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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 5:34 pm 
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Real Name: Jan-Hendrik
Hi All

I am interested to do a 3-day hike in Drakensberg (Upper Tugela Area) during August. Me and my buddies are quite experienced and fit, but we have never hiked in Drakensberg before.

I did use the search function and numerous google searches, but did not get all info I require.

My suggested route will be from Mnweni Police Post, along Mnweni Pass, a day excurstion to Icidi Pass, along Rockeries Pass and Fangs Pass, and back to Mnweni Police Post. I use Google and an outdated 1989 edition of The Complete Guide to Walks and Trails in Southern Africa as my references and therefore don't know if these trails are still accessible.

My questions for the expert hikers on the forum are:

    Are these trails accessible for a private hiking party? And where do I purchase a permit for this area?
    Would a basic 1:50000 topographic map (those at a CNA) and compass be sufficient for this route? I have heard of some scary getting-lost stories
    We would really like to spend a night in Ledger's Cave, is the cave near our route?
    Where is the best starting point and parking? I just assumed the police post at Mnweni would be a good place.

Thank you in advance!!


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2014 9:56 am 
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Real Name: Carl Dreyer
Hi Jan

Have a look on this site http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/ for answers to your questions. Maybe even re-post your question there.

My personal opinion is that you don't use the Mnweni as a first overnight Drakensberg hike but if you choose to then note the following:

Your research material is a little outdated. These days there is the Mnweni Cultural centre where one starts hikes from. Here you can hire guides, porters and even arrange a lift up the remainder of the road to shorten your hike. Google them - they have a website.
Secondly get at least an updated EKZN wildlife map for your hike.

The route you have described needs some clarification - when you mention "along" a pass are you meaning up or down it? If so your route is not do-able in three days unless you are a super-fit trail runner. Also your RD seems to involve a lot of criss-crossing. The heads of Icidi and Rockeries passes are about 18 hiking km apart.

Ledgers cave is near (<2km) the head of Mnweni pass.

Hope this helps somewhat.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2014 12:08 pm 
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Real Name: CityROCK
save yourself the trip to CNA.
get your maps (and other gear?) here:
https://www.mountainmailorder.co.za/ind ... &Submit=Go


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2014 7:35 pm 
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Real Name: Jan-Hendrik
Ah ok, thank you very much Carl and Robert.

I will buy a map a.s.a.p and get a more structured route to follow.

Looks like the Mnweni Cultural Center can answer all my remaining questions.

Cheers


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:51 am 
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Real Name: gerhard jacobs
Hi Jan

It is possible to buy the map like the one above at the mnweni cultural center but you first have to contact them and ask if the have in stock for when we where there they had none. We went to the royal national park to buy ourselves a map it is very important to have this map because it has all the information one needs for example the cave sizes and locations. It will cost about 60 rand. You can enter the mountain register at the cultural center with a fee of 50/p/p/p/n in the berg. This is important because they will send a rescue team if something goes wrong. And remember to sign out on the day of departure.

You can leave your car at the cultural center it is save and the staff is very friendly and helpful and allow you to take a warm shower after the long hike you have just done.

A nice hike would be to go up mnweni pass along the escarpment and down with rockeries pass or the other way round. To go up mnweni pass will take you about two day with a nice rest the second night at ledgers cave and then you can hike back easily in a day down rockeries.

Mnweni pass is not easy and will test your stamina but the scenery is beautiful and it is a save area in the mountain because of the few tourist activities. Hope you have warm clothes and comfortable shoes they will come in handy.

Enjoy the hike and if you have any other questions don't hesitate to pm me i have done that hike a few month ago.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:01 am 
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Did this fairly recently...March.

We did it as a 3 day hike - up Mweni pass & down Rockeries...it is definitely a 4 day hike for experienced hikers :thumright

The altitude climbed is 1600m in that route and most of the climbing is done on day 2. It is a lovely area and Agrippa at the visitors centre is very helpful. This area is for self sufficient berg hikers not tourists out for a day hike (see Royal Natal for that).

If that is your scene then have fun! If you are a beginner rather try the Cathedral Area...

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:38 am 
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Old Smelly wrote:
If that is your scene then have fun! If you are a beginner rather try the Cathedral Area...

+1


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:33 pm 
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Retrospectively looking back at the posts let me emphasise that Tuna's post is to be taken with a bag of salt if you are a beginner!

DO NOT think that beginners will stroll up the valley and to the top in 2 days and be able to come down in 1 - that will not happen unless your novices are 17 year old boys who like hiking all day long never stopping no matter what terrain they encounter...

Whoever said that Mweni is not for beginners is spot on, unless you just stroll up the valley, spend the night, take a look around and walk back down the valley. The Cathedral area is much more forgiving (but you still need a plan).

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:21 pm 
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Real Name: gerhard jacobs
[quote="BAbycoat"]Retrospectively looking back at the posts let me emphasise that Tuna's post is to be taken with a bag of salt if you are a beginner!

I am not sure if you have read the original post were he clearly state he and his buddies are quite experienced and fit. I never said it is an easy hike i said from the top of the escarpment it is easy to reach mnweni cultural center in a day. It is only 16km downhill which if started early can be reach before 4 o'clock in the afternoon and yes I have done this hike.

Now you are going to tel me that this will be his first time in the drakensberg. My first hike in the berg was the same route with the map that was previously suggested, the path along this route are walked out and easy to follow. I am fairly fit and therefore have i said the route up mnweni is not easy and will test your stamina (In my previous post).

Will appreciate if not taken personally, I have only answered according to the original post.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:32 pm 
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Real Name: Jonathan
Old Smelly wrote:
We did it as a 3 day hike - up Mweni pass & down Rockeries...it is definitely a 4 day hike for experienced hikers


After my 2 month self-imposed-hiking-ban (which must have worked - seeing as I passed in the end :) ) - my first hike back in the Berg, with nowhere near enough training was up Mnweni and down Rockeries in 2 days. Admittedly my pack was only 8kg, I arrived at Mponjwane Cave at 6PM in thick mist, felt like I was going to die from about half way up Mnweni Pass, was badly dehydrated (very hot day) - I did make it in the end.

Personally I would head up Rockeries (get a lift from the centre, we walked the 6km stretch on the roads for 6km for some reason), and down Mnweni. Both are beautiful worthwhile passes, and both clear have trails. The hard part might be finding the one from the other if you don't know the area or visibility is poor. Navigation through the community homes can be a bit difficult with the number of different trails - also don't drink the river water till you are above the homes and livestock.

My writeup on this route (with photos) is at http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum ... hikes.html

Icidi pass is rated by many as the hardest non-rock pass in the Berg - not a good place to start in the Berg!

And as already stated by others - use of a guide from Mnweni is highly recommended. These guys are well worth the money you pay them (actually they are worth much more than what they ask for). A night at the centre can also be worthwhile. The community in this valley is really great, plenty of wonderful friendly people.

Ps. on that writeup - refer to what Stijn, CCJoubert and co pulled off in 2 days (both members of this site), it never ceases to amaze me what some people are capable of!

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:05 pm 
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Ok Tuna so you are fit BUT

"and then you can hike back easily in a day down rockeries." is total BS for a beginner and is downright misleading! That's about 18km's and any way you look at it a 42km hike with a 1600m change in altitude is not a good idea if someone has not done much berg hiking. And if you consider that he lists a quite unachievable plan for the berg to start with I would err on the side of caution, not conclude that everything will be ok - the Berg eats people like that!

So yes, it may not be personal but the idea is to give good advice so I am sorry if you take umbrage at my comments but they are accurate and could save someone a whole lot of misery! :pukel: :?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:29 pm 
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Real Name: Jonathan
Old Smelly wrote:
That's about 18km's and any way you look at it a 42km hike with a 1600m change in altitude is not a good idea if someone has not done much berg hiking.


Just to clarify - you start at 1100m asl at the centre (if you don't get a lift up the road that is). The top of the pass is roughly 3000m als, so around 1.9km in altitude to gain and then loose - and you feel it!

There are also a few large rivers to cross (although they'll be low this time of year). These slow you down, but can be nice rest points.

If you get a lift up the road for Mnweni Pass, it cuts 4km off the distance up. Arrange a lift in advance from the start of the road around the base of Rockeries back to the centre (well, actually its quite far from the base of Rockeries - but it 6km off the roughly 18km walkout). Suddenly its a more manageable 32km.

The centre offers these lifts on the roads (can't remember the cost, haven't used the lifts myself) - but phone and arrange them in advance.

Ps. if you do head up Mnweni Pass, there are some caves that will be good enough for winter not too far from the pass (although I wish they were much closer - 5 star cave etc - pics etc at www.berg.co.za). Mponjwane and Ledgers Caves on the escarpment are both great for a 2nd night - but considering that you don't know the area, I would take tents unless you are with a guide - neither cave is obvious to find if you don't know the valley layout.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:45 pm 
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Real Name: Jonathan
Just to add - context on the Berg:
- Easiest day of Berg hiking I have ever done was 28km. Started at 9AM, finished by 3:30PM
- One of the hardest days I have ever done was 2.5km. Started at 6:30AM, finished at 3:30PM

Stijn (who I mentioned earlier, and who has held the Grand Traverse Speed record, 230km in under 63 hours) once told me that he has never managed to get down Icidi Pass in under 6 hours. I haven't done Icidi, but I can tell you it isn't exceptionally long!

Time and difficulty in the Berg depends on so many factors:
- Trail (or more likely - lack thereof)
- Vegetation and river crossings
- Steepness
- Weather
- Weight of pack
- Visibility
- Group fitness etc

The trail for this route is good (but don't believe the map when it says there is a path from the top of Mnweni to the top of Rockeries - I have never managed to find this trail).

Vegetation isn't really an issue on Mnweni/Rocerkies, river crossings should be fine this time of year (but is an issue in summer).

Steepness (relative to some Berg passes) isn't bad on this route, but if you are unfamiliar with the Berg it may well be an issue. Mnweni Pass isn't exceptionally steep - but it is relentless.

Weather is often alright this time of the year - but be careful, it will be sub-zero, the source of the Orange river will probably be dry/frozen, snow is a risk. Visibility is also contingent on this.

Pack weight and group fitness is a big issue - also remember that the altitude may affect you if you aren't used to being around 3000m.

Basically - be careful, but it is an awesome route.

I would rate that something like the Bannerman/Langalibalele loop at Giants Castle would be a better place to start. Also a really awesome route - but the passes are much easier, Bannerman Hut is the end point on day 1 (11km), Bannerman Cave or a tent above Langalibalele Pass is an end for day 2 (about 8km) and you walk out on the mother of easy passes - Langalibalele Pass. But as I say - if you do Mnweni/Rockeries - hire a guide and you should be fine.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:55 am 
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Nice input GAZ :thumright Listen to this guy when it comes to hiking in the Berg...

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 11:24 am 
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Real Name: Jan-Hendrik
Thank you all who commented and helped.

Just to clarify, we are fit and experienced and would manage the distances, but I know the dangers of being over-confident when it comes to the Berg. That's the reason I posted the topic under 'Beginners Questions'.

We will skip Icidi pass now, it looks too hectic for us(but already a bucket-list hike), and will keep to the circular route up Rockeries and down Mnweni. Or vice versa if needed.

Thanks again for all the help. Cheers


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:53 am 
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Real Name: Jan-Hendrik
I would just like to complete the thread that I started:

We did the hike this past weekend and it was obviously incredibly cold and windy.

We slept over at the Mnweni Cultural Centre on Thursday night and Agrippa was very helpful and accomodating. Friday morning we started early and headed along the Mnweni river and spent the night in 5-star cave. We constantly experienced icy +40km/h winds whenever we ascended above the valley. There were a few fires (veld-fires or intentional burning) around the valley, but that never bothered us. 5-star cave was in mint condition and well out of the local's routes.

Saturday morning we headed up Mnweni Pass and it was freezing in the shade of the mountains, the wind was much better relative speaking, but still chilly. We reached Mpojwane cave around lunch time and rested on the escarpment enjoying the view and the eagles and vultures soaring beneath us.

Sunday was a perfect day with true spring conditions and no wind! We descended down Rockeries Pass and walked back to the Cultural Center. I would also now advise using a taxi or bakkie for the last gravel road section. We did 18km and we only reached the MCC at 14h00.

Overall the hike was amazing; the routes were clear but still rugged and pure, the caves were great and the Berg was as majestic as ever. Thanks all for your help and advice.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:04 am 
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Real Name: Jonathan
Good to hear it went well :thumleft:

What was the Senqu (Source of the Orange) looking like? The rivers have been particularly dry this winter.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:17 am 
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Real Name: Jan-Hendrik
It looks like the Orange river has two originating veins 200 m apart. The one was dry, while the other one was mostly frozen over with a small stream trickling beneath the ice sheet.

We made some awesome Game/Oros/whiskey slushies out of the broken ice!


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