Our membership numbers have reached a record number again this year. In July our numbers rose to 166 members. Thanks must go to all those who encouraged new members to join. According to our Secretary Keith, Rose Dix has done a sterling job in signing on new members. I would ask you all to make an effort to get new members to join. Our yearly costs are fixed – up to a point, so the more members we have, the easier it is to keep our yearly club subs at a reasonable level. I still meet people who do not know that we are here. That is despite having our week end hikes in the paper – thanks to Margaret. So please , tell anyone you know about us. Hopefully, with the number of members of our club now either having moved, or will move into Amber Valley, we can get more recruits from there as well.
New members may bring new leaders, and we desperately need new leaders.
Honorary Life members
Adrian Flett was inducted into our Honorary Life Members club in recognition for his contribution to our club. Adian was a founder member of the club, he served as a hike leader, and as Chairman, as well as being the auditor of the clubs finances to verify the position for the Club’s AGMs. It must be remembered that this club is happy to honour retired members who have contributed in a positive way to the growth and enjoyment of members of the club.
Once again, I would like to extend my thanks, and those of all the members of the Club to Rod Hart and his family for the incredible club website that he runs for us. Over the year Rod has changed the site, added new innovations and still kept the site is very user friendly. The more news one has, and by keeping the web site up to date with a lot of information, people are drawn back to the site to see what is happening. Members have done well this year in writing up about hikes, as well as sending pictures of the hike. Thanks Rod, and Sam for your great contribution to our Club.
Past Years Activities
I meet a number of people at the various KZN Wildlife parks, and also at other venues, who are hiking on their own. Many seem to prefer this, as they can go and do what they want to do, yet in the same breath, they seem to do the same trip each time. No doubt they are “sort of” experienced, but the great thing about belonging to our club is the varied sort of outdoor experience that is available, with it leaders who can offer a safe experience. Going through this past years Club Fixtures, highlights this in no uncertain terms.
Our Socials at our new venue – this Church of Ascension Hall, have been in the main well attended. The venue is casual and informal, and I believe suits the club well. Here we must thank Allison for finding this venue for us.
There was always some interesting talk, or slide show, as well as our annual quiz evening. The success of the quiz would not have been possible without the hard work of Teresa and Chantel who set the evening up, and badgered sponsors for prizes. A big hank you to these sponsors who include Keith and Margaret Ashton, Yvonne of Sabat, Shannon for rusks, Bush and Bundu, Cape Union Mart, Foodpak Pietermaritzburg, Bergfree Adventures.
Amongst the talks was the very interesting talk by Mark Brown – on the birds of the Drakensberg. Mountain Rescue by the Mountain Club. An evening of Line Dancing . Slide shows on various hikes that the club has done, including the Nauklift Trail, Mt Kenya, The Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, and others.
The One Day Hikes
Have met with varied success, some hikes have been canceled, and others well attended. In particular the Karkloof Canopy day was a huge success.
From the 2 day hikes and longer we have had week-ends in luxury, to week-ends in wet tents and windy caves. From easy campsite day hikes to the more strenuous adventures. A venue that has been very popular has been Mountain Shadows camping ground . The Highmoor area is a great area to hike in, and Keith and Margaret are always finding new places to explore. Thanks to Keith and Margaret for finding this venue.
Again the cottage week-ends with Keith and Margaret, Mark and Mary have been very popular week end destinations. For those who thought that these week-ends would be a bit of a relaxing time, the opposite has proven true in many cases where long hikes have been experienced from the cottages. It has also proved to be a venue where many new friends have met.
Some of the week-end camping and caving trips were also cancelled due to very few takers.
The Kosi Bay Trail, was well supported, unfortunately our Newsletter Editor, Noël Harper slipped and broke her wrist, and had to leave the trail early.
Longer and Harder Traverse
Mountain Backpackers / MHC 2007 – Grand Traverse Hike – North to South. This ultimate 13 day hiking challenge – the greatest hiking challenge in South Africa – covers 220 km across the escarpment of the berg , and in that time hikers will climb the height of Everest (over 9000m climb), have all sorts of nice and nasty weather, and experience a body and soul testing and uplifting 13 days.
Once again the club was very well supported on this epic hike. This time by our ladies and all of them completed the traverse. I refer to these ladies as “The 5 Incredible Iron Ladies of our club” , Allison Gunning, Chantel Beattie, Irene Wisdom and Teresa Whitfield, and Elaine Bushell. With any such event organisation and back up is of paramount importance. Here again we were well supported by Keith – on the re-supply organisation and actual re-supply. The Initial party to see the Traversers off at the top of the Amphitheatre were - Brian Henwood, Rob Anderson and Dave Sclanders.
Then the 2nd big journey was the actual 3 day hike to get resupplies to the top of Bannerman Pass in the Giants Castle area. Here thanks go to Keith and Margaret Ashton, Brian Henwood, Mark Wisdom, and his brother Andrew. Also Yvonne Engelbrecht, Lyn Gissing, Cecil Hackney and Craig Bekker. Well done and congratulations to these re- supply team members.
In recognition of those of our Cub who have either done the Traverse, or helped with the re-supply, your Committee has decided to have special certificates produced to issue to these hardy souls. This will be done in the near future.
The great Xmas party at Mark and Mary’s house on the farm, again, was another great success, and enjoyed by all who attended. The weather was hot. The very “orienteering” course laid out by Mark and his committee turned into something of a “surprise”, when all the recognised Club leaders were “disqualified on technical grounds”, and new leaders from within each team were elected to lead the way. This was done with gusto and much enthusiasm. Congratulations to all leaders and teams for getting around the course, and safely back home. Then we had the magnificent Mother Xmas and her lovely fairy helper arrive to give out the many Xmas presents. Thanks so much to Bushy and Pat for a wonderful fun filled afternoon. A great day to end off 2006.
So all in all a lot of interesting hiking, walking, sharing, talking, learning time was offered by your club this past year to all its members.
We will be discussing this is shortly. As already mentioned, as our membership grows, so do club funds. The more members we have, so the burden of keeping the club running becomes lighter.
The club is also represented on the KZN Wildlife Hiking and Mountaineering Liaison Committee and the MDT Safety and Security Committee. The club has and will also continue with it’s close co-operation with Mountain Backpackers.
Committee and Leaders
Once again, I must thank your committee and hike leaders for the time and effort that they have put in this past year to keep the interests of the club up. We have had a number of committee/leaders meetings in between the normal monthly functions, and these have all been well attended.
To all the leaders, who offer their time to decide on a trip to lead, plan and organise the trip, and take the responsibility of leading that trip, a big thank you. It has been with a great sense of satisfaction to see the growth of a few club members into Hike leaders. Allison, Teresa and Chantel, have done a lot of leading for St Johns School, whilst Allison was the main stay of the Mt Kenya trip. We need new leaders to join us, or to start to lead short hikes and get to learn the paths and routes. Your “Old Leaders” are getting older, new replacements are eagerly sought.
Once again I must say “The tricky part of the evening is to name and thank certain people for their contribution to your club.”
Keith Ashton for all his time in keeping the club’s membership data up to date, his in depth organising and reporting structures as well as all his efforts in organising the many – far away hikes that he has organised.
Then especially to Allison Gunning who has stepped in as a new leader, and led a number of trips this last year. Allison also organised our new venue, as well as her contribution in many other ways to the club.
To Rod for our Web site
To Noël, Irene, Ossie- (under sometimes trying conditions - also Libby for her support of Ossie), and Margaret, thanks for the work behind the scenes that you do. Noël - one can hardly say that “Shooshing me around” to get the Chairman’s report out on time is always welcomed, but the Newsletter is always on time.
Also to our leaders Brian, Mary, Graham, Philip, Bushy, Mark and Selven – without you guys the club could not operate – thank you.
All that remains now is to thank you all for coming to share and contribute to this AGM this evening. The club looks forward to your continued participation in the new club year, whether it be hiking, club socials, introducing new members or whatever, your contribution is important to the continued social role of this MHC. May our new hiking year be happy and fulfilling for all of us.
CLIMBING MOUNT KENYA (cont) Peter ‘Peg’ Wedge
DAY 3 - THURSDAY 7 DECEMBER
We woke up to a clear and bright morning with a great view of Mt Kenya with ice and snow showing up beautifully – this no more than 13 kms from the Equator. We had breakfast – full Monty courtesy of Peter the cook and off by 09h00 to our next overnight stop at Judmaier Camp. Geoff (alias Elias or vice versa!) our guide firstly however introduced our porters and cooks to our group and we then introduced ourselves. This showed good human relations and it was clear that Geoff was a professional.
A long slow climb of about 9kms to Judmaier – old Moses hut at 3300m or about the height of our Drakensberg. Most of us took Diamox today. This minimises water retention and the risk of oedema – particularly cerebral which can be fatal. However you have to pee a lot more than usual.
The route to Judmaier changes from rain forest to classic moorland with giant heather and protea. Several unusual alpine type plants also seen together with the first of the weird giant lobelia (more later).
We met people coming off the mountain – 2 French girls who actually met each other at the top and clearly now were best friends and a guy from the Magaliesberg area, Martin Templar. He’s a farmer and is encouraging people to come to hike in this area. (His number is 084-410-0469). This could be a great long weekend – the Magaliesberg range is quite delightful country – over to you Keith!
At Judmaier for lunch – another Peter special – and then rain set in. The weather on the mountain can be unpredictable. A young African lady had been brought down, she was feeling sick, our first hard evidence of High Altitude Sickness which meant that those of us without Kilimanjaro experience were feeling a bit anxious!
Allison’s card school, rummy, in which Allison’s rules apply but in my opinion they change daily, followed by afternoon tea with doughnuts. A small party then trekked up the next track to about 3500m to see the general terrain and also to help acclimatise. Generally it’s a good idea to climb high and sleep lower. Another hot meal for dinner, more cards and most of us in bed by 20h30 with the rain now quite heavy. Peter (Senior) up around 02h00 to a magnificent view of the mountain peaks and with the Southern Cross lying just on the horizon but not possible to photograph without time delay etc.
A good day but an indication of hard work to be done. Judmaier camp, actually a hut, was basic but quite comfortable. We occupied 2 rooms each with 8 bunks, and the other rooms filled up with other hikers from all round the world.
DAY 4 – FRIDAY, 8 DECEMBER
Clear in the early morning but strong winds with portents of chilly cold weather ahead. Breakfast at 07h00 and off by 08h00 to our next stop at Shipton’s camp at 4200m. We had quite a stiff climb for the first 2 hours – most of us now realising that slow is “cool”.
It was clear after the 2 hours that we wouldn’t be at Shipton’s by 14h00 (as indicated by Malcolm’s itinerary). Flora on the mountain now quite dramatic with giant groundsel (a type of succulent), ostrich plume lobelia (monstrous plant about 1,4m high with a very complex cell like structure) and alpine plants, many and varied. After about 4½ hours we came across 2 Spanish guys – the younger of the two feeling and looking very ill. They had passed us earlier on – going quickly and obviously had paid the price. They had to go back down the mountain! You don’t mess with this mountain!
Mt. Kenya peaks now almost permanently in view – quite spectacular. We had lunch by a river – next after Niki North – again a masterpiece by Peter and team and then the final push, mostly on the 4000m contour. A short stiff climb past Shipton’s cave and then cresting the peak the most welcome view of Shipton’s camp about 1 km away. Arrival at 16h00 to hot coffee and biscuits – Rummy again before dinner.
Several other parties were at Shipton’s including a French party and a Slovak girl – very international is Mt. Kenya! According to Paul’s GPS we walked 14,7 km today and climbed 1100m – Shipton’s is at 4200m. Now distinctly chilly. A good hot dinner again and bed by 21h00, ready for the next camp. All of us now beginning to feel confident about the final ascent although Peter and Margaret getting slight headaches.
SWEETWATERS COTTAGE Sally Browne
We managed an early start from Amberfield, almost the 06h30 start we had planned and made good time. Following Keith’s precise directions, we drove through Underberg, turned on to the Drakensberg Gardens road, turned right opposite Naverone and drew up outside the cottage 08h30-ish.
We were Dot Randall, Joan Birch and Joan’s sister Margie and me. Waiting at the cottage were Keith, Margaret, Prema and Selwyn. Liz and Casper were expected to arrive later that day. Having stowed ourselves into this most attractive and well designed cottage with a lovely outlook over Garden Castle, and having downed a restorative cup of coffee, we climbed into Keith’s 4X4 and drove up past the hotel and along the Golf Course to the KZN Wildlife offices at Swiman. It had been decided that we would walk that first day to Sleeping Beauty Cave or maybe on up to Engagement Cave. Despite having walked the path to the cave many times, having lived on a farm in the area as a schoolgirl, I still experience an emotional jolt every time I round the corner and look up to see the Monk sitting in his chair above me. That incredible rock formation, so unmistakably a monk, such an imposing presence in the valley.
I find the steep ascent to sleeping Beauty Cave increasingly arduous. We reached that huge most inhospitable of caves about lunch time. After lunch Keith, Margaret and Selwyn climbed on up to Engagement Cave while Joan, Dot and I lay on our backs in the sun watching the clouds scudding over the cliffs, their shadows sweeping down the valley below.
On the way back we were about to cross a river when Margaret suddenly said “Look!”, and there lying on a rock was a Puff Adder, fully exposed in its hues of yellow, brown and green. It lay there unmoving until Keith approached with his camera and then slowly withdrew quickly becoming invisible among the grass and rocks.
The following morning was chilly. Dot and I made sleepy eye contact before snuggling down into our beds to allow the sisters to decide the order of rising. It was Margie’s birthday and Joan, the first to awake, appeared with a breakfast tray. Margie was being treated to breakfast in bed on a tray decorated with a spray of frosty autumn leaves.
Today’s walk was to be a long but level walk. We would follow the Giant’s Cup Route towards Bushman’s Nek and then turn right into Hidden Valley. We planned to have lunch in Sherry Cave. Casper and Liz came with us to the turn off to Hidden Valley. From this point we could look down to the left to Crystal Waters, a guest farm where the Labuschagnes planned to spend a week-end in June. Further to the left we could see a small herd of Wildebeest. I wondered if this was the right place for them. How would they cope in the winter?
Wonderful crisp winter weather accompanied us as we walked along the Mzumude River stopping at one particularly beautiful pool. Crossing the river further on proved tricky and Joan on reaching the far bank slipped not only drenching her boots but dropping a very precious walking stick which floated determinedly away downstream. It was, however, cleverly retrieved by Selwyn and we continued on our way to Sherry Cave where we enjoyed lunch listening to Keith, a polished raconteur, relating various hiking experiences.
As we turned for home Selwyn exclaimed, “Its snowing!”, and indeed it was, just a gentle powdering alighting on our packs. We walked fast aware that there was trouble brewing in the build up of cloud behind us, and nearly made it back to the car park but a squall caught us just near Swiman Hut. Any discomfort was, however, short lived. As we turned into the cottage a warm welcome from Liz, Casper, Margie and Prema awaited us, and a roaring fire burned in the grate. Despite the chilly evening we stuck to our decision to braai and Casper braved the elements to produce a delicious meal. Meanwhile on the TV ”The Match” was in progress and our cricketers were putting on an astonishingly inept performance against Australia, so much so that, wearied by our 18km walk we felt little guilt in creeping off to bed leaving the match to its inevitable conclusion, watched only by Keith and Casper.
Next morning we walked from the cottage crunching over the frosty lawn, turning left at the end of the drive over Naverone property until we reached a gate leading on to KZN Wildlife land. This was to be a morning spent visiting one lovely pool after another, known as the three Pools walk. We followed the Mashai River. After a short steep clamber we stopped at a stone bench, blending in so well with the landscape that it was invisible until we almost walked into it. Michael John Dik announces the plaque and we read that he was only 30 years old when he died. His bench is placed above, probably, the most beautiful pool of all, deep and so clear that it is difficult to tell surface and reflection apart. A short way on, up a tributary we came to Champagne Pool with its delightful waterfall. From here a short climb took us to an overhang protecting some unexpectedly well preserved Bushman paintings. Having seen the desecration of the paintings at Siponwene it was re-assuring to find this small gem still so intact. Back to Champagne Pool for a rest and early lunch, then a stop a bit further down to allow Margaret and Joan to swim!! A quick dip in a freezing mountain pool, which judging by the gasps and squeals could be rated a stoic achievement rather than a pleasure. Suddenly we were surrounded by groups of people, until now the week-end had been surprisingly devoid of fellow walkers, but now they appeared in numbers. As we walked home we were disappointed to find ourselves picking up sweet papers, polystyrene mugs and juice bottles strewn along a path which just a couple of hours before had been pristine.
It was sad to pack up and load the car. Margaret made some delicious waffles and then it was off back to Amderfield after a most enjoyable week-end.
DOLPHIN HOLIDAY RESORT Linda Bruss
The Ballito camping week-end at the Dolphin Holiday Resort was relaxed and enjoyable with people arriving and leaving on different days. There were 8 of us on Friday night, 13 on Satur5day and 6 for Sunday night. The camp sites were together with electric points to add “homely” to the camping comforts. Tea and cream scones were served twice a day at tea times and there were twp TV “lounges” where we watched the Rugby and Comrades. Besides sunbathing and just enjoying being on the beach we had 3 leisurely walks, one in a northerly direction to Thompson’s Bay through the hold in the wall and another going south. The devastation caused by the abnormal spring tides in March was evident all along the coastline. In places buildings collapsed as the ground under them was washed away by the sea. This freak wave [phenomenon was caused by the alignment of the sun, earth and moon. On Sunday we walked through the natural forest and came close enough to two duiker for Keith to touch. In the evenings we all got together around Keith’s camp fire. On Saturday evening Hettie had us enthralled with her stories about her hike up the Annapurna.
After a wholesome, energising long week-end we parted ways – Keith off to another appointment in the ‘Berg.