drakensberg-injisuthi-blog-24

Drakensberg – Injisuthi to Cathedral Peak Pt. 1

In Trip Reports On Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Just occasionally I bite off more than I can chew and before I know it a hiking trip has become and adventure.

Since my first visit a couple of years ago I have fallen in love with the Drakensberg. The landscape is wild, remote and relatively unknown. The weather is dramatic, tranquil and pleasingly reliable. In many ways it’s hard to imagine an area better suited to landscape photography.

This time I was joined by three friends: Hougaard Malan, who has been on all 3 of my Drakensberg hikes. Steve Sellman, who came on the last two, and Milly (Hougaard’s sister) who was a new addition! Our ever present guide, Jeffrey, also came along to show us the way, talk the local language, and occasionally confuse us with his basic English!

The plan was to hike from Injisuthi to Cathedral Peak Hotel – a long 60 mile route which I knew would be significantly harder than our previous trips. ‘Hard’ became ‘Very Hard’ almost immediately as we struggled up the 2000m climb over the first couple of days with our back-breaking packs. The following days brought long days of hiking leaving little time or energy for photography, yet it was still a magical experience made all the better by great company.

DAY 1

Our first day took us from Injisuthi to Centenary Hut, an elevation gain of around 1000m. This day was perhaps the most amazing of the trip for me, not necessarily because of the conditions, but because the landscape was so unexpected. Much like visiting the Mweni area in March, the tropical nature of the surroundings took my breath away. So much of the route we walked felt untouched and the flora was like nothing we have in the UK. I would have loved to spend some time taking photos, but our schedule dictated that we keep walking. As it was we arrived at Centenery Hut in the dark.

Jeffrey giving Milly a helping hand across the first and only river crossing of the trip. The boulders and fast current made it surprisingly tricky underfoot. After rain this would soon become impassible.

Jeffrey giving Milly a helping hand across the first and only river crossing of the trip. The boulders and fast current made it surprisingly tricky underfoot. After rain this would soon become inpassible.

The start of the hike from Injisuthi to Centenery Hut is straightforward and incredibly beautiful.

The start of the hike from Injisuthi to Centenary Hut is straightforward and incredibly beautiful.

Protea trees line the valleys and there are numerous stands of untouched woodland

Protea trees line the valleys and there are numerous stands of untouched woodland

Making our way further up the valley. This is just before the turning to Marble Baths.

Making our way further up the valley. This is just before the turning to Marble Baths.

The Drakensberg is one of the best places in the world to see Rock Art. These paintings are in some cases thousands of years old.

The Drakensberg is one of the best places in the world to see Rock Art. These paintings are in some cases thousands of years old.

The bottom of Centenery Hill. It didnt seem too bad from the bottom but it soon became a trudge. The altitude is hard to get used to at first as your lungs struggle to get the oxygen they are after!

The bottom of Centenary Hill. It didn’t seem too bad from the bottom but it soon became a trudge. The altitude is hard to get used to at first as your lungs struggle to get the oxygen they are after!

Our camp at Centenery Hut was clouded out all night and the following morning. It's just as well because we needed the rest! The hut itself is sadly ruined and in need of serious repair.

Our camp at Centenary Hut was clouded out all night and the following morning. It’s just as well because we needed the rest! The hut itself is sadly ruined and in need of serious repair.

DAY 2

We awoke on our second day with tired legs and not particularly excited about the prospect of another 1000m climb. Your legs soon start to feel like lead with the oxygen just 60% of sea level.
Corner Pass was about what I expected in terms of difficulty, the Northern High Approach proving to be a worthwhile shortcut to the pass itself.

As we started hiking the Northern High Approach (NHA) to Corner Pass on Day 2 the Escarpment breifly revealed itself to us.

On our second day we hiked the Northern High Approach (NHA) to Corner Pass. Part way up the escarpment briefly appeared from the mist.

On the Northern High Approach as the mist started to disappear.

On the Northern High Approach as the mist started to disappear.

On of several scrambles on Corner Pass. These are not to be underestimated. We managed without ropes but it certianly wasn't easy - I wouldn't recommend this route to beginners.

One of several scrambles on Corner Pass. These are not to be underestimated. We managed without ropes but it certainly wasn’t easy – I wouldn’t recommend this route to beginners.

Part way up Corner Pass itself we were caught in a thunderstorm which dumped an inch of hail on us in a matter of minutes. We soon found out that Milly's waterproof was completely inadequate! As the pass started to fill with water we made quick time to the top, struggling with the last of the scrambles in the wet. At the top I pulled out a tent flysheet and we all huddled underneath until the storm had passed.

Part way up Corner Pass itself we were caught in a thunderstorm which dumped an inch of hail on us in a matter of minutes. We soon found out that Milly’s waterproof was completely inadequate! As the pass started to fill with water we made quick time to the top, struggling with the last of the scrambles in the wet. At the top I pulled out a tent flysheet and we all huddled underneath until the storm had passed.

The view towards the Injisuthi Triplets and the last of the rain sweeping towards Cathkin Peak.

The view towards the Trojan Wall (left), Injisuthi Triplets (centre) and the last of the rain sweeping towards Cathkin Peak (right).

Setting up camp on Trojan Wall. With the heat gone from the day we knew it would remain thunderstorm free and safe to camp up high. Sadly sunset was a non event.

Setting up camp on Trojan Wall. With the heat gone from the day we knew it would remain thunderstorm free and safe to camp up high. Sadly sunset was a non event.

Day 3

I had big hopes for the view of the Injisuthi triplets at sunrise. Ultimately I was left a little disappointed with the light striking the triplets head on and failing to provide much depth and form. An inversion would have been nice too! Although now this seems a lot like whingeing, at the time I was genuinely crestfallen, after all, this was a location that I had planned the entire trip around.
That really set the tone for the day, whilst I enjoyed the hiking I ultimately didn’t find much motivation for photography!

Sunrise over the Injisuthi Triplets. This image doesnt quite tell the story of the wind, which made being out incredibly unpleasant! On reflection the lighting direction in the winter would be far more favourable for this view.

Sunrise over the Injisuthi Triplets. This image doesn’t quite tell the story of the wind, which made being out incredibly unpleasant! On reflection the lighting direction in the winter would be far more favourable for this view.

A group selfie on Mafadi, South Africa's highest mountain at 3450m. The sun was brutal throughout the day and we soon realised we were short of water...

A group selfie on Mafadi, South Africa’s highest mountain at 3450m. The sun was brutal throughout the day and we soon realised we were short of water…

After suffering from the effects of heat and dehydration, and with the excarpment in mist, I stayed at the tent that evening. Only Hougaard stayed out on the edge with his camera and he was well rewarded!

After suffering from the effects of heat and dehydration, and with the escarpment in mist, I returned to the tent early that evening leaving Hougaard on the edge in the hope that things would improve. He was well rewarded! This was all I could manage from the tent, about a mile away.

Day 4

I was actually pretty annoyed that I hadn’t stayed out with Hougaard the evening before and in the morning I woke up with a certain bloody mindedness to get out early and make something of the trip! The sunrise was unspectacular, but enjoyable all the same. A good nights sleep left me with plenty of energy for hiking and I raced along with Steve for much of the time. The afternoon and evening provided a fantastic location and stunning conditions.

The view looking back towards Injisuthi from Old Woman Grinding Corn. This was the first of many inversions

The view looking back towards Injisuthi from Old Woman Grinding Corn. This was the first of many inversions and for the first time since I have been in the Drakensberg, it persisted throughout the entire day.

Our 4th day took us along the escarpment via the top of Ship's Prow Pass.

Our 4th day took us along the escarpment via the top of Ship’s Prow Pass and onwards with spectacular views over the hills of Lesotho.

Although we had planned to walk further that day, when we stumbled across this view we soon decided to make camp.

Although we had planned to walk further that day, when we stumbled across this view we soon decided to make camp.

Looking in the opposite direction - the hills of Lesotho

Looking in the opposite direction – the hills of Lesotho

drakensberg-injisuthi-blog-1

Twilight looking towards Cathedral Ridge

Twilight looking towards Cathedral Ridge

Throughout the day we watched waves of mist crashing up against the escarpment.

Throughout the day we watched waves of mist crashing up against the escarpment.

With hardly any light left I shot this 2 minute exposure to bring some tranquility to the mist which was still moving rapidly in the strong wind.

With hardly any light left I shot this 2 minute exposure to bring some tranquillity to the mist which was still moving rapidly in the strong wind.

7 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this. Thanks. Going up to Corner Pass in the thunderstorm is the star shot for me.

  2. Wow, I haven’t done corner pass in 20 years! What a great account of your trip. I look forward to phase II.

  3. Alan Coles January 12, 2017

    You capture your adventures so well in word and images Alex – may it long continue.

  4. was looking for pictures of Injisuti, found yours, probably the best there is of this part of the Berg. Thank You, Its been a spiritual home for me since I was 5 yrs old. You capture it well.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Korekce 18 USD. I sera na rasy získat více komplimenty.