Lammergeier Cave – The Last !!
Bushman’s Nek
Southern Drakensberg
15 – 16 March 2014

Report & Photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders

Lammergier Cave , not again. I had said on this hike route 2 years ago that that would be my last trip. Now I was leading it again, why ????. The logic was that perhaps we would have a number of new hikers with us, who might one day become leaders, and share this part of the Southern Berg with hiking companions!.

The weather looked good, and arrangements were made to meet at the Bushman’s Nek Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife office at 08h00 in the morning. We had a full complement of hikers, amongst them a number of 1st timers and most had not been here before.

As we neared the meeting point , and just about on time, my cell rang, it was part of our group who had wondered on past the turn-off to S.Berg, and only realized the mistake very much later. They would be an hour or so late !!!!!!

After some thought – I decided to send the rest of the party ahead to a certain point about 7 kilometers away and wait for us. They could walk slowly, enjoy the walk and the views , and we would catch up ?????? Well we did catch up, but whilst the main party were happy and relaxed, we were a little jaded, and the real hard part had not started.

Pic - 2 Rivers and streams were full – crossing was slow
Pic – 3 Cedric’s Pool, bright and clear. Devil’s Knuckles high up in the background. We would be up in that area there tomorrow
Pic – 4 Advance party high up on the hill.
Pic – 5 , 6 Lunch break

We lunched together, filled water bottles, and the steep climb began – a long hard, steep relentless climb through long grass with just an occasional bit of an old animal path to follow. It seemed that even the animals had given up on this route. Although the path was hard to find and follow, it was easier on the “bitty path” than to wade through tall jangled grass. Rests and more rest breaks, and eventually we reached the end of the climb on a long flat plateau that we would now walk on towards the valley of the Lammergier cave.

Pic – 7 Looking down, down, down into the valley that we had walked in before lunch
Pic – 8 “Going UP?”
Pic – 9 “Coming!!**#### !!

This time we were lucky, and found the start of the overgrown path that would lead us to the cave. In places, imagination and far forward “looking” kept us on the straight and narrow. The scenery of giant valleys, great steep rock cliffs and formations are really something to see in this area, then far up at the end of the valley – the long cave in the rock face , showed up clearly. Lammergier Cave was “just up the hill !!”. But, some did not see anything except the pat at their feet. The last kilometer or so was not easy, and legs and courage started to fail. Exhaustion, dehydration, and just plain “run out of strength” showed easily. The hiking line got longer and longer, and those old hikers in the know knew as to who would get the best sleeping places, and those who would not. The old adage “ First Come - Best Spot” is never more true than cave hiking in the Berg.

Pic 10 – 14 Valleys, cliff views and sleeping places

In the cave, sleeping areas were sorted, and at that early moment – ALL places were good to at last lie down and relax. Directly across the valley from the cave, a high ridge looks down on the cave, with fantastic rock formations strewed across the summit. Two hardy souls went off to explore

Pic 15 – 16 Giants and dwarfs on the sky line.

It was a perfect evening, time to go out to a quiet spot by one’s self, think over whatever, and watch the full moon rise from down in the valley. That short time of “aloneness” is a great time for one to enjoy. In our modern day, we do not appreciate that quiet times are necessary in our lives - we are too busy to take time for ourselves.

Pic 17 – 19 “At the setting of the sun”

Sunrises in the berg are spectacular, get up – get warm, find a spot and watch the new day rise from the darkness, and paint the great Sandstone Cliffs a brighter shade of Gold – the promise of a great new day.

Pic 20 – 25

After an early breakfast, we left to do the last “little” climb up to Goat’s Cave on the summit of this great valley. This daunting climb is enough to generate enough sweat to wash the “sleep out of your eyes” quite easily.

Pic – 26 Goat’s Cave on the horizon
Pic – 27 Back markers with a beautiful valley as the back drop.

At the top, packs were dropped, and a time of exploration and view enjoying was experienced

Pic – 28 High on a rock
Pic - 29 Sehlabathebe Lodge – in Lesotho Looks like nobody is at the lodge !
Pic – 30 Tarn Cave far across the valley

The time had come to start the very long downhill trek to the car park. The downhill never seems to stop, and ones eyes stay glued to the rocky stony path. Yet if one takes time to stop and have a break, and look around, the scenery is truly dramatic. Turn a bit off the path, walk along the ridge and new scenery opens up to be admired. It was here, off the path, that as we looked down into the valley, one of our bright eyed and bushy tailed eager beavers spotted a very rare “ KLIPSPRINGER” antelope bounding down the cliff face. This was my first sighting of this wonderfully rare little antelope in all my years of hiking. That sighting made the whole week end so worthwhile.

Pic 31 – 39 “Going Down !!”

Reaching the car park was a great relief to all. Some were stronger than others. But all in all, a great week end topped off with the sighting of the Klipspringer.

Pic – 40 Too tired to take of the boots, just wade home.
Pic – 41 Collapse and send a message home – arrived safely back.
Pic - 42 Look closely at the tree – winter is on it’s way , the golden colours of the leaves are early indicators.

To my fellow hikers, the first timers, the young father and son team, and the seasoned trekkers, thanks for a great week end, you guys are great to hike with.
BABA – we are getting on.

Then there is that dreaded moment on the way home, all tired, smelly, just looking forward to a hot bath , and BANG – a puncture – Just make sure that all your tools in the car are in good working order, or that a good Samaritan is behind you with a good tool box.

The motto of any mountain hiking should always be - GO PREPARED FOR ANYTHING !