Trip report : 1 day to Champagne Castle Summit

14 Mar 2017 19:22 #71139 by WarrenM
Here is a quick report from our side. It was great to meet Papa Dragon at Monks cowl, Papa Dragon passed comment about the campsite not being in great condition, like Didima they have a water issue with the ablutions, which they were fixing on Monday morning, so hopefully that is sorted out now.

So the weather on Sunday was perfect. We had packed our gear the night before and went with day packs, weight of 4kgs each (1 lt water).

The goal was Champagne Castle Summit and we had given ourselves 14 hrs to do it and if we could we were going to get some of the other khulus as well.

Ruthie and I started out at 4am with clear Sky's and a full moon, with headlamps and walked until the sun came up. As we could see more we started to run a bit.

We got to the base of grays pass at 7 and took 2 hrs to get up it, it was tough, enough to make us start contemplating turning round.

Grays Pass


Approaching Grays


We got so close to the vultures and their nests it sounded like a plane coming in to land as they landed in their nests, that was the highlight of the day for me. We saw at least 20 vultures in one thermal as well.

Vultures in the Cliffs above


The Approach to the Gully


Entering the Gully


From the Top of the pass


The only people we saw were two hiker that were packing up at Keith's bush camp as we headed past, otherwise absolutely no activity to report.

Once on top we headed up mhlwanzi and then down and up Champagne Castle ridge. And finally we headed to Champagne Castle.

Looking North on the approach up Mhlwanzi


Mhlwanzi looking onto Cathkin and Monks Cowl


On mhlwanzi we were above the vulture nests and they were just above our heads we could again hear the wind through their wings like the sound of a plane coming over you, just incredible. We spent about 2hrs on the escarpment and the headed back down grays pass.

Grays is a steep climb so descending was hard. At the top of the pass we could see some large black clouds coming in. Papa Dragon asked how the Bell traverse was in terms of sections being exposed etc that most people pass comment on, but I found the approach to the Grays pass gully, both ascending and descending just as if not more of a challenge than the Bell traverse from a exposure point of view. The Bell Traverse is a very different route don’t get me wrong, I just felt more nervous on Grays than heading along the Bell traverse – Hope that Helps Papa Dragon!

There is a huge amount of erosion around the base of grays pass one section is a huge dongas of eroded land (the pic doesn’t do it any justice). As we got out the valley around grays pass we were able to run again and made good time all the way back to monks cowl.

The erosion


Around 40ks for the day in 11hrs. Just as well because at about 6pm it started to rain heavily at the camp site.

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The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, JonWells, ghaznavid, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, Papa Dragon

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14 Mar 2017 19:31 #71140 by Papa Dragon
Ahh great Warren, glad that you and Ruth had such an awesome run/hike, a good achievement.
it was a pleasure meeting you guys and your family, and we wish you well with your big plans..
Thanks for the info comparing Gray's and the BT, hopefully we'll get to that soon.
See you in the mountains!!
Papa D

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14 Mar 2017 19:44 #71141 by andrew r
Well done Warren & Ruth, certainly a big day out!!

I was at KBC and Grays Pass in October '17 and noticed that the dagga smugglers and local foot traffic were using a route down through that valley that is so heavily eroded in your last pic; I think it's so they can exit the descent out of sight of Keith Bush Camp. Don't remember it being so bad then, but we have had above average rainfall this summer in many parts of KZN.

make a difference. today.

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15 Mar 2017 07:28 #71145 by ghaznavid
Well done, and thanks for the writeup!

The summit gully on Gray's isn't my favourite section either. Last time I did Gray's was also a 4AM start (to avoid a forecast snow storm, though, we were in the cave before midday). We stopped for a break just before that gully, and while we were stopped, we heard a rockfall in the gully!

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