What I did over my holidays
I have taken a weeks leave and intend to use it for some hard work and a few long days. I also want some fun so will use passes I have previously not used. And will try to bag some khulus that I missed during December's GT. And will even try bag a Kgolo or two.
The 3 part story will answer questions like:
Did Chris and Kelly get down from Rolands Cave in less time than Andrew took to hike the 3.6km to Doreen Falls and back?
Does that potentially new pass go or will the rock band at 3150m force a retreat into the thickets below?
Will Andrew finally find a dog free path through the Jarateng Valley?
After previously passing through the valley about 6 times, will Andrew finally get to swim in those elusive pools in the Yoddlers Cascades?
Can Andrew set a speed record for Mafadi?
AP, that 3.5 hrs to Doreen falls gave me an idea. Now that the GT record is basically impossible for mortals, how about the slowest-ever GT unsupported (without growing crops along the way)?
mnt_tiska wrote: Ghaz's genre of writing is starting to spread on the forum!
mnt_tiska wrote: AP, that 3.5 hrs to Doreen falls gave me an idea. Now that the GT record is basically impossible for mortals, how about the slowest-ever GT unsupported (without growing crops along the way)?
Lets do it. Who is up for taking off December. And January. And February
(although I won't deny that the probability of me doing a GT again in December this year is not 0)
Andrew and Sarah are staying in the chalets at Didema camp. Breakfast starts at 7am so we are forced to sleep in. After a lazy start, we finally decide to go for a hike to Doreen Falls, which must be a contender for the shortest hike in the Drakensberg. We drive to the hotel to save a few kilometers of hiking. It goes without saying that the nap and tea at the falls take some time and before we know it Chris has beaten us back to the mountain register by a full 30 minutes, having walked all the way from Rolands Cave.
I started out from the Giants car park at about 15:40. Target for the day as per mountain register, Upper Injasuti Cave. I had a hefty (for me) bag containing a stove, sleeping bag, plenty of tea and 4 days food. The path as far as Bannermans Hut at least was in excellent shape so I ran a fair amount of that. After that, the contour path fades to indistinct levels and I had to slow down. I should have pulled out my headlamp earlier but out of principal waited until I was on the main path heading up Judges Pass itself. The path is fairly easy to follow even with no moon. I got slightly lost in the final scree gully but a simple traverse to the right sorted that out. I topped out about 19:30.
By now I had realised mistake #1. I had forgotten to bring a drom. My running water bottle is only 500 ml so I could either bivvy next to a stream or fill my stove and carry the extra 1l to my bivvy spot. (It was technically an option to eat at a stream and then sleep elsewhere, but I brought a limited amount of clothes and was planning to cook while dressed in my sleeping bag) So I headed 2 minutes back down the pass to a trickle and then against all common sense to a bivvy on top of Judge Peak itself. Hopefully for a good sunrise. Mistake #2 was to get into my sleeping bag in the clothes I had worn while running. They were all sweaty which promptly evaporated and then re-condensed on the inside of the bivvy bag. To get me soaked and cold. Some wind came up about 10pm to remove the moisture as well as the last of my body heat and resolve. The night from here was long and miserable.
Thanks to a poor nights sleep I headed out at a feeble 6:30. I started out on the highway towards Mafadi and then headed west to gain the lofty and distant peaks. Eventually forced myself below 3300m into a nearby valley to get water. This was the only time I dropped below 3300m for several hours. This is indeed a seriously high ridge. Makheka needs some simple route finding to dodge rock bands and the other 3400m peaks in the area are pretty simple. There is a good path most of the way along the ridges, so it made for some good altitude training. And, even for the stretches without a path, the barren landscape makes for easy travel.
About 13:30 I was back at Mafadi to start the real training, namely to get as far as Giants Castle for the night. I have for ages wanted to follow the escarpment instead of the Jateteng valley during a speed GT. Partially but not entirely to dodge the dogs. Somehow time vanished and by 15:30 I had not yet reached the top of Bannermans Pass. Common sense kicked in and said if it could take this long to cross a single ridge in the daytime with fairly fresh legs then how would I cope in the dark with tired legs. So it is back to the Jarateng valley and its dogs. At night.
Clearly I was going to take strain getting to Giants Cave, and I really wanted a night out of any wind, and near some water. I was not going to let an opportunity go. So armed with a view from below the previous day and knowing that I might find a cairn midway between Bannermans Pass and Gypateus Peak I searched for the top of Gypaetus Pass. I found the top of the pass in minutes and traversed along the initial ledge. I then made my way down through various rock bands. A traverse around the ridge led to obvious blankness so I retreated and went down some more. At one point I passed what may have been a cairn. I soon ventured into ground that even baboons seem to keep clear of and slowly made my way down yet more. Eventually I could traverse around the ridge and into the correct gully. A simple plod down it got me to Bannermans Hut for a toasty night.
I got up as soon as it is light because the bunk bed is very hard for a thin gaper pad and I can only stay down for so long. It did not take too long to pack up and get back to the carpark. I dilly dallied in the tourist hangouts for a chance to recapture civilisation before heading off to Injasuti.
Pictures to follow shortly
In the next part of the story, we will find out why I used the late afternoon for a lazy walk up to Grindstone Caves and back
AndrewP wrote: So armed with a view from below the previous day and knowing that I might find a cairn midway between Bannermans Pass and Gypateus Peak I searched for the top of Gypaetus Pass. I found the top of the pass in minutes and traversed along the initial ledge.
Well done on the first [VE documented] repeat of Gypaetus Pass (although who knows what Bill Barnes and others did in the area but never wrote about)
And without a GPS track coming down in fading light, that is rather hectic.
Good to hear our little cairn is still there, and that route finding wasn't difficult.
Fitness and I both agreed that this was quite a hard pass - I rate the hardest at Giants Castle. A second opinion would be nice!
AndrewP wrote: Stijn of course got his hand in on that one as well, before it got too popular. He did a GT years ago in 17 or 20 days or so.
Haha, indeed! 19 days in January 2004, including 4 days to hike down to Injisuthi, have a rest day and back up again, both ways via Leslie's. And a rest day at Sani Top.
In a similar vein, I'm currently on a 4-month cycle tour across Europe with my wife. Have a look at our blog here: www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/15570
My route down Gypaetus Pass. The X marks the spot I was aiming for, and the route shown excludes a lot of backtracking and messing around trying to find the X
Another Kgolo in the distance. It is barren out there and pretty lonely
This guy insisted on guiding me to his home village miles away. I convinced him that the summit of Makheka was worth a few sweets.
The summit cairn for Gypaetus Pass
Looking down the pass somewhere in the higher regions. Not too bad, but no real point to aim for