Greg (Borman) and I went to Lesotho last weekend to learn how to ice climb. Unfortunately it was too warm and the icefall we were hoping to climb was still very much a waterfall!
Not to be disheartened, we recalled seeing an iced up gulley on the far side of the valley on the drive up to Bokong (on the way to Katse Dam, Lesotho) so we thought we’d go and check it out since we had nothing better to do. We found that the gulley had a couple of vertical sections of ice that we first top-roped and then lead.
The next day we came back and sent the entire gulley and we think it was a first ascent. It wasn’t hard by ice climbing standards but was a great learning experience. The whole gulley was probably 500m to 600m of “ice climbing” mostly just ice scrambling with 4 or 5 vertical steps of about 4m or 5m each. Probably a fun solo if you have any experience. We assume the grade of the thing is I WI 2.
Any ways, Greg lead the crux of the route after dropping his last screw and then slinging a large iced column with a fair amount of water flowing behind it.
I’ve e-mailed both Gareth Frost and Gavin Raubenheimer and they haven’t heard of anyone doing it so I assume it was the gulley’s FA. It’s the obvious ice gulley in one of the pics.
The route can be accessed from the viewpoint at the top of the pass as follows:
From the viewpoint cross the main road and follow the ridge line in a westerly direction towards an abandoned transmitter on top of the next hill. Continue along the ridge in a westerly direction towards an obvious peak in the distance. The peak forms the far boundary that creates a south facing bowl in which the ice gulley can be found. Head down the grassed slopes of the bowl to the base of the iced gulley (We started the route as low as feasibly possible, but later in the season a short additional section could be added).
The route starts at a twin-teared ice fall that is about 8m high with a right sloping ramp at its base. The route then heads up the gulley to the ridge line below the prominent peak on the left. The route is estimated to be about 500-600m long with 4 or 5 short vertical sections requiring 1 or 2 pieces of pro (probably an easy solo for someone with some experience).
The majority of the route can be simul-climbed.
We think the grade of the route (after reading all the gradings etc) is I WI 2
We called the route Lehlo Ho Nolo (which pretty much means “Lucky Streak” in Sesotho)
FA: Greg Borman & Mark Millar – June 2006
We walked to the route from the visitors centre and the whole outing took about 6-7 hours.
Report & photos by: Mark Millar