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These journal extracts describe the author's visits to the Chimanimani Mountains during 1956 to 1959.
Packed up camp quite early and returned to Kariba. On arriving at the Kessesse Fly gate met Maxwell. He had a note for me from Salisbury giving me the contents of a telegram that had been delivered at the head office:
'Climbing party proceeding Easter Melsetter, phone Cockburn 26751 Salisbury immediately=Buckland'
Quite a historic telegram! Very shortly before going to Mensa Pan Maxwell had mentioned that he had heard from Ashley Belman that one of the Irrigation Department chaps was going climbing on the Eastern Border somewhere - so putting two and two together I thought it must be the same trip that Buckland had mentioned - so immediately after lunch I went along to the Irrigation Department camp and met the person in question - one Robin Davey. Sure enough it turned out to be the same party and as Davey was looking for a lift into Salisbury I was able to offer him one. We decided to set off soon after 5pm so I returned to camp to start packing.
We left Kariba in the Landrover about 6 pm and after a terrible journey during which we nearly crashed due to deep mud in one of the drifts on the Kariba road we reached Karoi at about 9.30 and put up at the hotel there for the night.
It was drizzling in the morning so we did not bother to get up early. Eventually Archie Cockburn, Philpotts and myself decided to go and have a look at the big buttresses on the peak called 'Turret Towers'.
At first we made our way across open grassland and then dropped steeply down into a valley. Here we found it necessary to cross a deep strongly flowing river so we had to send our clothes across by rope and swim across ourselves. Then followed a very difficult approach across a broken up mountainside, over large boulders, between great pinnacles of rock and up and down deep vegetation choked gullies and ravines. The vegetation was very wet and most of the time it was drizzling so we got rather wet.
Eventually we arrived at the foot of the buttress and saw enough of it to realise that it has some very good possibilities for rock climbing. It is steep, indeed certain parts of it overhang, and the rock looks quite good. I am told that it is Table Mountain Sandstone. There was not time to do any climbing and as the weather was getting worse we decided to return to camp.
Instead of traversing the mountainside we cut straight down without a great deal of difficulty and reached the river just below some pleasant pools and waterfalls. We made our way up valley keeping close to the river and eventually arrived at the spot where we had first crossed the river. From here we made our way back to camp by the same route as we had come. By the time we got back we were soaked to the skin and did not waste much time in getting into our sleeping bags.
Woke up to fine weather so got up reasonably early and dried out our wet clothes. I was feeling rather lethargic so decided to join the others and climb 'Uncontoured Peak' - quite a prominent peak opposite the campsite. We all set off together and arrived at the top after quite a reasonable and entertaining scramble. There was a fair amount of low vegetation on the summit including some fine aloes with spikes of red flowers. None of us felt particularly energetic so we did not go any further but just reclined on the summit for a while and then descended and had a swim in the river - a most enjoyable way of spending time in the mountains - at least on a first visit.
Was picked up at Meikles by Chris Whitlock Jones in his Chevrolet at about 11.30 am. We left his home in Greendale before 1pm together with his wife and, after picking up Shirley Dodds from Goromonzi, did not waste much time getting to Umtali. Here we visited some relations of the Whitlock Jones' and then set off for the Chimanimanis. At times we thought we had lost our way in the wattle estates but eventually reached the end of the road at the base of the gully at about 8 pm. Archie, Phil Murray and others arrived at about midnight and I joined them in climbing the gully and camping on the col.
Slept very well and did not get up particularly early. Left our overnight camping site at about 11 am and walked over the col and down to the Bundi River where we pitched camp in the upper valley just above where the river enters the gorge - not far from the msasa wood where we camped at Easter. We entered to top of the gorge to look for firewood and saw several small antelope, probably klippspringer, that seemed quite tame.
Archie and I decided to bivouac on the lower slopes of Turret Towers for the night so that we would have plenty of time next day to climb the large buttress we had surveyed at Easter. Shirley Dodds joined us and we set out at about 3.30 pm. Knowing the route we made good time down the valley of the Bundi to immediately below the buttress and then climbed up towards it, avoiding the terrible traversing route we had taken at Easter. Saw two eland on the lower slopes - the first I had seen. We went too high and were unable to find water so we descended about 100 ft and found a stream beneath some large boulders and also an excellent bivouac site. Estimated that we were about 400 ft below the buttress. It was a nice airy place and one really felt that one was in the mountains.
We all slept very well and set off at about 7.40 am, leaving the sleeping bags etc to be collected on the descent. After half an hours climb we reached the base of the buttress. One of the main features of the buttress is a huge open fault that runs up the Northern Face of it - it does not quite reach the base of the cliff and is protected at the top by a large overhang. We decided to make a route up this fault and to gain the bottom of it via a large chimney. We started to climb at about 8.30 am.
Start: Ascend the gully immediately to the left (north) of the buttress for about 150 ft above the base of the buttress. The buttress, forming the right wall of the gully, is here split by two parallel vertical faults, to the left a crack and to the right and a little lower a deep chimney. The climb starts at the base of the chimney.
First ascent: H.A.Cockburn, R.Goodier, Miss S Dodds. July 8th 1956.
The weather was magnificent with a pleasantly cool breeze and the climb proved to be a first class one - a worthy introduction to African climbing as far as I was concerned. Being three on a rope it took a long time and it was not until about 1.45 pm that we reached the top of the buttress where the angle eased off. Here we had lunch and then scrambled up the ridge towards the summit of Turret Towers. The ridge had steep cliffs on either side and we had to go quite high before we could rope down onto the easier slopes to the left (north) of the ridge. We descended to our bivouac site via a gully to the north of the "Pinnacle" - a good route down.
After collecting our equipment from the bivouac site we set off back to camp. We reached the path up the west side of the valley in good time and arrived back in camp before it got dark. Quite a few of the others had arrived in our absence, including Roy Buckland and "Steve" Stevenson who I met for the first time. The array of tents looked quite impressive - altogether there were 19 people in camp. Felt pretty tired after the days exertions it was my first rock climb since I did "Lots Wife" on Glyder Fach with Dick Fleming last October 4th - and the first new route since "Raven Wall" at Bosigran on September 19th with Zeke.
Felt a bit stiff in the morning but decided to climb Turret Towers via our bivouac site and the gully to the north of the pinnacle and perhaps do some more rock climbing on the upper buttresses if time allowed. Took our time on the ascent, taking a good few photos and showing Roy, Steve and Chris our climb of yesterday. Climbed quite an entertaining 80 ft pitch of about v.diff standard to gain the shelf below the impressive summit buttresses which crown the western slopes of Turret Towers. From there followed an easy route to the Central summit which is the second highest. The northernmost summit appearing to exceed it. Descended by a good route down the northern slopes which brought us out on an extensive hanging valley in a type of cwm between Turret Towers, Point 71 and "Uncontoured Peak". Eventually met a path which we followed most of the way back to the camp where we arrived at about 5.30 pm.
Left camp at about 10 am. Reached the cars at about 12 o'clock. Arrived back in Salisbury at about 8.pm.
My 26th Birthday.
Left camp quite early in the morning and drove up to Chipinga with Jim. With us was the tsetse surveyor Harry and my cook Fidas. Arrived at Chipinga soon after 10 am and did some shopping and various other jobs before lunch.
Left Chipinga at about 2.30 pm and took the road over the hills to Melsetter. From Melsetter we drove to the base of the Long Gully in the Chimanimani Mountains where we set up camp - and a very luxurious camp it was by normal mountain standards - with a large tent, camp beds, and cook ! Considering the time of year the last part of the road was in good condition - just as well as we had a big load in the back of the Landrover - made up to a large extent of plant presses and drying papers.
Did some collecting in the evening around the camp and next to the stream - in interesting bog vegetation which contained Drosera and the bog moss Sphagnum - in all we collected about 30 different species within 25 yards of the camp. It was extremely pleasant to spend the evening of my birthday in the mountains.
Got up early and, leaving the camp at about 7.30 am we were at the top of the long gully by about 8.15 - quite good going. We had Harry with us, two plant presses and my camera.
The flora on the plateau which crowns the second range was very rich in species in flower but we started the days collecting by descending into the Bundi Valley and collecting intensively at the entrance to the small gorge below where our camp was sited last Rhodes and Founders holiday. This spot was very rewarding and we collected a great number of species from a small area. I had to go into Melsetter to get stores in the afternoon so, having spent about three hours collecting in the Bundi Valley we wandered back by the path up onto the plateau again, collecting on the way a very fine species of Begonia or related genus.
At about 1 pm I left Jim with Harry collecting on the plateau and descended to the camp. After a brief snack I then drove into Melsetter to buy various stores - including plates, sugar and milk which we had forgotten to bring with us! On the way back to camp I called in at the forester's house - Mr Davidson (?) and his wife. He mentioned that there were over 100 eland in the wattle estates - he also reckoned that there were cycads in the Chimanimanis and that the highest peak is Point 71 at 8004 ft.
Arrived back in camp only a few minutes before Jim - for him the day had proved a very successful one with over 125 species of plants collected. Expected Phil Murray and others to arrive in the evening - but no one had turned up by the time we went to bed.
Awoke at about 5 am to find that Phil Murray had arrived during the night - went back to bed again and did not get up till a more reasonable hour. Jim wanted to spend more time collecting on the plateau during the day but I decided to explore with Phil a little more of the southern part of the Chimanimanis so on reaching the top of the Long Gully we separated and went our different ways.
After wasting quite a lot of time climbing up and down deep ravines and valleys we eventually followed the ridge overlooking the valley in which our camp was sited. We were not feeling very energetic so did not get very far. From one of the peaks about 2-3 miles south of the long gully we had a good view of a waterfall on the steep slope beneath the "airfield" and decided to visit it. On the way we met Jim and Harry in the valley below the waterfall and I was able to take some photos of orchids they had collected. The waterfall turned out to be a very fine one - the water pouring over an overhang of about 80-90 ft onto rocks beneath and after forming some clear pools surrounded by dense vegetation, falling another 100 ft or so down a steep face of rock. All in all it was a very attractive spot and we wasted no time in having a very refreshing shower bath under the upper fall.
After visiting the waterfall we wandered up onto the "airfield" and found a very interesting small patch of boggy ground where three different orchid species were in flower. Got back to camp at 4.30 pm - Jim was not long after us.
During the night it started to rain and in the morning visibility was very poor and a fine rain blew across the valley - just like North Wales except that it was not so cold. Later in the morning it stopped raining and Phil had to pack up to return to Salisbury.
In the afternoon went up onto the plateau to collect with Jim but we had not been there long when it started to rain and we decided to retreat down the gully, after having first seen some fine cedars - Widdringtonia and bush heathers Philippia sp. Near the bottom of the gully it stopped raining and we were able to do some intensive collecting - bringing Jim's total numbers up to about 500 (Sabi plants included).
In the evening we sat around discussing the nature of knowledge, reason etc!
In the morning packed up camp in a fairly leisurely manner and set off in fine weather at about 10 am. Stopped on the way to have a chat with the forester. Got back to Chipinga at about 1.30 and after lunch went to Mr Olivier's place to collect the Chrevrolet for Jim to take back to town. Met John Janke in town. Spent the night at the Chipinga hotel.
Dr Cockbill left for Salisbury at about 8.30 am taking some of Jim's plant presses with him.
After attending to some business and doing some shopping in Chipinga Jim and I set off for the Chimanimanis and arrived at our usual campsite at the bottom of the Long Gully at about 3.pm.
In the afternoon Jim pointed out to me many of the plant genera close to the camp site. These included the trees: Parinari mobola (Rosaceae), Syzygium sp. (Myrtaceae). Grasses found close to the camp included Andropogon eucomus - with a hairy "cotton grass" like inflorescence, Andropogon sp., Loudetia sp. - a very common and important grass in the Chimanimanis, Rhynchelytrum sp and Setaria sp. The small yellow flower with rather hairy grasslike leaves turned out to be a Hypoxis (Hypoxidaceae) and the blue labiate also found on the plateau Acrocephalum sp. Growing close to the stream was a fern Blechnum sp. and also the tree fern Cyathea dregei Kunze. The tall white flowered ranunculaceous herb turned out to be of particular interest as the fruit were previously unknown Knowltonia transvaalensis Szyszyl. A yellow flowered papilionacous herb was probably, Pearsonia sp. Two common composites were Senecio sp. and Aspilia sp. Another very common plant was the pinkish flowered Sopubia sp, probably Sopubia simplex. And the small yellow flowered monocot Xyris sp. which is so abundant on the plateau near "Stonehenge". Two common sedges were a white flowered one Kyllinga sp,.and one with black inflorescences Scleria sp. Other herbs were Pelargonium sp, Lobelia sp, Oxalis sp and Habenaria sp.
A brief visit was made to the bottom of the long gully. Here Loudetia was common and also the sedge Mariscus hemisphericus, with large white inflorescence.
In the evening drove into Melsetter to visit John Ball but found he was out. Had a couple of drinks at the Chimanimani hotel before returning to camp.
Left camp, at, 7.45 am and climbed the Long Gully. In the gully woodland noticed the yellow campanulate flowered Thunbergia sp., the yellow flowered Aneilema (Commelinaceae),and Vigna sp., a creeping pink, and blue flowered papilionaceae. Near the top of the gully saw an extremely fine blue flowered Vellozia sp and also the fine Hibiscus burtt-davyi that I had previously collected from the Stonehenge area. Also seen were Leucospermum ellipticum and Crassula and Triumfetta sp.
While crossing the plateau grassland saw - the grasses Themeda sp., Bewsia sp., and Monocymbium as well as the common Loudetia and Andropogon. Also seen were the white headed plantain-like Eriocaulon sp, Satyrium, sp - a fine large red flowered orchid, Polygala sp, and the common Sopubia simplex.
Crossed the Bundi River above the gorge and followed the path leading up to the high cwm between "Uncontoured Peak" and "Turret Towers". In the rocky lower valley we had not gone far before we found the Restio sp. which we collected for the first time on our last trip and belongs to the family Restionaceae, not seen before in Southern Rhodesia. Also seen was a fine large shrubby species of Thesium (Santalaceae) in flower. There appeared to be practically nothing on that spot for it to be parasitic on but its photosynthesising tissue appeared to be very limited. The plant was slender and stood about 10 ft tall. In the more barren higher valleys we found more Restio sp. Xyris, the creeping Protea (Protea enervis Wild) and the fine blue flowered Lapeirousia (RG 183).(Iridaceae).
From the upper valley we ascended Point 71 and reached the summit at 8004 ft at 12.30. After a short rest and admiring the very fine view over Portuguese East Africa we set about collecting all the species in flower from the neighbourhood of the summit. This summit flora appeared to me to be rather different from that of "Uncontoured Peak". The terrain was rather less rugged and there did not appear to be any Vellozias. Many of the species were the same however and we were very pleased to find what appeared to be a second species of Restio - more glaucous and shorter than the one collected before.
Descended by the same way as we had come up, collecting some very fine orchids on the way and an interesting small grass, probably Trichopterix sp. On the upper slopes saw - Leucospermum ellipticum, Sopubia simplex, Xyris sp., many species of Helichrysum, Craterostigma sp. (in shaded crevices) and a rather peculiar umbellifer probably Astrantia or related genus. The descent was rather tiring and I was glad when, at about 5 pm we reached the Bundi River and I was able to have a brief swim. Saw two rather interesting water plants - a Polygonum sp and Limnanthemum sp - the latter a fine yellow flowered gentianaceous plant with leaves like a water lily. Descended the long gully very laboriously, in the dark and arrived back in camp at about 7 pm after a most enjoyable and instructive day.
It rained quite heavily during the night and the morning was very overcast so we decided against any further collecting and in favour of packing up camp and leaving. This was rather a pity as there were one or two more specimens that we particularly wanted to get, including a most peculiar species of fern from the rock crevices on the plateau - but that will have to wait till our next visit. Left camp at about 11 am. And drove all the way to Umtali where I left Jim on the far side of the road trying to get a lift through to Salisbury. We had noticed some very mixed vegetation in the Junction area - including Sterculia sp. Adansonia, Brachystegia boehmii etc - and a tree we thought was Faurea saligna. Drove straight back to Chipinga from Umtali. Arriving there at about 6 pm. Visited the ANC Bridgeman who put me up for the night.
Spent the whole day working on the "Airfield" and in the rocky areas on its northern fringe. Examined both red and grey-black soil types and also some bog vegetation. The red soil areas seemed to support Loudetia grassland and Protea sp. shrub communities and were, in general, well drained. The grey-black soil areas seemed to be the less well drained generally and more acid in reaction. On one area of this type we found what appeared to be quite a well marked podzol profile*. Perhaps these latter areas tend to develop into Sphagnum bog in certain circumstances. Discovered quite a bit of Restio sp. (Restionaceae) close to the main stream on the "Airfield". This plant (or plants as there may possibly be 2-3 species present) seems pretty generally distributed along rocky streams on grey soils in the Chimanimanis. Fine hot weather all day but quite cool in the evening.
*Note: See the recently published paper on the Web by Samimi and Wagenseil under the heading of "Podzols in the Chimanimani Mountains".
Set off down to the Bundi in the morning. Had a swim in one of the pools - very invigorating!
Found an extremely fine bog on the east side of the Bundi River below Turret Towers which was dominated by the glaucous Restio sp. and Lycopodium ?sarcocaulon, the latter having fine upright sporangia which discharged clouds of spores as we walked through them. Drosera sp. were also very common as were Sphagnum spp in the wetter parts.
After examining the bog quite thoroughly we had a look at a typical Strelitzia kloof but found that there were quite a few species present which we did not know the name of and which weren't in flower.
Walked up the Bundi through the lower part of the upper gorge where we saw some fine specimens of Hymenophyllum tunbrigense and made our way to the mountain hut where we found Archie Cockburn and numerous other members of the Mountain Club of Rhodesia ensconced in comparative luxury. The new mountain hut is certainly a very fine one - reminiscent of some of the better alpine huts. Walked back to our camp late in the evening.
Stayed awake quite late having a lengthy discussion with Jim about "free will" and the like which he thinks is a special quality of the mind restricted to the human race while I hold the view that it is merely a human invention having no real significance in the realm of thought and knowledge.
Went up to the main buttress of Turret Towers in the morning with Jim intending to make a new route. Got about 300 ft up a rather peculiar gully climb and then had to retreat due to rain and rapidly increasing technical difficulties which I did not feel like attempting in the circumstances.
Made a brief study of the vegetation on the rocky slopes below the buttresses - an interesting community dominated by the large umbellifer Diplolophium ?swynnertonii with the fine Hibiscus ?burtt-davii in the shallow gulleys. Took quite a few flower photographs on the descent including one of a very beautiful red Impatiens sp. which is common by some of the small rocky streams in the Chimanimanis. The weather cleared up well in the afternoon but remained cool due to a strong breeze. Rained quite hard late in the evening.
Awoke to find it raining outside with the clouds right down on the mountains - so stayed in bed until cleared it up at about 11 am - then went out and botanised on the "Stonehenge" type of vegetation and then in the Brachystegia spiciformis - Faurea woodland on the eastern slopes of the airfield. Later on went and had a swim in the Bundi.
Packed up camp in the morning and, with the help of the porters shifted everything to the base of the long gully. Met Whellan, the Chief Entomologist, walking up the path.
Drove all the way back to Salisbury only stopping once - at Rusape, for beer and sandwiches. Spent the night at Mt Hampden.
Among the "Goodier and Phipps" numbers collected on this trip was the new endemic species Thesium chimanimaniense Brenan Kirkia 4.137
Left Kariba at about 9 am - drove to Karoi to collect stores and then back to camp, calling in at Magunge for mail on the way. In the afternoon drove down to the Rengwe area and brought back the carriers and surveyors who had been working down there. Saw a large wart-hog on the return journey.
Had an interesting letter from Jim Phipps - mainly about the geology of the Chimanimanis - he seems quite enthusiastic about the progress of the ecological work. No rain locally during the week.
Spent most of the morning making out ecological lists of the plant specimens I had collected from the Chimanimanis and constructing some sort of ecological classification for the vegetation of the area.
[The start of the work eventually published as Phipps, J.B & Goodier R 1962 A Preliminarv Account of the Plant Ecology of the Chimanimani Mountains. J.Ecol. 50, 291-3191]
I left the hut at 8.30 am leaving the others to await the arrival of the carriers. Arrived at John Ball's at about 10 am and was able to have a good chat before the others arrived. Saw young "Rawdie" Ball who is now four months old and looks very large and healthy.
Few entries in my journal after the above. Our final collecting excursion appears to have been during the Christmas to New Year period 1959-1960 though a further three visits were made after that.
During the period 58-61 much effort was devoted to preparing the Check List, Vegetation map and the ecological paper cited above.
The check list gave us some problems because, in spite of our protests, the proof reading of the version published in the Transactions of the Rhodesia Scientific Association Vol XLVI was undertaken by the editor and as a result the published version contained many errors. However this gave us the opportunity to produce the revised version published in the first volume of Kirkia.
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