VE Berg Trip 3

06 Nov 2013 18:04 - 06 Nov 2013 18:24 #58977 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic VE Berg Trip 3
Our trip started with a leisurely walk out along Keartland’s Pass, where there was a lone pine tree that we hoped to ring bark. Frik Lemmer, the Conservation Manager, Monk’s Cowl (in the photo below with intrepid) accompanied us, and much was discussed regarding the way forward for dealing with the invader pine problem, and the role that VE can fulfil in this. intrepid has mentioned that more detail will be given soon in this regard.

On the higher slopes of Keartland’s Pass we soon spotted the lone pine (at the top left of the photo below) and after following the path through the rock band it was duly ring barked.

At the top of Keartland’s Pass, Frik thanked us for out interest and efforts, and left back along the Sphinx path to do some other work on his way back to Monk’s Cowl office. We continued outward towards Blind Man’s Corner and the Contour Path on to Hlatikhulu Nek, where we hoped to find a suitable campsite near the pine trees growing in the upper Sterkspruit catchment below The V. We soon found a suitable spot on a spur overlooking the pine trees with a small stream nearby for water, and set up camp and had lunch before heading down to start work on the pines.

The VE team was from left to right below, Witchiwoo, diverian, intrepid, ClimbyKel, Lorinda and tonymarshall.

To get down to the pines in the valley below we had to head a short way back up the ridge and circle to the right before heading down along the top of a rock band to the end of the rock band, before descending down the grass slope to the trees in the valley below the rock band.

The slope below the rock band gave a good view to the pines on the opposite slope, which were similar in quantity to those on the slope we were on, and comprises one of the areas which VE will concentrate on. The high point at the centre of the photo below is The V.

Soon we were absorbed with cutting and ring barking pines. Smaller trees are cut and the remaining stump is ring barked to prevent regrowth, while trees too large to cut down are ring barked. In the photo below Lorinda is ring barking her first pine stump after cutting the tree down ; the felled tree is at the bottom right of the photo, which also gives a good indication of the steepness of the terrain.

We worked until about 17h00, before heading back to the tents for the night. The weather had been kind to us, being overcast but dry for most of the day, with a few drops of rain while we were walking in up Keartland’s Pass, but the forecast expected rain arrived just after we had returned to the tents and it rained lightly on and off for most of the night.

We had a late start on Sunday morning, waiting for the rain to stop and the mist to clear a bit before heading back down to the pines again. A large pine, perhaps the largest so far on the VE trips, was ring barked, after a start had been made the previous day, but time had run out to complete it.

Lorinda and I had to depart on Sunday afternoon, so we packed up and walked back out via the Sphinx. By Sunday afternoon about 60 pines had been cut and ring barked, and the remaining team members continued with the work on Sunday afternoon and Monday. Thanks to the team for an enjoyable and rewarding trip ; Looking forward to the next one.

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Last edit: 06 Nov 2013 18:24 by tonymarshall.
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, Serious tribe, diverian, plouw, tiska, ghaznavid, brio, Smurfatefrog, pfoj, HFc, ruthtbl

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06 Nov 2013 21:03 #58978 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic VE Berg Trip 3
Thanks Tony for the write-up.

It is established tradition on VE trips that one person be awarded the "Lasher Cup". It is merely an recognition of an individual who has done something noteworthy on the trip. The word "Lasher" being one of the brands of bush-knives and bow saws that we use. This time the Lasher award went to Lorinda. Not only was she initiated into the Sacred Order Of The Obliterators of Drakensberg Pinus Patula (as this was her first pine chopping trip) but she was also reportedly seen not just cutting down a small pine with great enthusiasm, but literally kicking the small remaining stump with her boot! Later she admitted the pleasure of cutting down pines, and we, the already-addicted, nodded in understanding.

A humorous end to the first day was when we returned to camp from the slopes we were on. There was no easy way in or out of where we were. None of us wanted to bother returning along the long way we had come in. The other two options were to cross some seriously horrendous bush on very steep terrain, or climb through a rock-band. ClimbyKel, diverian and Whitchiwoo had split off from us and had opted for the thick-bush-steep-slope option. Tony, Lorinda and I, not knowing where they had gone, eventually decided to climb through the rock band, which turned out to be a mini Berg climb, complete with adrenalin rushes. While we were clinging to the rock and tufts of grass, we spotted that other three fighting their way through the bush across the valley. When we returned to these slopes the following morning we happily took the longer way in! Pine chopping is hard work - no bones about it. But it is always adventurous and immensely satisfying, letting you experience the Berg in a whole new light.

We also decided that the Lasher award should be some sort of chocolate in future.

More to follow...

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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12 Nov 2013 18:04 - 12 Nov 2013 19:54 #59030 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic VE Berg Trip 3
Below is a picture of our camp (see small colourful tents on the right) in relation to the pines that we mostly worked on over the weekend. Below the cliff bands you will notice a really big tree. This is the one that took about 4-man hours to ring-bark: partly due to its size, partly due to the bark being burned (which makes it very hard), and partly because we took a lot off to ensure that it dies. In our trips we have often noticed these big female trees, and the closer you get to them the more you see how they are seeding smaller trees around them. Typically even if a few trees are visible in the distance, when you get there it is often surprising how many there are. One of our strategies is to tackle these big female trees, especially when we know we cannot tackle the whole cluster in one visit. The trees visible in the photo are on the southern banks of the Hlatikhulu basin that we focused on.

The following picture shows extremely bad infestation on the northern bank of this basin. KZN Wildlife is in the process of getting specially trained workers who will typically tackle clusters such as these. They are from the Working on Fire job-creation programme, which will be a resource similar to the Working For Water programme in this respect. We are still in the process of working out exactly how we will work in conjunction with them. These basins still need to be specifically identified and sectioned-off. Typically hikers will be tackling the very remote pines that are alone, or in smaller clusters, though we will certainly also play a role in basins such as these.

After Tony and Lorina left, Ian and I went exploring while the ladies chilled at the camp. A few more pines were tackled that day but we mostly just enjoyed being out there and took the time to explore a seldom visited corner of the Berg and to cherish its secrets. We also walked to The V since I've always wanted to do that. Its actually more impressive from below and looks a lot larger than what it is. This relaxation and exploring is an important element to VE trips. It isn't all about hard work chopping pines. We like demonstrating that a good balance between the two can be achieved during a trip.

On the last day we did consider climbing Turret on the way out, but in the end opted for walking out via Makhulumane Forest. The tree below was tackled near the old lookout hut. It had the dreaded "double-stem" and the bark was burned. This all makes for extra work.

We also will be compiling some documentation on the pine trees and how to go about chopping them. In the picture below on the left you can see how we are showing that you have to remove the phloem, cambium and as much of the soft wood as possible (the bush knife is slicing it off). The phloem is important for the tree to create it's nutrients - removing this is what ring-barking is all about. This normally kills a large tree effectively, though we have noticed that some Berg pines still take a long time to die this way. Those next to, or in streams may even need more persuasion. If you revisit a ring-barked pine the next day, you can sometimes see resin oozing over the ring-barked section, this is the trees attempt at preserving itself. On the right you can see the finished product. Note how we have cut branches away as much as possible. Not only is this needed sometimes in order to work properly, but it also is done so that the ring-barked section is exposed to the sun and to fire more, which all helps in harming the tree. This particular tree is at the Makhulumane Forest, which can be seen lower down on the right.

In the coming weeks and months we will be expanding a lot more on this and will formulate some more concrete plans for getting involved.

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

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Last edit: 12 Nov 2013 19:54 by intrepid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, diverian, Stijn, plouw, ghaznavid, brio, tonymarshall, pfoj, HFc, ruthtbl

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