From Mafadi to a hike in the Little Berg – August 2011

Sunrise from our campsite at the bottom of Leslie’s Pass, in the morning of the 3rd day.

It was the beginning of August and this was to be our last hike of the long cold winter of 2011. A few cold fronts had swept across the Drakensberg so I was expecting the passes and the escarpment to be partially, if not fully, covered in snow. For this reason my plan was to do the route the opposite way around: up Leslie’s Pass and down Judge’s Pass. This way, most of the route to Mafadi would be on the warmer northern slopes where the snow melts quicker. Once on top, if the colder southern slopes on the other side of Mafadi carried too much snow, we could always retrace out steps and go back down the same way. In the end, things didn’t go according to the plan but this still ended up being a great hike in the Little Berg.

This time I had a very special group: a truly South African blend: the Pedi, Gabriel, the coloured guys, Duane and Charlton and the white dude, Howard. And then, of course, it was me, the Spaniard, the complete foreigner!

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The party along the first kms of the hike: Duane, Charlton, Gabriel and Howard.

First blooms of a Natal bottlebrush (Greyia sutherlandii)

First sights of Leslie’s Pass (left of the 2 snowy slopes), confirming it carried some snow.

In the evening there was radical change in the weather. This was the situation in the morning.

We decided to stay put and wait for the weather to improve.

In the end, we didn’t move that day. Other parties arrived that afternoon and set camp. We were all hoping for a better tomorrow.

Watching the pass for any sign of improvement.

However, that night the weather got colder and colder, and rain became snow. We came out of our tents to a white world.

We felt as though we were snowed up.

Our hopes for the peak were gone but the views were so spectacular that it didn’t really matter.

As soon as the sun was up the snow started to melt down quickly.

Some of our neighbours were also looking around in disbelief. 

While some others opted for a late morning.

It was a glorious cloudless morning. We decided to spend our last night at Lower Injisuthi Cave.

A few hours later it was difficult to believe we had been in deep snow.

Walking up the narrowing Injisuthi Valley towards our cave.

My party was happy to be moving again and they were excited to be living a real mountain experience.

The Injisuthi Triplets above hovering clouds.

Excellent close-up of Leslies’s Pass, the left of the 2 snowy slopes. It would have been a mission to try to go up there.

Sunrise in the morning of our 4th and last day.  There was hardly any snow left. 

Lower Injisuthi Cave, where we spent a pleasant night.

Ready to go back home.

But before that, Charlton wanted to enjoy the freezing cold waters of the Lower Injisuthi pool.

Another shot looking back to Leslie’s Pass. The snow in the shady passes takes a lot longer to melt down.

A final surprise at the end of our hike: the eland and his friend the starling.

The traditional final group picture at the trailhead.