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Post details Post   (Contract pics)
Co Wicklow walkers.. by aidand   (Show all posts)
kernowclimber
2012-05-07 15:40:45
"The infamous Sani Pass in the Drakensburg Mountains" from kernowclimber Contract pics
Picture: The infamous Sani Pass in the Drakensburg Mountains (Contract 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 .. 23 Next page >>
Forum: General
THE POWER OF WORDS
Pepe a day ago.
There I was scratching around on Slieve Binnian. Up top, I bumped into a couple out hillwalking for the day. Pleasantries were exchanged – which way did you come up, fabulous views, the weather – ...

  
Summit Comment
Slieve Binnian: Mind how you go on a route Not Recommended
Pepe a day ago.
Climbed this yesterday on the route leading from Brackenagh Bridge. Chose this route because I wanted to do Moolieve and the Wee Binnian on the way up. On a plus note a local farmer kindly let me ...

  
Track
Buckaun - Binnaw circuit.
simon3 a day ago.
Hydro scheme at Lough Nadirkmore.The walk starts from a point high in an east facing coum of Maumtrasna. This road goes walk, Len: 5.8km, Climb: 368m, Area: Partry/Joyce Country (Ireland)

Summit Comment
An Bhinn Bhuí: A spectacular landscape
Damian120 a day ago.
It's a seldom-visited area of County Mayo yet it boasts some of the most impressive coastal architecture in the entire country. After spending five years covering and exploring the landscape of th...

  
Track
Croghan Kinsella
jgfitz a day ago.
This is a variation on track #3938, so I will avoid repeating the comments made there, with which I fully agree. This... walk, Len: 11.4km, Climb: 412m, Area: Croghan Kinsella, Dublin/Wicklow (Irelan

  
Track
Knocknalougha South Top
Onzy a day ago.
Route to Knocknalougha South Top from Crow Hill carpark ... as outlined by melohara on the Hill Page... walk, Len: 11.7km, Climb: 430m, Area: Knocknalougha South Top, Knockmealdown Mo...

Summit Comment
Big Collin: Permission required?
StephenMullin a week ago.
Hi thereCan anybody tell me if permission is required to walk up Big Collin? If so, how does one go about obtaining this?Many thanks!

  
Track
12 (Listed) Bens - Revisited
GSheehy 4 days ago.
I was drawn back by the lure of completing the 2002 - 12 Bens Challenge route. I got the details from John J. Cotter w... walk, Len: 29.1km, Climb: 2598m, Area: Benglenisky, Twelve Bens (Ireland) Ben

  
Summit Summary
Anglesey Mountain: Great Carlingford views from a so-so top
Collaborative entry Last edit by: Colin Murphy a week ago.
There is enough space to park one car at 100 167, just on the edge of a wood around a sharp u-bend. Proceed north for 100m before turning NE up a gentle slope, although the terrain is treacherous ...

Forum: General
Re: Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon
Peter Walker 3 days ago.
Hi daithi07The 'what's left to do in Ireland' article currently lives largely in my head rather than anywhere more tangible. It will see the light of day at some point in the next few months. I am...

  
Track
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Onzy a week ago.
walk, Len: 8.3km, Climb: 237m, Area: Greece, Thessaly ()

  
Summit Summary
Pigeon Rock Mountain South Top: Nondescript summit for baggers only
Collaborative entry Last edit by: Colin Murphy a week ago.
Usually done in conjunction with Pigeon Rock itself, but can be done in isolation if you want. Car park can be found at 234 278 A. Take the track directly across the road that follows the Rocky Ri...


RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS 1 2 3 .. 23 Next page >>