Mini Hike Reports

29 Oct 2019 13:00 - 29 Oct 2019 13:18 #75412 by vivo101
Replied by vivo101 on topic Mini Hike Reports
The "foulest" in all the land

I completed a quick solo 2-Day loop of Ships-Grays over the weekend, as a rehab weekend to get my legs were they need to be. Got a lift down with some friends also heading down for a training weekend and started 6am on Saturday morning. It was a cool overcast morning and I reached the head of Ships Prow Pass at 10am. Here I filled up my water and started up the pass, scouting a line through the bush from the rock piles as I went. The bushwhacking is considerably easier with a fastpack and I quickly made it to the end of the riverbed, I was hoping to find my last water here but there was none to be found. I ran out of water about halfway up the southern gully and intensified my push for the summit, reaching the top at approx 2pm (8 hours)






I eventually found water at the river in the main grays escarpment valley and pitched my bivy behind some rocky outcrops, out of sight of potential traffic down the pass, in howling wind. I took an afternoon nap, made early dinner and settled in for the night. The wind was howling through the night and I fell asleep with the all to familiar feeling of getting slapped in the face by a bivy sidewall. I woke up at 4am broke camp and made my way to the grays river once again where I had breakfast and watched the sunrise over Catkin, still my all time favorite sunrise spot. I eventually got going at 5:30am and made my way down Grays pass, met some friendly Basothos on their way up near the bottom. I had the pass behind me in approx 75min and made my way back to MC by 10am, just in time to beat the days heat. 



Another epic in the berg I wont soon forget.

This pass should be renamed to "blue mattress slaughter"...Sounds like a metal band. I found endless bits of poor unfortunate blue mattresses in the denser bush sections....and imagined the amount of cursing that accompanied them on their journey... 

"To those who are enthralled by mountains, their wonder is beyond all dispute. To those who are not, their allure is a kind of madness." - Mountain

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Last edit: 29 Oct 2019 13:18 by vivo101.

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06 Dec 2019 18:56 - 06 Dec 2019 18:58 #75529 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports
Mgavuma ( Jakkalshoek) Ridge - Cathedral Peak

I have had my eye on doing this ridge for a while ! This is the ridge that runs between Try Me Hill Ridge and Mikes Pass with Rainbow Gorge in the middle.We had hiked up past Ribbon Falls on the Saturday in horrendously hot weather and found a tenting spot on the contour path near the eNdumeni river that flows down into Rainbow Gorge.  There’s a lovely pool there which we certainly took advantage of in the heat.  This was the only running water that we found  all day - we bypassed Ribbon Falls so didn’t have a look there and the area above the falls, although wet, was hardly flowing.We woke up to a white out on Sunday morning but by the time we got on to the ridge, it started clearing so we were able to get the views.  An easy enjoyable walk and we followed Eland paths most of the way. We kept to the Mikes Pass side and eventually made our way down a steep gully to where a grassy ramp descends to Rainbow Gorge.  I am not sure that this route is frequented by hikers, but it is obviously heavily used by the Eland.  Recommended for either a short overnight hike or  good day hike.















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Last edit: 06 Dec 2019 18:58 by elinda.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, Stijn, ghaznavid, hikingle, MarkT, tonymarshall, AdrianT, Riaang, andrew r, Papa Dragon, Dave

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18 Dec 2019 13:17 - 18 Dec 2019 13:19 #75557 by Redshift3
Replied by Redshift3 on topic Mini Hike Reports
Intunja (The eye of the needle)
Monks Cowl, Drakensberg

29th of December to 3rd December 2019

Thanx to Diverian for tips and tracks!





Friday 29th we left Nelspruit, Mpumalanga for the 7 hour journey to the Monks Cowl Gate. We managed to complete the mountain register, pay our fees and hit the trail just after 14H00.
The loose plan for day one was to head up past Nandi’s falls and see if the Sterkspruit Riverine was an option to get up to the contour path near Hlathikulu neck – wrong, very wrong. Once we arrived near Nandi’s falls, we dumped our packs and ventured upstream. It did not take long to asses that this is almost impossible to navigate the riverine with a backpack (in our opinion), but it would make an awesome day exploration trip from Monks Cowl.
Back at the packs we decided to stop for the day, a long drive and the relaxing environment made for an easy decision to find a spot for the night. We would backtrack in the morning and take Keartlands pass up to Blind Man’s corner, over Hlathikulu Neck and down to the eMhlwazini valley at the base of Intunja.



Saturday 30th, we were up early and on the trail. By the time, we were out of Keartlands we started passing day hikers, we got to Blind Man’s corner where there was a huge day hiking party just chilling and enjoying the scenery. We stopped and chatted then pushed on towards Hlathikulu Neck. Although we had, plenty water with us, it needs mentioning that every stream we passed on route was bone dry, apart from a trickle below the Turret (Tower) and the eMhlwazini river where we camped.

 

We made camp at the standard spot along the river well out of site of the contour coming from Grays Pass. We enjoyed the silence and the wildlife. A special treat was discovering a Ground Woodpecker nest in the embankment on the far side of the river; we would keep a close eye on this as we could see the nest but nothing confirming little ones.
We had a starlit evening, dinner and turned in. The plan was to be on the trail by 05H30 the next morning to summit Intunja and be back at camp by mid-day.
On Sunday the 1st we woke early only to find mist as thick as pea soup, we had coffee and decided not to climb until the mist cleared. By 10H00 the sun was breaking through and we started up the standard route to the top of Intunja.
Although not technical it was still tough going and the sun had decided, it was time to fry anything that moved, including two humans taking a walk up a mountain. We arrived at the entry section along eastern side towards the “Hole”. Although it is not much different to the Roland’s cave entry, the length and the fact that the footpath (foot holes) were loose gravel made this rather more unnerving than I expected.



Once at the “hole” the view was awesome, the vertical drop-off to the west and the magnitude of the hole made it all worthwhile. After a few pictures for the record we returned safely along the same path to spot where we dropped our gear. We took a short break to soak up the site and the achievement and headed down for a wallow in the ice-cold river. Sundowners at camp, dinner and bed.

 

Monday the 2nd we woke at leisure and packed up. We took the contour path back to Blind Man’s Corner and took the Crystal Falls route back to the Monks Cowl Office.
We checked out of the mountain register and headed for the Dragon Peaks Camp for a good meal, ice-cold beer and a good night’s rest.
Tuesday the 3rd we headed home to Nelspruit, Mpumalanga

“You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.”
Terri Guillemets

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Last edit: 18 Dec 2019 13:19 by Redshift3.
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18 Dec 2019 13:53 #75558 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic Mini Hike Reports

Redshift3 wrote: The loose plan for day one was to head up past Nandi’s falls and see if the Sterkspruit Riverine was an option to get up to the contour path near Hlathikulu neck – wrong, very wrong. Once we arrived near Nandi’s falls, we dumped our packs and ventured upstream. It did not take long to asses that this is almost impossible to navigate the riverine with a backpack (in our opinion), but it would make an awesome day exploration trip from Monks Cowl.

Hi Redshift, its possible to head straight up to the Nek like this. It's ok... as an alternative but while it saves about 2km it takes the same amount of time if not longer

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20 Dec 2019 19:07 - 20 Dec 2019 19:08 #75563 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports
Tsoelikane Falls - Sehlabathebe National Park

Tsoelikane Falls are situated some 5 km from the old Lodge ( Chief Jonathan’s Lodge) in Sehlabathebe National Park.  They are quite impressive, falling some 50 metres in to a large pool before flowing  deeper into Lesotho.  I hadn’t been there in years and felt that a return visit was well overdue.We left from  Bushmans Nek  in perfect weather -  There had been a lot of rain in the previous couple of days and it was a case of boots off for the first couple of river crossings.  We reached the top of Bushmans Nek Pass and it was here that we heard the constant sound of dogs barking. As reported by Richard in a previous post we witnessed the sad sight of an exhausted Eland surrounded by at least 8 dogs. Further back we could see two poachers approaching. It was immensely frustrating knowing there was nothing we could do and that this is undoubtedly something that occurs frequently. It was reported and one can only hope that the powers that be will address this growing problem.We continued on, but our hearts were heavy!We arrived at our destination for the night and found a perfect camp spot above the Falls.  We noticed that several sign boards had been erected in the area  displaying information on the Falls and surrounding rock art sites.  Clearly the Lesotho Parks authorities are on a drive to encourage tourism, but we nonetheless felt that it detracted a bit from the beauty and remoteness of the area.The following day we headed back towards the old lodge in very strong winds. It is now empty and derelict and the buildings behind it are being used as a military base by the Lesotho Army.  We spoke to the Lieutenant  who was very friendly and happy for us to go into the lodge for old times sakes.  I have many happy memories of weekends spent at the lodge in its heyday - warm comfortable beds, blazing fires and hot water!  Pure luxury and to top it all we could hire mules and have all our heavy things taken up from the border post.  Those were the days indeed and it is a huge tragedy that this iconic place is being allowed to fall into ruin.  I have been to the ’new’ lodge which is another 5 kms further back and it does not have the same appeal, nor the amazing view of the Devils Knuckles.  The hectic winds had forced some people that were camping nearby to take refuge in the lodge as their tents had been destroyed.  They told us that they had driven past the ’new’ lodge only to find no-one there and it all locked up.We spent some time in the amazing rock formations before the wind made things very unpleasant and we found a sheltered spot to while away the afternoon. Again there were sign boards everywhere. Fortunately the wind subsided in the late afternoon and we were able to put up our tents and  explore the numerous tarns in the area.Thick mist rolled in during the night and we walked back down in cool conditions.  By the time we got to Cedrics Pool, it had all burnt off and the guys made use of the pool. A great three days back in the Berg!
Last edit: 20 Dec 2019 19:08 by elinda.

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20 Dec 2019 19:12 #75564 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports




 





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20 Dec 2019 19:19 #75565 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports








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20 Dec 2019 19:51 - 20 Dec 2019 19:53 #75566 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic Mini Hike Reports
We also spent the weekend in the Southern Berg. We stayed at Swiman Hut on Friday night, well the smaller building to the left. Was very impressed with the service of Zandile at Garden Castle. I called her to ask her to leave the gates open as we'd be there after 7pm, she then called back to say the hut was full (or at least had people in all the rooms) so she had asked them to rearrange a bit to make space for us, and apologised a few times for the inconvenience, we hadn't booked so she had no reason to apologise. I told her we could've slept on the floor but they ended up leaving the side hut for us.

We set off on Saturday morning up Mashai Pass, it was such a dramatic change in water levels from 2 weeks previous!
The wind really picked up near the top of the pass making the final steep slopes quite scary at times.
While having a break in Mashai shelter we had a very well spoken Basotho chap come chat to us, he asked us why everyone goes up Rhino peak and why it's so special, I suppose likely having never been on the SA side it looks rather tame.

We then popped over the ridge via Mashai peak and headed to Mzimude cave.
It was great to have running water 10m from the top of Mashai pass and also in Mzimude pass above the cave!

The wind picked up during the night which made the next morning rather unpleasant to say the least.
Nevertheless we still went up Walkers peak before seeking refuge in the cave on the way down Isicatula pass. We actually descended the pass via the grass slope to the west of the gully, this was so much easier and quicker than using rocks and the east slope!
By now the wind was literally blowing us over at times, rivers were flowing up, it was madness!

The original plan was to head to Tarn cave, or find a shelter in that area but we chose to have lunch at Goats cave and re-assess. While waiting around I went up Senololong, that peak just north of Goats cave, its a little bit of a scramble heading up the east rock face, and just a grass slope to the west.
The wind died down around 4pm and we headed down to Thamathu cave for a calm night, although we were joined by 2 horses in the cave at about 11pm which gave us a bit of a fright!

Monday we headed down to the Border Post and then to the trading store for beer and ice creams, before heading back to Garden Castle via the Giants Cup trail










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Last edit: 20 Dec 2019 19:53 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, elinda, Stijn, ghaznavid, MarkT, tonymarshall, Redshift3, Dave, HikerParsons, GriffBaker

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17 Mar 2020 19:01 #75768 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports
A Different Route to Spectacle Cave - Cobham
I have been to Pholela Cave a number of times, but seem to have always bypassed Spectacle Cave, probably because it does not sleep that many comfortably, and even less so if there is wet weather.  So while the trail runners  ( Smurfatefrog and Michelle)were out doing a loop of Masubasuba and Amakehla passes, Papa Dragon, myself and Kirsty set out for Spectacle Cave.  We were joined by two British Doctors who are working out here for a couple of months, Peggy and Arvind.  This was to be their first night sleeping in a cave and they were pretty excited about it!  We decided to take a different route and tackled the ridge that separates the Pholela and Lakes caves valleys, and rises up immediately after the junction of the two rivers, just past the Shelter. This looked pretty steep to start off with and it proved to present us with a series of seemingly never ending climbs  as the morning went on.  We never really found a path although there were animal paths here and there and we mostly found our own way.  The views were amazingly beautiful the higher we climbed and we were rewarded with the serene sight of several tarns on the plateau. The highlight of my day! We stopped here to enjoy lunch before continuing onwards to the high point of 2357m where the path crosses over from the Pholela valley and descends down towards Lakes Cave.  We descended down towards Pholelea Cave where the path disappeared again and we were left to find our own way down, and from here to Spectacle Cave.  The best thing about this cave is the waterfall that cascades down right in front and there is very easy  access to water. The runners arrived shortly afterwards after having had a successful day, but with a bit of bundu bashing to endure and we all settled down for an early night.  The bottom section where we were sleeping got a bit wet during the night from a rain shower and Papa Dragon had to move.  The rest of us were ok, but I found the bottom of my sleeping bag to be wet in the morning from drips from the overhang above.  On our way out we explored the Gorge on the other side of the valley and had a look at Gorge Cave - this is tiny and sleeps two but is very sheltered.  We had to walk through the water to access the tunnel but getting our feet wet was totally worth it - a really beautiful little gorge that is tucked away and not often visited.  We walked out back to camp via the valley route and arrived back at midday.  Our visitors thoroughly enjoyed themselves and said it was a wonderful introduction to the Berg.  We wish them all the best during their time in South Africa and future travels in our mountains!



Approaching the junction and the ridge behind and to the left



On the ridge


 

Approaching the tarns



The tarns viewed from further up the ridge

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17 Mar 2020 19:06 #75769 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Mini Hike Reports


Papa Dragon plodding ever upwards




Nearing the top



At the saddle and the junction where the path descends to Lakes Cave




On the path down to Pholela river valley

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