MHC - Highmoor - Tenting Week End
Highmoor Nature Reserve
Central Drakensberg
10 - 11 March 2018

Report and photos by Dave Sclanders

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



To find a shorter route to Mt Lebanon from the Highmoor Campsite

This was to be a repeat hike of the tenting week end we did on the week end of 20 - 21 August 2016 (see Midlands Hiking Report of that date Newsletter number B160804) where bad weather prevented us discovering a new route to Mt Lebanon at Highmoor. However, for whatever reason , club members seemed to be very busy that week end, and only Loga showed any interest to join us. We went up on the Friday, and the weather was incredible. Kamberg Mountain looked as if it had a high cap of snow sticking out above the clouds



After setting up camp and having lunch, we went to explore a nearby waterfall, and the incredible valley that is gouged out below the falls.



Then as the evening was drawing in, one of my favourite times of day, the far valleys and mountains turned shades of blue, and the clouds warning that a storm was building, also turned deeper shades of blue and black and stated to drop out of the sky to meet te mountains below.



Saturday morning found us looking into a very thick mist, and we wondered if Loga would join us. However, a bit later he arrived, somewhat in trepidation of a wasted trip as he had driven a long way in thick mist. However, the sun broke through, and we enjoyed a great days hiking, until later that afternoon.

Giant' s Castle stood high, clear and massive on the western horizon. I had chosen to take the normal long route to the top of Mt Lebanon, and hope to find the exit from the top of the mountain to the entry road to the campsite, as we had found out on our last trip, that the climb up to the top of the cliffs was a fairly serious affair.

The old path was very overgrown and lost in places. It was very obvious that not many people visit Mt Lebanon these days. At one stage we were just hiking across the long grass heading for the top of the ridge. Eventually we found a cairn at the base of the last pull, and had a few minutes rest and re-built the cairn.



The top seemed very far away, and steep. With heads down, and steady solid footsteps we reached our objective in a surprisingly short time. It was time to rest, have a few snacks and enjoy the wonderful vies around us. Looking far to the East, a high feature resembling a sort of Rhino Horn looked interesting, but seemed to be a ridge too far for us. So we decided to head off and go from the crest to find our entry to the valley that would get us into the lowlands again. This was to prove a very difficult time as I did not quite know where the exit was, and the valleys were very steep in this area above the cliffs.



On our way we found the cairn that marked the spot where a number of our club members spent a very cold , wet and miserable New Years eve night some years ago. They were spending the New Years eve period at Aasvoelskranz cave, and planned to spend the afternoon on an afternoon walk to the top of Mt Lebanon. Unfortunately the weather changed when they were on the summit, heavy mist and drizzle turned the visibility to zero, withy the result that they had to spend the night on the open wet , cold mountain. Only a few in the group had carried any protective clothing in case of a bad weather experience.



After some heavy cross valley climbs, and some steep drops which we did not want to climb back up again if I was in the wrong place, we very happily to find our exit point. (See MHC Newsletter B160804 pics 25 - 33 . Our previous climb up this pass, which I now call Eland Pass as I only found it some years ago when I saw an Eland come down it).

Here we had lunch and some fresh water from a nearby stream, and enjoyed the views from the top .



Then it was time to head down to the road far below, which would lead us on a short climb back to the camp. Going down was very difficult. Recent rains had made the earth soft and crumbly, and some large antelope had bumbled and skidded down recently causing a lot of broken loose soil. There was no rushing here, steady deliberate steps were needed. Needless to say at a particularly steep place, my foot skidded on the grass and in a second I had rolled meters down the valley. Eventually the river was reached, we took our boots off to cross the deep rock sill, while Loga, being much more agile managed to rock-hop across.

Looking back up the pass, and knowing where we had come from, we decided that this was not a feasible short cut to Mt Lebanon. But it was a great exercise for a days exploring.



By now there was thunder and rain in the air, we let Loga go ahead as he was faster and fitter than us, to try to put up his tent before it started to rain. We got a bit wet walking slowly up the road, age does take it' s toll on running all day.

When we arrived at camp, Loga had decided in view of the rain now, and the wet forecast for Sunday, he had decided to head for home.

It rained ll night, but cleared by mid morning. We went for a morning hike behind the camp to a large vlei area, and were rewarded with the presents of a large group of Eland and Blesbok. We did a short cut back to the camp, and were rewarded again by a pair of very shy and endangered Oribi that ran passed us and disappeared in no time at all.

After lunch we broke camp and headed home. A great week end away in one of my favourite places in the berg.

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As we now go into winter, winter fire break burning has started, the late rains have enabled the grass to grow a bit more bulk, and the rivers and streams have a bit more water. Be sure when you go hiking now that you check with the authorities if and where and when they will be burning, and if it is in your intended hike area, it may be prudent to relook at your hiking options.

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ALWAYS GO PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED, AND HAVE THE EMERGENCY NUMBER OF THE OFFICE WHERE YOUR CAR IS PARKED ON YOUR CELL PHONE.

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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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