MHC Mountain of Bulwer
KZN Midlands
3 July 2016

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders.

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

The weather forecast for Sunday was to put it mildly – quite horrible, very very cold, with a stiff breeze, and being that we were to hike up to the top of the very exposed Bulwer Mountain top at an elevation of just about 2090 meters, bed seemed really the best place for Sunday. Seven of us eventually met at the Bulwer Mountain Hotel on Sunday morning , Loga, Francis, Penny , Bibi , Ansie , Kevin and myself.(Quite a few others had developed colds and flu in the proceeding few days.) As luck would have had it, the day looked good, quite cold, with a very sneaky biting wind, but bearable.

The hotel had by now put a new lock on the hikers gate, so we did not have to hassle around the fence to get out of the hotel grounds, Heading up out of the grounds and looking up to the mountain, the sky was clear and blue with great visibility. The climb up the mountain side is steep, and seems to go on forever, the path is badly eroded and one has to tread with care. Quite a way up from the start, the path forks, and the right hand path leads to a shelf of rocks with what was once some very nice rock art. However over time, and with the rather tatty minds of a number of previous hikers to this site, the paintings have been defaced quite considerably. From the cave we cut diagonally across the mountain side to eventually meet the path that leads up towards the top of the mountain. Once we were up at the base of the main climb to the top , a very steep climb, we turned right and followed an old track for a while which led us around the base of the summit and then on a more gradual, but longer route ( not on any path at all) we eventually reached what we thought was the crest of the mountain. It was a hard slog over very rough mountain slopes, however, as we were walking slower than expected, there was little time for rest and talking.

Pics - 2 – 7 On the way up - beautiful clear views all around
Pic - 4 - Defaced painting

As we cleared the valley to the ridge, the lone tree on a small rocky outcrop came into view, here we should have turned left and climbed some more, however I went through the gap and started dropping as we rounded the summit, then we had to do a bit of a serious scramble to get up again. But all was not in vain, as up above us was the huge mast and just beyond it the beacon. Hodgson’s Peaks were clearly visible in the background, with just light patches of snow around Sani.

Pic - 8 - Go left at the tree, and climb some more
Pic – 9 – Hodgson’s Peaks on the horizon
Pic 10 - I can see it, we have reached the top !!!!!!!!!

By now the wind was quite strong, and temperatures were down. So a quick lunch besides a small rock outcrop, then a group photo at the beacon and a look around at the sites around us. Only from here can one see how close the top of the mountain is to the main highway. We seemed to have walked and climbed a very long way to get to where we were. Looking down to the right , we could just make out the Bulwer Hang Gliders Take Off Zone , just above the village, quite a long way down from where we were.

Pic - 11 - The Radio Mast lunch spot.
Pic – 12 – Group photo at the beacon
Pic – 13 - Long way down

The path going down is quite easy to follow, but very steep and slippery in places as there was still ice on the path amongst the long grass. Once we had crossed the stream we followed the left hand path and kept on the contour to the old fire building , then dropped across the veldt to the hang gliders zone .

Pic - 14 – Steep down hill
Pic – 15 – 20 - Hang Gliders paradise. Walk off the mountain and soar like a bird.

For family and friends waiting for the pilots to do “there thing” in very cold, windy and uncomfortable surrounds, is really a labour of love. The flyers seemed to be having a great time, all bundled up in very warm gear against the cold conditions. This was probably the coldest area we had walked trough on our entire day. The cold wind causing our noses to run , and chill getting right into us.

We took a path that drops off the lip of the take off zone, and dropped steeply into the base of the mountain. The grass had been burnt, and our shadows threw ghost like images on the hillside below us. The burnt areas made it fairly easy to look for “short cut paths” paths that would lead us to the hotel.

Pics – 21 – 25 The last stretch to the hotel.

It had been a long and hard day for some of our party. Due to slow start, and some people having to get back to Durban, the pace was possibly a bit quicker than anticipated, the rest stops probably not as long and as often as anticipated. However, we were lucky in having good visibility, not as cold as expected, and everyone getting home in good spirits.

When hiking in the berg, or anywhere else where you mix with nature and the unknown, planning is essential. Starting time , lunch time and length of breaks, and finish times are all important. The START time is the most important issue. Start late, and the rest of the day is changed, especially if you plan to finish at a specified time. One has to push harder, to try to make up some time. The un-fitter of the party come under pressure as rest times are short and infrequent, lunch is often cut, and time to just stop and revel in the moment don’t happen. The party is so busy catching up time, that they do not know where they have been, or maybe don’t want to come again. If the plan is for a late stop, then everything compounds so that you can get back before dark. That is not good.

Leaders should have a good idea of the timings in their heads, to go from A to Z without a timing plan is really looking for trouble.


For another view and report on this same area , see the following report (click on the following link) BULWER MOUNTAIN report