Pinnacle Rocks Drakenberg Trail Run

Our trail grading: GREEN 10A
Distance: 23.4km
Extremeness: High altitude, narrow singletrack obscured by long grass, some climbs and very fun descents.
Location: Cobham, Southern Maloti-Drakensberg Park, KZN, South Africa
Joggers: Me, Travis Marshall, Jen van Rooyen, John Teriele, Shanon MacKenzie, Deon Braun, Matt Goode, Spurgeon Flemington & Steven Erasmus
Post author: Heloise Hunter Marshall

On the second day of TRAIL magazine's Mountain Camp, Matt and Spurg lead the group on a merry jaunt to some big bloomin' rocks. We headed out from our cosy Riverlea cottage before sunrise, and were on the trails in the morning chill, grass frosty and toes numb.

I was a silly muppet and went off trail to fill my reservoir with the delicious Pholela River water. It was a bigger detour than anticipated, so I started off panting behind the others (after a bushwhacking shortcut nogal).

I ran the whole thing with my Nikon D5100 around my neck and in my right hand, which is what I blame for the way I couldn't keep up (along with my sea-level lungs, of course). We followed the beautiful Pholela for the first few kays, through thick, sharp grass which obscured the path and slashed at my shins.

Soon we climbed north of the river towards Pinnacle Rocks. I'd only ever seen these monstrosities once before, in thick fog, on an ill-fated hike to Gxalingenwa Cave. To see them soar huge and orange against the clear sky was phenomenal. Higher up, the grass thinned out, sparing my shins. But the paths got rockier, causing some spectacular tumbles from Matt and Steven.

After a picnic by the rocks, finding some rock art, and some excellent bouldering action, we set off down the northern valley alongside the Gxalingenwa River.

This route had some wonderful steep and gnarly descents to the river, where the group practiced their light steps and fast cadence, while building confidence. No falls!

The path linked up with the Giant's Cup Trail, marked by white footprints. By this time Travis was in bad shape: his ankle not yet recovered from 2015's trauma. I stayed back with him, hiking the last 12 or 13km.

The trail was exposed, and had diverged from the river. It was the middle of the day, hot and unpleasant. Not the most fun heading back to Cobham with my grumpy and sore husband. At least the racing snakes were enjoying themselves! We caught up with them each time the path crossed water, where they would stop for a dip and snacks.

Once we crossed the extremely bouncy bridge back to Cobham Office, my feet ached and I welcomed the opportunity to lounge beneath the trees on the soft lawn before packing up back to our lakeside cottage at Riverlea.

The experience reminded me I have a loooong way to go before I'm ready for Giant's Cup Trail Run in May!

Jaco: Read more about these awesome camps and how to join them here.

I'm trying to catch up with those little flacks to the right of the trees, along the Pholela River. Hodgson's Peaks, AKA the Giant's Cup soars up ahead.
 
Little flacks

Ballito-based Salomon athlete Steven Erasmus joined the team as an expert, giving practical and theoretical guidance on technique, gear, and nutrition. He's smiling here after an epic fall which I did not catch on camera. That big hard pointy thing behind him is the tallest of Pinnacle Rocks.

Spurgeon using the boulder to get some phone signal, while I stuff around.

A mighty biped appears to bite the head of a bushman in the art on Pinnacle Rocks.

I climbed an even bigger boulder. Steven is the orange spot in the shadow of huge/pointy.
 
Shanon MacKenzie learning to love the flight downhill.

Jen van Rooyen takes flight down the steep rocky descent, with John, Spurg, Steven, and Matt ahead.

Travis relieved to be on the flat and so close to base. NOT a happy hiker...

Map

Altitude, pace & distance

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