Doing a fast Grand Traverse

12 May 2015 14:42 #63727 by Murray
Replied by Murray on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Hi Jan

We are looking at doing a DGT in 5/6 days end of September and you have a lot of useful tips.

Where did you rent the satellite beacon / communication device? Did it work? What would you recommend? We would like people to be able to track us, have an emergency button and/or sms/email functionality to communicate.


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30 May 2015 17:18 #64035 by Jan
Replied by Jan on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
For a DGT in september I don't know. Isn't that the time of the year when there is quite a bit of snow ?
The sattelite beacon we rented was good. In theory. In practice it was crap and hardly worked. So I'm glad we did't have to use the emergency. Rented it somewhere in Capetown. You're probably better of with a SPOT gps beacon. Buy it and resell it on the web is probably cheaper than renting. On the escarpment you have gps signal in several places.

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16 Mar 2019 12:20 #74806 by liezlstander
Hi All,

My team and I are in the process of planning to do a fast traverse in May this year. We are planning to only stay in caves and not bring tents. We are quite inexperienced and need some guidance on the following topics:

Water sources and Back ups (as we are doing the traverse in winter)
Emergency routes down the escarpment
Safety Precautions for theft
Minimum Emergency gear (like bivvy bags etc)

Thank you

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16 Mar 2019 16:50 #74807 by Herman
Replied by Herman on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Hi Liezl

Welcome to the forum! If you search around, you'll find lots of info on your questions. There is probably too much info on each of those questions for a single post - 200+km of rivers, caves, passes, valleys, etc.

I would really, really recommend just doing a Northern traverse first (Sentinel-Cathedral). Going for broke with little experience of the Berg means you carry unnecessary things, don't carry other vital equipment, and get lost a lot / run out of GPS/phone batteries. We met people up there doing exactly that (they were following a purple line on a GPS with 14 sets of batteries). They weren't in good shape.

My 2c on the cave thing: we made the mistake of doing a DGT and thinking it is faster to sleep in caves than tents. The caves are not always on the route and can be far from water. You waste a lot of time like that. Also, caves might be full when you get to them, especially if you're putting in long days. If it is raining and getting dark, expecting the party who got there first to share with you since you don't have a tent is problematic if the cave is already full. Caves can also be hard to find if you haven't been to them before. So if you know the area well I'd say go light and carry a good (tested in the rain) bivvy. Otherwise a tent is safety gear, not a luxury.

But do a Northern Berg traverse first.

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16 Mar 2019 21:50 #74809 by intrepid
Hi liezlstander and welcome to VE.

seconding what Herman has said, a shorter traverse as a warm-up is recommended, and yes you have touched on many topics, have a look around on our site and try ask more specific questions on other relevant threads. As a quick response to what you have touched on:

- Water sources and Back ups (as we are doing the traverse in winter) - perhaps one of our members can help you by posting a general guide, and you can also ask for conditions updates closer to the time on our annual Water Watch thread
- Emergency routes down the escarpment - see the  How to escape a Grand Traverse thread and ask more questions there
- Safety Precautions for theft  - security is a big topic, read through the topics in the forum security category and the blog security category
- Minimum Emergency gear (like bivvy bags etc) - there is a lot of discussion on gear generally in our Gear category , but also see threads such as   DGT gear list and Emergency bivy protocol which may be helpful

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

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18 Mar 2019 11:50 #74814 by ghaznavid

liezlstander wrote: We are quite inexperienced and need some guidance

It's good that you are asking for guidance - and please do read up extensively on this before heading out.

But as others have said - consider doing something easier to prepare for this. A DGT is a massive undertaking. You can only really appreciate this once you have done one.

A large part of a DGT is psychological. It sounds ridiculous, but when you look at Ndumeni Dome in front of you, you have just walked over Cleft Peak, and there is an easy trailed pass to your left with a nice hot cheese burger waiting at the bottom - it can be hard to motivate yourself to keep going. Even more so when it is windy and cold, and your feet are sore. Knowing the route well is a massive benefit, and knowing how you will cope with different aspects is also helpful.

Key challenges of doing a DGT without tents and without knowing the routes from experience include:
1) You don't know how long you will take to reach the next usable cave. From Giants Cave to Nhlangeni Cave is a very long way, for example. Both caves are hard to find if you don't know where to look, Nhlangeni Cave is quite far off route and is often too wet to use.
2) What is the best line through each area? This depends on how everyone is doing and which caves you are using. E.g. Didima Gully puts you nice and close to Didima Cave while the Yodeler's Cascades doesn't. The gully is steeper but shorter, the cascades are full of dogs.
3) Hiking in the dark or mist can be tricky at the best of times - but what happens if your GPS fails and it is misty/dark? Can you find a cave, and do you know what to do? I once hiked a route with a good trail in the dark in thick mist at new moon - and it was very tricky to follow. If this happens, do you know what to do?
4) Knowing how to survive a night in the open without a tent is crucial.

The most basic problem with heading out to do a fast DGT without enough experience is that you don't know what food works for you when you are doing big day after big day, you don't know how sore your feet with get and how to reduce the pain by rubbing your feet long before they start getting sore (and without the right callouses, you will probably get very bad blisters). Pack weight is another big one - I leave my gloves at home to save 120g, and try to plan my food so I don't have a lot left over at the end but also won't run out if we finish a bit later than planned. Even planning water so you don't run out but don't carry too much requires good knowledge of the route.

It is a lot of small things that become a big thing if you aren't careful.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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