General Grand Traverse planning & tips

04 Nov 2010 06:15 #2000 by ClimbyKel
@ Anthony
I haven't done it...yet. But I'm sure you'll get some replies here. It may help to know a few details: what is the size of your group, what's the confidence and fitness level of your group, and how many days do you intend to take to complete it? Good goin' :)

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04 Nov 2010 16:52 #2001 by anthony
ClimbyKel

I am doing it with a pretty experienced group, a number of them having done it a few times already, so far it looks like there will be ten of us.We are planing to get at least two resupplies over the +/- 11days so that will help with the weight of the pack a lot.

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05 Nov 2010 10:21 #2002 by intrepid
Anthony, if you're doing it with guys that have done it before, you should be able to kick back and enjoy the ride.

The things I would do differently don't relate much to things that didn't work previously. In future I will simply take less time to do it (around 8 days maybe) and would not do re-supplies. Not that 2 weeks and 1-2 resupplies is wrong, in fact if it is your first time, it should be done in this way. Just that after several traverses of various shapes and forms, I wouldn't take a full 2 weeks away from work to do the GT again. And resupplies take some organizing and coordinating. I've done up to 8 days without resupply, and I think I could push this up to 10 if needed. Also, if my group is small, I would consider not taking tents and going with bivvy bags. There are enough shelters and caves around to get away with this.

The other thing I might do a little differently now is how to handle the Giants Castle area. One of my traverses was a week after the really bad security incident on Easter 2005 involving another group also doing the traverse. Even Bannerman Cave was officially closed for a while. When we got there, there were bushes and branches placed over the main sleeping area. That period, also 2006, was a really bad period in the history of the Berg, especially for that area. The going advice for traverses at the time was to avoid sleeping over anywhere between Bannerman Pass and The Tent. This made for a pretty long day over a lot of ups and downs. I used to like camping at Judge Pass, good spots there, and then push all the way through to the little side valley right below The Tent, also nice spots there. This advice may still be relevant, though things have been quiet in that area for a while it seems. With the smuggling picking up at Judge Pass, I might just be inclined to camp right below Gypaetus Point. I did camp in the Jarateng valley this winter, though would still be a little uneasy camping there when the herding season is in full swing.

About tents and personal space, this is a very personal thing. For some the space is important. For me it is not worth lugging an extra tent along, far too much extra weight, especially on a long hike like that.

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

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10 Nov 2010 07:03 #2013 by Rowan
Intrepid
I read your response with intrest. We recently attempted the traverse and were found wanting. Not due to personal conditioning but the preperation is where the devil actually lies. We were hopelessly overweight, you actually dont eat as much as you expect. We guaged that we would actually cover more distance per day than we did, the fact that we often fgound ourselves looking for an easier path did not help, one day we walked 38km but onlu covered 12 of the traverse. we also had no previous members that had completed the traverse, so we found ourselves not knowing what was coming next.
the onething that we had no problems with was the locals, they were actually a pleasure. We was wished," good luck to you" on many occasions. Long may that last.
I have some questions:
Diet, what do you take as food?
Course, do you use a Garmin. Where did you get the waypoints?

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10 Nov 2010 21:35 #2017 by anthony
Interesting comments, the only thing that i have against not doing a re supply is that i would definitely be eating only dehydrated food and after about for days everything begins to taste the same,and i do find a good diet definitely keeps ones morale up,but there are times when it is necessary just from a weight point.

Intrepid i have never used a bivi bag, is there a great weight saving? The tent i use weighs 2.1kg, split between two that's just over a kilo each, the other advantage of a bivi bag i would presume is that it does not take as long as a tent to pack away meaning one could get going quicker.

Rowan, when hiking in the mountains weight and fitness is everything so spend the money and buy the lightest possible gear that you can afford,it really is worth it,i also pack my kit and then decide between necessary and luxury.As far as finding your way on the escarpment, you should consider doing a few shorter trips up and down some popular passes, that way when you get to do the traverse it is a matter of just joining the dots,and you know which passes are possible escape routes.I think there is a route you can download in the download section,i always walk with a gps and a sat phone just for safety,worth there weight in gold when you need them.Food there are a lot of choices buy you have to work out weight to the the maximum calories they can provide,i can make do with about 500g to 600g of food per day then i am not starving myself.

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10 Nov 2010 21:43 #2018 by intrepid
Hey Rowan, sorry to hear about the challenges on your traverse. Did you manage to complete it?
Navigating on the escarpment is not an easy thing. Somehow you've gotta learn enough of the Berg to understand how the escarpment "works", and also just to get to know some of the landmarks and be able to recognize them from different angles. Studying the map, being able to visualize what your read and look up and recognize what you see is essential too. Knowing when to detour and when to stick to the edge is a learning curve too, and also a factor of time and energy. And of course, there is no substitute for just being out there...lots....

Yes I carry a GPS, but it is only a supplementary tool. Avoid having it as your primary means of navigation. My data is largely my own which I get from simply getting out there, finding what I'm looking for and marking it. Occasionally I get a waypoint from someone, and at times and I mark a theoretical waypoint before the time, either from the paper maps, or using Waypoint Manager with the topographic layer.

My food for a traverse is not really any different than for any other shorter hike. 100g portions work well for me. 100g of oats, pre-cooked maize, Morvite, Pronutro etc for breakfast, and 100g of carbs in the evening in the form of rice, pasta, noodles, cous cous or smash. With that I'll have some sort of fish, biltong or salami, and maybe some powdered pasta sauce in addition. Many different combinations possible that way and very flexible and easy. For lunch I'll have an assortment of dried fruits and nuts, some sort of crackers (preferably ones that are small in size and not easily crunch-able in your pack), maybe some 2 minute noodles every second day or so, the odd packet of John West tuna, that kind of thing. I also have a standard assortment of 3 bars per day and some Jelly Babies or something similar. And instant soups are always good as extra food.

Hope that helps in some way.

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

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15 Nov 2010 20:42 - 16 Nov 2010 08:01 #2033 by intrepid
anthony wrote:

Intrepid i have never used a bivi bag, is there a great weight saving? The tent i use weighs 2.1kg, split between two that's just over a kilo each, the other advantage of a bivi bag i would presume is that it does not take as long as a tent to pack away meaning one could get going quicker.

Depending on the bivvy bag, you might save around 500 grams per person, though your tent weight is already quite ideal. Not taking a tent along is quite a personal thing, and not something I'd readily recommend. Its just something I would consider myself. I would only do it in a small, strong group where everyone is like-minded in this issue and everyone has reliable equipment. I also only recommend it if you are very familiar with the route and basically know the exact location of every marked High Berg cave, plus a few unmarked ones in addition. Also you gotta love caves to do this, and accept the fact that not all of them are great shelter and you might get some rain blown onto you at some point. For me tents are necessary evil at times, even though the flexibility in itinerary they offer is great. On my traverses is was a regular routine to pack away a wet or frosted tent early each morning and haul it out again during mid-morning tea to dry it out. The balance between relief from this chore and the flexibility of where to camp lies in personal preference.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 16 Nov 2010 08:01 by intrepid.

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16 Nov 2010 06:35 #2035 by ClimbyKel
@ Intrepid
I'm recalling the night in a flooding cave last year. We made "boats" out of plastic sheets, and watched as our companions suffered thru a really wet night. With heavy rain like that, the bivvy and cave combo was likely the best scenario, being that tents can also flood. But I'd be excited to find some not-so-drippy caves.

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23 Nov 2010 13:50 #2046 by madman
Hi tribe

I was just wondering if any one who is planning to do a g.t
If you have a spare place fo a fellow hiker in ur team
Plus I would really appreciate the consideration
This hike has been a thought for many years now and I can
No longer wait and shy away from the great walk.
My motivation for my enquiry is simple I have a deep
Love for the mountains and like to exceed my own expectations
With fitness,any date would suite me,and am well equiped mentally
Gear,and spirit I just don't want to do it alone.
For obvious reasons or maybe I've ead and watched to many survival topics.have vehicle willing to travel or alternatives.
This might sound like a desperate plea but I am madman,lol

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26 Nov 2010 13:31 #2054 by Christine
Mountain Backpackers lead a Grand Traverse annually in April and already have their dates for next year. Log onto their website www.mountainbackpackers.co.za or perhaps contact the Chairman to see how you can qualify to join them. It's a truly great experience and one that anyone who loves to hike must put themselves up for. Good luck.

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