UMGENI VALLEY DAY HIKE - SUNDAY - 29 OCT 2017 - LEADER KEITH ASHTON - JOINT WRITE-UP FROM ROSE DIX & KEITH + (KEITH'S PICS)

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When Umgeni Valley pops up on our Fixtures , there are many eager "ticks" and early diary reminders to make sure we have a place on Keith's ever-popular hikes. This was no exception with 31 participants. This Spring hike at the Valley was spectacular - with new flowers beading the previously burned grasslands, the hillsides dazzling with the blues of Scillas, and then the "Cherry on the Top"...a new hike (for most) to Shelter Falls - reached by following a good path, leading through the Jungle Gyms and Dorms of Shelter Falls Camp.

Then some tricky boulder hopping to the magnificence of the Falls in their forested corner, which can only be done when the River level is very low, which makes this secret valley so very special. Those of us who keep our noses to the ground to find new flowers, were not disappointed and resulted in a few of us dropping way behind, but all was thankfully forgiven.

From Shelter Falls, we made our way along Black Eagle Trail - always a bonus with its beautiful views of pristine forested areas adjoining wide open spaces , with the winding river, way down at the bottom of the Valley. Eventually, after almost 8ks, a very hungry group collapsed on the cool verandas of the two Hepburn Cottages - mercifully empty - and restored our energies for the forthcoming second half of a fabulous day.

Rose


1. Not far from the start we reassemble on a beautiful morning
2. Making our way down to Shelter Falls Camp area
3. Looking out from one of the basic huts at Shelter Falls Camp
4. Trying out one of the obstacles on the course at the camp
5. Harry networking from a difficult position as the group looks on
6. Strung-out heading towards Shelter Stream Marble Baths
7. Marble Baths water chute in Shelter Stream
8. One of many lovely flower displays (Orange Poppy) after the burn - note the insect
9. Bottom of Shelter Falls - it was worth the effort


10. After a long climb up, we go down to the top of Shelter Falls
11. Harry posing precariously at the top of Shelter Falls
12. After traversing Shelter Stream it was a climb out of the valley
13. Strung-out but still climbing
14. Beautiful lush fresh green grass & tree leaves after the burn
15. A tall aloe looks down into the Umgeni Valley & River below
16. View across the Valley & Umgeni River from the Black Eagle Trail
17. Single file along the Black Eagle Trail
18. View towards Albert Falls
19. Time for a rest & Lunch next to Hepburn Cottage

(For the remaining 11km, Keith continues below:-

After a well earned rest & lunch in the welcome shade on a hot sunny day, I explained the route I intended to take for the rest of the day & several hikers requested to return by an easier & shorter route as some were beginning to feel the strain - this was fine as we got a group of 10 together & Neville (our past Chairman) generously volunteered to lead them back along the dirt road.(Resulting in them completing about 13km).

The rest of our group continued further, along the very scenic escarpment route with lovely views towards Albert Falls, until eventually we descended the awkward route down the gully & onto the Dwarf's Dawdle track, below the escarpment sheer rock faces.I chose this particular route today as I had been informed by the Mountain Club that they would be climbing up some of the vertical rock faces.As we made our way carefully through the trees & indigenous bush with many cycads en-route, we were not disappointed & were able to watch the climbers scaling the rock faces.We continued along this very interesting route (lanner falcons nest & raise chicks high up on these rock faces & rock-climbing is not allowed during the nesting period) until we climbed up to the parking area above Indulu Camp.

Luckily at this point a young man with a double-cab bakkie offered a lift back to the office for any of our hikers who also by now were ready for a rest & several jumped at this chance. Also Neville had kindly driven back to this point as he also thought some may be ready for a lift. After these vehicles left to return to the office, the rest of us, (now down to nine) returned along the Black Eagle Trail with the reverse vistas & passing many more flowers & lovely views of the valley & river below, including "Fish Jump Falls".

Eventually our magnificent 9 arrived back at our starting point after a very rewarding & enjoyable 19km hike for this group. The photos herewith illustrate the hike better than words.

Thanks to everyone who shared these precious moments with us in such a beautiful local reserve & thanks to Rose for her usual descriptive write-up for the first section of the hike.

Keith


20. Ahhhh -Where's my mum
21. Earned the stripes & found mum
22. The fitter remaining hikers stride out along the escarpment
23. Stella trying to look elegant as we descend to the Dwarf's Dawdle
24. Still the awkward descent to Dwarf's Dawdle
25. Rose smiling with enjoyment as we see Margaret's better side
26. That could be useful but we didn't need it.


27. One of the Mountain Club climbing routes above Dwarf's Dawdle
28. One of the actual climbing routes
29. A climber on one of the routes
30. A nice shady spot near the end of the Dwarf's Dawdle
31. More of our hiking group decide to take an easier route back
32. Another lovely flower - can you name it - or is it Liquorice Bean
33. The young German students ready to leave at the end of hike
34. Brian & Sandra getting ready to leave in their well equipped vehicle




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