Climbing the Dragon
SA climbers Gosia Lipinska and Rob Dalgleish rediscover the magic of climbing peaks in the Drakensberg, with a trip to the Monks Cowl region.
Every year I go off to the 'berg to do a berg peak (for those in the Cape, not the Cedarberg silly). After listening to countless stories from berg stalwarts I realised that if I do one berg peak between now and when I'm 60 I'll be able to do more than 30 peaks.
That put in perspective the fact that although life is short and we should grab opportunites with both hands, there is also time in the world - time for 30 plus peaks.
So this year Rob Dalgleish and I drove off one Thursday evening to go climb the Monks Cowl. A berg peak usually involves a long and strenuous (read death defying) walk-in which is often the crux of the route. Mark Johnston exemplifies this when he talks about the Devil's Gum - ie walk to Tooth Cave - which in my opinion is definitely the crux (probably because I'm a Kaapie and am still acclimatising to grass).
Anyway I digress, this year it was a long slog to Keith bush camp but by comparison with previous expeditions it felt like a 4-lane highway.
As I looked at the approach to the Cowl itself from camp it looked very managable - a long grass shoot - 1 hour max. It turned out to be a 3 hour slog. The Cowl, a hidden gem, glowed pink in the morning light. As we walked round the mountain we had to navigate patches of snow - some even in places touched by th sun. The air was decidedly chilly.
The climbing turned out to be far easier and shorter than I expected. Rob insisted on taking his hiking boots up the climb, in fact being a berg man he wanted to leave his climbing shoes behind and only take his boots. Since we were going to abseil back down and I thought my boots were heavy I decided to leave them behind.
This turned out to be a mistake as there was a fair amount of grass traversing on the climb heavy with snow fall. My feet were frozen solid at one stage. In any case we topped out with big smiles and made the return journey safely back down.
The next day, having some time to spare, we ran up turret and amphlet - two cute peaks. Being scrambles it was pleasant moving around gear free. Both were exciting though and standing on the bed sized summits quite spectacular. A great way to end a perfect weekend.