05 June 2010

SUMMITING CLEFT PEAK
{Saturday, 29 May 2010}
We left for Cathedral Peak Hotel in the Drakensberg, just after 5am on Friday, 28 May. Just a matter of 20 minutes later and we would have had to negotiate some serious Gauteng peak Friday morning traffic. Even just after 5am the roads were quite busy and would have resembled morning peak hour in Durban.
Cathedral Peak {CP} is a four hour drive from Gauteng. We had a Wimpy breakfast in Harrismith with only 90 minutes drive left. We arrived 10.30am at CP just in time for early morning tea and cake on the terrace. So we quickly checked in and 'sommer' extended our original 3-night stay to 5 nights.
Whilst checking in, Conroy's gaze was more fixed on the activities notice board than anything else. So, once check-in was sorted, Conroy rushed to the notice board and was happy to see that a guided hike for summiting Cathedral Peak was scheduled for the next day. He quickly removed the booking list from the board and then had the difficult task of pulling yours truly's rubber arm which had no flexibility. So with a shattered rubber arm, our names were promptly entered on the list ... and needless to say, a slow-release of adrenalin was starting to manifest in our bodies.

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So we lazied around having a light lunch and afternoon tea on the terrace. Got our hiking gear ready for action before dinner and turned in for a good nights rest before the big day. Just after 5am on Saturday morning, Conroy peeped through a window of our chalet to state that it is seriously cold and he can smell rain.

We had a quick breakfast of warm hearty oats porridge at 6.45am and gathered at the usual sundial thereafter to be officially set off on our hike by the very experienced Moses, who has become an institution with those doing the big hikes at CP. It was very cold and damp and the mist was seriously thick allowing one to barely see a 100m in front of yourself. Fortunately it did not rain. But there were no guarantee that we would summit at all as the chances were good that the rock faces close to the peak could be wet and slippery.

There were two other couples who also braved it with us, but one couple came to their senses and bailed after about an hour's hike. One do forget quickly, but it must have been the coldest we have ever been on a hike. Even walking, scrambling and climbing forever upwards, did not get us warm. When Moses indicated that we had to take a breather, we hardly wanted to stop as it just meant that all the muscles were going to cease up.

All in all we were much fitter now compared to when we did the same hike in 2005, during which Conroy summited CP, but I was not brave enough to tackle the last 300m towards the very top of CP. All in all it was a blessing in disguise that the mist was so thick this time around, because we could not sense how high were really climbing. When we got to the top of Buggers Gulley, it felt as if it was a different Bugger, because we got to the top so quickly compared to 2005 (just shows what a bit of regular running and spinning can do for your fitness).

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When we got to the top of Buggers Gulley, Moses indicated that we were taking another pit stop before we tackled the last 300m to the summit. I was quite glad to hear that Moses was positive that the conditions were fine to summit, but on the other hand the nerves set in and the shakes started to get the upperhand of my freezing body ... you know what I mean ... not freezing shakes by nervous shakes! I didn't want to take a pit stop, but just get it over and done with. During our pit stop, Moses got the red ropes out and explained to us that at certain points he will read our ability to climb and set up the ropes when he thinks it will give us the confidence we need to scramble to the top.

Below is a sketch of the various situations we had to master over the last 300m to get to the summit. Some seriously Graded rock face climbing at certain points, plus a chain ladder to get up. The chain ladder was actually the easiest to negotiate.

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With the thick mist being a comforting pillow in masking the scary heights around us, we managed to make it to the last 5m rock scramble before we were on top. As we were taking a breather here, Moses said that he has cast some Moses magic for us and as we took the last step too right on top of the peak, we saw his magic. We had actually climbed out of the mist belt and the sky was the most beautiful blue above us and we were looking down over a massive blanket of white clouds resembling the softest of soft cotton wool, with all the Drakensberg's highest peaks emerging above this cotton wool blanket, 360 degrees around us. It was wind still and the sun was shining down on us for the first time since we left the hotel 4h30min earlier.

The pictures below were all taken from the summit. It must have been the lunch break in our lives with the most spectacular view!

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Below, the subject on the left is definitely not blending with the beautiful surrounds .... ha ha ha

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Below: Yours truly with our wonderful guide Moses. He must be the most patient and helpful person around. He is always putting the safety of his hikers first and whenever one has overcome an obstacle with or without his help, he is very quick to complement the person with the words: Well Done! Moses has really given me a lot of pushes from behind and putting my feet in the right places getting up the rock faces. Without him it would have been a much more scary adventure.

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Below: Some tired feet taking a well deserved break.

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The pictures below illustrate that coming down from the summit, we were back within the mist belt and it was much wetter coming down which made everything more slippery and one had to concentrate much more. And of course 4 hours of just going down all the time on slippery surfaces really hurts the muscles. But the breathtaking scenery really made one forget about the pain and discomfort.

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The hat was actually the one item of clothing that kept me from totally freezing up and it proved that one really loose 30% of one's body temperature from your head.

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Below: This is called the orange peel gap and one can see the near vertical drop going over the edge. Our feet really started to take some hammering going down this rock scattered gulley.

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Below: The last pit stop before the last down hill stretch ... probably another 90 minutes downhill walk.

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We reached the hotel, being quite wet, freezing and with aching feet and muscles. But the sense of achievement made it all worthwhile. The mind is a wonderful thing, helping us to be strong in fearfull situations, even if the body is screaming stop. The four of us were handed our personalised certificates of achievement by the hotel management and I mentioned that actually Moses was the one deserving a gold medal for pushing us up the peak and catching us coming down.

To our surprise, we actually did the summit hike in a relatively fast time of 9 hours flat which of course made us just in time for some tea on the terrace with delicious scones, cream and strawberry jam ... must say this was the most delicious scone I have had. The couple that summited with us were Warren King and Rene du Preez also joined us for tea. Whilst chatting over our tea and scones, Warren said that he had done CP three times before as well as Kilimanjaro and Base Camp Everest and so it came to light that he was actually an extreme athlete. I thought as much because he took the lead most of the way during our hike and needless to say at a very steady pace ... no wonder it only took us an exhausting 9 hours. To our amazement, it was Rene's very first hike ever ... she is definitely a natural!

Morning after

Below: Some sunset pictures of Cathedral Peak from our chalet at CP Hotel.

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For the following three days we just vegetated in the lounge. It took us about two days to get our core warm again after our summit. We did however go for an 11.5km run on the Monday which was tough as the slightest downhill was seriously painful. I also managed to do some jewellery commissions of which I will post some pics here at a later stage.

The next two weeks I will be busy with some prep work for the Tweespruit Scrapaganza on 18 & 19 June. Some of the ladies have already phoned to warn us that it is very cold in the Free State and that we should bring lots of warm clothes. Thanks ladies, warning taken.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by here and for all your sincere comments. Wishing all the soccer teams and fans a happy and successful South African Soccer World Cup 2010! May the best team win.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, another great climb and some incredibly beautiful pictures.

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  2. Hello Desire

    It looks like an awesome trip and some absolutely fantastic pictures.

    Thanks for putting up with the everyone over in SA right now, I just hope everyone behaves themselves.

    B x

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  3. wow desire thanks so much for sharing photos of your wonder trip...such stunning scenery and yes it is much harder coming down....hope you have recovered...hugs from kath & buddy xxx

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  4. Just loved all those terrific photographs, glad you managed to get to the top. I look forward to seeing your jewellery when get you get time to photograph them and post them.

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  5. Pragtige foto's van 'n pragtige roete.

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  6. Wow, looks like you had a fabulous time!!! Thanks for all the pics... I can remember the feeling of achievement you have after completing a hike in the berg... Haven't done one since I've had my 2 girls....

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  7. Truly beautiful scenery...and there is no other way of capturing it than to climb...that would make it so worthwhile. Well done on this achievement.

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  8. Hi Desire
    Wow! Baie geluk met die staptog! Wonderlike fotos! Die Drakensberge is darem verruklik mooi. Mal oor C.P. Was lanklaas daar.

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  9. Congrats on you two for such an achievement,super photos as always Desire...

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  10. Wow these photos are gorgeous... God's creation covered in a fluffy {cold} blanket. Well done on your achievement.... rather you than me though!

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  11. Congrats to you and Conroy - that is certainly a grand achievement. And the photos of the scenery - absolutely awesome!! The ones at top look like you are in snow and the sunset ones are very striking.

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  12. Hiya D, sorry I haven't popped in for so long & thanks for all your encouraging comments on my blog. Things have been hectic my side. Need more time to study what you've been up to but the photos in this post are absolutely incredible. You are one seriously talented photographer & I would love to learn some of your skills so let me know if you are ever running any photography courses. If you had any locally I'd do my best to attend ;-D

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  13. Baie geluk Desire!! Dit wil gedoen wees!! Die Drakensberge is darem maar asemrowend mooi!

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  14. Such stunning photo's Desire - the Drakensberg is definitely a magical place!

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  15. Ek haal my hoed af Desire... dis 'n ongelooflike moeilike stap maar seker een van die mooiste plekke op aarde. My oupa hulle het in Harrismith distrik geboer. Dis my "hometown" soortvan... ek weet van daardie koue jong...dis gaan so wees in Tweespruit ook.

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  16. Golly Desire, you are energetic, your photos are amazing, you are a very clever girl. xxxxx

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  17. Wow, Desire this place is heaven and your photos are just gorgeous. Wish I could match up to your artistic skills

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  18. this is an AMAZING achievement and I absolutely LOVE your photos. I was only looking and my SA photos today and I really have to visit SA again, can I get you to be the photographer :)

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  19. Hi jy ek mis jou. Is jy ok?

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  20. Wow Incrediable! Makes me hurt just to think about a hike like that. What a beautiful world we live in and you captured some amazing photos.
    Thanks so much for sharing,
    hugs,
    Pam L.

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Crafty hugs
Desire