Destinations Magazine

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

By Spanafrican

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

This is why I love what I do.


The Grand Traverse is the mother of all hikes in the Drakensberg. With a total distance of about 230km and a total elevation gain over 9000m (higher than Everest), the preferred length of this trip is between 12 to 15 days. The hike runs along the top of the escarpment, keeping as close to the edge as possible for good vistas, and stays at an average altitude of 3000m, crisscrossing the border between Lesotho and South Africa. It’s a remote area, inhabited by the hardy Basotho shepherds, accompanied by their loyal dogs, who use these high lands for grazing for their sheep, goats, cows and horses. They leave the area during the winter months when it gets too cold for comfort.
Perpendicular to the escarpment, 34 ridges with their corresponding valleys need to be crossed. Due to the duration and undulating terrain, the Grand Traverse requires not only an above average physical fitness but, most importantly, mental strength and determination. Only a handful of people do this trip every year.
Recently I had the opportunity to organise my first Grand Traverse for Dési and Bart from Belgium. They had been inspired by the book, “Encounters with the Dragon”, a masterpiece by John Hone, in my opinion the best photographic book on the Drakensberg ever published. They were experienced and had done long distance hikes in other parts of the world and were looking for a trip of at least 10 days. The Grand Traverse was for them.
Pack animals are not used in the Drakensberg, so to organise a trip of this nature I had to arrange 3 Porters and 2 resupplies. April is usually an ideal time of the year to hike in the Drakensberg. However, the reality is that weather patterns and climate are doing some strange things these days, as we found out during our trip. However this was beyond our control and with a bit of patience we were duly rewarded.
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.

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The full Party: Desi, Bart, myself and our 3 porters: Mohlakoana, Alfred and Shabalala.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Beautiful picture of the Amphitheatre among stormy clouds.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Walking by basalt cliffs.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Mohlakoana loaded with a 30kg backpack.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Bart negotiating the chain ladder with confidence.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

last steps for Bart on the chain ladder.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

This was my 10th ascent on the chain ladders.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The top of the Amphitheatre was misty again.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

As usual we had some encounters with the Basutho shepherds.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

A beatiful view but the weather wasn't looking good.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

On our second night in the mountains the rain started to fall for more than 24 hours. We had to sit it out for 1 full day.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Bart digging a trench around their tent to avoid flooding.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Desi and Bart's fantastic tunnel tent, with a very roomy vestibule. I was jealous.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Eventually we could pack up and carry walking. That morning we could enjoy a beautiful colony of vultures by Rockeries Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

There were tens of them.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The mist fell on us once again and it wasn't long before it drizzled over us.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The next morning the weather seemed to give us a break. We were finally above the clouds.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Beautiful sunrise at Tseketseke Pass with views of the Pyramid.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

On the way to up to Cleft Peak. We could finally see what had been left behind.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

From Cleft Peak you can see all the way from the Eastern Buttress to the Cathedral Peak range.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The clouds were still reluctant to leave us completely but light was great for photography.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The warm low clouds from the east were competing against the strong high winds from the west. A good change in weather was coming.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Sunrise from Didima Cave.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Ship's Prow Pass, one of the toughest passes in the Drakensberg.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

At the head of Ship's Prow Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

A real Basotho "cowboy".


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

It's unusual to see a Basotho Kraal so close to the escarpment.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

A great sunset at our campsite by Leslie's Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Views from Leslie's Pass


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The Injisuthi Valley.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The Greater and the Lesser Injisuthi Buttress.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

On the way to Bannerman's Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Desi and Bart overlooking the Giants Castle Area. Gypaetus Point in the background.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The sturdy Basotho Pony ever-present on the High Berg.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Relaxing at our campsite by Bannerman's Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The next morning I could witness one of the best sunrises I've ever seen. It was just magic.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

It doesn't get much better than this.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Porter Alfred.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Porter Shabalala.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Porter Mohlakoana.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Bird's eye views of the Giant's Castle Area.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Desi walking on a carpet of helichrysums.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The Giants Castle.

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

My tent kept on leaking so I had to apply some makeshift waterproofing. It worked!


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Our campsite by the Tent. Excuse the blurb but the colours are still well worht it. No photoshopping here.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Everymorning in the Grand Traverse starts with a climb.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Overlooking Ka-Masihlenga Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Above a perfect sea of clouds.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Descending towards the broad shallow Redi Valley.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Our stunning campsite by Mkhomazi Pass.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Desi celebrating the crystal clear blue sky.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

A beatifully built Basotho hut.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Thabana Ntlenyana (The beautiful little mountain) - At 3482 it's the highest peak south from Kilimanjaro.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The Sani Flats.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Sani Top Chalet at Sani Pass is one of the most expected points along the Grand Traverse (for obvious reasons).


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

One of our porters got sick (in blue) and we had to come down the escarpment one day earlier. Here descending the Stones Pass north.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

The first 300m of the pass are very steep.


The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

Discussing our route out of the mountains.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :