General Grand Traverse planning & tips

15 Nov 2015 17:33 #65788 by Pyro
Hi all

I have set a personal challenge for myself to complete the Drakensburg Grand Traverse.
The plan is as follows: 2016, research and training for trip. 2017, complete the trip with the aid of a guide (no, I don't know anyone yet). 2018, would like to completed unguided with one or two close friends.

My question is, aside from the very basic info about the travers, I have no idea where to begin.

I am reasonably fit as I do rock climbing and am used to carrying a pack of about 20kg, although usually for no more than about 5km. My hiking experience is also very limited to day hikes with only a handful of one nighters.

I know I have a lot of work to do before I can make the trip, hence the 18 months approx between now and the hopeful complete trip. In this time, I plan on doing a few longer trips to build up to it.

Any guidance on training and preparing for the trip, gear recommendations, guides, etc will be greatly appreciated.

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15 Nov 2015 19:39 - 15 Nov 2015 19:42 #65789 by kliktrak
Hi Pyro

If you are based outside of KZN then this may be a bit costly, but could be worth considering.

My advice is to contact and try join the Durban based Mountain Backpackers hiking club's annual GT - they have "training" hikes leading up to the GT and you will be lead by an experienced leader and be part of a group, logistics planning should therefore be alot easier.
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All the Best.
Last edit: 15 Nov 2015 19:42 by kliktrak.
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15 Nov 2015 20:48 #65790 by DesPorter
Regardless of where you are situated join Mountain backpackers and also Amblers both Durban based and Jhb and Pta sections of MCSA and go with them on their berg hikes. The Durban clubs go mainly to the southern and central areas and the Jhb clubs to the northern and central areas. Aim for a trip every 6 to 8 weeks getting a good variety of areas as getting to know the berg is important. Get to know where water is to be found, rather unreliable at the moment. Know the passes as you may have to retreat early. Get used to the altitude and weather conditions. Get the full set of maps. As for equipment buy good quality and if you cant afford to get everything at once start off with good footwear and use compromises until you can afford the right stuff and get it bit by bit.
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15 Nov 2015 22:26 - 15 Nov 2015 22:28 #65791 by Jan
Become competent in compass map and gps navigation is compulsory in my humble opion.
Spent time reading different treads in this very usefull forum.
Last edit: 15 Nov 2015 22:28 by Jan.
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17 Nov 2015 12:50 #65806 by ingmac
I am a moutainbackpackers member, and plan to do my first GT (hopefully) in 2016. Welcome to contact me on tips and lead- up training. The idea is to do the club GT, usually held in April. They welcome non members on hikes if you are not quite ready to join the club, but would like to train with a fun group. We doing overnight at Mweni this weekend...
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17 Nov 2015 13:58 #65808 by Pyro
Thanks all for the advice

It may be a litlle complicated with the distance, but I will definitely make contact and see if a plan can be made.

Im already a member of MCSA, so plan on using those trips as well as others. I would like to do a couple of hikes over various parts of the Drakensburg. As you say, to familiarize with the passes for emergencies, altitude and weather. I'm pretty confident with my map reading and GPS, so yes, I will be carrying a full set of maps marked up with planned route, emergency escapes, and anything else relevant. As far as gear, Im going for good boots and best possible backpack. I know from my climbing, a poorly supported backpack will kill you with half the load you can otherwise normally comfortably handle.

I'm pretty confident with my map reading and navigation, and GPS. learning a lot from the forum already.

Thanks for the offer, i'll be sending you a PM.

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21 Nov 2015 15:04 #65840 by ghaznavid
Been a while since my last GT, roughly 23h50, but I do vaguely remember what they are like :laugh:

Kliktrak hit the nail on the head - join an MBC GT. They are well run by experienced hikers.

To get ready for a GT, it is vital to hike in the Berg as often as you can, and in as many places as you can. When I did my first GT I was nowhere near ready for one, but somehow pulled through - this is not what you want on a GT.

Regarding distance to Durban- we had members from JHB and East London on our MBC GT in 2012 (story can be read at )

For me, the most important aspects of a GT (1st being most important) are as follows:
1) Mental strength - when every bone in your body is aching, all your clothes are wet, you are shivering and hungry, and the rain just won't stop - every pass you walk past suddenly looks wonderful. You must go into a GT already having decided that you will not bail under any circumstances (baring serious injury). You will probably want to bail at least once (usually on day 5 for me, fortunately yesterday the easiest bailing route was the finish line :laugh: ).
2) Drakensberg fitness - A GT requires carrying a heavy backpack over 30 ridges at an average of about 350m per ridge. Hike a lot in the buildup - on my training hike up Mlambonja down Cockade (for my GT over Christmas last year) I insisted on carrying my entire tent on my own even though I was sharing it. Your pack will start over 20kg and will go above 20kg after each resupply. Every day will be at least 20km and will be roughly 1km in altitude gain and loss. Do 3 day hikes in the Berg carrying a heavy pack and covering a lot of ground. This is the best training. Also don't rely on clubs to set up the hikes, post in the upcoming hikes thread that you are looking to join some hikes, and tag along with others. Offer to carry the full tent you are sharing with someone else - that way if it is too difficult, you can shed the extra weight without any issue. Also build up your fitness gradually, don't rush into a 45km 2 day hike carrying extra weight. Start with what you can manage right now, try and hit the Berg as often as you can and build up your fitness from there.
3) Weight of pack - aside from 1kg in extra food and a 38g space blanket, everything in my pack was used on the GT I just finished. Ok - you won't be doing a GT with an 8.5kg pack, but every little bit you can avoid taking gets you that bit lighter. The reality is that you don't know your breaking point, but a 500g lighter pack may get you on the right side of it. So take a single change of clothes and learn to wash your clothes in the river and let them dry on your pack while you wear your other set, try to share a tent, stove and first aid kit with someone else in the group. The only valid place to take 500g in extra weight is by taking something comfortable to sleep on - an air mattress (I recommend the Klymit Static V) will give you a better night sleep, and that can make the world of difference.
4) Remember to have fun, a GT can be difficult at times, but it can be one of the most special hikes you will ever do. Take the good with the bad, you will get some of the best views you have ever seen, and may experience some of the worst weather you will ever experience. Finishing a GT is one of the greatest feelings I have ever had on a mountain. In the end, it is completely worth it, and I say that despite having just had to apply large volumes of anti-septic cream to my legs, having massive blisters and a stiff neck!

Regarding leading your second GT - you can make a call on that after you have done your first one. Focus on beginning the prep for your first one now - go hiking at every opportunity. A GT is a lot more fun when you at least know some of the route.
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22 Nov 2015 11:25 #65846 by AndrewP
Try to hike in the berg with people who are more experienced than you. Watch and learn what gear to take with, what to leave behind (important if you want a pack you can lift off the ground). They can teach you which passes are suitable for bailing, a few shortcuts, how much water to carry and such like.

Practise walking up and down hills at every opportunity. You will gain and lose more altitude than if you go from sea level to top of Everest. You simply have to be good at them.

In the end, it will come down more to your mind strength than anything else. You will at times want to quit - be tough enough to pull through. So, practise as many things as you can beforehand so you feel comfortable out there with both yourself and your gear.
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22 Aug 2016 15:41 #69608 by eddy135911
Hi all,

I am a GT newbie and I am planning on doing the Grand Traverse somewhere in next year (2017). I am seeking advice as to what planning is necessary for doing a GT and when the best time is to attempt it. I am planning on going in a group, only taking experienced hikers I am familiar with. Are there any reservations or costs linked to doing the Grand Traverse?

Thank you for your time and any help is much appreciated!


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22 Aug 2016 16:15 - 22 Aug 2016 16:32 #69611 by tonymarshall
Hi Eddy,

There's tons of GT info on the forum, you should find most of what you're looking for if you go through the various topics in the Grand Traverse section. It's not clear from your request if you will be doing a traditional 12 - 14 day GT or speed GT, and the answers you're looking for will differ somewhat depending on this.

The "Who is doing or has done the Grand Traverse" topic should be a good starting point for general background info, and there are others dealing with the fees payable and how/where to pay them, check the "Grand Traverse Permits" thread. There are also several write ups of various GTs, route advice and downloads of the route etc.
Last edit: 22 Aug 2016 16:32 by tonymarshall.

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