Destinations Magazine

A 6 Day Traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

By Spanafrican

A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Another beautiful sunrise from Roland's Cave

Oliver and Ben from the UK were attending a wedding in South Africa, so they took the opportunity to combine it with a 2 week holiday and do some of the things they love most, including kite surfing and hiking.  Naturally they were both very fit and were keen for a hiking challenge in the high berg.  Fortunately they had time and dedicated 6 days to their challenge. The choice of hike was obvious:  start at the northern extreme of the Natal Drakensberg, the Sentinel Car Park, and walk southwards as far as we could, potentially including Mafadi, the highest peak in the Drakensberg, along the way. It was an ambitious idea but it had been done before. With a high standard of fitness and long days it was possible.
However, plans in the mountains are always weather dependent. Sometimes it gets to a point that it’s not worth fighting the elements any longer accept the circumstances and change your plans. His time it was the mist. Days always started with beautiful clear skies above a sea of clouds. After sunrise the clouds would start rising which then enveloped us late morning. It was a complete whiteout with navigation only possible by GPS.
We managed to keep on schedule the first 3 days, but Ben and Oliver understandably couldn’t face another 3 days in these conditions and wisely decide to go for shorter days. So, we forgot about Mafadi and came down Gray’s Pass in the Monk’s Cowl area.
It was nonetheless, a great hike. We stayed in characterful caves like Roland’s, Didima and Zulu Caves. Mornings always offered fabulous views of the peaks surrounding us and the Little Berg below. We were also lucky to see mountain reedbuck and baboon. Some Basotho shepherds and dagga smugglers offered an interesting cultural element too, all just going to show that no matter what conditions, every berg trip is unique with its own highlights.
If you would like to do this hike contact us at info@spanafrican-adventures.co.za or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.

A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

The night before the start of our hike we stayed at Witsieshoek Mountain Resort.  We had a great sunrise.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

The start of our hike at the Sentinel Car Park. Oliver and Ben looking strong and fresh, posing before the Witches and the Sentinel. We couldn't ask for better weather, although it didn't last long.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

The famous chain ladders to access the Amphitheatre. They're been since 1930!


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Ben was brave enough to take a picture while climbing up the chain ladder


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

He was 15 meters above me! Thanks Ben for this amazin picture!


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Tugela Falls, with a total drop of 614m is the 4th highest waterfall in the world.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

You don't want to get too closed to the edge. Look at that elongated neck. Oliver was awestruck by the huge drop.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

During our 6 day hike we have to walk in the mist for many hours.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Around midday, the mist would eventually win the battle and navigation would only be possible by GPS


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Intercultural encounters by 2 Englishmen and a Basotho. It's like a banana split!


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

No comment. Too good for words! Another amazing picture of Ben's.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

This pictures was taken right after walking past the Saddle. The Cathedral Peak range is barely visible above the rising clouds.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

A swim in the Kwakwatsi River - Featuring my retiring "old" Bestard Advance K after more than 40 hikes in 2 years!


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Oliver and Ben "swallowing" the river.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

A brand new Basotho pony.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Roland's Cave, one of the finest High Berg caves in the Drakensberg.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

In the mornings the weather was 100% clear. This was the start of our 4th day, after staying at Roland's Cave. Oliver's face telling of the toughness of the previous 3 days.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Oliver improvising a sun hat.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Didima Cave, a great but very little known cave in the Cathedral Peak Area


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

It's a fantastic and confortable dry shelter for 3 or 4 people.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

The clouds were raising again the next morning. We decided to cut the hike a little shorter tired of walking in the mist for hours every afternoon.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Red hot poker (Kniphofia northiae, I think), a common flower in the Drakensberg.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Along the long ridgeline that runs from Didima Dome to Champagne Castle


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Protea dracomontana, one of the 5 species of Protea in the Drakensberg.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

At last we came down the escarpment via the very wet and slippery Gray's Pass. Here we're on our way to Zulu Cave for our last night.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Zulu Cave features a perennial waterfall. The cold shower was very welcome.


A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

The end of our 6 day epic at Monks Cowl Camp.


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COMMENTS ( 1 )

By Alex
posted on 05 July at 21:53
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The Tugela Falls is not the 4th highest falls in the world, it is the 2nd tallest. ONE of the drops is 614m, but there are 5 drops which together total 947m. A reading off of a topographic map will show this. Even Google Earth (which gives notoriously poor altitude readings of the Drakensberg for some reason) will show you the falls is WELL over the height stated above.

I've seen the Norwegian Falls and Yosemite that some people think are taller, and there is no comparison in the height. I've heard from a Waterfall enthusiast in the states that there's a good argument that Tugela is even taller than Angel. I'm not sure about that, but at 3110 feet, it definitely deserves the 'second tallest' title by a good few hundred feet.