Boksburg Hiking Club Web Site

Berg Hikes

Sterkhorn
Two Passes - South (as planned)
Two Passes - South (as executed)
Champagne Castle to Injasuti.

Ndumeni.jpg (5610 bytes)        Mikeps.jpg (4895 bytes)

    From top of Organs Pass                                  Mike's Pass parking area

 

STERKHORN

Some peaks in Drakensberg demand to be tackled. Sterkhorn is such a climb and
Boksburg Hiking club, represented only by Stan plus three guests set out early on Saturday morning to do just that. Some rock climbing ability is needed near the top for this steep slog, which follows the Bridle path from Monk's Cowl Camping site, to meet Contour path at Blind Man's Corner. From there real assault on Sterkhorn starts.

At first eroded path goes straight up the face of Sterkhorn but peters out higher up in the rocky terrain. Only occasional cairns suggest possible route to the top. To reach the top one has to squeeze through a narrow chimney and scale 8m high rockface.

Our party started walking at 10. It was agreed beforehand that Peter would climb as high as he feels and three of us, Tanya, Jana and Stan will try for the top.

Unfortunately when Jana was shown the mountain, she thought we were joking and didn't believe we were serious about climbing it. Consecutively she lagged behind with Peter while Tanya and Stan kept faster pace. On reaching Contour path two of us had short lunch by the stream coming down from Sterkhorn and started our climb.

After gaining 400m in altitude we saw Peter and Jana deep down approaching the Contour path. We also saw that at this stage Jana realized we were not joking about climbing this mountain after all and started to run to catch up with us. But in her haste she got lost on mountain face and although in our view all the time we could not help her due to great distance. We had to go down the mountain to save her. Jana was exhausted and Tanya agreed to walk with her back to the camp.

Stan continued up and managed to get to the top after two more hours of stiff
climbing. View from the top is unforgettable, made more dramatic this time by four separate thunderstorm raging in near and far distance. After spending 20min on top, bone-jarring descent began and by 18h30 we were all together again at Monks Cowl Camp site.

Full-featured video of this hike was produced and will be viewed at club meeting in near future.

 

 

TWO PASSES - SOUTH (as planned)

August 7th to 10th

This is, without doubt, the most awe-inspiring and demanding hike ever planned by Boksburg Hiking Club. The mountains rise 1000m high and massive pinnacles stab the clouds. The Champagne Castle range is a jagged ridge of peaks and spires, starting with the Gatberg, then Dragon's Back, Sterkhorn and soaring Catkin Peak (3149m). Along the Escarpment wall we'll encounter, from the north, The Cleft Peak (at 3281m the eight highest peak of the Berg), Ndumeni Dome, the Little Saddle and Didima Buttress. Rising in front of the Escarpment is Eastman' s Ridge and to the east the top of the Little Berg with Ndedema Gorge cutting through.

Friday 7th of August: We depart independently at 016h00 and drive through Harrismith and Bergville to Cathedral Peak area of the Berg. We meet at 20h30 in the grounds of Cathedral Peak Forest Station campsite where we will have a braai.

We leave the Forest Station at 09h15 and drive to the parking on top of Mike's Pass. From there we must start hiking before 10h00 to reach contour path at 11h00 and the Didima River for lunch at 13h00. We follow the river upstream as far as we can go and camp next to it for the night. Distance covered is 13km.

Saturday 8th of August (9km): Hearty breakfast is necessary now, because we start steep ascend of the Tlanyaku Pass almost immediately. It can take us up to 5 hours to reach the top and from there we continue still uphill, but only after our lunch-break. We take the route on Escarpment side of the Sphinx to the top of Didima Buttress. This night we spend in the Didima cave with view towards the Champagne Castle.

Sunday 9th of August (16km): We return back to the Tlanyku Pass and then continue uphill over the Little Saddle and Windsor Castle to Ndumeni Dome (3206m). We spend the night on the slopes of this mountain.

Monday 10th of August (10km): Today it is only downhill. We descend the Organ Pipe's Pass, stop at the old Lookout for the last time and by 13h00 we should be back in the car park.

Hike leader: Stan (tel. 826 4743)

 

TWO PASSES - SOUTH (as executed)
August 7th to 10th 1998

It is always a bit of a problem on what hike to do in Drakensberg over a 3 day long weekend. There's nothing more boring then going up the Berg, spending a night on top and then coming down the same way, as most hikers do. That's because the Berg usually requires a long walk-in and it isn't easy to find a suitable hike to do in three days.

There is however one hike that thrilled us and made for a very full weekend. The Two Passes - South hike in Cathedral Peak area of the Berg begins at parking area on top of Mike's Pass. We managed to start early from there, at nine o'clock and cheerfully set out for our hike. Of what lay ahead of us we saw nothing, as all the Berg was covered in thick cloud. Going was easy, jeep track from Mike's Pass heads only slightly uphill for the first 6,5km to the Nek and from there the trail descend steeply to the camp site at the head of the main Ndedema Gorge. Camp was not inhabited so we didn't even stop there but continued walking, this time along a scarcely discernible path some distance above the Ndedema River. The path soon disappeared in thick bush, which in summer must surely be impenetrable. We managed to get through, only to be confronted by another obstacle, the dangerous river crossing. It was right above some waterfall with steep slippery rocks leading to the water edge. This tributary of the Ndedema River cuts very deep gorge in the mountain and we followed it upstream for 1km to another river crossing. It was good place to have late lunch and we needed energy as real ascend of the pass will start now.

The time of the day was rather awkward; it was too early to stop hiking but too late to get to the top with some time to spare to look for a campsite. Decision was made to go on, as Robert didn't bring any book to read. It was not easy to get out of the riverbed. Our path continued straight up following 80 degrees slope in the embankment. It eased up a little bit later on the ridge continuing straight up without any zig-zags. Vernon made it first to the top in 2 hours 15 minutes followed shortly by Stan with others appearing one hour later. We were in thick cloud with visibility of 20m; it was getting dark and no path. As soon as we came to a dry riverbed we pitched a three men tent in slight depression alongside. Stan found nice overhang for himself nearby.

In the morning it was all sunshine with strong wind blowing. It was nice to see where we were. Another stream was running some distance away and Stan moved there to have his breakfast while others spent time at their campsite which was in fact very good and the best available.

There is no path on top but choice of the routes is obvious. For spectacular views stay close to the escarpment edge as much as possible. If you prefer an easier walk, carry on in the valley, coming eventually to the top and then follow the contour to the escarpment. Vernon and Stan choose the escarpment route, climbing every mountain except Windsor Castle in the process. Robert and his friend picked up their own route. Eventually we came together again at a stream with Ndumeni Dome looming above. After lunch all of us will have to climb it.

This time it was each man for himself. We scattered around the mountain, each of us trying to find his easiest way to the top. There was no easy way. Exhausted we stumbled upon each other near the top. Stan was lucky. On his way up he chanced to pass nice big cave just little way down. We all decided we had enough for the day and retreated to the cave. It was warm north facing cave with level grassy floor and in beautiful setting with no signs of habitation. We sat around a natural stone table admiring the dramatic landscape. The Cathedral range, a 6,5km right-angled extension of the main escarpment was in full view. It is a jagged ridge of peaks and spires, starting with the Mitre, then the Chessmen and the two great Horns, the Bell, soaring Cathedral Peak and the three Puddings. The sun was setting down between the Horns. Below us were the intricately fluted basalt pillars of Organ Pipes and behind them deep down misty valleys of Natal. At night all the lights below reminded us the ships in the harbour. But for that we had to have a couple of drinks.

The sun woke us up in the morning. It is a good idea to leave early, since the way back to parking area can be quite strenuous. But we delayed our departure, just lying in our sleeping backs, watching the spectacle. There is no water in the cave, so we decided to have breakfast later when we reach the stream on other side of the mountain. But first we had to climb the Ndumeni Dome, no mean feat on an empty stomach. Near the top we came across another cave which was small cold and stony but in fabulous location right at the top of Ndumeni Dome. Now we could also see down into the valley on other side of the mountain. It was a hive of activity; all the hikers packing up and departing. They were the first people we saw during our entire hike and before we came down they were all gone.
It was time to leave the top of the Berg. We took "Back of the Camel" pass down as none of us has ever used this pass before. This gave Stan the time to climb one last mountain, Castle Buttress, which is next to the pass. From there I could watch progress of all descending hikers. Our party even overtook one group. Robert found out from them that this pass was first discovered by Bushmen who used it on their raids to steel cattle from Zulu in the foothills. Even now it is used by Basuthos from Lesotho to go shopping at Brotherton Trading Store, and they cover all that distance barefoot. Strange also to consider what a task it was for first hikers to find and identify all the passes that today we skip up and down following reasonable paths.

The trip down the pass is a most spiritually uplifting experience. It is steep in places and inside has the atmosphere of a cathedral nave. It is very confined in its upper ramparts and this makes for an intriguing journey through its corridor.
Back of the Camel pass use hikers who go straight down to Cathedral Peak Hotel. For us there was still long but pleasant walk left to follow the contour path to top of Mike's pass and Robert's car, which was reached with no effort at all.

All three days of this hike should be regarded fairly full even for fit hikers as us. We were also experienced enough, each of us being on overnight hike in the Berg before. The changes in weather can occur very fast and for us it changed for the better. Trouble should be taken to reach reasonable level of fitness before attempting this hike. Only then it is the most enjoyable walk, taking in huge area of the Berg in just three days.

Hike leader: Stan (tel. 826 4743)

 

Champagne Castle To Injasuti

25 / 27 August 1996

A terrific walk to do when you have only a short weekend at hand and you are reasonably fit is the walk from Champagne Castle to Injasuti along the contour path.Distance between these two points is 21km so it is possible to walk it there in one day and return the next day. Instead we decided to do shorter circular route of only 28km total.

Hike starts at Monk's Cowl Forest Station. Since we spent our first night at Mountain Splendor Caravan Park we first had to drive to the parking place in our Toyota Combi. This Combi was lent to us for the weekend by Toyota factory and was brand new. Debbie organized this and she also arranged for foreigner Simon from New Zealand to accompany us. Combi proved to be fun to travel in and Simon was good companion and enjoyed our hike.

After signing the Mountain Register we found our path and started to walk from 1400m to 2000m elevation. The bridle path up is well defined and laid out, and although it is a little bit of a strain, the summit of the Little Berg may be reached in two or three hours without too much effort. One is in any case rewarded with the most magnificent views of Sterkspruit gorge and Catkin Peak.

Once on top we turned left and followed the meandering contour path. That later becomes very straight indeed as it follows the eland fence - the boundary between Monks Cowl and Injasuti. From here tremendous views are enjoyed right to Giant's Castle, the Injasuti Triplets, Ship's Prow pass and even as far north as Devil's Tooth. Soon we reached the view site from where we could see down to Injasuti Camp. Instead of going down we turned left to our overnight cave still some distance away. At this point our party was divided into two groups, the first one quickly disappearing. When we saw them again from top of a hill they were over kilometer ahead and way pass the cave. Luckily, Craig had his whistle with him and managed to stop them before they could disappear for good.

An unpleasant recluse unfortunately occupied our cave and we had to move another 500m to next cave. This cave was warm and deep and all spend pleasant night there except of Stan who busted his knee.

We had long march back on Sunday. At first our path went steeply down to the river. There we picked up a jeep track, which in fact leads to the tar road 12km away. Some way along the jeep track a small path turns off to the left in the direction of the hotel. We still had to climb up a small plateau below the Little Berg and from there we followed the level of the plateau. A number of beautiful little indigenous forests are passed before descending down to the hotel and parking area.

Stan (Tel. 826 4743)  

   

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