The Mt Aux Sources - Amphitheatre - Tugela thread

27 Aug 2011 16:21 - 28 Aug 2011 12:35 #3821 by Smurfatefrog

intrepid wrote:

Smurfatefrog wrote: Hope you don't mind but I'm going to weigh in with a Q of my own which would probably help you

Where exactly is Beacon Buttress Gully, I've read where it says "Just after the saddle between the Sentinel and the escarpment is passed" but would it be that gap on the right of the Sentinel here?

It's a little further than the gap you refer to. The path changes from a southerly course to south-westerly one at this point.

Thanks Intrepid. I found a pic of it for reference as well.

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Last edit: 28 Aug 2011 12:35 by intrepid. Reason: Embedded attached image
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid

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09 Oct 2011 18:42 - 09 Oct 2011 18:44 #4273 by LouisvV
Hi guys,

I'm fairly new to the forum and would like some advice on a trip ("micro adventure") I'm planning. Let me start off with the idea.

After a recent visit to the F.E.A.T talk in Joburg, I was inspired by one of the speakers where he had the concept of "micro adventures". Simply put, you don't have to have lots of money and travel to destinations overseas to have an adventure. Keep it simple, local and on a budget. You plan your trip (short or long) and then go on the adventure.

So my idea is for me and my wife to "summit" the Amphitheater and camp over for 1 night. We are from Pretoria, and I thought of driving to the sentinel car park and hike from there up to the Amphitheater, set up camp for one night, and return the next day.

1. We have never hiked in the Drakensberg before, we are hiking fit (if you can put it that
way) - how long does the hike take up to the Amphitheater?
2. Is it safe to leave your car @ the car park, and to do this hike?
3. Is the route marked or do you need a map and navigation skills?
4. Once on the escarpment, where do you pitch a tent? Near the hut? Is it safe for 1 night
sleep over?
5. Any special lookout points recommended on the way up?
6. Can you drink the water from the Tugela or do you need tablets?
7. What would you recommend for meals etc.?

Is there anything else that I left out or questions I should be asking? I would really appreciate any comments or suggestions, or even links to threads that might help for a similar trip to this.

Last edit: 09 Oct 2011 18:44 by LouisvV.

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10 Oct 2011 06:11 #4275 by Boerkie

I'm planning a similar trip in this thread. Many of your Q's will be answered by reading that thread.

1.From the Car Park via Chain Ladders - 1.5 hours with a almost 500m altitude gain from the car park.
3.A clearly visible path all the way. Can even be seen with Google Earth
4.I'd rather not camp in the Tugela basin. If your up to it go for Ifidi cave.

6.No! Treat the water!
7.For one night, pre-cooked meals frozen at home, and the standard snacks & drinks.

Consider doing the trip like this.
Sentinel Car park - Chain ladders - Tugela falls - Mount Aux Sources - Ifidi Cave - Beacon Buttress Gully - Car Park
Sleeping at the car park on Friday night and Ifidi Cave on Saturday night

Feel free to ask should you need more info.


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10 Oct 2011 08:35 #4281 by LouisvV
Wow, thanks for all that info! :thumbsup:

The route you suggested, is it also clearly visible, especially to the cave, or do you need a proper map of the area?

Roughly how long would it take from the cave back to the car park?

Lastly, are there any gps data/ maps to download for this loop?

Sorry for 101 questions, just don't want to get us lost on our first trip. Thanks for the input!

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10 Oct 2011 08:55 #4283 by Boerkie
True Ifidi cave is notoriously difficult to find. I haven't been there myself but intent using a GPS to locate it. I would not suggest you doing a trip without map 1 (Rugged Glen - Mweni) and being able to read the map and navigate with a compass or GPS although it is a easy loop. Getting lost should not be a problem as whenever in doubt head East to the escarpment and follow it North to the Chain ladders.

All the GPS data are available for the area, you just need to combine them in the manner in which you plan your trip.

Car park to Chains 1.5 hours
Chains to Tugela Falls 0.5 hour
Tugela to Mount-Aux summit 1.5 hour
Mout-Aux to Ifidi cave 3 hours
Ifidi to Car park 4 hours

Estimated on distances and walking 3km/hour

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10 Oct 2011 11:04 #4288 by tonymarshall

Check out some useful info in these three articles: Take Care in the Mountains, The Amphitheatre : Hotspot for theft, and General Security Precautions for the Drakensberg.

I don't know the easy way to find the articles but follow this procedure: Click on the white 'Drakensberg Weather' at the bottom of the Home page,then click on red 'Drakensberg' at top left of page in the link 'You are here-Home-'Drakensberg'-Drakensberg Weather. This opens up 12 pages of various articles and the three named above can be accessed by scrolling through the 12 pages.

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11 Oct 2011 07:24 #4304 by intrepid
definitely spend some time enjoying Tugela Falls, but you can do much better camping elsewhere (you will have more solitude and less chance of the shepherds trying to lift your gear at night). The Ifidi area is very special but you don't even need to go all the way there. You could walk along the Amphitheatre edge and camp either at Ribbon Falls (roughly 3/4 way across) or near Mt Amery. Both places will give you great views, fresh water, good spots for tents and solitude. It will be the perfect weekend hike that is manageable and not over-committing. It sounds like you are thinking of driving down on Saturday morning? Then maybe not try go further than Mt Amery for your first visit to the area. If you are still thinking of going for Ifidi Cave then you will need a map and GPS (and know how to use both) if you are unfamiliar with the area. Go through some existing threads and articles on the cave and the route there.

Agree with boerkie about not drinking the water around Tugela Falls. The visitor traffic there is very high and people mostly worry only that no-one will see them squatting, not about what they are leaving behind or where they have left it. The other place to avoid filling up is on the flat plains of the Khubedu, because of high grazing activity. Generally the water is still fresh and excellent for drinking in the Berg - just need to give some thought about where it has come from.

About special lookouts on the way up, the trail generally gives you great views. There is a point more or less above the zig zags from the car park where you can go left to check out a great view of the Amphitheatre, Devils Tooth etc (there is a sign). If you are using Beacon Buttress Gully then a short detour from the top of the gully towards the Sentinel is also very rewarding.

About hiking meals, do a search for a thread called "Favourite hiking meals" for some creative ideas.

GPS data: In the downloads section, look for files like Drakensberg Passes, Drakensberg Caves, Grand Traverse tracks, Northern Berg traverse tracks, Mt Aux Sources tracks, Beacon Buttress Gully tracks, Chain Ladder tracks. Combining those should give you heaps of data for the area.

Do some reading and searching on the site...plenty of info out there which will help. If you have more questions after that just let us know.

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

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11 Oct 2011 10:01 - 11 Oct 2011 11:04 #4311 by LouisvV
Jeesh! TONS of info :thumbsup: Thank you so much guys - I really appreciate it, this should be sufficient for planning my micro-adventure. If I have any further questions I would not hesitate to ask.

2 Quick ones for now:

1. Am I correct in pointing out the Ribbon Falls area? (pic attached) Do
you pitch your tent on the escarpment?

2. On the second pic - where would Mt Amery be?

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

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Last edit: 11 Oct 2011 11:04 by LouisvV.

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11 Oct 2011 12:00 #4319 by Boerkie
Yes you are right about Ribbon falls :thumbsup: and mount amery will fall into the same circle.

Yes you can pitch a technical tent on the escarpment. See the tent thread.

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11 Oct 2011 13:15 #4321 by intrepid
Boerkie is correct. Immediately South of Tugela Falls is a minor ridge. After you cross it you hit Bilanjil Stream, which has an established campsite if you spot it, but I think the better spots are further along. You will cross a fairly flat and extensive section and some boggy areas which is the source of the Khubedu (which incidentally flows the other way to the Bilanjil and Ribbon Falls and lands up in the Atlantic). The next significant stream flowing into SA will be Ribbon Falls, immediately after it is another minor ridge which you cross into the small valley below Mt Amery. You can camp anywhere you fancy, considering safety (like not being too close to the edge). Near the crest of this second minor ridge is the interesting, free-standing pinnacle humourlessly referred to as "Peckham's Peaklette" in Encounters With the Dragon.

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

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