Bollard/Wilson: Failure is not fatal

11 Oct 2015 22:40 #65355 by ghaznavid
Bollard/Wilson: Failure is not fatal

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Bollard Pass has been on my radar for many years. In winter 2011 I took my first shot at a fast-and-light day hike. The planned loop was up Bollard and down Wilson. Probably fortunate in retrospect that it had snowed a few days earlier and we decided to not shoot for the escarpment that day. I ticked off Wilsons Pass in December 2013, and in October 2014 I took a second shot at Bollard Pass, and, well, the rescue team did a great job on the latter :lol:

Anyway – at the time I wrote something about not planning on going back for this pass. I guess it is easy to give up when you lead a hike which ends in a rescue, but at risk of being accused of quote dumping – “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

One factor I knew I needed to account for was that I couldn’t be rescued off the same spot on the same route twice. When the rescue team came for us, the 2 key missing items of gear were 1) at least 20m of rope; and 2) grass stakes.

A local laser cutting company was able to make 4.5mm thick aluminium grass stakes for me at a very reasonable price. The design was mostly stolen from AndrewP’s description, and heavily modified to meet his specs, and the laser cutting company did a great job of making these rather unusual items.

My plans for the hike came together very quickly after Dillon suggested that I should go and do Bollard as a day hike. A few bits of correspondence later, I found myself driving in very thick mist towards Underberg on a Friday evening.

After a very short night sleep at Swiman Hut, I found myself at Garden Castle car park at 5AM meeting a fellow VE member. I knew Dillon would be fitter than me, but hopefully the more than 800km of Berg hiking I had done in the last year would at least allow me to keep up!

So at 5AM we left a misty car park and began the walk towards Sleeping Beauty Cave. Around the base of the Monk the weather began to clear, and by the time we reached Sleeping Beauty Cave (around 6:10), it was already clear.

We continued up the trail that runs below Engagement Cave for a while, until it eventually died. Looking at Bollard Pass on this morning – it didn’t look bad at all. I thought about how many times a pass has looked easy until you find yourself halfway up it.

Our planned line was identical to what I had done a year ago – leave the river to the left (true right) below the first waterfall, stay on the slope till the open book. By the time we had reached the grass, Dillon began to pull ahead of me.

I found a much easier line up the open book than the one I had used a year ago – I simply traversed along a gradually climbing ledge to the left and found that I was on grass in no time.

We evaluated the line below the ledge we were stuck on a year ago – but decided that the lower traverse wouldn’t be safe. It took me a while to give up on traversing the exposed traverse onto the ledge, so, just as I had a year earlier, I dropped down and scrambled up the bit of grassy rock that leads to the ledge.

The pile of rocks that had been used to stop our tent from moving was still evident, although it was not as obvious as I expected. From here Dillon climbed into the gully with relative ease. I looked down at the spot I had considered downclimbing in the wet a year earlier, and once again decided that it was too high. Dillon climbed back up and we spent a while trying to find a spot to anchor an abseil off 2 grass stakes, but none of the ground was solid enough.

Eventually I suggested that we scramble up the south/true right slope, and after a short scramble I began to laugh. At this moment I had realised that we were rescued right at the top of the pass. I had scrambled up this a year earlier, but in thick mist and with it being rather wet. If I had seen how close we are to the top of the pass, I imagine we would have made it to the top with no trouble. Or maybe someone would have slipped and rescue would have come to treat a serious injury, or worse. Hindsight is perfect, and as the leader of the group a year earlier, I must be accountable for my actions. I guess it is better to be embarrassed by the fact that I called out a rescue team to return us from a spot that is actually on the correct route and is already above the hardest part of the pass, than to be the guy who took a chance and left a child without a father or parents without their son. Nonetheless, getting off this ledge in such easy fashion wasn’t my proudest moment.

From the top of this ridge to the summit was quick, and around 10AM we were sitting at the rather substantial summit cairn.

Dillon wanted to bag Mashai, and I was interested in the khulus to the north – so in a relatively strong Berg gale (probably about 40km/h), we agreed to meet back at Wilson’s Pass summit cairn at 12.

I was feeling rather tired as I walked up Matebeng. The distance was further than I thought, and I had eaten practically nothing so far. My readily available food stash was dried fruit and Bar Ones, both of which were making me feel sick. I sat down to fish out some biscuits, but I had bought Sweet Chilli flavour – and ended up not eating many of these.

From the top of Matebeng, Rhino looks so small and low! Mlambonja is also right there, but I had gone at a snail’s pace up this peak, and knew I barely had time to get Wilsons. Wilsons Peak provides a great view of the area below, and notably the Mashai Fangs.

At 12 I was back at the summit cairn – my pace had been slow, and Dillon had been waiting for an hour, so we set off once again.

We entered the rocky gully quite early, and stayed in it till about 2600m. Progress was slow, but steady. None of the waterfalls are difficult to either downclimb or bypass. We then traversed over the ridge back towards Sleeping Beauty Cave, dropping down right near Engagement Cave. The walkout from here was fast, with a bit of rain right at the end.

We hit the car park at about 3:45PM, so just short of 11 hours to do 23km, about 1.4km of altitude gain and loss, 2 khulus each, and 2 passes. By no means express pace, but considering that less than half of that was on a trail, lots was on long grass or rock hopping – I think the pace was just fine.

This was my first day hike to the top since Bond Pass last year, so my basics were off. I will have some savoury biscuits in my pockets next time, will have my game ready at hand to mix in with my water. The fact that I ate almost none of my food during those 11 hours is a really bad stat, although nothing that a pizza and all the leftover food wasn’t able to fix :lol:

My pack was the lightest it has ever been – I have stripped my first aid kit down a lot, dropping it to 200g. Anything non-essential was left at home. With water, I rate my pack was about 4.5kg, although this included 20m of rope, a belay device and locking biner. Dillon carried the grass stakes and slings.

Anyway – my thoughts on the route are as follows:

Bollard Pass is actually a lovely pass. Not recommended for beginners, but it isn’t actually that difficult. Wilson’s Pass is harder, but also not that difficult and, once again, not one for beginners.

Matebeng and Wilson both have great views and are really worth the rather excessive effort required to climb them.

My goals of every KZN High Berg pass south of Rhino, and every khulu south of Mafadi both took another step forward this weekend. 8 passes and 16 khulus to go.

Next goal: Mafadi in 16 hours in 2 weeks time.

Seems fitting to end on yet another Churchill quote: “Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.” – I may not be the strongest or fastest hiker around, but the only way to know what you can achieve is to push yourself beyond what you believe you can do.
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11 Oct 2015 22:52 #65356 by ghaznavid
Excuse the quality of the photos - to save weight I took my small old camera.



















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11 Oct 2015 22:54 #65357 by ghaznavid

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12 Oct 2015 08:01 #65360 by andrew r
Nice one Ghaz, thanks for the write-up & pics. As you said, better safe than sorry; Also, weather conditions play a big part in determining what is safe at any given time.

As an aside, how about some pics of your grass stakes in the 'home-made gear' thread? :whistle:

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12 Oct 2015 10:49 #65363 by ghaznavid
Thanks Andrew :thumbsup:

Will post a photo in the home made gear section.
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12 Oct 2015 12:55 #65366 by Dillon
Nice write-up Ghaz, and thanks for the great day out!

I'm still in the Berg, but I'll be sure to post a couple of pics when I get back to my pc in a day or two.

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30 Oct 2015 09:38 - 30 Oct 2015 15:21 #65568 by Dillon
I’ve been hitting some long hours at work lately, but finally managed to go through some pics from the Bollard/Wilson’s Pass day hike almost 3 weeks ago. (@LouisV your pics from the Camel are next on the to-do list!)


A misty sun rises during the walk in via Sleeping Beauty Cave





Ghaz leads the way





Sunlight hitting the slopes of the lower berg





Looking down at the mist in the valley from near Sleeping Beauty Cave





Approaching Bollard Pass





Ghaz surveying the route ahead





And setting off…





The view from the start of the steep section



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Last edit: 30 Oct 2015 15:21 by Dillon. Reason: fixed photo descriptions
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30 Oct 2015 09:47 #65569 by andrew r
Great pics Dillon.
I especially love this one:

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30 Oct 2015 15:29 #65573 by Dillon
Above the first steep section, near a short, exposed traverse around a corner. Ghaz can just be seen on the grass slope on the true right.





Bollard Pass mostly involves a lot of steep grass slopes with no path.





Ghaz standing near the spot where the previous 2 pics (above) were taken from. The drop-off into the gully behind him is rather considerable.





Stealth Cave





Ghaz scrambling up the “open book” just below Stealth Cave







Ghaz slaying the dragon and topping out of Bollard Pass





The view north from the summit of The Bollard. Amazing how insignificant Rhino Peak looks from up there.





Looking back at The Bollard from high on the slopes of Mashai.





The view north from the summit of Mashai, looking at Matebeng (L) and Wilson’s Peak (R), with Rhino Peak just peaking above the escarpment next to Wilson’s. Ghaz is a couple of pixels somewhere on the slopes of Matebeng.

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30 Oct 2015 15:35 #65574 by Dillon
Ghaz standing on the summit of Wilson’s Peak, as seen from the top of Wilson’s Pass.







Starting down Wilson’s Pass







Wilson’s Pass is steep, scrambly and rocky. Throw in some snow or rain and it would become rather technical. IMHO, overall, it is a more serious undertaking than Bollard Pass, however all of the big waterfalls can be bypassed on grass slopes.









Looking back at Wilson’s Pass just before dropping into the valley for the walk out via Sleeping Beauty Cave.





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