Stable Cave
Monk's Cowl
uKhahlamba Drakensberg
Northern Drakensberg
29 - 30 November 2014

Report and photos courtesy of Dave Sclanders
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

The weather forecast was to be wet and overcast, and at this time of year the troublesome “grey ghoulish wet water laden, visibility restricting hazy phenomena” a thing commonly called “mist” can come at any time and cause the “comma” problem of losing your “horizontal horizon” , which can be a problem in certain situations. Anyway not wanting to be “weenies” we decided to go. The 10 of us met at Culfargie and looking up to a bleak overcast and rain threatening grey ghoulish hidden horizontal horizon mountain range high above us, we covered our backpacks and “moved out”.

There are a number of ways to Stable Cave. Long ways, steep ways and shorter ways. Depends where you start. The way from Culfargie is the shorter route, but time consuming hassles make it a route that is not often used. My memory from when I last used the route stretched back a number of years. It was to my recollection a short and fairly easy route with only 3 smallish hills to climb !!!!! , memories can be frail sometimes.

The hike was tougher than I remembered, and more hills had grown up from small hills to bigger hills in the past few years. We were happy to stop at the only water source on the way to the cave for a bite to eat and a rest

Pics 2, 3, 4 heading up to our lunch break.

Shortly after leaving our lunch spot, we met with the Jacob’s Ladder path that winds and zig zags up towards Stable cave. Drinking water is far from the cave, so the first point of order was to drop our packs, get out our extra water bags and head down into the valley to get water. The valley is deceptively flattish looking, but it is steep, and rough and much more challenging than it looks. The worst part was to come, the long uphill slog with a 5 lire water bag getting in the way of ones legs and lungs.

Pic – 5 Jacob’s Ladder
Pic – 6 The zig before the zags
Pic – 7 looking down from whence we had come – rain holding off !!
Pic – 8 Past the Sandstone Cliffs
Pic - 9 More zigs and zags ahead, with a threat of rain mingling with our sweaty brows
Pic – 10 - 12 “Go Down” my son , go down to the river to water
Pic 13 – 14 “Climb my son , Climb” the cave is high above

Once back at the cave it was time to unpack and find the stove, and tea stuff and nibbles. Then sit and chat about “this and that”, but mostly as to why this short hike was so “sweaty”. Once tea was over, some felt quite invigorated and ready for the next challenge, supper of steak, eggs, fried potato , fried tomato and onion. This is the life !!!!!!!

Pic 16 – 19 Lower Stable Cave – a good open fresh air shelter
Pic -20 - This is the Life.

One of the many attractions of hiking to far away places in the berg apart from sweat and tears and sore feet and muscles and rain and cold and “Ghostly Grey Mists”, is the solitude one finds there. But beware, be careful what you do and say!. Someone may be watching from close by, you never know.

Pic – 21 “The Watcher”

The evening turned out to be quite beautiful in a dark sort of way. Heavy dark clouds hung over the high berg, but as the sun set it seemed to “pour sunrays down the side of the mountain valleys” as if to say ‘I am still here”

Pics 22- 24 At the going down of the sun, all things are beautiful.

Then it was supper, the usual mix of 2 Minute Noodles, Paste, and what have you and steak eggs and what have you. Then the last chats before tucking in for the night

Pics 25 – 26 , ready for bed ( for the purist – the candles were put on paper plates and no candle wax residue or candle flame residue were left behind.

Sunday morning broke with a cloudy whitish shimmery mist coming up from the valley. The shadowy blue/grey mountain tops of Cathkin and Champagne venture out above a blueish/white blanket of low cloud.

Pic 27 – 28 Great the morning..

Breakfast done, we packed up and headed for a distant Rock Art shelter. Spectacular views of the surrounding areas were afforded us this great morning. We walked along the top of a steep sandstone cliff, on one side was a great drop to the farming valley below. On the other, great tables of rock broke through the surrounding grasslands giving a magical look as the water glistened on the rocks before diving into the green grass around.

Pics 29 – 31 What a great place to hike in , stupendous views all around.
Pics 32 – 35 Great Rock Art.

As we left our Art gallery and headed for our packs a great crash of thunder shook the rocks below our feet. Needless to say, being so exposed high up on a bare rocky outcrop suddenly put our feet into “turbo 4 X 4” mode. As we sped across the rocks, down a tricky place and back up over a great bare Sandstone mountain , the lightening became worse and closer. Below us on the rock face a colony of nesting vultures decided it was probably best to “stay home”

Pics 36 – 38 along and down and up and over , lets go!
Pic 39 - Lets stay home

In all the rush to get down, there was still time to hug some giant Tree Ferns. Probably some of the biggest you will ever see in the berg

Pic – 40 “Gimme a hug , please”

As we raced down the hill the lightening and thunder became one, a flash of light and a crash of thunder. No stopping for lunch now, just keep going. But, there was time to look at the flowering Protea. Well a bit later the rain came slopping down on us accompanied by lashing dashing small balls of hail. No need to rush any more the lightning and thunder were gone, wet is wet whether you run or amble, take it easy and enjoy the moment. Back at the cars we changed into dry warm clothes, said our goodbyes and headed home. A great week end was had by all, and it was especially good as we had 2 new hikers who joined us for the week end. We hope to hike with them again.

Pics – 41 Protea against the sky
Pic – 42 “Walking in the rain”, what a way to go.

It still amazes me that there are hikers who will break down trees to get firewood to make a fire in the cave. Worst of all they leave their braai racks behind in the cave. When the trees are gone, the trees that were providing some protection to the shelters, the shelters will become open to wind and weather .Come on sort your lives out, braai at home or stay at home.