MHC - Snow Cold Day
Highmoor Nature Reserve
Central Drakensberg
World Heritage Site
20 August 2017

Report by Dave Sclanders, photos courstesy of Dave Brummage

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

Well, once again the long term weather forecast for Sunday was not too impressive. A very cold day with snow and wind was the early prediction, and by mid week, some of the early "bookers" for the hike were making some unhappy sounds about the weather and hiking. Nevertheless, on the day 11 hikers , some more overdressed than others, met at the Highmoor Nature Reserve office to enjoy a cool, beautiful day in the mountains. Highmoor Nature Reserve in the Central Drakensberg is another of the Special Places in the Drakensberg that few people except some trout fishermen visit, mainly due to the lack of well used hiking paths. For the more adventurous Highmoor has much to offer. Mainly un-spoilt wide open rolling hills, and valleys and hidden streams with scattered brown dots of antelope sprinkled here and there. Most importantly - devoid of other human presence.

The snow was high up on the upper reaches of the Drakensberg escarpment, The air was crisp and clear, with a snarly sneaky little wind that crept up on us and dropped temperatures where one really did not want cool cold air to breath on one. The cold early morning air gave incredibly soft clear views and colourful vistas all around. Just to have been here at this short time before the sun became a bit higher and harsher would have been worth the travel.

We walked at a leisurely pace, following animal paths, cutting across the dry grass on a short cut here and there to get to the firebreak that had been burnt along the edge of the Highmoor escarpment, and looked down into the great valleys and up to the high massive of Giant' s Castle that was covered with snow. The Giant can never really be covered in snow, it' s sheer massive walls of rock do not allow the snow to settle all over. There were places thick with snow, and sheer rock faces , devoid of any white blistering of snow.

Tea was enjoyed looking up at the Giant, then another walk, towards the east and then south and around a high hill saw us having lunch looking down into a huge deep steep valley that was the river boundary with Mkhomazi. The high peaks of the Lotheni area were covered in a deep layer of snow. From our lunch spot were looking deep into the Southern berg, and we all know that the Southern berg gets more snow than any other part of the berg.

From lunch we headed into the flat undulating belly of Highmoor, where many small hills caused lots of small streams to trickle here and there amongst undulating small hillocks. In summer, not a place to venture as the whole area becomes one big bog of oozing grass thickened mud. But today it was fine. The area had been burnt, and we walked free and easy to a pretty waterfall that very few know about. In summer this becomes a great sight as large volumes of water cascade over the rock lip into another step valley.

From here , a short hop skip and a pant, and we were over the hill, and heading down to the cars.

A really great day, spent in an incredibly beautiful area.

As we draw deeper into winter, and the natural grassland veld becomes drier, it is important to be " Fire Aware" .. Fire in the berg is not something to be taken lightly. Be very aware not to be the cause of any berg fire, smoking is definitely a " No No" . There is no running away from a wind fanned berg veld fire. Should you see smoke in the in the berg, make sure that you head to a safe place where ever that may be.

In the same vein, drinking water can be short all over the berg. Make sure you drink and fill your water bottle at every opportunity, the may not be another chance for a very long time.

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL - Make sure that you fill in the Mountain Register accurately and properly. Rescuers or fire fighters may need to know who may be in a fire threatened area. If they do not know you are there, they cannot help you in any way.