Teseke-Cockade-MlambonjaButtress-Pineapple hike

12 Sep 2018 17:23 - 12 Sep 2018 17:23 #73972 by Riaang
It all started when Nico wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary (crazy) for his birthday. Why don’t we do 3 passes in one day? Well, I can easily think of many reasons why not, like, it’s going to be a very long, tough and gruelling day, we go to the mountains for fun, not torture, etc. etc. but I know I’m a sucker for punishment, so it didn’t take him long to convince me. It didn’t take much effort convincing Sanet either. I posted the invitation on our hiking WhatsApp group and only got one other bite. Ian is as strong as a horse, so I knew we would all survive this adventure.

We started a tradition not too long ago that everybody takes something along for dessert. Fudge, chocolate brownies, koeksisters,marshmallows etc. is the norm. Nico doesn’t fit the “normal” mold so he decided to bring a pineapple along. And so,we arrived at Cathedral peak late Friday morning on 7 September 2018. 4 hikers, 4 backpacks and one pineapple. Round about noon we were all kitted up and ready to start our epic adventure. One of us wouldn’t make it to day 2 though.



The weather was slightly overcast and the air was cool,which always makes for great hiking conditions. Albert and Doreen falls offered little resistance and Ribbon falls were shortly thereafter also dispatched with. We stopped for a quick lunch break on top of the lower berg just 20m from where the path to Tseke hut branches off the contour path. The postcard perfect scenery around us was breathtakingly beautiful.

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Last edit: 12 Sep 2018 17:23 by Riaang.

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12 Sep 2018 17:27 #73973 by Riaang

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12 Sep 2018 17:30 #73974 by Riaang
After a quick bite we were marching down to the riverbed below, with Spike (our nickname for the pineapple) happily dancing along. The bottom of the path was quite overgrown for this time of the year, so we engaged bushwhacking-mode and crashed through the undergrowth. A 100m or so up the riverbed Spike decided to play hide and seek. After searching for a while we found him perched on a kern. At 15:15 we arrived at the hut, unsure of what to do next. It’s not often that we arrive a tour overnight destination with so much time to spare. Tomorrow will be a big day so chilling at the hut was a high priority.

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12 Sep 2018 17:33 - 12 Sep 2018 17:41 #73975 by Riaang

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Last edit: 12 Sep 2018 17:41 by Riaang.

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12 Sep 2018 17:46 - 12 Sep 2018 17:48 #73976 by Riaang
Shortly after dispatching with Spike we had some hot chocolate, waited for the water to work out of our systems and then tucked in  for the night. We all chatted for a while but then Klaas Vakie dumped a truckload of sand on the hut and we drifted off to sleep. Scratch, scratch, I could hear little paws exploring around the inside of the hut. Ag no, it’s that cute and adorable Tseke mouse again. Last time it kept us up for a good part of the night. We even placed food like nuts and fruit to keep it away from our packs, but this rodent is a fussy eater and wanted to find out if we weren’t hiding something exotic in our packs that was better than natural food. Sanet came up with a clever plan – let’s take some cheddar cheese along on this hike. Which is exactly what we did. And Tseke mouse found it. And liked it. A lot. It took all 4 slices of cheese and probably stored it somewhere, no ways it could eat that much in one sitting. This seemed to have satisfied its cravings, and it did one final round of scurrying over all our sleeping bags just to say thank you and good night. Good night, little big eyed mouse.

“It is three thirty in the morning” proclaimed the British lady voice from my phone. Did I detect, for the first time ever, a happy tone in her voice? We all grumbled a bit but then Sanet kicked us out of bed. She wanted coffee, and she is not to be argued with early in the morning before she’s had her first coffee. Grrrr!

By 4:30am we were all done and ready to hit the road. Only there was no road, only a lot of rock hopping up the Tseke river valley. It is quite a unique experience hiking in the dark up a rocky riverbed, but I quite liked it. Beats bundu bashing by miles. We got to the critical waterfall section where you climb out of the riverbed and onto the river bank while it was still dark. It started getting light by the time we crossed over the river  to the left again. Now just a bit of scree field and then the final grassy slope to conquer. By 7:20am we had topped out and was looking down at the green valley below. By now Sanet was super ready for her second cup of coffee, so we stopped at the river and chillaxed a bit. A fresh wind was blowing on the escarpment and the sun wasn’t yet warm, so we all put our windproof jackets on. Sanets’ idea of a break is to drop your pack, take something out,prop it in your mouth, take a sip of water and set off again.  True to character she started showing signs of getting ready to hit the trail again about 3 seconds after taking her last sip of coffee. Ian and myself scrambled to get our backpacks on and had to do some seriously fast walking to try and catch up with her and Nico.






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Last edit: 12 Sep 2018 17:48 by Riaang.

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12 Sep 2018 17:53 #73977 by Riaang
The clock was ticking and we all got to the top of Cockade pass at 8:45am. After taking a few pics we started descending its rocky, boulder strewn throat. The top part really tests your balance as the steep path is full of small loose rocks. Lower down the pass suddenly flattens out considerably and makes for much easier walking. Till you get to the boulder fields, that is. You have to be really careful here, one loose boulder could easily spoil your hiking trip. We were happily walking along when Sanet let out a truly blood curling scream. I heard her hit the ground before I had time to turn around and look back. Ian and myself ran back towards her. I thought she had broken her leg, but as it turned out her quad muscle took the brunt of the impact and toppled her over, head towards the ground. Sjoe, that was a bit too close for comfort. It was a definite wake-up call for us all, and from here onwards we took more care over loose boulders.
The bottom part of Cockade, as you approach the plume, is still boulder strewn, but also contains a lot of vegetation. Again, you have to be careful not to step into a hole between rocks covered by vegetation. Going even slower through this section we eventually made it through the rocks and stayed on the left side of the pass for the last 100m or so of easy walking. Nico was already waiting for us in the shade at the point where the Xeni river joins with Cockade pass.

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12 Sep 2018 17:56 - 12 Sep 2018 17:57 #73978 by Riaang
We arrived at 10:42am and decided to take a long brunch break before we tackle the final pass of the day. At 11:17am we hoisted our lighter packs and made our way up the Xeni riverbed.  We did this same stretch in April 2018 but now it felt much easier. I think part of the reason was the decidedly cooler
temperatures, and we also cut out that horrible stretch of bundu-bashing up the riverbed to this point. During the April hike I slipped on a wet rock near the
top waterfall and nearly fell into the riverbed below. That was a scary experience and I can still recall the event in technicolour. I walked past the slippery spot (now dry) with care and made it safely across the rocks. Ahead of us loomed the third waterfall, and with it the start of some serious climbing,
and crawling. All of us had done this part before, except Ian. Sometimes it’s a good think to know what lies ahead, but I wasn’t so sure in this instance as we all suffered a lot on the climbing sections from here to the bottom of Xeni’s cliff face on the April Xeni hike.

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Last edit: 12 Sep 2018 17:57 by Riaang.

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12 Sep 2018 18:01 #73979 by Riaang
Nico went up first and easily climbed past the first waterfall. The top section contained a lot of loose gravel on a steep side slope,  so we got past this dangerous section as fast as possible. Just past it lies the only piece of flat rock for miles, where we stopped for a minute to get our spiking heart rates back to normal. From here we traversed below a rocky outcrop and then hit the final 2 grass slopes to the base of Xeni. They are steep and unrelenting. There are two small rocky outcrops where we took a brief rest on our ascent journey, and before long we were at the base of Xeni. Traversing sideways over the grassy/bushy terrain was much harder work than simply pulling yourself up on the bushes and grasses. I noticed several small pines on these
grass slopes. Awesome anchor points as they could easily take your full weight and they even smell good too, but once grown they will become a problem. I didn’t quite have the energy to uproot them all – take note pine tree event organisers. We all traversed across to the right and assembled in the Xeni
north gully. The gully to our right was the one we came to conquer. But was it conquerable by mere hikers?

Nico brought along some climbing gear in case we needed it, so we were prepared to do whatever it takes to tackle the beast. However, Nico and myself decided to first climb up a bit to give it a quick look over. So, we dropped our packs and headed up the gully. The base is at roughly 2700m and we climbed up to about 2850m ASL, from where we could see the long grassy gully reaching to the top. It was so nice to climb without a heavy pack, I felt so light and nimble. Going up or down the pass was super easy this way. We played with the idea of climbing to the top and then going down via Xeni North to surprise Ian and Sanet, but in the end decided against it as it would have wasted too much time.

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12 Sep 2018 18:03 #73980 by Riaang

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12 Sep 2018 18:06 - 12 Sep 2018 18:15 #73981 by Riaang
We got back down to the base of Xeni where we collected our heavy packs again and the 4 of us set off to conquer Xeni extreme north gully. Except that I found out yesterday that it couldn’t be Xeni extreme north gully as this gully isn’t next to Xeni but is on the side of the Mlambonja buttress. So, off we set to conquer Mlambonja Buttress south pass. The initial 100m ASL is over large rocks and was easily dispatched with. The first notable obstacle is a steep and sloping grass bank on the right of the gully. It’s basically just a scramble but slightly technical, especially if you are short. Not too much exposure risk, but enough to be a problem should you come off here. We all made it safely up this scramble. Immediately after the grassy bank is a climbing obstacle. Two large rocks block your progress. There is a gap between the two and we managed to squeeze in between them, but you can’t do it with your pack on your back as there isn’t enough space for pack and person to fit in this gap. We handed up packs and poles and made it easily enough to the top. Even in the wet this rock wouldn’t be too much of a problem. The grass gully would be scary in the wet or if there was a lot of wind.





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Last edit: 12 Sep 2018 18:15 by Riaang.
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