The Gray Matter....

12 Aug 2012 14:31 #54920 by Jax
The Gray Matter.... was created by Jax
A few weeks ago Geordie & I decided a 'Spring' hike in the Monk's Cowl area would be a good plan to explore a couple of passes and caves ie. úp Grays and down Ship's Prow - both new for me. We didn't bargain on the biggest snow storm of the year so far a few days beforehand!

Traffic reports had us change plans and leave Wednesday evening and drive through to Volksrust, finding a friendly overnight spot to crash. That meant we only had to cut across and avoid the N3 on Thursday. Good move - we got to Monks relaxed and keen to see snow. We set off at about 12 noon and encountered the first drifts just above the Sphinx, which were melting by then. it was evident that fires had ravaged the area this winter, which became more apparent as we entered the valley leading up to Keith Bush Camp.





We were the last in at about 5pm at Keith's and pitched in the snow between a French contingent and Stijn's group - and took some private bets on which of our precedors was guilty of toilet paper littering on the path! (both bets on the foreigners!)



On a more serious matter - KBC had no water. Geordie headed downriver with all our bottles, returning at almost dark after a long walk to find water.

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12 Aug 2012 14:51 - 12 Aug 2012 14:53 #54921 by Jax
Replied by Jax on topic Re: The Gray Matter....
The wind came up during the night and a froze our water and our hiking boots. Having no group in tow and just the 2 of us we lay in a little, before heading up the ridge about 9am, last of the 3 groups. We passed the French group shortly, who seemed to be wobbling a bit. The wind was unpleasant on the ridge but sheltered as we rounded the wall - mostly following Stijn's group's foot-holes in the snow. Occasionally we strayed from their route and forged our own way on steep and slippery slopes (the path was not always where it should have been). Looking back at one point we saw the French group had decided to turn around. It was slow going and concentration was important to avoid a long drop or snow tumble.







We topped out just after lunch time and headed down to 'water', I mean 'ice' to stock up. Wading through the snow was tiring and we could not see the sense in making our way to Ship's Prow without knowing the conditions there. That would be tempting fate, and chopper rides are not dished out regularly for stupidity!





So we waded over to Stijn's group who had found Nkosana cave and were sitting in the only relatively free snowdrift patch. We were welcomed to share their humble abode but opted to pitch tent and take our chances against the high winds forecast that night onwards. A good natter session followed, both groups deciding to head back down Gray's the next day.





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Last edit: 12 Aug 2012 14:53 by Jax.
The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian, Stijn, plouw

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12 Aug 2012 15:09 - 12 Aug 2012 15:16 #54922 by Jax
Replied by Jax on topic Re: The Gray Matter....
In the morning we weighed up cave vs tent, wind vs mice, with our neighbors, who had also had a cold and noisy night. The winds were rising as we set off towards the head of the pass. I found myself floundering in a snowdrift shortly and had to swim out of it on my belly. So much for trying to keep relatively dry!







At the head of the pass we ran into some folks who had followed our prints later the previous day and headed only topped after dark. They were planning to follow us down a little later.













The descent was tricky, but easier than we expected. We ended up walking all the way back to Monks via Keartlands Pass. A nice dinner at a local joint with some hiking friends rounded off a great hike!

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Last edit: 12 Aug 2012 15:16 by Jax.
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, Geordie, elinda, Stijn, plouw, ghaznavid, brio, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall

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12 Aug 2012 18:41 #54925 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Re: The Gray Matter....
Nice! This is definitely a pass I hope to do some time in the near future.

Ps. nice report name :thumbsup:

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12 Aug 2012 20:13 #54927 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Re: The Gray Matter....
Thanks Jax for the write-up. I'm particularly pleased and appreciative of this kind of report back which people have started to do, so thanks to everyone who has done it - Stijn, ghanzavid, elinda also come to mind. It keeps the site fresh, relevant and interesting. I've gone through a very busy spell and only just keep up with stuff on the forum, so haven't had a lot of time to write longer stuff and articles for the site. So this kind of input from other members is great. Keep it coming. Anyone that wants to write longer articles for the blogs is also welcome to do so, just send me a PM.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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