Cockade / Mlambonja Hiking Trip December 2019

21 Jan 2020 21:30 - 21 Jan 2020 22:44 #75619 by hikingle
In Dec 2018 my husband and I did an overnight hike to Cathedral Peak. We explored a little of the contour path above Neptunes Pool and were keen to go back and tackle one or two of the passes. Fast forward a year later and after much debating over which pass to ascend and descend, and after seeing a photo by Carl Smorenburg, my heart was set on Cockade Pass. I knew it was going to be tough, I just didn't know how tough! 
We arrived on the 22nd (which also happened to be our wedding anniversary) with the weather not looking too promising, but our spirits high. I remember signing in at the hikers parking and the security guard seemed surprised that we would choose to spend nights in the mountains in the cold and rain. 
We started hiking in the afternoon with the goal of reaching the Cockade campsite. It rained all the time and we walked most of the way in the mist. It was only before we dropped down into the valley that the clouds parted and we got our first glimpse of the Pyramid and Column. I had never been so excited and mesmerized. 



The weather in the mountains is certainly unpredictable because not long after, the rain stopped and it cleared up a little and we got a better view of the Pyramid and Column



It was getting late and we knew that it would start raining again so we picked up our pace. The path then became very bushy as we descended lower into the valley and we found ourselves fighting through all the trees and shrubs. And those steep drop offs made sure I kept my eyes on my feet. And sure enough the rain did come. Fortunately we managed to find the campsite just as the last light disappeared. Cold and wet, we quickly set up our tent and changed into dry and warmer clothes.  It was an early night after a good meal and some anniversary cupcakes. It rained the entire night and I prayed that the weather would clear up as I don't do too well on the boulder hopping.
Day 2...prayers answered...we awoke to clear skies.



The plan for the day was to get to the Cockade Xeni junction and find a place to camp there, so we weren't in a hurry to start early. It was a pleasant change to take it easy and enjoy the views. We stayed in the river bed most of the way, following the cairns, with the boulder hopping not being too bad. But it was at this point (photo below) that we left the river and bundu bashed our way up the valley.

It was tiring and time consuming. 
Looking back...

We eventually found a way back down to the river and really enjoyed taking a break here

After a long rest, we continued on towards the junction. This section here was by far the most overgrown and most frustrating. Only once we were through, did I notice all the scratches I had on my hands. The little bit of suffering was quickly forgotten once we found a place to camp just above the path and settled in for the night to these beautiful views.

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Last edit: 21 Jan 2020 22:44 by hikingle.

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21 Jan 2020 21:52 #75620 by hikingle
Day 3 and I knew it was going to be long and gruelling! Right from the start, you faced with massive boulders and you realise that some of them are unstable and could give way. So the plan was just to keep moving quickly, but carefully. Cockade Pass is steep! It's only when I looked back, I realised just how steep it was! We avoided the loose scree wherever possible.





Some views on the way up 



Almost there...but not quite 


Once we reached the top of the pass, my husband went down to the river to collect water whilst I found us a spot to camp.
Fortunately the river had a steady flow, but with all the livestock around we added the purification tablets just as a safety measure


[/font]This was by far the most calmest night I have ever spent on the escarpment. No rain, no wind and it was surprisingly warm. We even left our tent open so we could enjoy gazing out at the stars.

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21 Jan 2020 22:01 - 21 Jan 2020 22:13 #75621 by hikingle
On day 4 we made our way to Mlambonja Pass. We opted to take the Mahout Route. We had sunny and cloudy weather, wind, thunder and rain all in one day.

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There's a Basotho shepherd / herder standing in the middle of the photo above. 

As we were nearing the Mlambonja, it started raining and we noticed two young shepherds, with their eleven dogs, running up the hill towards us. Through broken English and lots of hand gestures they showed us a shortcut to the pass.

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Last edit: 21 Jan 2020 22:13 by hikingle.

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21 Jan 2020 22:09 - 21 Jan 2020 22:09 #75622 by hikingle
Mlambonja Pass has a clearly marked trail all the way...its just very long. On our way down we met two Canadians that had just finished doing the Bell Traverse and a trail runner...I really believe trail runners are super human.







We returned via One Tree Hill


This was the most challenging and scariest hike I have done. Its also been the most memorable.

A special thankyou to all VE members for the route descriptions / pictures / explanations 

*apologies for the different text sizes*

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Last edit: 21 Jan 2020 22:09 by hikingle.

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