensation that forms on the inside of the flysheet (and drips through the netting) when those vents aren't open.

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26 Sep 2013 07:47 #58577 by Viking
Well done on converting the missus!

The way to Xeni can be tough for the unfit and inexperienced with all that boulder-hopping.

So where you taking her next time?? :)

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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