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Jim and I were going to go to Champagne Castle in the Drakensberge to do some low-berg-hikes. But as the week progressed the weather forecast became more and more worrying. Snow, wind, cold was reported just before we set off. With this in mind we approached the berg, having already decided that perhaps the best to do would be to camp in Royal Natal. That way we would be close to an escape route and the chances of getting snowed in was minimal. But when we got our first glimpse of the mountains around the Sentinel we quickly changed our mind. The tops were covered in snow and the lower berg flooded in sunshine. Aiming the car straight up the mountain we parked at the Sentinel carpark and off we went.
At the start I still hiked with the new warm jacket I received from Jörg as a present, at the top of the zig-zag this was dispensed with, the temperature was not that cold. Just above the chain ladder and in the wind shadow of a rock we had our lunch. Jim actually took off his shirt. Here we met up with John-Wesley who was on his way down. He had decided to just nip up the mountain to check out the snow and to go down again.
The jacket came back on, because the cold wind blowing over the plateau of the Tugela Falls was biting. Slowly making our way across towards the Namahadi pass we decided to camp in the ruins of the police station. Here we had four walls to cover us from the wind. We could have gone on further to Müller's cave, but none of us felt like trotting up the mountain and down the other side. So we spent the last two hours of sunshine on the wind protected side of the building having coffees and other snacks.
It got cold very quickly once the sun disappeared behind the horizon and we were in the tent in no time. This was 17h30, it was going to be a looong night. And it was. But, I think, we did manage to sleep somewhat.
Mount aux Sources was calling in the morning. Up and up we went. Having some fun at the final ascent where we decided to use a snow bank to overcome the last piece of rock. Looking for shelter behind the peak we had lunch. And than marched off again towards Crow's Nest cave, hoping that it would not be occupied. Luck was ours, no soul in sight. Again we had time on our hand and went up to the ridge to enjoy the views.
Initially the cave was fairly cold inside, but strangely as the night progressed it got warmer. As usual I wasn't hungry and just nibbled at my provisions. And again the night was long.
Eventually morning came and with it the sun shining straight into our cave. Great! Enjoying a lazy getting up and having breakfast and more coffee we eventually got going down the hill picking up the path to the chain ladder. The last action on the mountain was Jim refusing to pay for the extra day we stayed on the mountain. And down the road we went, stopping for a beer at Witsieshoek and expecting a police road block further down to get us to pay for the extra day. All is well that ends well.
Filling up at Kestel we took a quick ride through town. It looks like Kestel is trying to become another artist town like Clarence. Good luck to them.
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