The Mountain Guide

The Mountain Guide   

Drakensberg Mini Traverse


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Looking North over Mnweni Pass
TRIP DESCRIPTION
This trip runs from north to south across the escarpment of South Africa's northern Drakensberg for a distance of about 65km, most of which is off-trail. It starts off at the Sentinel Car Park and loosely follows the escarpment edge (with few deviations) to descend into the Cathedral Peak area via any of of Mlambonja, Xeni or Cockade Passes, depending on what the group prefers and how strong they feel. Drakensberg passes can be daunting affairs with altitude differences of anything up to 1,200m (4,000') in distances as short as 3km (1.8 miles). However, few of these passes are actually dangerous - they simply test your resolve and your endurance.

Cape Vulture in Flight For people wanting to go and climb Kilimanjaro or Mt Kenya's Point John or Point Lenana this is a perfect warm-up and get fit hike as well as a great opportunity to fine-tune your equipment. Doing this trip immediately before going to climb Kilimanjaro will get you well acclimatised to altitudes of up to 3,500m (11,400')as well as improving on your fitness. People who complete this trip immediately before going and climbing Kili have a vastly improved chance of summiting - especially those who live below 500m (1500ft) ASL (Above Sea Level). For people coming to Africa to climb Kili we will provide tents, stoves and pots for the duration of this trip so that you don't have to find somewhere to store your own while on Kili.

That said, do not underestimate this trip - it stands on its own as well worth doing.

The opportunities for seeing and photographing Cape Vulture, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel are excellent, while the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus Barbatus, a.k.a. Lammergeier) will occasionally put in an appearance - especially in the Mnweni and Rockeries areas. In addition, the sunrises can be spectacular and the lighting makes for brilliant photographic moments. Adding to this the Drakensberg has some truly spectacular scenery, with the escarpment dropping away 1000m (3300 ft) to the 'Little Berg' at 2000m (6,500'). The altitude also means that you're above a large percentage of earth's atmospheric muck. When coupled with the low levels of light pollution in this region the result is a night sky full of stars seldom seen over land.

Although the altitude is at the low end of the high-altitude scale (3,100m / 10,000'), the weather in the Drakensberg is not to be taken lightly - it is probably the only mountain range in the world that has experienced snowfall on every day of the year without actually having any permanent snowfields.
The chain ladder
Daily distances vary from 8 to 16 km with a maximum altitude gain for a single day of 600m and a maximum descent for a single day of 1,400m (4,600'). For groups who want a more leasurely pace we can extent the trip from 6 to 7 days at no extra cost. Overnight spots vary from wilderness camp-sites (literally camping wherever you like) to some stunningly beautiful and well-protected caves with breath-taking views. We also take a rope just to safeguard those who are not too happy on the chain-ladder and one or two other spots.

The best time of year to undertake this trip is the Southern Hemisphere autumn (March through May), followed by Southern Hemisphere spring (September to November) but it can be done at any time of the year, although winter months tend to be surprisingly cold (overnight temperatures of -15C are common). Summers are famous for their thunderstorms and rain.

Area
KZN Drakensberg

Duration
6 Days, 5 nights
(Note: see text)

Mean altitude
3000m

Difficulty
Moderate/Severe

Technical aspects
  • Chain Ladder
  • Summer rivers

    Challenges
  • Altitude
  • Heights
  • Isolation
  • Pass descent

    Accommodation
    Tents & Caves

    Style
    Fully self sufficient

    Recommended Kit
    Alpine trekking

    Cost per person
    People in group:
    1  :  R 15,000
    2  :  R 7,000
    3  :  R 6,000
    4+ :  R 5,000

    Note: Cost excludes transport or accommodation either side of the hike. If you wish we will make these arrangements for you.




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