Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse

29 Jun 2010 09:23 #1421 by Jimbo
Jimbo created the topic: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
Newly back to SA after 10 years away and was wanting to do a 4 day hike in the berg. After trawling your blogs I was thinking of doing the Bell Traverse from Cathedral hotel and back via Cockade Pass. Having never done this route before what will the trail / water conditions be like at the end of July ? Any other relevant advise would be greatly appreciated.

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29 Jun 2010 12:18 - 29 Jun 2010 12:21 #1422 by tiska
tiska replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
The Bell traverse will probably be dry of running water in mid-winter. The last guaranteed running water in winter will be the waterfall about an hour from the hotel up the Cathedral Peak path. After that, the next running water will be in Lesotho, after Twins Cave.

Best bet is to look for ice and snow or else small drips coming of meltwater. It looks like there has snow recently though. Take extra fuel to melt it!
Last Edit: 29 Jun 2010 12:21 by tiska.

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29 Jun 2010 12:27 #1423 by gollum
gollum replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
Good choice! I did the exact same route during Easter, and it was a blast. Make a point of climbing Cathedral Peak via the standard route - personally I think it will be stupid to pass the opportunity - you'll see why ;), except in case of bad weather.

We were a relatively fit group, but we took it lekker rustig and took it all in without ever rushing. Our trip went as follows:

Day 1: Hotel to Orange Peel Gap - great campsites there, just no water.
Day 2: Orange Peel Gap to Cathedral Peak, climbed it, lunch at Bell Cave, and on to Twins Cave.
Day 3: Twins Cave to top of Cockade Pass, taking a longer route and keeping on the escarpemnt edge for the view.
Day 4: Down Cockade Pass and back to the hotel.

It was very wet and we had no problem with water. Apparently the Traverse itself is usually dry, which will probably be the case now. On top of the escarpment water is no problem.
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29 Jun 2010 19:33 #1425 by Hermann
Hermann replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
that is an awesome route,we did it easter 2009,cockade pass was quite rough going,lots of loose rocks.one of our members hurt her leg and i also had a fall coming down the Cockade near the junction leading to Xeni pass.Fantastic views.Be very fit. i'll do it again anyday.

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01 Jul 2010 11:53 #1430 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
Yep, I can second that the Bell Traverse and Cathedral Peak are a 5 star Berg classic. Will continue to repeat it as long as my legs will carry me. Can also second the warning about water, this is definitely something to consider. If there hasn't been recent snow and then milder weather conditions, do not count on finding any ice/snow to melt on the traverse. On the flip side of the snow, I have heard one report about really slippery, icy conditions on some of the short, exposed sections of the trail - luckily the group had an ice axe with and made use of it. I think this happens after heavy snowfall, and probably doesn't last long since most of the trail is on the sunny, northern slopes.

Something you may be aware of already, is that the Bell Traverse is a cattle rustling route, and some hikers were robbed in Bell Cave about 5 years ago. The Basotho make use of Twins Cave, as well as the annexe cave. Just be aware.

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

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01 Jul 2010 15:43 #1431 by Sterkhorn
Sterkhorn replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
I concur, the Bell Traverse being one of my favourite routes.

I have done a number of trips in mid-June and we always take enough water from the stream above Sherman's cave to squeeze us through to Twins cave.

We have, however discovered 2 small, fairly reliable water springs along the route, which have been dry on only one of the occasions. The chances of them flowing late into July might be slim, but they are well worth keeping your eyes open for. They are both on the north-facing slopes just above the path at the base of rock outcrops.

The first one is on the left, a little before the last flat plateau (we have camped here before), which begins the scramble up the stream course to the base of Cathedral Peak (Bugger Gully).
The second one is on the left, on the slopes between the Horns and Chessmen - useful as a fillup before Twins cave.

@Intrepid: In respect of the icy conditions sometimes encountered, a colleague of mine once took a few hours to negotiate a group across the ledge immediately after the scree slope on the Bell side of the Cathedral Peak gendarme gully - it sits in shade most of the time, so snow in the area can easliy ice up.

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01 Jul 2010 16:25 #1432 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
Sterkhorn wrote:

@Intrepid: In respect of the icy conditions sometimes encountered, a colleague of mine once took a few hours to negotiate a group across the ledge immediately after the scree slope on the Bell side of the Cathedral Peak gendarme gully - it sits in shade most of the time, so snow in the area can easliy ice up.

Ah, quite right, I can image that bit getting tricky too. The report where the ice was used was somewhere below the Horns and Chessmen.

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

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06 Apr 2013 10:50 #56559 by plouw
plouw replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
I am planning to take a group to do the Bell traverse the first weekend in May. Keen to ascend the escarpment via either Cockade or Tsekeketseke pass. Which one would be recommended for best scenery?
I did the Bell years ago and descended down the Camel. Keen to do it the other way around this time. :)

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08 Apr 2013 00:49 #56572 by Serious tribe
Serious tribe replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
I have not done Tsek, however there shld be good views of Column and Pyramid as you go up. Cockade has got some interesting sections near the top, see John Hones book. Hey if you go up part of the pass, you cld always decide to do Zeni Pass instead! :woohoo:

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08 Apr 2013 06:26 #56575 by Stijn
Stijn replied to: Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse
I would recommend Cockade pass over Tseketseke. Tseke is the more challenging of the two (even more so with the recent flash flood) but Cockade really closes you in, with spectacular cliffs towering all around you. The first section is in the riverbed with plenty of boulder-hopping, but once you swing left into the pass itself, a surprisingly clear path can be found which takes you all the way to the top via a fairly steep grassy gully.

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