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It was my wish to go on a winter hike up the chain-ladder at the Sentinel, hoping to find some snow up there.I have done this hike a few times with Jim.
The plan was to get to the Sentinel car park on Friday afternoon and to walk to the Sentinel cave in the dark. That plan was foiled because the guard informed us that there already was a large group that went up to the cave. He kindly offered that we could sleep in the new, unfinished guard- and accommodation building. Of course, there were no beds, we had to sleep on the floor, no problem, we had prepared for that.
Another complication was that there was going to be trail run the next day. A trail run of about 50km with about 300 participants starting at the Royal Natal Mountain Resort all the way up to the Witsieshoek hotel, the car park, up the chain ladders and down again. The difference in altitude is 1590m, 1490m at the bottom to 3080m above the gully. It meant we woke up at 03h40 when the first group arrived to prepare the route.
At about 7 we got out of our warm sleeping bags to start the hike. The first runner overtook us soon after we got onto the hike up the zig-zags. At the chain ladders we had a bit of a delay due to many runners coming up. It gave us a chance to have a rest and to get a cup of coffee that was on offer for the runners. That was very welcome. And then we just stood in line to make it to the top of the ladders. We now made a decision to just go over to the hut and to than take it from there. I would be available to stay behind to guard our belongings. I have to admit that that in old age I have become slow and just wanted to sit. They went down to the Tugela waterfall and a smaller group up to the top of Mt aux Sources to say hi to Jim, his ashes are in the cairn.
The hut was in a not so good condition, previous hikers had left their rubbish in there. Frans and I got to work and burned what ever we could in the fire place.
The weather was not pleasant, with a cold winds getting access to the inside of the hut. Michaels idea to put the tents up inside the hut was accepted by us and three tents were erected. This improved matters considerably. Instead of -2ºC in the room Michael measured +2ºC inside the tent and no draught. We survived the night very well.
Our water bottles had frozen that were left outside the tents. Apparently the temperature had gone down to -6ºC. Our march down was briefly interrupted by playing with the ice on the frozen Tugela. And that was that, without much further delay we went down to the car park and off back home. I just forgot to say who was on the hike, it was: me, Christopher, Michael, Frans, Tania and Allen.
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