High Berg Midi-traverse
24-28 September 2009
Leader : Dave Sclanders
On the 24 September, Chris, John , Roy, Rose , Allison, Irene , Margret, Keith myself , from the Midlands Hiking Club, met at the Sentinel Car Park in the Northern Drakensberg. We were to spend the next 5 days exploring the lip of the mighty Drakensberg Escarpment from the Thukela Falls to Fangs Pass and back. Spending the next 5 days at altitudes above 3100 meters would be an exciting challenge.
Hiking in the high berg is always a mind blowing experience. The scenery changes so much, especially if one takes the time to hike the extra bit, and get onto the edge of the escarpment, and look down in kWaZulu-Natal from above the 3100 meter level. Sheer drops of up to a 1000 meters fall away from your feet, a good head for heights, and a watch on the prevailing winds are important for one to be able to appreciate the views stretching away below, and as far as the eye can see. Good clear weather also helps.
The weather was clear and sunny, however despite recent rains, the ground was dry and brown , no signs of green grass coming through. There was also a haze hanging over the distant horizon which did limit the clarity of our views. However with our fully laden backpacks including tents we headed off from the Sentinel car park, into the high altitude of the escarpment and into Lesotho.
Weather changes from hot, to cold, to high winds to mist and rain must all be planned for with kit and food. Also the comfort of the long nights is very important. No sleep makes the night long, and tomorrow harder.
Our trip had all the weather affects, very hot days, cold at night with very high winds, ending up with heavy mist, rain and cold on the last day. On the 3rd day we spent the whole day in the Madonna/Fangs Pass area looking at the views, and generally being spoilt by the awesome views from the top of the escarpment. The only other living souls we were close to was a large troop of Baboons who were foraging on the slopes of the mountain. Sunrise and sunset at Madonna are always special. The hugeness of the area, and the constant changing of colours makes on feel quite small in the contents of the picture, and nature. How long can one sit in one place and watch the changing world above, below and around one?
A few points to bear in mind when doing a high altitude hike are the effects of Altitude Sickness, which is very debilitating, and the only real treatment is to get the affected person off the high altitude down to lower altitude, easier said that done. Also general hiking fitness is most important, one must put in the time to “be” fit for such a trip. It is hard work to carry the unusual load of backpack, extra food and tent weight, and hike at high altitude. Also the demands of climbing up long high hills, and then dropping down to a river, and climbing up the other side demands a high degree of mental and body fitness. Unless one works at the fitness level, there are going to be problems. This not only makes the hike unpleasant for the affected person, but for the whole group. Plans may need to be changed, hiking takes longer than it should to get to the overnight stops, and in general has an effect on all .
I think, the pictures will tell the story.
IT IS ALWAYS PRIVILEGE TO BE ONE WITH NATURE FOR A WHILE.
To my fellow hikers, thank you for sharing this time in the mountains.