Wet Slushy Bannerman’s
Giant’s Castle
Central uKhahlamba Drakensberg
15 – 16 September 2012

Report & Photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

The weather forecast on all the TV and weather forecast stations forecast a bad week end ahead, with rain, snow and low temperatures. Here we were planning to hike to Bannerman’s hut with another party, and when I was there last week, the berg was covered in snow – but with good weather -- see Newsletter 159. But, one cannot make decisions about the weather a long way away from the actual place, one can only go prepared for any weather, then once there , make the final call. So early Saturday morning we left our various home in bad weather, met at Giant’s Castle car park – in bad weather, and decided, that having come all this way , it was pointless going home so lets make the best of it , and hike to the hut – in bad weather – tomorrow will be better.

With our best rain suits on, we started a wet , cold hike to the hut. As we climbed the weather got worse, mist came in and swirled around us, rain came and went ,and the mercury dropped. There was no thought of stopping for a rest, or for lunch ,just too cold. We were very fortunate in having a fit group of hikers who could push through non stop to the contour path in quick time.

Pics - 3, 4, 5 Heading to the contour path. (See pics 7 ,8 Newsletter 159 for views from the same place last Week)

The contour path join was bleak and miserable, as we were by now soaked and really cold. The path was deep in water so our feet were totally wet , and almost painless with cold.

Pic - 6 Not far to go now – how fast can you walk ?
Pic - 7 Wot – no sun ???

A bit later, a slushy sort of snow started to fall with the rain , and by the time we were near the hut, the low areas were also covered in slushy snow.With snow falling at the hut.

Pic - 8 , 9 snow around the hut
Pic - 10 How cold and happy can one be ??

The main “happy factor” was that we were in a solid hut, no wing , no rain, and a dry place to change into dry warm clothes, prepare some hot drinks – with of course the necessary “medical cough and cold preventative remedy” added to the hot chocolate. Supper was a very warming and cozy experience. With much chatter, and later into a warm sleeping bag , just too greatfull to be in a hut and not in a tent or cave

Pics - 11, 12, 13 - Supper time

Sunrise was rather a watery affair, mist covering the valley, and spreading like a blanket over the higher places. The high escarpment had a luke warm reception of the sunrise

Pic - 14 Misty valleys
Pics - 15, 16 Cold morning sunrise ( see pic 15a Newsletter 159)

We had decided to go back to the cars via Langalibalele Ridge, so after a slow breakfast, we packed and left. By now the sun had cleared the mountain a bit, but shortly after, we had to stop and put on wet gear again as the weather had turned again.

Pic - 17 A clear Bannerman’s Pass
Pic - 18 Change of weather again

We pulled of a long the path to a tarn we had visited last week, this time the water was still, but the mist hid the berg

Pic - 19 Tarn in the mist ( see pic 21 from Newsletter 159) We pushed onto the junction of Langies ridge from where we would now turn “downhill all the way to the car park” , however the weather still did not want to share the mountain views with us.

Pic - 20 resting at the Langies junction
Pic - 21 Valleys are now clear , tops still hidden
Pic - 22 Just a glimpse of the high berg

The path drops very steeply as it winds it’s way down to the river far below, and can give hikers very sore toes and thigh muscles. However, the thought does run through your mind that “ I would rather be going down than up – despite the sore legs”. At the bottom of the hill, the one river was running vey high, and we had to take especial care in finding a safe high water crossing point as the usual crossing was well under rushing water.

Pic - 23 Still a long way down
Pic - 24 Cross with care.

Once over the river, it was “just around the corner” to get back to the car park. A last look up the ridge , and a gap in the clouds showed us snow laden high mountains, and the path we had just hiked down snaking down the hill through the dry grass

Pic - 25 River low to mountain top

Despite the weather, a great week end. It is situations like this that builds great friendships, and offers all sorts of wonderful sights and experiences.

There is only one way to learn and experience mother nature if you are going to visit her domain , go out and learn to share and experience her moods, swings and changes. But , most of all – always go prepared.

It was Chantelle’s first trip to the berg, she handled it like a professional, well done Chantelle, and well done to the friends who brought you and advised you on what kit to beg borrow and “keep on a permanent basis”

To all of you , well done, and thanks for having the courage to share the experience