Windy, Snowy, Bleak Tarn Cave
Bushman s Nek
Southern Berg
14  15 July 2012

Report & Photos by Dave Sclanders

There is an old saying that goes  a change is as good as a holiday , and that is why wild places are always on holiday, some times the holiday is good, and sometimes it is bad , one never knows - but to enjoy any holiday one must always be prepared for the unexpected  good or bad. Going well prepared can make any experience an unforgettable happening no matter what happens. The crux being - go prepared!

We planned a trip to Tarn Cave in the Southern uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park  a World Heritage site , well in advance of the due date. This cave is high up in the mountains, right on the Lesotho border, and the path follows traditional paths from Lesotho into South Africa. As the week end drew closer, the weather forecast of bad weather grew more ominous by the day. Snow, extreme cold and high winds were predicted. I scoured the many internet weather stations that would give me an idea of the area we were to hike in , and planned accordingly. High quality bad weather hiking gear, extra food, good sleeping bags, and strong minded and fit hikers, with the understanding that if the weather should really get bad we would turn round and come back to the cars.

At the car park at Bushman s Nek we filled in the Mountain Rescue form, enjoyed a last hot cup of coffee, and debated as what clothes to start hiking in. The weather was not inviting, with midmorning snow and rain forecast, minds made up, we set off with heavier than normal backpacks.

Pic 2 - Last coffee
Pic 3 - Heading into ???
Pic 4 - Walk hard , don t rest too long - it s cold out here
Pic 5 - Is it going to clear ?? , we are heading for the 3 Peaks  The Devil s Knuckles.

We are going up , they are going down. People from Lesotho heading down to the border to shop . These people walk many kilometers from their villages to the border just to buy the very basics of food. Their blankets are the only form of warmth and rain protection.

In the middle of no where, on a bleak and wind swept open plateau, the remains of a long forgotten border post of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.

Walking in cold wet windy, rain and sleet , we finally get to our destination, drop our packs in a very cold cave, and go out to get water from a tarn not far away. Then back to the cave, change into dry warm clothes, and enjoy the best cup of hot chocolate drink ever.

Pic 8 - Cold wet, wet water
Pic 9 - The Devil s Knuckles hiding in the mist

There is a great view from this cave of the mountains across the valley  but not right now. ( to appreciate the scenery from this cave on a good day , visit my Newsletters 55 , and 90 ) [Newsletters number 55, 90 ] (click on number to open Dave's Bergfree Newsletter on a new page)

Pic 10 - What s there too see
Pic 11 - The mist clears  for a while
Pic 12 - Up close to the Knuckle s

Who says the weather cannot change quickly , from a reasonably warm cave , to a snow swept cave in minutes

If your feet are warm , then all is well

Pic 17 - A new pair of sheepskin  pantofel s  that s why his pack was sooo big !

(During the night and early morning the most ferocious wind blew that I have ever experienced . Anybody in a tent would have been in serious problems, no tent could have stood up to the winds we experienced during the night)

 Morning sunshine  rise and shine on a brand new day  but what an effort to get out of a warm sleeping bag  into freezing temperatures . If you snooze you loose  these colours only last a few minutes at most

Pic 18 - Cold sunrise  grasp the new day in  gasps of frozen air and frozen fingures
Pic 19 - The snow is Orange on the back slopes
Pic 20 - NOW you must go to the Bergfree Newsletter 90 to see the mountain reflection in this now empty rock pool in the foreground , see pictures 14 & 15 NEWSLETTER 90(click on number to open Dave's Bergfree Newsletter on a new page)
Pic 21 The wind blew all the snow right off of the berg in the night

The tarns were frozen over, even the waves froze

The icy wind was the main factor in the cold factory up on the high plateau
Pic 24 - Getting some relief from the wind
Pic 25 - Getting  wind and cold blasted all the way down to the valley bottoms
Pic 26 - Even the old Protea tree and rock seemed to have frozen
Pic 27 - At last out of the wind , and into some warmth

One never knows what treasures are hidden in the rock cliffs . Rock Art hidden far away from vandalizing humanity !

For the geologist minded, an incredible wall of sandstone with differing angles of sandstone strata in a seemingly solid rock

Then at last we are down into the valley , warmer, and very pleasant hiking conditions.

Pic 34 - Down from the high places
Pic 35 - Just follow the valley home  only a few more hours to go.
Pic 36 - Just about back home


With good planning, the right kit, an unforgettable hike into the berg was experienced. Incredible weather changes, fantastic revolving scenery and a sense of being in and at one with nature. Surely this must revives ones awareness of a greater being . There is surely a time when we all should go out into nature, and experience on a quiet one to one with the creator , if just to realize what a false way of life we live, always relying on man made  mad things to keep us occupied, but not aware , or enriched .

To my fellow hikers , thank you for sharing this experience with us. We are surely the better for it.