Solo hiking in the Berg

01 Jan 2017 09:50 #70487 by MTHiker
Replied by MTHiker on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Hello all --

I'm a new user, but I have been intently reading everything I could find on the forums in advance of a planned trip with one of my friends from here in the States. I'm a relatively active backpacker, and I grew up in Montana (probably the most wild state). I'm currently a glaciology student, and have spent a fair amount of time whacking trail in remote areas and living on remote icefields/glaciers. I've had my heart set on a Drakensberg trip since reading about it in National Geographic, and am planning a trip this May.

Unfortunately, my friend might have to back out due to a family commitment. While I haven't bought my flight yet, I'm honestly just not about to give up on this dream!! Is it absolutely absurd to hike the Drakensberg alone? I'm not as worried about my own safety with respect to broken limbs, altitude sickness, etc., as I am about the violence and robberies from some of the herdsman that I have read about. Would I be insane to do an 8 day trek from Sentinel to Sani Pass alone?

On the flip side, I've been looking but haven't been able to find a forum on this page for people who are planning a trip and are looking for more people to go. Any direction with respect to that is appreciated. I've also emailed a few guides, but I don't have a huge budget to be able to pay a guide for a long trip on my own.

I really appreciate any advice you all can offer! This site is an awesome resource.

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01 Jan 2017 13:16 #70488 by Smurfatefrog
Welcome to the forum.

Regarding the security aspect, if you take precautions as advised you should be ok, but I would suggest you keeping an eye or posting in the Upcoming Hikes & GT threads to see if you can join in with another hike

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01 Jan 2017 23:55 #70489 by MTHiker
Replied by MTHiker on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Thanks smurfatefrog for the advice and the links! I'll check those out and watch for people planning trips in May.

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04 Jan 2017 10:40 #70498 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Welcome to VE, MTHiker :-)

What are your exact dates? We have a number of public holidays end of Apr to May so you might find more folk doing the grand traverse due to these. There is a very good chance I'm going to do it with my wife and 2 friends from 27 April to 4 or 5 May 2017. We're planning on doing it in 8 days so not very fast (the record is 42 odd hours) but it will none the less require a fair bit of fitness - the Drakensberg is not flat on top :-)

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05 Jan 2017 08:10 #70512 by MTHiker
Replied by MTHiker on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Thanks Riaang!

I posted a longer post on the "upcoming hikes" page, so to avoid double posting and "spamming" everyone on the feed I'll mention that :) link:

Unfortunately my tentative-but-almost-sure dates are slightly misaligned with yours -- I will be there May 17th - 27th. In order to meet as many people as possible/make the most of my time, I've also decided to split it up, so I won't be doing the whole GT. But if your plans change/if you know of anyone who wants to go during the first few days 17th-22/23rd, send 'em my way.

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06 Jan 2017 07:33 #70525 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Will do MTHiker

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02 Oct 2017 18:46 - 02 Oct 2017 19:00 #72211 by Papa Dragon
Replied by Papa Dragon on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
I have done a few solo day-hikes, but never an overnight. My first solo overnight was this last weekend, at Garden Castle. It was not an intentional solo, but because I couldn't find anyone else to hike with me, except a hiker whose capabilities, speed and fitness are far above my own.

Trying to hike once a month, and reluctant to cancel as I can only get out again in November, I decided to go anyway, despite cautions from family and friends.

i was a little concerned about the loneliness , and perhaps even anxiety, in the evening and at night, but this proved a non-issue. Company in the evening before bed-time would have been quite pleasant, but the lack thereof was definitely not unbearable.

I found that solo, one can do exactly as one likes. Stop and take pics, check out the view, watch birds, buck etc. If you are hiking alone, you are not talking ( :laugh: except maybe to yourself) so you see much more wildlife, as they don't run till you are close. You are also far more aware of everything around you than in a big group, sights, sounds, smells, landscape etc. And the fear/uncertainty factor is far less than I expected.

What about the danger/safety aspect? I hope I don't get slated or taken the wrong way here, and I know there are a lot of guys on the forum who solo. I did my first hike in the Little Berg, which is perceived to be "safer" than the escarpment. If you fall and you die, you are dead, whether you are with someone or not. If something happens, and you are injured, hopefully you can get to somewhere with cellphone reception and call for help. If not, the alarm will be raised by EKZNW/family when you are overdue. If your injuries are so bad that you succumb to them before you are found, would you have been saved if you had been rescued earlier?

Only negatives from my side, lack of company in the evening, which wasn't such a big deal, and cost of transport for one person to the Berg.

Anyway, an awesome experience, and I definitely won't hesitate to do it again, if circumstance dictates. If you have been toying with a solo, but have been concerned about something, give it a try. I'm really glad I did!!
Last edit: 02 Oct 2017 19:00 by Papa Dragon.

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19 Oct 2017 13:38 - 19 Oct 2017 13:45 #72266 by Smurfatefrog
It was my turn to join the club last weekend. I hadn't spent a night in the wilderness since July so basically combined that with a day hike, it did mean I had to carry sleeping kit around though :thumbsdown:
I left Bushmans Nek at 17:30 on Friday arriving at Slab Cave just over an hour later, after having to get wet shoes at all 5 river crossings!
The mist level was just above the cave and the moon only rose much later so it was pitch black, which meant a rather early night.

The next day I did a loop going up Bushmans/Ngwangwane Pass, heading up Thaba Ngwangwe and coming down Thamathu Pass.
I got back at 2pm and headed to Silverstreams to get a few beers, before joining up with the MCSA hike (Giants Cup trail) at Bushmans Hut for Saturday night.

I really enjoyed the actual hiking alone part, I've done this with day hikes before so knew I would. I'm not convinced on the nights though, but I didn't really get much chance to test it out.

The split with Saddle Nek pass, note the waterfall on the right which I've never seen flowing before

A waterfall from all the snow melt, there was water flowing right from the top

View from the cave

The scramble up, I used the same route Fitness did. It was a little sketchy with snow, ice and water running down it, with a sheer drop. I was worried about the down climbing, but this seemed easier for some reason.

There was a decent amount of south facing snow left

Saturday night

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Last edit: 19 Oct 2017 13:45 by Smurfatefrog.

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25 Feb 2018 19:22 #72860 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
For years I have been very anti the idea of solo hiking - the margin for error is so much smaller than with a group, but sometimes safety is relative, and the risk of not being fit enough for a committed hike outweighs the risk of doing a very familiar route solo.

So, very optimistically, I decided that I would head to Giants on Friday after work (conveniently I was coming from Ladysmith, so it didn't add much distance), and I would do a fast-as-you-can ascent of Langies, and then do a big day hike on Sunday.

Here's my V-Log from the top of Langies, which pretty well sums up what happened:

Some stats of my first solo hike:
Mountain Register to the top of Langies: 2h35 and a few seconds
Summit cairn to the register: 1h58m50 (give or take a few seconds)
Round trip time: 4h43m50 (give or take a few seconds)

I started the trip and the descent exactly as my GPS changed to the next minute, but without a second stat, the time will only be accurate within a margin of about a minute. I sat on top for about 9 minutes (hence the time up and down not matching the round trip time), that includes the 3 minutes of me waffling in the above video.

1) baboons don't notice you coming when you are alone and no one is talking, I lost a bit of time to waiting for some baboons to clear off the path after they had no interest in moving till I made a lot of noise.
2) There is something strange about covering 22km without seeing another person. Aside from baboons, cows and birds - I had the mountain all to myself.
3) It is difficult to jump into the deep end with solo hiking. I will have to go back and do something bigger, maybe Bannerman/Langies loop with some khulus next time. I don't think I'll ever do a solo DGT (ready my past posts and you will see that I'll never do a speed GT, Injisthu Pass or rock climbing - so feel free to take this comment with a pinch of salt), but I suspect I will be doing more solo hiking in the near future.

And before someone questions what I am training for - the answer is pretty obvious, I still haven't beaten Stijn's DGT time...
The following user(s) said Thank You: Viking, Redshift3, Biomech, WarrenM

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26 Feb 2018 05:28 #72861 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Solo hiking in the Berg
Keep trying mate! :thumbsup:

The secret is to take along some Amarula Cream, a deck of cards and 2 x Cobham maps for good measure ;)
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