Report & photos courtesy Kevin Knox-Davies
Thaba Nletyana is the highest peak in southern Africa, at 3482 m. and is situated in Lesotho. It is definitely not the most spectacular or magnificent looking peak. In fact, it looks more like an insignificant pimple on the horizon.
The party comprised John Fourie, Brian Henwood, Teresa Whitfield, Chantel Beatie and Kevin Knox-Davies. However, to get to the area, as a non Basuto requires some effort. Firstly a passport, then to get up to the Lesotho Border Pass, via the world famous Sani Pass. A 4 wheel drive vehicle, preferably with a low ratio or automatic gear box, is required. Throw in some mist in the late afternoon in the fading light of sunset and the stage will be set for some fun and excitement. I need to thank John for the assistance provided in the navigation of the last few hairpin bends in the pea soup (or was it only mist?)
Once through the Lesotho Border, one needs to reports to the Lodge. Prior booking is essential. There is a choice of the Main Lodge or the Backpackers Lodge. One is able to do one s own catering at the Backpackers Lodge, whilst at the main lodge, a notice precludes the consumption of ones own food and drink. There is also a commensurate difference in tariff.
The Backpakkers Lodge was absolutely comfortable enough, with 5 X two bedded bedrooms and a lounge. Bedding is supplied, but we all chose to use our own sleeping bags. The adjacent large hall has 2 X 2 burner gas stoves, a double sink with hot and cold water, crockery, cutlery, wine glasses, tables, chairs, dish wash soap, etcetera. Toilets and showers (hot and cold water) lead from this large hall. The two ladies chose to use the shower in the Gents at the shower in the Ladies was in Collapse Mode
Saturday morning dawned with a promise of sunshine and clear skies. After breakfast we drove about 15 km to a small village near the Wool Shed . Here we parked our vehicles under the care of a friendly lady, for a small tariff, and bought some homemade brown bread from her.
From here we could see our target, a blip on a ridge some 11 km away, separated by flat planes and some minor ridges, which we would need to cross. We had been cautioned about the possibility of dry rivers and a shortage of water. However the situation had changed during the last few days. There was certainly evidence of a dry spell, but the rivers were flowing comfortably and there were good stepping stones.
Lunch was had at the crest of a ridge that lent a good view in all directions. The sheep and donkeys that we saw along the way all looked in good condition, and the shepherds were friendly.
From the lunch ridge we planned the position for the overnight spot, but at one time thought that we could even summit during the afternoon and come back to the last river for the night. However that plan changed once we reached the last river. The setting approaching the last river was just too attractive to skip. There was an area with short very green grass, almost like Astro Turf. We had previously agreed that we would have to carry our full rucsacks to the summit as we deemed it too risky to stash them some where. There were just too many shepherds around for comfort.
We had no sooner had our tents up and were still settling in when rain came down, and then hail. Luckily only small hail stones, about 5mm size. This kept us quiet for a while. Once the rain had stopped we were able to explore our environs and look at our river which has some beautiful pools. This lead to tea time and discussion on plans for the summit bid. Supper followed shortly after. And an early turn in, to be ready for an early start.
Sunday was clear but windy. The decision was to head for the low point on the ridge which lead up to the summit and follow that. The wind increased as we walked and was cold. It was necessary to walk on the lee side of the ridge to keep out of the wind. Only once we reached the spot immediately below the summit and had had come chocolate and put on an extra protective layer of clothes, did we summit and climb on top of the numerous beacons, taking up the classic Titanic position.
We spent just enough to take photographs and point out other land mark peaks on the Berg, and then got out of the wind and head for the vehicles. Luckily there was no mist and we were awed at the views and staggered at the tight corners and steep gradient of the road that we had travelled on the Friday night.
Whilst checking in at the SA border post, a young European couple on bicycles pulled in to come back through the border. We had driven about a kilometre from the border when these two came whizzing past us on their bikes. Good luck.