What I did over my holidays

23 Apr 2015 10:22 #63489 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic What I did over my holidays
I have an ability to pluck silly ideas out of thin air. I fail to do any research at all and thus completely miss the part where everyone else says it cannot be done. I thus have a high failure rate but every now and again pluck some magic out of the hat.

The Mafadi speed record is at first glance rather feeble. Until you try getting up Leslies Pass at speed that is. The combination of long grass low down, boulder hopping higher up and the final, steep pass itself break you amd force a lot more walking than the map suggests.

So, out comes the bit of silliness. The most direct line to the escarpment is to follow the highway up to Grindstone Cavrs and then the ridge above to traverse into Apes Pass.

With no research at all I promptly set off at 6am from the Injasuti mountain register. The path up to Grindstone is great and I made good time. Having walked up here the previous afternoon, I knew a group was in the cave, but had not been able to see the cave and its water supply as some of the girls were showering at the time. The group were surprised by my arrival this early in the morning to collect water. I was equally surprised by the size of the group.. After a few feeble efforts I borrowed one of their pots to fill my water bottle and set of.

I followed the path towards marble baths a bit too long but finally commited to the ridge. I felt strong and ran most of it despite a lack of path. Eventually at 2300m I started traversing out to the left. And found a highway that took me all the way into the main gully.

Five star boulder hopping followed and I keep up a steady pace. Until 2710m. Here I hit a series of waterfalls. I could have gotten up the 2nd but could not have down climbed it and the third waterfall looked worse. As did the wet and grassy slope just left of it. Thick mist blocked the view above, but I was pretty sure that a 4th waterfall was equally dodgy with the wet rock about.

After a few failed attempts I found a way out to the left a bit lower down. Vertical grass tuft pulling 30m off the deck is always a little scary. Okay going up but I knew coming down was not a happy option any longer. I followed the grass slopes for a while and finally found another sketchy traverse back into the main gully.

About 2800m I reached another unclimbable waterfall so out left I went again. This time I got so far left that I could use a parallel gully for a while before an easy traverse back right. The top of the gully is lose scree and grass so I had to be careful but it was plain sailing. I topped put at 9:10. This is about 80 minutes faster than I have ever gotten up Leslies.

I set off southwards at what turned out to be a fair pace. In fact I have never done that stretch so fast before. It helped of course that I did not have 80km under my feet but even so I felt stronger than I expected. I ran most of the way to Mafadi, even the gentle uphills, which are normally a fast walk. I reached the summit of Mafadi at 10:34.

I ran steadly down to the top of Leslies and promptly set off down that. It is hard work if trying to go fast and it took me almost 2 hours to get to Marble Baths. I managed to find the terrace path, but that is also slow because it meanders so much through the thick vegetation.

It turned out I was having a really good day and my legs had survived the 7 hours thus far. I could thus crack on the pace and made it back to the mountain register for a total time of 7:59
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23 Apr 2015 10:26 #63490 by intrepid
I knew I should have let the air out of your car tyres to slow you down a bit!

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

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23 Apr 2015 10:33 #63492 by ghaznavid
First recorded sub-8 hour Mafadi time (also first sub-9). And via Apes Pass. Very impressive stuff Andrew :thumbsup:

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23 Apr 2015 11:40 #63496 by JonWells
Well done Andrew, killer time that!

I'm beginning to suspect you may follow this method of getting down passes so quickly! :laugh:

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23 Apr 2015 19:51 #63508 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic What I did over my holidays
Although that looks like great fun, I really do not want to try it solo and a long way from home :-)

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23 Apr 2015 20:02 #63509 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic What I did over my holidays
A few weeks ago after getting rained out of a trip through the central berg, I decided to hike up some of the khulus nears Grays Pass. From here I looked across at a waterfall flowing off the impressive cliff near vultures retreat. I knew I would come back one day for a shower.




After a day of rest and a bit of scoping out the ground for the x-berg, I set off at a lazy 6:30. I have never used Keartlands Pass which provided a pleasant variation on the Sphinx route. It is hard to say if it is slower or faster but in the end I made it up to the contour path in just under an hour, so it seems to be much the same.

I then followed the contour path for another 2 hours before reaching the Nkosozana river. This is one of the densest and most overgrown sections of the contour path so I was keen to give that a skip.


A random section of the contour path before reaching Nkosozana River. My map marks this with the same "highway" symbol as the hike to the Tugela Gorge. Maybe I need a pair of glasses to read the map better

I left the contour path on a ridge just before the jungles and followed easy but steep grass slopes until 2250m. Here I traversed easily a long way aiming for a pair of pine trees overlooking the valley.


There is a lot of ground and altitude to be gained to reach the waterfall

I knew from looking above and also from what I could see now that I needed to cross the river. A significant cross gully and thickets in front of me suggested I bite the bullet and descend into the river. The bush was so thick I could not have fallen even if I had tried.



Looking back at the pine tree.


I had a good swim in a lovely pool before boulder hopping up the river around the corner. To see a 30m waterfall. The only exit was to fight my way back up onto the same side I had just descended.



For almost the entire run, I had to share my awesome mountain experience with a very, very noise helicopter. This is not the lightweight chap that flies in the little berg, it is the serious dude that goes up high. And hovers a LOT with an suitable amount of noise. I tried to time the skinny dipping part of my swim with a flyover but failed miserably.


By now 2 hours had passed for a mere 200m and I could still not see a definite way out the other side. Considering that all I had was a lightweight day bag, things were lining up for a bushy retreat.

So, after descending through more thickets to a point just above the waterfall, I made my way up the river a bit more and finally found the exit on the other side that I was looking for. Above that it will be possible to thread through the dozen or so rock bands to reach the main wall and waterfall. Above that is an exit gully but that is protected by 2 rock bands. Will it go?

To make matters worse, as you can all guess, pants that are good for running are really no good at all for thickets. I had by now felt literally every pricker bush, spiky plant and thorn and was getting tired of the slow progress. I turned around at 2300m having gained literally no altitude and move only 300m horizontally in several hours. Fortunately I found a much more efficient way back through the thickets.

It is obviously disappointing to turn around but the mountain will stay around for a while still. Now that I know where to go it will be fairly quick and easy up to those rock bands near the summit.


The 300m of thicket I took so long to get through and around

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23 Apr 2015 20:25 #63511 by Smurfatefrog
Andrew, I think you would've been very disappointed with that shower if you got there... this was the "waterfall" on the 5th of April

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