Sentinel Car Park to Cathedral Peak - Northern Berg Escarpment Traverse

22 Jan 2013 11:38 #55915 by Ryno
hahaha, sorry I should have named the subject beter.
That sounds like something I would definitely do.
I agree but I want the hike to be a bit of a struggle and then finish of with a bang but no use in her hating every moment of it.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
22 Jan 2013 12:10 #55916 by ghaznavid
Basically you have to cross 9 escarpment ridges to do this hike (difficulty ratings out of the 28 - the number of escarpment ridges - low numbers are harder ridges, bear in mind that no's 1-3 include around 500m of altitude gain in a shortish distance):
- Beacon Buttress (25/28)
- Ifidi (28/28)
- Icidi (23/28)
- Stimela (24/28)
- Mbundini (27/28
- Rwanqa (22/28)
- Ncedamabutho (21/28)
- North Saddle (14/28)
- South Saddle (17/28)

Don't take those "easy" ratings on the first 7 as a statement that the route is easy. This is a hard route.

Some pics that may give you an idea of the route:


The view from the Ifidi area - there is a descent spot to camp in the area. There are a few caves nearby, but I don't know the caves in the area well.


The view north looking towards the Inner Tower and associated peaks - note the 2 ridges that don't feature on the above list due to lack of difficulty.


The view south from the Icidi Crown - probably the best view from a peak I have climbed. Note the ridges visible on the right.


Icidi Cave on the side of the Icidi Crown


The Stimela Ridge (south side)


The North Saddle Ridge

I'm not the best person to provide a plan of overnight stops - I don't know this area as well as I know the central and southern part of the range.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
22 Jan 2013 12:18 #55917 by tiska
As others have already commented, Mont-Aux Sources to Catehdral Peak in 4 days is do-able if you're fit and know your way round. But it will be a hard 4 days of 7 hours or so walking each day. Five to six days would be more the norm for this hike. I would suggest expanding the days to 6, knowing you might finish sooner if all goes well, or else doing a different route. An out and back from the Sentinel car park is one alternative. This would take you into the wild part of Mnweni fast, and you could go as far as time and capability allowed (so making it easy or hard all depending) but you would always be in control of how hard the walk was going to be. Its a spectacular part of the berg.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Jan 2013 05:24 - 27 Jan 2013 10:41 #55938 by Serious tribe
I am going to put a spanner in the works. Not sure if i would go alone with my wife/girlfriend up into that area during this time of the year with the kind of shepherd activity that you will come across. It could get nasty and frightening. I don't wish to sound like a 'fraidycat', but this is one of those once in a life time moments, I would hate it spoiled by something going wrong due security situation or running out of steam and an unhappy fiancee. This is a stiff hike requiring knowledge of the top of the escarpment and of yourselves as individual hikers and a team! :blush: :(

I recall an easy trip up the Mlambonja in December heat when my wife was in tears and I only just managed to save the day by finding a camp spot near the river and stopping the hike short of the plan. It was also safe as far as shepherds and smugglers are concerned.

I would argue that an easier hike in the lower berg would not only be safer but more relaxed given the event you are planning.

Unless of course you guys are super fit, ninja-turtles I would leave this trip for a grp outing once engaged. Just my 2c worth. ;)
Last edit: 27 Jan 2013 10:41 by Serious tribe.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Ryno

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Jan 2013 06:39 #55942 by ghaznavid
A much easier and very pleasant 4 day route (if you really want to head up to the escarpment) would be:
- day 1 up Mikes Pass along the contour path and down Philip's Folly to the "campsite" (small flattish grassy spot) along the Didima river (or you could overnight in Schoongezicht cave)
- day 2 climb up Thlanyako Pass. Either overnight in Didima Cave (which is quite far from the top of the pass) or sleep in a tent, but not too near the top of the pass - the pass has a good volume of use by smugglers, so be careful where you camp, how much noise you make and use of headlamps after dark.
- Day 3 follow the river that runs parallel behind the escarpment edge ridge and a ridge in Lesotho, there is a trail from about 3 km up (that is 3km past the top of Thlanyako Pass), you basically follow a river. Cross over the very steep but spectacular Ndumeni Dome ridge (and climb the peak if you want a really good view) and sleep in Roland's Cave, 1 of the 3 Upper Ndumeni Dome Caves or the 1 of the 3 Ndumeni Summit Caves (but not the 3 Lower Ndumeni Dome Caves on Thuthumi Pass - these are tiny little holes in the ground)
- Day 4 head down Organ Pipes Pass and follow the Thuthumi Ridge back to the contour path, back to Mikes Pass and finally back to where you started.

Benefits:
- This is a very scenic route
- Its one of the few loops in the area that has paths almost everywhere
- There are usable caves for every night
- The passes are some of the easier ones in the area

Beware:
- Lots of Basutho activity in the area, so don't camp near a path or the head of a pass
- No water on Thlanyako Pass or on Organ Pipes Pass (there is a well hidden water spot on the pass, but its a mission to find and its a light trickle)

Some photos may give you an idea of the area:

Mikes Pass is the road up this hill - there is a path up the nose of the ridge:


This is the Didima River from the top of Philips Folly - you hike down the path to the river, and once you hit the river you follow it toward the escarpment (you only cross the river quite far up):


The Didima campsite as seen from a nearby hill - note the tents:


Thlanyako Pass has a good path, it follows the nose of the ridge, not the river gully like most passes:


This is looking in the wrong direction, but will give you an idea of the valley in Lesotho that you would follow:


From the top of the Ndumeni Dome looking south (excuse the quality of the pic):


The view north from the top of Ndumeni Dome is as follows - note the position of Organ Pipes Pass. The top of the pass is marked by a large cairn:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

The following user(s) said Thank You: Ryno

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Jan 2013 17:26 #55944 by intrepid
To echo something ST raised, be sure that your girlfriend is a super fit and eager on the Berg before taking her on a hike like that. If not, then that’s not always something they enjoy, or find romantic. Sometimes what we think is great, isn’t always experienced by them like that, been there myself :cheer:

My gut feel is that if you don't know the Berg too well, then rather not attempt that traverse in four days. Its all do-able, and if both of you are super-keen on a solid hike then sure, but why put yourself under pressure if you just want to enjoy the time out there.

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

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
23 Aug 2013 16:30 #58223 by dleverto
hi there,

Apologies up front for the length and rambling nature of this post!!!

I was born in the shadow of the Berg and always loved the area as a child. Family moved to the cape and I only visited the area again a few times when I worked in johannesburg for a few years...

I turn 50 next year and am planning to do something special ( I now live in London, and have done so for the last 15 years! )...

I am looking for feedback on thoughts on a possible itinerary... Some important points... I am a very keen landscape photograper and this visit will be just as much about photography as it will be about hiking to a fixed schedule... Also I suffered ligament and cartilage damage to my ankle hiking in the highlands of Scotland a few years back...

As this is likely to be a once off trip, I am keen to take things as slow as possible in order to maximise my chances of getting in good photography.... happy to linger until the weather improves in general...

In all likelhood will look at using a strong flexible guide and possibly even a porter ( as I will be carrying about 6kg of photo equipment with me ( including tripod ), but would be happy on walking in a group of likeminded individuals... Current plan would be about a week somewhere in Mid to late April through to Mid may... Ideally sandwiched somewhere betee thunderstorm season and the 'burning' season...

Area of maximum interest for me would be an escarpment hike / traverse from Ampitheatre through to Cleft Peak area....Some questions...

1. Sustained descent down a steep pass likely to be much worse for my ankle than an ascent... Might it make sense to be dropped off at the top of Mikes pass and ascend via Organ pipes Pass and do the traverse South to NOrth ( descending via the chain ladder )?
2. Might it make sense to do a loop of 5-6 days ( starting AND ending at sentinel car park ) focusing primarily on Ampitheatre and Mnweni escarpment areas?
3. I expect at anything more than 5-6 days you need to be resupplied? I was thinking 7 days, but dont know whether that would be possible...

Any thoughts or comments on the above would be appreciated...

I am totally open to ideas and excursions and alternative ascents and descents...

Thanks in Advance
Des

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
23 Aug 2013 18:14 #58224 by ghaznavid

dleverto wrote: hi there,

Apologies up front for the length and rambling nature of this post!!!


Hello and welcome to VE :thumbsup:

You should see how long my emails are :laugh:

dleverto wrote: 1. Sustained descent down a steep pass likely to be much worse for my ankle than an ascent... Might it make sense to be dropped off at the top of Mikes pass and ascend via Organ pipes Pass and do the traverse South to NOrth ( descending via the chain ladder )?
2. Might it make sense to do a loop of 5-6 days ( starting AND ending at sentinel car park ) focusing primarily on Ampitheatre and Mnweni escarpment areas?
3. I expect at anything more than 5-6 days you need to be resupplied? I was thinking 7 days, but dont know whether that would be possible...


1) That's definitely doable over 5-6 days, but don't forget that you will have to go down the slopes of each escarpment ridge, that cleft peak one is a monster, as is the North Saddle ridge.
2) That will save you quite a bit of up and down - the ridges of northern Mnweni aren't nearly as big as those of northern Didima.
3) Well - technically anything is possible, especially if you have a porter, but 7 days of food is a lot

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Aug 2013 15:58 #58251 by dleverto
Hi,

At a relaxed pace, with plenty of time for photography along the escarpment ( and a resupply above Organ Pipes Pass ) any idea on how long it would take to complete the Sentinel car park to Giants Castle section of the drakensberg...

10-11 days?

This would include days where very little walking is done ( staying put due to weather or focus on scenery ) and days when more walking is done ( less interesting sections of the berg escarpment ) ... Would plan to do guided ( with camera, tripod etc... ) possibly use porters too.

Probably descending via easiest route ( langalibalele? ).

probably mid to late April.... Really interested in any experiences at that time of year ( positive or negative? )

Thanks

Des

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Aug 2013 16:29 #58252 by ghaznavid
@Moderators: perhaps this thread should be merged with the last question?

dleverto wrote: At a relaxed pace, with plenty of time for photography along the escarpment ( and a resupply above Organ Pipes Pass ) any idea on how long it would take to complete the Sentinel car park to Giants Castle section of the drakensberg...

10-11 days?

This would include days where very little walking is done ( staying put due to weather or focus on scenery ) and days when more walking is done ( less interesting sections of the berg escarpment ) ... Would plan to do guided ( with camera, tripod etc... ) possibly use porters too.


When we did it on GT last year (although we did South to North) it took us 5 days from the top of Langies to Sentinel Car park. We didn't motor it at all. So 10-11 days is definitely doable.

dleverto wrote: Probably descending via easiest route ( langalibalele? ).


IMO Langalibalele is the easiest pass between Sentinel and the southern end of the KZN Berg.

Remember that the Popple and Sanqebethu ridges are big ones - great views from both, but they are big ones. You can alternatively take Judge Pass, it's easy and has a good path. With your issues on downhills I wouldn't recommend Bannerman Pass.

dleverto wrote: probably mid to late April.... Really interested in any experiences at that time of year ( positive or negative? )


I did a GT from south to north in April last year, an overly detailed writeup with photos is at www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/16-drakensberg-grand-traverse/53719-the-upside-down-dragon-gt2012.html#53719

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
Powered by Kunena Forum