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Paul, have you tr.. by mcrtchly   (Show all posts)
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kernowclimber
2012-05-07 15:40:45
"The infamous Sani Pass in the Drakensburg Mountains" from kernowclimber Expand pics
The infamous Sani Pass in the Drakensburg Mountains (Expand pics)
Climbing to the top of the Kingdom in the Sky
Getting to the tiny landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho from Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa is no easy matter. It entails a 9 km drive up the infamous unpaved Sani Pass that snakes its rocky, tortuous way up the edge of an escarpment of the Drankensburg Mountains. With features such as Suicide Bend and Haemorrhoid Hill you need a strong anal nerve and a 4X4 to even attempt it.

Buckshot rain drummed on our 4X4 as it lurched forward over deep gullies scoured by floods, through streams and bad potholes, loose rocks churning beneath the wheels. Mud and freezing temperatures made traction tricky on the numerous hairpin bends – at least we couldn’t see the horrendous death trap drop-offs in the mist. Martin did well to coax the 4X4 up this brutal pass where several vehicles were abandoned and another towed up the final 2 hairpins. Our relief was palpable when the border post and a group of wretched rondavels finally loomed through the cloud and billowing coal smoke at the top of the pass (2874m). A few beers in the nearby Highest Pub in Africa was just reward!

We awoke in our hut to a crimson dawn chasing away the stars. The glistening earth steamed as the sun gently released it from night’s icy grasp. Thatched mokhoro (stone huts) emitted clouds of blue smoke as we drove with our Basotho guide to a nearby village to climb Thabane Ntlenyana (3482m), the highest mountain in Southern Africa. At just over 22 kms, it is not a technical climb over treeless Afro-Montane grassland and a few river crossings only tricky in the rainy season, but it is at altitude. The route traverses a valley for over 4 kms before a steep climb up a ridge followed by a descent into another broad valley. A second ridge must be surmounted before the final pull up the shoulder of the mountain with its crown of rocks.

This is big sheep country, unfenced under expansive blue skies, domain of jackal buzzards. Basotho shepherds clad in balaclavas, woollen blankets and gumboots greet you warmly in rapid Sesotho, the silence broken only by the clanking of sheep bells. With winter approaching there was fresh snow on the higher slopes but the sun was warm on our backs. After 4 hrs we attained the summit, buffeted by strong winds. The Zulus call these mountains Quathlamba or ‘The Barrier of Spears’. We understood why as we gazed upon an army of emerald peaks, most over 3,000m, some topped with a pie crust of basaltic rock gleaming with snow. We watched mesmerised as cloud drifted languidly up over the edge of the dramatic Drakensburg Escarpment below, the inky blue ramparts of the mysterious Giant’s Castle floating between earth and sky beyond.

The descent took just under 3 hrs. You could climb this mountain without a guide but at 35 euro this was money well spent in such a poor community and we learnt much about Basotho culture. In all it took us 7.5 hours with around 1.5 hours of stops and we were back in the pub to celebrate before sunset.
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RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 17 Next page >>
Track
Central Dingle Quartet from Anascaul
Bunsen7 17 hours ago.
Follow the track from Anascaul lake car park northwards up onto the mountain plateau.Track leads northwards from lake... walk, Len: 15.8km, Climb: 949m, Area: Stradbally Mountain, Central Dingle (Ire

  
Summit Summary
Seefin Mountain W Top: Bog and rough ground.
Collaborative entry Last edit by: melohara 2 days ago.
Car park space at R66276 16811. Over or around the gate and head uphill on a good track that crosses the hill near the summit of Seefin Mountain East top.Follow the track on downhill from the cres...

  
Track
Pic du Midi d'Ossau
David-Guenot a day ago.
The idea came from my 60-year-old, freshly retired neighbour, as we and some other members of the local badminton club m walk, Len: 16.2km, Climb: 1353m, Area: France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine ()

Summit Summary
Seefin Mountain E Top: Up the old bog road.
Collaborative entry Last edit by: melohara 2 days ago.
Car park space at R66276 16811. Over or around the gate and head uphill on a good track that crosses the hill near the summit.On the crest of the hill the summit cairn is over a wall to your right...

  
Summit Summary
Seefin South-East Top: Seefin South East Top is easily visited
Collaborative entry Last edit by: melohara 2 days ago.
Seefin South East Top is easily visited from the track leading to Seefin Mountain East Top and Seefin Mountain West Top which starts st R66276 16811. Just follow the track to R65202 17892 from whe...

  
Summit Comment
Carnaween: The visitors book box near the summit
Aidy 6 days ago.
Just wanted to show the brilliantly constructed little box which contains the visitors book. It was too wet and windy on my visit to take it out and risk ruining it. A few shafts of light breaking...

Summit Comment
Carnaween: Bad Weather Adding Drama To Great Views
Aidy 6 days ago.
I used the commonly taken route from Disert Graveyard (worth a visit in its own right) over ground that was alternatively boggy or pretty steep. It was freezing cold in these parts, with a strong ...

  
Track
Pic Rouge de Bassiès
David-Guenot 2 days ago.
This was the first of the two big hikes I did in the Pyrenees in summer 2016. Hiking in the summer often means a sunny d walk, Len: 16.3km, Climb: 1342m, Area: France, Midi-Pyr?n?es ()

  
Summit Comment
Corrin: A family stroll.
David-Guenot a week ago.
Climbed this hill in November 2014, with a friend who used to live in the area. Starting at the Coillte car park, we did a nice loop on the forest paths, circling around the hill in an anticlockwi...

Forum: General
MV Mountain Gathering 2017
Onzy 4 days ago.
Always a great night ... all welcome.

  
Summit Comment
Luggala: Fancy View from White Hill
davsheen 2 weeks ago.
Autumn's evening view across to Luggala/Fancy from White Hill on route down from Djouce using the Wicklow Way boardwalk section.

  
Summit Comment
Binn Charrach: The peat-hag capital of Connemara
markwallace 2 weeks ago.
The descent from Benbaun to the R344 via Knockpasheemore/Binn Charrach is hard going after a day in the Bens. The Knockpasheemore ridge looks nice and flat from below, but is boggy, undulating and...


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 17 Next page >>