Water, water everywhere

So on a Friday afternoon a team of four of us found ourselves at Injisuthi. The road on the drive in had been in a very bad state, but we had all arrived safely.

Slide1.JPGWe set off down the road in light drizzle. The river was flooded, and my choice of Boundary Ridge over the conventional river route seemed to be a good one. The fact that we would be coming down this way on Sunday was already playing on my mind, but I knew there would be other options.

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Boundary Ridge starts off fairly steep, and then gets steeper. Before you know it, you are at the scrambles and ladders. Some of the rungs on the ladder aren’t so stable, but we all safely made our way to the top of the ridge.

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Slide4.JPGSlide5.JPGSlide6.JPGThe trail is vague at first, but soon you hit the ranger accommodation, and from there it becomes a road.

The clouds cleared a bit as we walked along the ridge. When the mountains revealed themselves, they were as spectacular as ever.

The turnoff from the ridge to Centenary Hut was not marked and very easy to miss. In fact, it was so easy to miss that we missed it. Luckily I realised this pretty quickly, and soon we were back on the right track.

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The hut is in pretty bad shape right now. Only the middle room was dry, so the others put their foam matts on the springs, and I set up my air mattress on the floor in the middle.

Graeme climbed onto the roof and I passed rocks up to him to hold the roof in place, while Chris took broken sheets of metal on the ground and repurposed them to keep the rain out of the broken windows.

Slide9.JPGIt was a good thing that we did this work – because it poured all night, but we were all nice and dry. Well, mostly. The occasional roof drip is nothing serious when there is a torrential downpour outside. The corrugated iron roof made a lot of noise, but it did the job.

Slide10.JPGSaturday morning was a bit misty, but clear enough that we could see Injisuthi Falls and the Triplets. Everything from Giants Castle to Monks Cowl was visible – it was a rather spectacular sight.

Slide11.JPGSlide12.JPGSlide13.JPGSlide14.JPGWe started up to the contour path, and missed the initial turnoff to Northern High Approach, but soon started scrambling up the ridge and found the trail easily enough.

The views from the ridge were spectacular. The Dragon was a collection of shimmering cliffs and waterfalls, with the bright green background of summer. It is hard to think of conditions in which the mountains could possibly look more spectacular.

Slide15.JPGThe Northern High Approach reminds me a lot of Organ Pipes Pass – spectacular and not excessively steep. The infamous scramble was basically a waterfall, but had enough flat holds that everyone got up without taking their packs off. If you fell here, it could be serious, but the scramble really wasn’t that serious.

Slide16.JPGFrom there, the trail makes its way into the Corner Gully. We had a short break in the gully before continuing south and heading up the trail for Around the Corner Pass.

Slide17.JPGThe lowest scramble on Around the Corner was easy, although very wet. The second scramble also proved to be pretty simple. The trail winds its way up gradually from there, before hitting a very exposed switchback ledge. At the top of the ledge, the trail splits between a ridge and the gully. I had done the gully before, so we decided to take the ridge. This requires some very easy scrambling lower down, and a very exposed, but easy, step across at the top.

Slide18.JPGSlide19.JPGOverall I am happy to give Around the Corner Pass with the Northern High Approach a 5* quality rating, and can classify it as a soft-rock pass (i.e. rock, not Rock or ROCK). This is only the 8th pass I have rated as 5*, out of 92 passes completed. Difficulty is a 4/10.

Slide20.JPGSlide21.JPGSlide22.JPGSlide23.JPGThe sun came and went on top. It was nice to dry the feet out on a rock. The trail looked more like a river than a trail. Crossing the river behind Corner Peak was pretty tricky too – and required a big jump.

Slide24.JPGWe slowly slogged up the Mafadi Ridge, meeting a rather loud shepherd on top of the ridge. He moaned that Chris only gave him 2 cigarettes and sounded like he was trying to demand something, but we had no clue what. We went up Trojan Wall, and then headed to the cave with him shouting in the distance.

Slide25.JPGSlide26.JPGSlide27.JPGSlide28.JPGAs we reached the cave, it began to rain. This lasted for a while, but it cleared up nicely afterwards.

Graeme any I went to the escarpment edge to have a look at the Triplets, which were as spectacular as ever. Injisuthi Falls was also good and noisy. Definitely a worthwhile detour.

Slide29.JPGSlide30.JPGSlide31.JPGSlide32.JPGSlide33.JPGSlide34.JPGSlide35.JPGWe set off at first light on Sunday morning, and slowly slogged up Injisuthi Dome. We stood on the summit at sunrise – although by no means the best sunrise I have seen recently. It was very cold and windy, some of the water had actually frozen overnight!

Slide36.JPGSlide37.JPGSlide38.JPGWe continued up Mafadi from there. The icy wind continued. After a group shot on top, we walked over the summit – naturally you have to walk over Mafadi, since it is not entirely clear where the highest point actually is.

Slide39.JPGWe tagged Lithabolong and Sombrero on the way down towards Leslies Pass. Red Wall Falls and the Falls behind Greater Injisuthi Buttress were both in full flow. It was a spectacular sunny day on top.

Slide40.JPGSlide41.JPGSlide42.JPGSlide43.JPGSlide44.JPGSlide45.JPGSlide46.JPGLeslies Pass proved to be its normal long self. The trail is tricky to follow in places, but we somehow held it for the entire pass, baring the occasional error.

Slide48.JPGSlide49.JPGSlide50.JPGSlide51.JPGSlide52.JPGSlide53.JPGSlide54.JPGSlide55.JPGSlide56.JPGSlide57.JPGSlide58.JPGWe had lunch at the bottom of the pass, before the true epic begun. The river crossing below the pass was surprisingly difficult. We managed to follow the trail through the bushes for roughly 2km, when we were forced to cross the river. This crossing required quite a jump, and included at least one near miss with slipping in.

Slide61.JPGSlide62.JPGSlide63.JPGSlide64.JPGWe followed the true right bank from here to Marble Baths Cave. Some of this was easy, and some was scrambly – but we were eventually forced into thick overgrowth. We averaged about 1km/h through this, and it was not pleasant!

Slide65.JPGReaching the trail below the cave was a great relief, but the flooded rivers were playing on my mind. I knew we had two major crossings left, and the last one can be tricky in winter – never mind when it is flooded like this.

We saw some other people hiking up to the cave, and they assured us that it was fine.

The crossing 1km downstream of Battle Cave proved tricky. The water was no more than knee deep, but was very wide and fast flowing.

Slide66.JPGWe continued along the trail, and I kept looking down at the main river wondering what the next crossing would look like.

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Slide68.JPGWhen we got to the cable, I knew it wasn’t safe. We had some debate about it and agreed that it was far too deep and fast flowing to cross safely. So we scrambled up the slope above us, and made our way through more overgrowth till we found the trail down from Boundary Ridge and came out at the road.

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Overall the flooded rivers cost us many hours and massively on morale. Chris and Mel weren’t used to hiking through terrain like this, and their ankles and knees had struggled. Fortunately everyone pushed through and we safely returned to the office without major injury. We arrived at around 7pm.

Slide70.JPGSlide71.JPGOverall it was an epic hike. With 51km and 5 summits, it had been a fairly difficult hike. The amazing views more than make up for it, though. As the old saying goes “pain is temporary, memories are forever”.

This was the 6th and final meet of the MCSA Mountain Challenge. Well done to Mel on scoring the most points out of all the participants. The prize of a free weekend in Cambalala Hut was decided by lucky draw and went to Kim in the end.

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