Organ Pipes – Ndumeni Dome Cave – Tlanyaku PassSkoongesig Cave : 16 – 18 June

 

An early start saw Keith, Margaret, Dave, Warwick (leader) & Brenda leaving the top of Mike’s Pass & climbing up the ridge to Lookout Hut. After an early lunch stop further along the ridge we made for the bottom of Organ Pipes Pass & plodded up slowly. The Ashtons celebrated their 38th Wedding Anniversary with chocolate & congratulations at the top of the pass. Then the slog was on to collect water & climb the last 200m to Ndumeni Cave at 3125m.

Some gentle “traversing” & not so gentle musings later, we arrived at the cave to witness the simultaneous sunset & moonrise. As we traversed the rock band towards the cave we left behind the icy cold wind gusting down on the encampment of tents in the valley below.

Much shuffling around later & the cave was our comfortable, if slightly over-crowded, shelter for the night & once in our sleeping bags, the injunction was “one out for a midnight visit – all out” which duly came to pass!

 

Morning found us scrambling around before the dramatic appearance of the sun caused frantic camera searching to capture the beauty of the moment. Packed up & ready, we left the cave at 08h15 & with some very ominous clouds scudding around, we started down across the escarpment for our eventual goal – the head of the Tlanyaku Pass. Scrambling down over tussocky grass & then contouring up & around the gentle-looking valleys was amazingly energy sapping & we had a brief stop for water, views & photographs.

A welcome tea stop in a dry riverbed, where a string of cairns lead reassuringly to the pass & we were on our way heading down. Mincing along down the narrowest of paths with dramatic drops visible out of the corner of one’s eye, required full concentration; & the very long steep ridge below eventually caused most braking systems to smoke & at times to fail. So it was with great relief that we eventually reached the river & could stop for a bite of lunch, ‘till the weather had us packing up & ponchoing down towards Skoongesig Cave. Two hours, & a few detours later, we reached our objective weary & leg aching. However a good wash & supper on the go, & shelter with a wonderful view & what more could hikers ask for? The Scarp was a dramatic sight lit by the full moon all night.

 

Margaret saw two strange flashes early in the morning, later explained – seemed Dave was flashing. (He has the photographs to prove same).

A later start & up Phillips Folly to the nek – a romp after the escarpment traverse - & then a stop to drink in the incredible wrap-around Mountain View.

At last – downhill – all the way to lunch at the Mikes Pass Car Park & after 38km & 20hrs of hard exercise very welcome to be sure.

 

Brenda Keating