Monk's Cowl: "rain makes rocks wet"

20 Apr 2014 19:11 #60414 by ghaznavid
I ended up joining the MCSA Jo'burg easter weekend hike. The team goals were to climb Turret, Amphlett, all 3 Sterkhorn summits, Cathkin and Monk's Cowl.

Due to work commitments I had to bail today (Sunday), but most of the team went up Monk's Cowl today. I'm sure we can expect a detailed report of this route from Intrepid and AndrewP - hint hint :P

Anyway - with a backpack containing 1kg of personal climbing gear (harness, helmet etc), a trad rack (about 1-2kg), a rope (another 1-2kg) and my full tent as I would be leaving before everyone else - felt a bit like a fish out of water! I suspect that was the heaviest pack I have ever carried.

After heading to Blind Man's Corner at a pace that could be matched by the average snail (not entirely my fault :laugh: ), we split up into groups with different goals. 5 of us left with the goal of the Turret and the Amphlett. We all stashed the gear we didn't need at the Blind Man's campsite and went our separate ways.

To approach the peaks we shot up the Sterkhorn trail till the top of the first big rock band. From there we traversed across to the saddle between Turret and Sterkhorn.

We first shot up Amphlett. The route has 2 D grade moves with heavy exposure - nothing more fun than seeing a 50m drop off below you! Philip set up a sling to give me a bit of pro to the top. It was a bit hairy - but provided you don't slip you are ok.

I opted to abseil down instead of down-climb. There is a great block to abseil off above the moves - but this abseil is a bit "exciting". After the top rock bit you basically walk down a short grass bank before doing an abseil down an large overhang. Make sure you wear a helmet if you do this - a few rocks were dislodged on the way down.

During a discussion between the 2 routes I made a remark that would have made the old quotebook that was the cause of many a discussion during my articles. While it didn't beat "cows don't lay eggs" (said by my team leader in 2007). My remark was something along the lines of "I hope it doesn't rain, that would make the rock wet". I must have been marginally tired!

From there we shot up the Turret. There is an easy scramble at the bottom, then an easy grass ledge followed by a wide chimney. Andrew and UK Clive (we had 2 Clives in the 5 that did Turret and Amphlett) free soloed the route. Philip lead the route - but only got in 2 pieces of gear, so it seems to be one of those "falling is strictly prohibited" routes.

I went up last, the gully was damp and mossy. There is a crack on the left and one on the right (within the chimney). I used the left one initially, and switched to the right one higher up. The moves are easy, but I wouldn't do it without ropes. I imagine it gets iced up in winter.

From the top of the pitch to the summit is a bit loose and very exposed.

Andrew joined 2 ropes together and we each abseiled down. This got us past the lower scramble as well. A 45m ab on dynamic ropes is quite fun - you end up bouncing around a lot!

From there, myself and SA Clive raced the other 3 back to BMC camp - us via the Amphlett/Turret gully, the others by the approach route. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the guy who still holds the solo GT speed record beat us down - but it was close.

When we arrived back at BMC we realised that a baboon had trashed some of our stuff. Chris' pack had a few holes put into it, but most of the damage went to my food. My breakfast for the next few days, my supplements/vitamins and my dried fruit had all been taken.

Most of the others had shot up Sterkhorn. Chris and Neil were doing South Sterkhorn, and only got back to the site at about 8PM. Everyone had set up camp at BMC, and Cathkin from BMC in a day is really tough - so Cathkin was off.

On Saturday morning there seemed to be a chronic case of apathy around the camp. UK Clive was up for joining me on Gray's - so we shot off to KBC to stash our stuff before heading up the pass.

We left BMC at 7:30 and arrived at KBC at about 10:30. Bear in mind that we had climbing gear, so our packs were abnormally heavy. I think we did pretty well.

We started up the pass and were making good progress, but about a quarter of the way up I started feeling sick. It was a hot day and we were both running low on water. I pushed forward a bit, but was feeling worse. About a third of the way up I decided that this was a bad idea - especially with practically no water. Clive tagged along with another team, and I set off back to KBC. The further I went the more sick I felt. About 500m from KBC I sat for about half an hour feeling nauseous. Whenever I tried to stand up I felt sick again. Eventually I had the energy to push to KBC.

After about 2 hours of drinking lots of water and eating something I felt better. Hmmm - which excuse should I use this time - lets go with either "the supplements I usually take must work really well" or "eating a few biscuits for breakfast because of baboons taking what I would have eaten probably caused an energy crash". But seriously I think I hadn't had enough to eat that day. Or perhaps apathy is contagious...

Anyway - Andrew left KBC around midday with a goal of free soloing Cathkin. He arrived at the camp around 6:30 having turned around just short of the summit. He was concerned about the exposure and decided to play it safe.

Chris and Philip did Middle Sterkhorn and Turret. They hauled their packs up to the top and hiked down to KBC with their full packs.

This morning 8 of the team members were heading up Monk's Cowl - 4 on the Std Route, 4 by Barry's Route. 2 of the others were planning to head up Gray's with a goal of Vultures Retreat, 1 was shooting for Champagne Frontal Route and I was walking out on my own to get back in time for work tomorrow.

When I emerged from my tent this morning the climbing teams had just left, the Gray's team hadn't properly emerged from their tent yet.

My food was down to roughly 15 crackers and nothing else. So I had a very light breakfast. On the way back I passed numerous other teams, some camping on the Mhlwazini river, others near the Nek, plenty doing a day loop to BMC.

I chose to use Keartlands Pass for some variation. This route should be done by everyone at least once. It is far more spectacular than the Sphinx route, but is up and down - so it is far more tiring. Its also much steeper.

Took just under 4 hours from KBC to the car park. Had to stop along the way to finish all the food I had left (4 crackers) as I was starting to feel sick again.

That large plate of chips and a milkshake at the car park restaurant went down well!

So last year I signed up for Cathkin and it got cancelled, this year the trip happened but the climb got cancelled. Anyone keen to place bets on if/when I will bag this khulu?

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20 Apr 2014 19:26 - 20 Apr 2014 19:36 #60415 by ghaznavid
Excuse the quality on the photos - I only carried my cheap camera

Looking towards Bling Mans Corner from the Sphinx route:


Sarah scrambling up the lower rocky bit on Sterkhorn


The view on the way up


The Turret and Amphlett


The lower scramble on Amphlett. This part is really easy



The Amphlett from the top of the Turret


Walking to KBC


I don't think this photo needs a caption...


Sterkhorn from KBC


Notice how full KBC is


The light slowly reaches the valley


The eye of the needle - as the Zulus call it


This sight should sicken a fair number of VE members...


Looking up Keartlands Pass


Looking up at the Sphinx

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Last edit: 20 Apr 2014 19:36 by ghaznavid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: brio, tonymarshall, Spykid

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22 Apr 2014 10:09 #60426 by ClimbyKel
Well we all made it up Monk's Cowl - it was a very successful day! Neil & Philip heroically took on Barry's route, and the rest of us got up the Standard route. Without a doubt, this was my best day in the Berg to-date! After so much talk about the "scary traverse", it was not as scary as I expected. This is definitely to be saved for those with some technical climbing experience, as well as some confidence with exposure. You also have to be willing to swing high up in the air, if you happen to be unlucky with the moves. But we all did it without any drama, and the rest is history! At the summit we had an Easter egg hunt, thanks to Mr Porter! Well done team, and thanks for getting me up this classic climb! Felt amazing to summit this one! Would be interesting to know if any other Canadians have done this before or not. Go team-Canada-girls! :P
The following user(s) said Thank You: ghaznavid, HFc

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22 Apr 2014 10:21 #60427 by Viking
Well Done Kel! Great achievement!

Was good to bump into you guys on Sterkhorn on Friday too!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
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22 Apr 2014 13:06 - 22 Apr 2014 13:09 #60432 by ClimbyKel
Absolutely, and thanks! Hopefully you guys got the binos we recovered on top of Sterkhorn! ;)
Last edit: 22 Apr 2014 13:09 by ClimbyKel.

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22 Apr 2014 13:10 #60433 by Viking
One of the guys in my group left his pair on the summit but he has them back now. Ghaz left them at reception for him.
Don't tell me you found another pair?

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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22 Apr 2014 13:15 - 22 Apr 2014 13:17 #60435 by ghaznavid

ClimbyKel wrote: Hopefully you guys got the binos we recovered on top of Sterkhorn! ;)


Got hold of Carl on the way down Keartlands Pass, met his friend in reception, all sorted :thumbsup:

Ps. congrats on getting up Monk's Cowl. You can't claim the first female Canadian ascent if you don't provide a full writeup :P
Last edit: 22 Apr 2014 13:17 by ghaznavid.

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22 Apr 2014 13:22 #60436 by ClimbyKel
Well done Jonathan, thanks. Hope you had an enjoyable walk out; have a safe journey with your upcoming trip. PS - read my article/blog on my first outdoor climb. It's in the blog section. I'm living proof that shaky legs on the rock can be overcome with some regular climbing and experience. So, continue to get out there and keep climbing! As Neil's slogan goes: Any Monkey can do it! After a while, what made you nervous in the early years, no longer gives you the same adrenaline....which is why climbers move on to higher and scarier peaks!

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22 Apr 2014 13:23 #60437 by ClimbyKel
no, it was that pair! Chris found them, I hiked down with them, I gave them to another girl, and Jonathan got them in the end. :unsure:
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22 Apr 2014 13:29 #60438 by ClimbyKel
Full write-up? How about I re-address my main points:
1) did it
2) didn't pee my pants
3) didn't fall
4) didn't die!!
:laugh:

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