Didima Loop - Mlambonja & Tseketseke Pass

04 May 2016 19:48 - 04 May 2016 20:20 #68207 by Smurfatefrog
On Friday 29 April six VE members set out from Cathedral Peak Hotel... this is not how we expected the report to start this time last week....

We had originally planned to head up Grays Pass & descend down the Camel, but the forecast of around 30cm snow & temperatures down to -8°C made us change plans on Thursday afternoon.
The plan was to find an escarpment cave to sit out the rain/sleet/snow on Saturday, so we replanned our hike around Twins Cave. We all still wanted to spend 4 days in the berg so planned shorter days with plenty time for relaxaton.

So the 6 of us (Nolai, Wezleyb, JonWells, myself, JulieMK & Papa Dragon) met at Didima before heading up to the hotel for a rather late start just after 10am on a nice warm day.

The goal was the campsite at the base of Mlambonja Pass via the Neptune Pools route. We took the opportunity at the Xeni river to have a little break & get some shade before heading up the ridge.

The guys packs had weighed in between 14kg & 16kg, while Julie was hauling around 18kg. It started to take its toll on her and after asking for the 3rd time if we can take some of her weight we didn't give her a choice, we took about 5kg from her and carried on up the ridge. She had already over exerted herself in the process of being stubborn though, and didn't have much energy left. This had a great deal to do with her day before the hike: working late, not eating supper, not sleeping well and waking up at 3am to drive down.
A few of us headed to the contour path to have a snack while we waited for everyone to get there, next thing we see Papa D come up without his pack, not a good sign... news from Papa D & Wes was that Julie had nothing left and wanted to head back down by herself & would camp at Didima until we returned. Knowing Julie is very strong & determined I knew she must've really been feeling weak, but also knowing this I knew that she was having a bad day & that a good rest & a meal would more than likely have her feeling strong by morning. I had a brief chat with her & even recounted Ghaz's near death experience on day 1 of his first GT, with this she agreed to push on for the last couple KMs of the day.

View back down from the contour path

A nice cool evening was spent in the lounge area before heading to our tents with the plan of getting up early to try beat the rain up the pass.

We woke to a cool cloudy morning. The good news was that Julie was back to her normal self, the bad news was Papa D he had not slept at all and was not feeling great.
We set off up Mlambonja Pass at 7:30. Papa D trudged on despite not feeling great and we made steady progress. At around 2650m the drizzle started, rain jackets & pack covers on! Papa D stores his rain jacket in a round compression sack and happened to be standing on a steep drop off above the river... next thing the jacket was down the bank and into the river. I had to get down 3 small waterfalls (or rather bushwack around them) but finally got to the sack which had settled in a nice pool. Onwards & upwards!

The temperature was around 4°C as we got to the Twins Cave path at 11:30, any stops sent shivers down our spines as we were all rather soaked.
Everyone quickly unpacked & put on every bit of warm clothing they had. Papa D struggled to stop shivering, a cup of hot chocolate inside his sleeping bag did the trick.

We spent a lazy afternoon chatting, playing cards & expectantly waiting for the forecast snow, but all we got was a little sleet. A group of 4 hikers came in to join us for a couple hours, they were doing the Northern Traverse but planned to end a day early so set off down the pass around 3PM. We didn't have much water with us and weren't in much of a mood to head out for water after getting warm & dry, but luckily this group had a policy of always carrying 4 litres of water each whenever they filled up, so they had plenty excess water and kindly gave us a couple litres (thanks again Kent & co.)

It started to clear up in the late afternoon with it dropping to -2°C, giving us some great sunset views over Mnweni towards the Amphitheatre.

Papa D decided to have an early night seeing as he hadn't slept the night before, about an hour later Papa D shouts out "@$!%, WATCH IT, WATCH IT". Julie was walking over the boulders in front of the cave at the time & did well not to fall, the rest of us looked around puzzled. Then the following conversation loosely transpired:
Others: "Are you ok Roger?"
Papa: "ja I'm fine, but Nolan just woke me up"
Others: "no, Roger, I think you woke yourself up"
Papa: "no no, something woke me up, I think Nolan shouted"
Others: "Have you managed to fall asleep yet tonight Roger?"
Papa: "nope, not a wink, been lying here wide awake"

Papa D didn't remember much of this convo but it seems the lack of sleep the night before had some weird effects on him! Thankfully he did get a good nights sleep & was back to normal by morning.

Twin Cave from the Annex

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Last edit: 04 May 2016 20:20 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Captain, Papa Dragon

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04 May 2016 20:02 #68208 by Smurfatefrog
Day 3 was perfectly clear & crisp. We were in no rush and set off around 10am to climb the last bit to the top of Mlambonja Pass. We took a leisurely stroll heading south, stopping at frozen rivers, Xeni Pass and some amazing view points. As we started heading down Elephant Gully we saw the only Basotho of the hike who came running down Mahout but didn't catch up to us.

Wind shelter at the top of Mlambonja

Some rather thick ice

Above Xeni Pass

Elephant Gully poses

We set up camp behind False Tseketseke Pass, this area proved to be very popular with at least 2 other groups camping near us for a total of 19 hikers. One group included a family of four which included a 12 year old girl that had just ascended Tseketseke Pass, we exchanged some whisky for some sweets over a nice chat, the other group thankfully asked us which was Tseketseke Pass, rather than trying the false pass.
Once again we had a lazy afternoon which included heading up Tseketseke Peak which has some amazing views!

Pyramid & Column from Tseketseke Peak

Wes, Julie & Nolan having fun with some fake poses

Camp life, our favourite part of hiking!

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The following user(s) said Thank You: DeonS, Captain, Papa Dragon

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04 May 2016 20:08 - 05 May 2016 06:57 #68209 by Smurfatefrog
We had an amazing sunset

Day 4 dawned on us with a chilly wind that made us keen to start our descent down Tseketseke Pass.

We got down the pass itself rather quickly before doing the 1.5km of boulder hopping down to the contour path.

Anyone know the significance of this just upstream of the hut?

A short stop at the hut

Wesley didn't see the contour path & went on hopping downstream for an extra 200m or so before he had to make his way back up!

By this time we could almost taste the burgers & beers at the hotel so we pushed on at a good pace down the Ribbon Falls route.

A last look up the Tseke valley

We had kept in contact with Viking & Macc over the weekend, so they joined us for a full table of 8 VE members and 9 bacon & mushroom burgers (yes, Nolan was that hungry!)

Thanks to Nolan & Wes for most of these pics!

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Last edit: 05 May 2016 06:57 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, Stijn, DeonS, ghaznavid, tonymarshall, Captain, Viking, Richard Hunt, Macc, saros, Papa Dragon

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04 May 2016 20:15 #68210 by Papa Dragon
Good report Smurf, and I deny nothing :D
Thanks to my fellow hikers, and new friends, for an awesome, memorable hike
The following user(s) said Thank You: saros

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04 May 2016 21:55 #68211 by ghaznavid
Thanks for the writeup and photos, sounds like you guys had a great trip :thumbsup:

Smurfatefrog wrote: We had originally planned to head up Grays Pass & descend down the Camel

That is exactly what my mountain rescue entry said we were doing - just with 8kg packs and no tents :whistle:

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