Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

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AlexRogers
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Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:11 am
Real Name: Alex Rogers

Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

Post by AlexRogers » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:39 am

Hey guys - I'm visiting Durban from Australia in January, and am keen to check out something we climbed back in the '80s as kids. We called it Natal Table Mountain, a flat-topped mesa in the Valley of 1000 Hills - have no idea what its real name might be or what its called today, but to the best of my memory it was out near the Nagl Dam via Cato Ridge. Back then it was all dirt roads, and we parked at a Zulu village with their permission and walked in. This is what it looked like:

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We tried & failed to put up a new route there - here is a pic of us scoping/cleaning the top of the line

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it is an amazing place with endless scope for climbing

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I can't be sure, but I think these Google map coordinates are the mesa I'm talking about - if you drop these in the Google Maps search bar it will take you there: -29.610868,30.60192

Do any of you know anything about it? I don't see anything on the wiki, or any mention in Nattras' new guide to KZN, but perhaps it goes by another name, or access is too hard / dangerous / forbidden? Any information people could give me would be much appreciated, as I'd like to at least check it out on my visit, and perhaps even give that climb another try with the benefit of a few more years experience :-)

Thanks all.

Alex

Warren G
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Real Name: Warren Gans

Re: Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

Post by Warren G » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:30 am

Alex, while I can't help you with anymore info than what you have I do have a simple request: please keep us in the loop about your trip, what access was like on Table Mountain etc. I remember my dad talking about climbing there in the 80's too, and apparently there is some good rock, but ultimately crime stopped access. As that was 25 years ago hopefully things have changed.

I would go on to say thought that there is sooooo much rock in thousand hills, there will be other areas to explore: around Inanda dam, Nagel (as you said), Shongweni (this we can help you with a great deal), etc etc. I would be willing to move back to Durban for the prospect of opening climbing in these areas, as they offer lots of potential.

Incidentally go climb Tops Needle near the Inanda dam wall, as well as the excellent rock on the main face. How that hasn't become a crag is one of the great mysteries of KZN climbing to me, as it seems safe to park and a close walk in and drive. Monteseel on the right half, Wave Cave on the other.
Sandbagging is a dirty game

AlexRogers
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Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:11 am
Real Name: Alex Rogers

Re: Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

Post by AlexRogers » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:34 pm

Warren - don't have a lot to add, this was a long time ago. We saw the cliffs from a distance (possibly even from Monteseel), and went driving in the valley following our noses until we couldn't drive any further. Dirt roads ended at a kraal, and the locals were friendly, we asked permission to leave my car at the kraal, and walked in for about an hour. In the panorama shot you can see the dirt road we ended on, and we walked up the obvious grassy ridgeline to the base of the cliffs. Climbing was easy at that point, 1 pitch of grade 10-11 type stuff. Found an old (in 1987) piton there, so we weren't pioneers. The top was a lovely rolling grassy meadow, complete with cows (!?! there must be an easy access on the other side of the huge mesa) but no people. There was a little stream on top with good water, and we camped by a tiny rock overhang with a clear soak for water.

We went to explore, looking for a giant crackline that we'd seen on the approach - the top is hidden in a wooded ravine, you can see the only trees on the top in the panorama, about 1/4 of the way from the left. The "crack" turned out to be an enormous chimney system going back into the cliffline at least 100m. We rapped one pitch down into it, and climbed out - were too chicken to go the whole way down as the bottom looked hard without torches, more caving than climbing.

The line that we chose was awesome, 2 pitches of somewhat chossy corner and face leading to a 3rd & final overhanging headwall on brilliant rock, split by a fist-crack. We rapped another line (2x 45m raps) where I nearly died when the block we were rapping off swiveled as I was going over the edge. I was committed, so did a very very gentle rap to the bottom, praying the rock wouldn't come down with me. I led the two initial pitches to the base of the overhanging crack, quite easy, maybe 13-14. The crack was much harder, I gave it a good go, but had a very basic rack of hexes & nuts, and the crack was filled with bird & bat-poo, it was hideous. I eventually got spat off, and we escaped up an easier corner nearby, determined to clean the line on rap & give it another go. You can see my partner Steve rapping off in one of the pics - can you see the mistake we made? The line was much steeper than we'd thought, and Steve lost touch with the rock very quickly, and was unable to swing in. He rapped down, hoping to end on the ledge - but ended up 10m off the rock at the end of the rope, dangling at least 60m above the forest below. We both got quite scared as we really didn't have a clue what we were doing, or how to get out of that mess.

Luckily I'd read about prussiking in a book (!) and sort of remembered how to tie a prussik knot with a sling - so lowered a couple of slings to Steve, taught him how to tie them, and he eventually managed to ascend the rope - took over an hour and he was very sunburned and totally wasted by the time he got up. We called it quits at that point before we killed ourselves.

I have a vague memory of Evan Wiercx planning to go and do it some time later, but I'm not sure it was ever done. I'd love to hear from anyone of any history of climbing here, and especially, what access there is now / whether it is reasonably safe to try to go out there now - I'd love to get out there in January.

AlexRogers
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Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:11 am
Real Name: Alex Rogers

Re: Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

Post by AlexRogers » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:50 am

I did find this on the MCSA KZN section website :

"Table Mountain (KZN)

Table Mountain is located near Nagel Dam in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. This venue is easily seen from the N3 Highway when looking east in the Ashburton area. The band of sandstone crags that surround this mesa are very prominent. The sandstone faces are a mixture of both good rock and choss and are up to three pitches high. Many generations of climbers have explored these crags over the years but no routes have been recorded. Possibly the best rock is on the SE face where there is a large sink hole and cleft system. If you venture out to have a look, park at Nagle Dam and walk up the NE spur which runs down to the dam. This is a long hard 'bundu bash' but is worth the effort. The top of the mesa is open grassland with excellent views in all directions. Gerald Camp reports that you can also drive and then walk in from the Old Baldy / Cato Ridge side of the mountain. Water can be found in a stream on the top during summer. This is an excellent venue for a weekend's camping, but the climbing is 'patchy'. The glacial striations on the summit are an unusual feature in South Africa that attract regular visits from geology students."

Looks like it hasn't had much if any attention since we were there... I'm amazed.

Ghaznavid
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Real Name: Ghaznavid

Re: Access & info requested - KZN "Natal Table Mountain"

Post by Ghaznavid » Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:11 am

It is called Table Mountain on the KZN survey maps. I haven't read what everyone else said - I am running late, so I might add more later. Table Mountain is still accessible, there is a good path to the top. It is still a bad dirt road and you still park in a small village, park at the small shop in the town and pay the owner to watch your car.

I was supposed to do this earlier this year, but canceled due to bad weather.
"There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation." Herman E Daly

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