MHC  Mt Gilboa
Karkloof Area
Central Midlands KZN
4 February 2018

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]



Once again the weather played games with us for this hike. A large number of hikers had registered for the hike, and Saturday afternoon, and through the night it had rained. Sunday morning early, and it was still raining. The weather forecast was for a reasonably sunny morning, with cloud in the afternoon. An SMS at 06h15 showed 2 hikers had decided to cancel. The rest were presumably on their way.

We met at the appointed time and place, with still an overcast misty sky overhead, and headed to our start point. On arriving at our start point, we were greeted by a clear sky above, and mist still hanging in the lowlands below. We would be walking along the edge of a large plateau looking down to the agricultural lands far below on our left, and a very large vlei and water shed area to our right.

Far off in the distance Albert Falls dam was just visible. It looked as if some giant hand had taken the rocks from the vlei and wetland area and thrown them onto the high ground. They formed very interesting shapes and formations, with many sharp edges pointing to the sky. Far away to the west, if you knew where to look, was an old abandoned EKZN Wildlife field rangers outpost.



With a large number of hikers, the  Hiking Snake was long and spread out. However frequent stops were had to give the hikers a chance to catch up and have some time to look at the views below and around. Then it was a  tea break stop amongst a pile of rocks, a bit more time to take in the scenery, and enjoy a huge space of quietness and beauty. Pushing on from tea towards our lunch spot, we stopped at bubbling spring that used to give water to the rangers of the outpost not far away, and filled depleted water bottles with cold clear spring water. Then onwards to our lunch spot not too far away.


Pics 14  15 tea break
Pic 16  water stop.

On our way we had seen a number of mountain flowers , amongst them clumps of Protea dracomontana , Watsonia and Brunsvigia natalensis. ( I had done a recce on Tuesday to this area and found a small clump of 4 Brunsvigia with beautiful red flowers. On Sunday , 5 days later the plants were near destruction being eaten by a large number of black and white striped caterpillars. With no seed head having been produced, one must wonder how the species can proliferate? )


Pics 18  25 Flower time
Pics 22/23 taken on Tuesday
Pics 24/25 taken on Sunday with caterpillars.

Our lunch spot was on the edge of the plateau, and soon everyone had found their  best spot and settled down to eat and relax, and check the view.


Pic 28 Hungry rock
Pic 29 Shady rock
Pic 30 Meditation rock

While we were looking down the valley to the south, to the East behind us, from where we had come, and would have to go back to get to the cars, heavy mist had blown up from the valley below and was engulfing our way home. A dangerous situation to be in if one does not know the terrain intimately. There are no maps, the paths were overgrown and in places non-existent. This can so easily happen anywhere whilst one is out sharing the day with nature.


Pics 31 - 32 Mist rolling in covering our way back to the cars

So it was time to pack and start  car ward , hoping that the mist would lift or thin out. However, no such luck. The thick misty blanket rolled on down to us at speed, and soon we were enveloped in a thick mist blanket. In this situation, as the path was non-existent for quite some way to where it ran out, we decided to change course and head over hill and dale across country and pick up the path much later. However, a warning here, do not try this if you do not have a head for direction in a zero visibility situation. You could end up in serious trouble.


Pic 35 Mist ahead
Pic 36 Into the mist
Pic 38 Onwards , we have found the path

We did well, and everyone kept tightly bunched, and we eventually found our path a bit later where it was very strong. A short while late, still in the mist, we reached the car park, much to every ones delight.


Pic 39 Cars at last.

It was agreed that we had enjoyed a very good and eventful day. Good views and sunshine in the morning. A great place for a lunch break, and to end it all off , having the experience of walking in very thick mist with no visibility or horizon to indicate the way. The mist seemed to envelope one in your own little space from which you kept a sharp eye out for your hike buddy to make sure that you were still with the group. To get separated in such conditions would not be fun.

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Mist and poor visibility is a very real and ever possible situation in a wild environment and especially in the berg. Hiking in bad visibility can lead to very sad consequences. The most important thing to remember is to stop,take a good sound look at your situation.
Don t carry on hoping to find a way out. If you are still on a good path, go back to safe ground.
Don t go off the track to look for a better option, you don t know where you will end up.
Don t split the party, someone could get lost and not find the party again.
Keep the group tight, and appoint a strong person as a back marker. Nobody falls behind them, and keep in close communication with the back marker.
When you really don t know where to go, sit tight and wait for the visibility to get better. Being late is better than being dead.
Many a person has died when groping around in very bad visibility with or without rain and wet to add to the danger.

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ALWAYS GO PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
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For any questions on berg hiking, feel free to contact me. See my website at www.bergfree.co.za

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