General Grand Traverse planning & tips

24 Apr 2010 10:30 #1215 by shafay
good day

Chris suggested i post my ? to the forum. being from the cape i am new to this forum and i would like to ask for advice.
for us this is the ultimate hike in sa so a few of us intend to do the grand traverse at some date in the future.as opposed to asking specific ? i would like to open with a more general approach of ?.

how do we go about planning ito route mapping, gps co-ordinates, landmark identification, security, challenges etc.

any and all suggestion would be much appreciated.

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24 Apr 2010 12:33 #1216 by MountainGoat
Hi shafay & welcome here. I'm pretty sure you'll find all the answers you are looking for here. (AWESOME site)

I'm also intending to do the Traverse next year or so. The furthest I've done is up to Cathedral Peak.

Have you guys done some trekking in the Drakensberg before?

Check out Google Earth & maps & check this site for the gps coordinates for caves & to-avoid-camping areas due to gun smuggling etc.

Since it's quite a long hike, I've heard some groups arrange for other hikers to bring up food (think Bannerman's pass is 1 ) & sani pass.

Good luck.

Jacques

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24 Apr 2010 20:28 #1218 by BergAttie
Quick 2 cents. No need really for refueling - if you plan it well enough you can get by with what you can carry - this depends on your pace though (I hiked 8 days and ended with food to spare). Picking the right time of year is also quite important and can make your hike easier. It will however always be a gamble as there is no guarantee of good weather. You want to avoid summer rain/thunderstorm and obviously winter snow/sleat. I did it in May and we had perfect weather. Drawback in winter is the reduced daylight hours. I think August, September and early Ocotber could be good months as well.

Pack weight is crucial - we weighed everything to ensure we took the lightest possible gear. Make sure you take no unnecessary items. Be sure to take at least two sets of maps and arrange tents so that the group can split off. This came in very handy when we had to send a member of our group down on his own due to ITB.

Hvae a clear agreement between members of teh group upfront about bailing: EIther teh whole group stops if one has to bail out or else if you bail you must be prepared to get down on your own if safe to do so. Have a backup p[erson in teh area on standby to do pickups in such an event.

Security - at times you can go quite deep intoo Lesotho. The usual precautions applies - try and set camp late and out of sight of settlement and people. Camp out of sight of major pathways.

Make sure you have clear objectives when you set out - goals that is understood by the whole group - conflict comes quick and easy in a fatigued group. No use to chase 6 days if some of the group is fine with 12 days - you probably should be in diferent groups then.

The toughest part of the Travers is psychological - it is not flat on top - far from it and youy will go for long distances on no paths and will cross valley after valley - often unseen from where you set out. Try to pick conours and valleys - sometime (mostly extra distance following valley beds in and out of Lesotho is quicker than crossing straight over the dividing ridge.

Good luck

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26 Apr 2010 16:42 #1222 by shafay
Hello Jacques + Attie

Thanks for your comments it is much appreciated.a few years ago attempted mafadi 3 day hike. last year did giants cup and thabanu ntlenyanu.

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26 Apr 2010 20:54 #1223 by intrepid
Hi shafay and welcome.

route mapping & gps co-ordinates:
Have a look at the downloads section. You'll find the track for the Grand Traverse section in the Grand Traverse category, which should be supplemented with the caves, peaks and passes downloads, each in their own relevant category. These downloads are designed to be edited according to your needs on your GPS desktop editor from where it can be loaded onto your GPS.

landmark identification:
not 100% sure what you mean by this but this is a good spot to talk about the checkpoints that are used on the record attempts, namely:
Chain Ladders
Mt Aux Sources
Cleft Peak
Champagne Castle
Mafadi
Giants Castle
Thabana Ntlenyana
Thamathu Pass.
These are not mandatory for doing the GT as a normal hike, but are interesting nonetheless. Giants Castle and Mt Aux Sources are a considerable detour from the "regular" route and thus not often included, though the rest I would consider part of the route (Champagne Castle lies very close the route and may be worth including). What do the rest of you think about this?

security:
work through the info in these sections/pages:
www.vertical-endeavour.com/drakensberg/20-security.html
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/2-drakensberg-security.html
www.vertical-endeavour.com/blog/38-drakensberg/passes/64-passes-of-ukhahlamba-drakensberg-park.html

challenges:
Some good ones mentioned already...team dynamics, psychology, navigation, resupply, daily routines & disciplines, weather, security.


Have a look at the downloads available in the Grand Traverse category...some very useful info there already. Good luck with the prep, and don't hesitate to post more questions. We also love hearing back from people, so please post a report and some pictures afterwards!

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

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27 Apr 2010 12:21 #1226 by shafay
Hello

Intrepid
BergAttie
JacquesBuys

you certainly have added value.

BergAttie your comment re try to pick valleys and contours and follow valley beds in and out of Lesotho is quicker than crossing straight over ridge is interesting. not sure if i follow you yet.my ignorance comes from being unfamiliar with the lay of the land.

Intrepid you are spot on, yes checkpoints.now you guys obviously know these landmarks on sight, so how do i identify/recognize them.

what would be the "perfect time" to do it, i know BergAttie had some suggestions.

you guys will be the first to know on the completion of the GT

Take Care

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27 Apr 2010 21:39 #1229 by BergAttie
Shafay

Once you have studied the Maps you will have a very good idea what I mean. As teh crow flies on top will take you foreverbut there are several valleys and rivers taht flow directly into Lesotho, following these are good footpaths at times and yuo can cover serious ground following these - throughout the trip uyou will way up these two options many times i.e. going over or around following valleys.

It is almost impossibe to know all the landmarks - good map reading and navigation skills is crucial - take a good set of maps (two set in fact) and a compass at the very least.

I would also recommend that you work ou a detailed route detailing key points to pass. This will give yu something to aim for each day. Just working this out before you leve will help tremendously in understanding teh lay of the land. Time on Google Earth will also help.

Keep the quetsions rolling if you ned I can sen you a basic route.

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29 Apr 2010 07:58 #1233 by intrepid
Agree that map reading skills are crucial. Add good mountain sense to that. You could study many photos of the Berg and get to know some of the landmarks that way (check the galleries, more will be added in time). But what you really need is to be able to open up a map and interpret the peaks and formations that you see. That, combined with lots of time in the Berg, will gradually help you learn the landmarks (which maybe you won't have a lot if time to do - but just learn how to use your maps!). Good navigational skills is also supplemented with a GPS. Try not let your GPS be the primary way of navigating, rather let it aid your own skills.

Best time in my opinion is April/May. Seems to be the best combination of temperature, clear weather and water availability. But the traverse has been done throughout the year - whatever works for you.

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

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03 May 2010 12:08 #1246 by shafay
hello guys

BergAttie thanks for the basic route that would be a great help.

you guys have certainly given me food for thought and as such I know feel more confident in my endeavour.


Thanks :)

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03 Nov 2010 17:51 #1998 by anthony
I will be doing the grand traverse next year over Easter, and was wondering if anybody else that has done it has any tips on what they learned and would do differently if they did it again.

Is it a good idea to share a tent with someone or does one find you need your own space after a few days of been in such close quarters?

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