Drakensberg FAQs

27 Jan 2018 05:32 - 13 Sep 2019 02:38 #72710 by intrepid
Drakensberg FAQs was created by intrepid
I thought I would get a thread going about Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Drakensberg. Some of these come up frequently on the forum and have already been thoroughly responded to. Ultimately it would be nice to have a list of these questions and a link where the answer is provided (a forum thread). A very short, concise answer could also be provided on the list of questions.

Off the top of my head some of the questions would be:


What peaks can be climbed as a day hike?

Cathedral Peak, Sterkhorn and The Rhino are very popular choices for day hikes. The first two involve scrambling, and the use of ropes for assistance may be preferred by some for some short sections on Cathedral Peak. Fitness is required.
See the following threads for more information:
Classic, Easy Peaks
1-Day Khulus
Cathedral Peak
Sterkhorn

Is the campsite at Cathedral Peak open?

The campsite is not run by KZN Wildlife. Rather it is a community-managed project called Cathedral Peak Community Campsite. Reports that it was closed started coming in around 2017(?). Apparently it is not economically viable to employ maintenance staff full-time, so it is only open when there is a special request from a large group or during peak seasons. Some have used the ablutions while it was closed but it seems now the water has been turned off. It is best not to count on the campsite being open. Inquiries can be directed to the Didima reception, but since they are not responsible for the campsite, do not count on getting accurate updates. Follow this thread for updates from members of the public.

Is Mike's Pass open?

Mike's Pass has been closed to public vehicle traffic for a few years due to the fact that it has become unstable along certain sections. This includes the shuttle service that KZN Wildlife used to offer on it. Maintenance plans were being considered, but these were at a high cost, and it is not clear what the current status is. The road is open to hikers and mountain bikers. See the official Mike's Pass thread for more info and updates.


What is the condition of the road to Sentinel Car Park?

The road is slowly being paved with bricks but only certain sections have been completed over the years. Some of the unpaved sections tend to be bumpy and eroded. Careful driving is required for low-clearance vehicles, but most cars make it to the car park. Conditions vary depending on rain, snow and when last the road was graded. Cars can be left at Witsieshoek Resort where a paid shuttle service can take people up to the car park. For more information, see the official thread for the road conditions .


How do I book caves?

Certain caves in the KZN Wildlife managed areas of the Berg can be booked by simply phoning the relevant office and making the booking. The exception is the Injisuthi area which is handled by KZN Wildlife Central Reservations and payment is upfront in this case too. Caves in the Mnweni and all other parts of the Berg outside of KZN Wildlife management cannot be booked. For a list of caves that can be booked and other information see our official thread for this topic. Please also consider  the  Cave Reservations Etiquette among hikers.


Where can I get hiking maps for the Drakensberg?

The current set of printed hiking maps are managed by KZN Wildlife and are generally available for purchase at most of their offices in the Drakensberg. There is a set of 6 maps covering most of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. The set is as follows:
1. Royal Natal (includes the Mnweni and AmaZizi area)

2. Cathedral Peak (includes Monk's Cowl)

3. Giant's Castle (includes Injisuthi)

4. Highmoor (includes Kamberg and Mkhomazi)

5. Cobham (includes Lotheni and Vergelegen)

6. Garden Castle (includes Cobham South and Bushman's Neck)


Sometimes these maps are stocked at certain outdoor stores. They can also be purchased online from Mountain Mail Order , or from Slingsby Maps . They are based on an older series of maps commonly referred to as "Slingsby's maps", which are no longer in print but can sometimes still be found for purchase on various shopping and classifieds websites.

The official survey maps of South Africa provide good topographic information of the Drakensberg and parts of Lesotho, especially for those areas no covered by the popular hiking maps. Trails and other information useful to hikers is lacking on these maps however.

Various GPS-type apps for smartphones provide maps of the Drakensberg too, though features may be limited. A detailed GPS map of the Drakensberg which can be installed onto GPS devices is also available.


I'm planning on doing a Grand Traverse, any tips?

This is a common question, but it is not very specific, which makes it difficult to know where to begin. We have a dedicated category for the Grand Traverse (GT/DGT) on our forum. There is a thread for general planning and tips . Sometimes people just want to mention their upcoming GT, or post a blurb about it afterwards - this is all handled in the " Who is doing or has done the Grand Traverse " thread. Reading other people's write-ups of their own GT will give you many good ideas and information - see the subcategory specifically for such write-ups .

This is not a comprehensive list, but you may want to think of:

Please post your questions about the GT on the forum. Remember, specific questions will get specific answers!


I have heard reports of people getting attacked in the Berg, is it safe to go?

There have been some serious attacks on hikers in the Berg. These often follow trends and occur in known problem areas. In the context of South Africa as a whole, the attacks are not frequent. We advise visitors to the Drakensberg to take the security issues seriously - but rather than being alarmed, we advise people to inform themselves about what the issues are and how they occur and to make decisions accordingly. We encourage people to keep hiking in the Berg, but to be informed and prepared. By avoiding the known problem areas, and especially by not camping overnight in those areas, the risk will be significantly reduced. Naturally safety can never be guaranteed, and there have been incidents that took place during the day.

The known issues during the last 5 years are as follows:
Amphitheatre and Khubedu Valley: Raiding of tents at the Tugela Falls and surrounds in an old issue which is ongoing. Intimidation for handouts also occurs in the area including the Chain Ladders, which has been known to even result in stone-throwing. There was a nasty incident in the Khubedu Valley in 2016 which received a lot of publicity - the details of this incident can be read on this thread this thread .

Mbundini area: tented camps have been attacked and raided at night, particularly at the unmarked pass overlooking Madonna And Her Worshippers, near Rat Hole Cave.

Rhino Peak / Mashai Pass: There have been a few reports of intimidation and rock throwing by shepherds.

Hodgesons / Masubasuba Pass / Sani: There was a mugging in 2015 on the pass, and apparently various cases of tourists being pressured for handouts around the top of Sani Pass.

Please take the time and read through the following resources:There a several articles on Security worth ready in the Blog section , in particular General Security Precautions for the Drakensberg  and  Ampthitheatre: Hotspot for theft .

  • Go through the dedicated security category  on the forum where there are many topics already posted. In particular, check out the annual Berg Alert threads which keep a proper record of all known incidents for a given calendar year. You can find annual records from 2010 onwards.
  • Read this post  on the security issues around the Amphitheatre as well as the Mbundini area - included is a map indicating where the problems are occurring.

Where can I see snow?

Being at the right time and place to catch the snow is not totally predictable, and unfortunately the snow tends not to last once it has fallen. The higher elevations of the Drakensberg naturally get more snowfall than the lower parts. This can be seen from afar once the weather clears, but often requires a hike in to reach it. Other than hiking in, quicker ways of reaching the higher elevations would be to hike up to the Chain Ladders from Sentinel Car Park, or to drive up passes such as Sani Pass or Moteng Pass on the way to Afriski in Lesotho (provided these roads are open following a snowfall). Some snowfalls do reach the lower foothills and even the KZN Midlands at times. The Southern Berg tends to get more snow than the Northern Berg but this is not dependable. If you are a snow chaser, you will want to watch the weather forecast and plan to be there during or right after a snowfall. Be aware that the roads may be hazardous during snowfall, and hiking in during such times should only be undertaken by those who are capable and properly equipped. Follow our annual Snow Watch threads on the forum for updates and pictures of current snow conditions.


How much are the hiking/visitor fees?

KZN Wildlife areas (Royal Natal National Park, Cathedral Peak/Didima, Monk's Cowl, Injisuthi, Giant's Castle, Mkhomazi, Highmoor, Kamberg, Lotheni, Vergelegen, Cobham, Garden Castle, Bushman's Neck):
Day access for SA citizens & resident and SADC nationals: R40 per adult, R20 per child
Day access for other visitors: R80 per adult, R40 per child
Overnight hiking: R70 per person, per night
For a complete breakdown as well as resort camping fees please see the following brochure:
www.kznwildlife.com/Documents/Tariffs/Tariffs%201819.pdf

Mnweni

Witsieshoek/Sentinel Car Park
www.witsieshoek.co.za/rates/optional-activity-rates

Golden Gate National Park:
www.sanparks.org/parks/golden_gate/tourism/tariffs.php

Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve:
bookonline.ecpta.co.za/?q=node/47

Mehloding Hiking Trail:
www.mehloding.co.za/trailinfo.htm


How bad is the Bell Traverse?

The Bell Traverse is a high mountain trail running along the Cathedral Peak Range. It is not a maintained route and does have some places that are considered to be exposed from a hiker's perspective. The route should not be underestimated, though perhaps sometimes it's reputation for being exposed overshadows how spectacular and rewarding the route is. The short sections that some hiker's may find challenging or intimidating are:
- Bugger Gully/Gulch
- a wash-away below the Bell which has now is a rock slab
- an exposed section of trail between the Chessmen and Mitre
- an exposed section of trail between Mitre and the Twins
Please read through the in-depth thread dealing with the Bell Traverse  for more information.


How many days should I plan for doing the Bell Traverse and which way round should I do it?

Most questions people have about the Bell Traverse relate more to the itinerary for doing it, rather than on the actual route which is called "the Bell Traverse" (which strictly speaking is the section between Bugger Gully and Twins Cave). For this reason we have a dedicated thread for discussing itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse , along with a separate thread which specifically deals with the Bell Traverse trail  (the section between Bugger Gully and Twins Cave). There are many route options and many hiking itinerary options that incorporate the Bell Traverse.

The classic option is a 3-day itinerary done as a loop from the Cathedral Peak Hotel using the Orange Peel Gap and Cathedral Peak trail on one end and the Mlambonja Pass trail on the other end. The two classic overnight stops in this option would be Bell Cave and Twins Cave. The 2nd day is relatively short and affords time to enjoy the route, visit the escarpment or to climb Cathedral Peak.

The Bell Traverse can also be accessed from the Mnweni side, though this is not often done. Ntonjelana Pass offers easy access to the Twins Cave side, and there is also access to the other end via the Isandhlwana Valley. There are also several un-trailed options for linking in to the Bell Traverse directly from the Ntonjelana Valley.

The Bell Traverse can also be a good ending for a Northern Berg Mini Traverse, and is also a combination for a Mlambonja Pass-Organ Pipes Pass traverse.


What are some good, easy day hikes I can do?

This will still be written.


What are some good, easy overnight hikes I can do?

This will still be written.

What passes are suitable for beginners or if my fitness isn't very high?

This will still be written.

What caves are good to sleep in for a weekend hike?

This will still be written.

How can I link up with other hikers?

This will still be written.


How bad are the exposed parts on the Camel route up to Organ Pipes Pass?

This will still be written.


Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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Last edit: 13 Sep 2019 02:38 by intrepid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: HikerParsons

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27 Jan 2018 19:49 #72711 by swordfish
Replied by swordfish on topic Drakensberg FAQs
Very good idea. Let’s get the answers rolling now.

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