A sopping wet weekend on the Camel

28 Mar 2018 01:19 - 28 Mar 2018 01:21 #73081 by Sanet1
What a weekend! My third consecutive misty, rainy weekend in the Berg in the last 4 months

While Riaang was busy completing the mountain register at Didima, I changed into my rain gear, ready for an interesting night hike.

We started at the hotel, the 4 of us (Riaan, Henk, Jandri and myself). We normally ascend the lower berg via mushroom rock, but this time our sleeping place for the night was Ribbon Falls cave (not too far from the Hotel) but in the dark and with rain falling, it made navigation and trail finding challenging. I was thankful that Riaan had loaded a track to the cave on his GPS, and that we had booked the cave as I was in no mood to pitch our tent in this weather. We arrived at the cave just before 8pm, and then it was time for our usual cave routine: change into sleeping gear and prepare dinner.

After some warm soup and dinner, it was sleeping time. My sleep was rudely interrupted by another group arriving shortly before midnight. Nico, and friends arrived and we were woken by Nico’s hollering requesting tea and rehydrate. We realized that someone was in trouble. Their original plan was to spend Friday night at Tseketseke hut, then going up Tseketseke pass on Saturday and meet us at Roland’s cave, but I told Riaan that is too dangerous, they are coming this way (woman’s instinct). Everyone settled down at 1am. Not the best nights rest, but by now I know that this is normal for me. It seems like I only start enjoying my sleep on day 3, and that doesn’t happen that often in the Berg.

Next morning, our hike started at about 8am hoping that the visibility would be better, but it was still misty, with light rain. At the start of the first hump of the Camel I took the lead and increased the pace a bit, come on boys, stay with me ? this was just to build up some heat as I was starting to feel cold. I was trying to balance the pace between staying warm but not sweating.

The footpaths of the Camel had changed into small streams. I have never seen so much water on the Camel, and it was slippery too. We walked on the water, in the water, over the water, through the water (hope you get the picture, it was wet). The few exposed sections were quite dangerous and I would not have attempted it on my own in this wet weather but with the help of Riaan and Nico specifically it was manageable.

Between the second hump and Windy Gap, we heard water thundering down on our left. What was previously just a dry river bed had turned into a raging torrent. Wow what a sight unfortunately the visibility was not clear enough to take a picture. The good news is that there will be enough water this year during winter. (The last time on the hump it started to snow) this time just rain.

At Windy Gap, it took me a bit longer as the rocks where very slippery, and some of the nice footholds were not within my reach. Riaan (a.k.a. long legs) and Nico were flying up the rocky sections. A helping hand here and another on my bum got me to the top safely.
By know my hands were blocks of ice and I was very happy to see the big kern at the top of organ pipes. When we reached the top, the clouds were still hanging low and we still had no visibility.

The good news was that we knew we would be able to find water close to Roland’s cave without the usual walk down to the river and then back up again. There was so much water in the veldt, we just stopped about 100 meters from the cave and topped up our containers.
In this weather, I was thankful that Jandri brought a rope along and with Nico’s help I was guided into the cave. The mist obscured the intimidating view down Thuthumi pass and made the walk into the cave easier.

It was 1pm, and miserable outside. I was super glad to be in the cave. The hike up Cleft peak will happen on another (dry) day.
After changing into warm clothes, with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in my (by now defrosted) hands the day looked better again. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the cave.

Nico and Riaan went exploring the area and managed to find the two lower Ndumeni caves. The upper one was long and deep, the bottom one flooded. Not a good one for overnighting in summer.

Next morning, we had a 5-minute window where the mist lifted and we could see the surrounding area.

Our original plan was to descend Thuthumi pass as Riaang wanted to show the other guys this area, but when the mist came in again we decided to go down the Camel but then descend the lower berg via Mushroom Rock, at least this was new terrain for some of the guys. The rocks on Windy Gap was very slippery and my husband not a dancer, gave us quite a show with some fancy footwork as he tried to stay on his feet. To his credit, he succeeded. I find that the best way for me to go down slippery sections is to turn around and downclimb the wet rock. This is the only instance where hiking sticks gets in my way though, otherwise I find them very helpful, especially on the uphill! (4x4 mode).

The dodgy exposed area at the top of the Camel came closer, and because we had mud on our shoes, Riaan and myself decided to climb up the grassy section to bypass this treacherous and slippery slab of wet rock, while the others climbed over it. The detour is up a steep slope, but should the rock below be iced up it is a safe route around the exposed rocky slab or if you do not like exposure that much.
After this, it felt like we entered a swamp again as everything was even wetter than the day before the water was everywhere and as Nico said, we did not bring our Polly Otters along (swimming gear for children).

At the bottom of the Camel the mist lifted a bit, but not for long. Once we were on the route to Mushroom rock the mist crept in again, obscuring all visibility. At one point we got to a T junction, and we all felt to turn right only to have the GPS tell us to turn left and climb up again. It felt completely wrong, but as most of you already know, the GPS is mostly (ok, always) right. Walking to Mushroom Rock was quick and it looked like some of the members started to smell the hot coffee and burgers at the hotel.

The last stretch down to the Hotel was super slippery, mainly due to the muddy clay and wooden poles in the footpath. 2 steps were the norm during the late morning.

Even in this weather we were down at the hotel in 5 hours and 15 minutes.

This was a wet weekend, and if you are thinking of doing the Camel now be safe, or even better, rather wait a while until it is dry again.

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Last edit: 28 Mar 2018 01:21 by intrepid.

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29 Mar 2018 04:56 #73089 by HenkSeevinck
Sanet, thank for the really nice write-up, it was so much fun, here is a short video I compiled of our trip.

The following user(s) said Thank You: Dave

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