Mini Hike Reports
There is a reason I rate that section as the crux of an entire N-S speed GT. While the storm near Sani was the file nail in the coffin on my most recent completed GT, the Yodeler's Ridge is where we really lost our hopes of a sub-80h time. Interesting question would be which team required more effort to get up that - us with our light packs, but having started the day at Nguza Cave, or you guys while fresh, but with 15+kg packs
Admittedly we didn't need pain killers the next day
Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
I was asked by a friend to take a group of guys up Grays pass for the weekend.
We started preparing them about 2 months prior to the hike to get gear etc sorted out, and I also provided them with a lekker training program that, if followed, would have assisted them in getting up and down the pass in reasonable fashion.
Soooo, we arrived at around 9am on the Friday morning at Moncs Cowl campsite, kitted up and hit the road by 9:30am. Some participants started taking strain in the first 500m up the Sphinx - clearly they didn't follow my training program I have this saying:" You either pay for it in training or you pay for it on the mountain."
It took quite a while to get to the first stream at Verkykerskop, so we were in for a very leisurely hike this weekend. Here we met a large group of black people on their way to KBC. The one guy was carrying a 5kg gas cylinder! Clearly the anti- fast and light approach! I'm sure they cooked up a storm during the weekend
The relatively flat terrain made for easy and fast progress until we dropped down to the river near the dragons back. Here myself and two other guys went a bit faster to see if we could find some decent camping spots. We were passing the stragglers from the black group, so I suspected that KBC would be full, and I was not dissapointed. We therefore found a sort of level spot and started pitching tents. That night we were probably about 60 people in and around KBC, by far the largest number of people I've ever encountered here. The night was uneventful, besides the fact that we were all literally sliding to the bottom of our tents. Our flat camping spot was not so flat after all! Oh, and as I was getting dinner ready I stood up from a rock and stood next to my pack. As I looked down I saw a 45cm long berg adder sailing right between my legs. Jikes!!!!!!
Next morning I commandeered the troops up early - 6am and we were ready to go, except two guys who were still wolfing down their oats. We slowly started climbing Grays pass. We waited for the slow guys just before the really steep middle section, and then again just before the last stretch going up towards the cliff face. We topped out at 8:40am, which is a really respectable time as it included a 20min rest stop just below the cliff face. Seeing the sun rise in the east was really special.
The escarpment itself was quite cold and windy, and we all put some warmer clothes on as we waited for the last guy to arrive and join us for breakfast next to the stream on top of Grays. I took them then on a quick tour of Nkosazana cave, then up to Ships North and South (such an amazing view looking down this pass), up to Champagne castle and back down to the top of Grays pass. The group split up on the decent as some of the guys were suffering from jelly leg syndrome
It took a while to get everyone off the mountain but by 2:30pm the last guys were back in camp. We had quite a bit of time to kill for the rest of the afternoon, and I started looking at Moncs Cowl with interest. I was not feeling 100% due to my body fighting some sort of infection, but even though my pace was slow I reckoned I still had enough in the tank to get up Moncs Cowl. I would get back after dark if I decided to go, should I go? YES
At 3:30pm I hoisted my pack (sans sleeping bag) and set off to conquer Moncs Cowl. It was quite a mission to fight through the very bushy terrain just below Moncs Cowl, but I eventually got through. Only to realise I was nearly out of water so I had to go back down the river to top up. After filling up with 3 Liters I climbed out the river and started going up the Pass on the KBC side of Moncs Cowl.
Must say the terrain was quite difficult (maybe I was just tired) but the going was a bit slow. Lots of rocks and high grasses on really steep terrain has to be climbed over. A bit too steep for hiking poles in many places, so they were not of much help on the ascent.I stayed to the right of the pass as I wanted to have a good look at the terrain as the descent would be made in the dark. Got to the neck between Cathkin and Moncs Cowl at 05:43 and took literally 3 photos when my cellphone died - battery flat! Aargh, I still wanted to take a pic of Cowl Cave - this will now have to wait for another day.
I unpacked my lunch bag, got the stove going and was seriously looking forward to a nice hot cup of soup, when I realised that I had forgotten my bag with coffee, tea and soup down at the camp spot. Fortunately I had a Back Country Beef and pasta hotpot in my backpack so it was nice to at least get some hot food into my system. I warmed it up, opened it after 10 minutes only to realise that my spork was also in the drinks bag down below!!!! Well, 'n boer maak a plan so I took two pieces of droewors and used my "boere chopsticks" to get the food into my mouth. And yes, I ate the boere chopsticks as well . I spent a good 45 minutes or so on the neck, was just so nice sitting there, watching the last rays of the sun dissapear over the mountains, with a light breeze picking up, looking down at the many lights in the basin below.
The going down was a lot faster, but I nearly took a tumble on a couple of occasions as the steps down between the grasses are quite high and the ground loose, so I had to be careful not to sprain an ankle here. Every so often somebody from "Basecamp" would flash their lights in my direction, and I would respond by flashing back that everything was ok. About halfway down a thought hit me - what if my headlamp died now? The moon wasn't yet up, but even if it was, the ridge would block the light so I would be stuck for quite a while, or I would have to move very slowly basically on feeling alone - the starlight wasn't of any use as it was a bit overcast. Really quite dark high up with no other light source. And the dead cellphone was no use either. Fortunately the batteries lasted - I even used them on the first night of our hike last weekend up to Xeni cave, which will be my next trip report. Xeni was awesome, but back to Moncs Cowl.
I got back to camp at around 8pm and had that hot chocolate I should have had on Cowl neck. Man, it tasted sooooo good. My buddy Frans had taken the time in camp to move our tarp, so tonight we were sleeping on a mostly flat and level spot, which was 500% better than the night before. We awoke at midnight to rain softly falling on our bivvy bags - yes, we had slid partly out of our tarp again, but not nearly as far or as frequently as the night before. I had high hopes that this hike would be a dry one, as my previous 5 hikes had all been in the rain. Turns out all that was left of the rain on Sunday morning was just a bit of wet mist in the air, but all the vegetation was properly wet.
Sunday morning the troops were ready loooooong before 6am - clearly somebody laid down the rules very strictly the afternoon before, while I was going up on Moncs Cowl. I nearly missed the cut-off time, making it with about 30 seconds to spare We had an uneventful hike back, in the mist. Went down Kearlands pass for the first time ever - I like it much more than going down the Spinxs. Easier gradients, less slippery rock so safer in the wet.
All in all a very relaxing hike. Most of first-time-berg-hikers in the group loved it in the berg, although they all said that it was harder than they thought it would be. Just as it should be
PS: Apologies but I took virtually no photos on this hike. I saved all my ram for the Xeni hike
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At 3:30pm I hoisted my pack (sans sleeping bag) and set off to conquer Moncs Cowl.
Thanks for the write-up, as a matter of interest, were you planning on soloing Monk's Cowl?
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
HikerParsons wrote: Thank you for the video and photos. It looks amazing. I saw in one of the photos that that someone attached an action camera to his trekking pole. Is this so? Where can I get an action camera amount to do this?
Yeah, that was Graeme (hopefully he will answer more in depth!)
He showed me the mount and from what I can remember it was a regular Go Pro mount that he had attached to his wooden hiking stick by bolting it into the wood. I know that there is also a product called a StickPic that is made to attach an action camera to a hiking pole ( www.thestickpic.com/ ) but I don't think it is available in South Africa.
'Please accept the stimulation'