The Bell Traverse

04 Mar 2009 11:55 #352 by Magan
in response to Balarka

Let me give you an “average hiker’s“ perspective :

The Bell Traverse is a continuation of the hike to Cathedral Peak.

I’ve done it from the other direction, and my description is such : Twins Cave to Cathedral Peak.

The path is mostly clear, you traverse high up on the Northern slopes of the Mitre, Chessmen, Inner Horn and Outer Horn, you drop to the Sisters and then on the Southern side of the Bell, and Cathedral Peak, you climb up Bugger Gulch Gulley and then down the North side. Then you head down to the hotel via the normal route.

The views are on a clear day stunning all the way North and later South.

Any advice always include “sure footed” and “not for the feint hearted” cos there’s huge drops at times. There’s about 3 rocky areas of a few metres on the path, one around the Chessmen which I found looked too tricky and I dropped to a lower path, but even to do this needs caution as a heavy backpack can make one unsteady on steep slopes. The drops around the Bell gets steeper, and to get the adrenaline really racing, you need to ascend the very loose Bugger Gulch Gulley. Footing needs to be careful here. The top part of BGG on the Northern side is also quite a bit worn out.

There’s NO water along the way until way down near Shermans Cave. Carry extra water from the Escarp.

Also, doing the Traverse from CP Hotel to Twins cave can be a very long day, which can be broken at Bell cave which is on the path.

I must admit as one who is not totally comfortable with heights, I found it a touch scary at times but the rush from being on my edge made it very exciting. Also I did the traverse solo which may add to my caution. Yet, I wouldn’t hesitate if given the opportunity to do it again.

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05 Mar 2009 08:52 #353 by intrepid
I had a good chuckle about your reference to an "average hiker's" perspective Magan! I have a lot of people ask about the Bell Traverse, and I will try produce a write-up sometime featuring pics of the exposed bits etc.

The path is more good than it is bad. I liken it to the Camel route of Organ Pipes Pass. I agree with Magan, the worst bits are Bugger Gully, some washed away sections on The Bell, and a short exposed bit somewhere below the Chessmen/Inner Horn.

I don't think the cattle rustlers and smugglers should scare anyone away from the BT. Problems are more likely to happen at night. If you want to take all the precautions you can, then don't sleep in Bell Cave and Twins Cave, since they are right on the trail. There was apparently an isolated incident in Bell Cave some years back. An alternative to Bell Cave is camping well off the trail on the grassy plateau below Cathedral Peak, before Bugger Gully.

You can use Twins Annexe Cave as opposed to the main Twins Cave, which is reached via a faint trail continuing on from there. I've seen signs of use by the Basothos in this cave too, but it somehow feels better being away from the main trail. You could also check out a cave which we refer to as Bellevue Cave, which is further up near the top of Mlambonja Pass. May be drippy in summer. Get the GPS co-ordinates in the downloads section.

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

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30 Jul 2009 13:15 - 10 Jun 2013 19:24 #529 by gollum
Hi

We are planning to hike the Bell Traverse next weekend, though we'll probably take a different route if it snows, as ice might make it dangerous (or am I being a little over-cautious?). One of our group has already done this route.

In any case, I'll post some pics DV if the trip is successful. Meanwhile, I found this via Google. Is this the famed Bugger Gulch Valley?

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Last Edit: 10 Jun 2013 19:24 by intrepid. Reason: Fixed broken image link
The following user(s) said Thank You: Beard

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31 Jul 2009 13:44 #530 by Magan
That sure is Bugger Gulch Gulley !!

Yup, snow or ice could make the Traverse pretty tricky .....

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02 Aug 2009 08:59 #532 by Hermann
Hi, we (aMajuba,mcsa) did the Traverse easter weekend.its a great hike with a few scary places. we continued from the top of Mlambonja pass to the top of Cockade pass,camped there and then down to hotel.awesome trip indeed. We avoided Twins cave, camped on a flat place under the Mitre. much better than Twins..the views were awesome.Cockade pass was a killer bcause of the flashflood in February....we didn't know about that!!!!

Enjoy and be safe

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04 Aug 2009 15:05 #538 by Stijn
Ha! The internet is a small world indeed - that photo you posted is from a UCT Mountain and Ski Club hike we did back in July 2004. :P That's the Western side of the gully, i.e. as viewed when coming from Twin's Cave.

The rest of the album (including some more shots of the Bell Traverse) can be found here:

www.mountain.uct.ac.za/gallery2/gallery/2004/2004-q2-drakensberg-mnweni/?g2_page=7

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04 Aug 2009 16:03 #539 by gollum
Heh, yup, I got that from the UCT site (good thing I didn't claim ownership! ;) ).

It snowed on Saturday and the peaks are still pretty white. What's the chance that the traverse will be iced up or wet on Saturday/Sunday?

I'd just like to take a different route altogether instead of having to turn back after completing two thirds of the route...

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04 Aug 2009 18:35 #541 by intrepid
The Berg just had a really good dump of snow so chances are good for encountering it. It depends a lot on how much the weather warms up now obvioulsy. Bugger Gully is on the south facing side and is generally in a protected area from the sun. I expect that the western side shown in the photo will be particularly snow covered still, though not sure if it will be hard ice. The areas directly below The Bell could be snow covered too. After that the trail flips over on to the sunny, north-facing side of the range. Theoretically the snow will melt quicker there. Depending on how warm it gets this could prove to be a problem too in that the melted snow will freeze to form hard ice. You could encounter this in one or two places below the Inner Horn and Chessmen.

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

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10 Jun 2013 19:32 - 11 Jun 2013 06:46 #57236 by intrepid
In order to better manage postings about the Bell Traverse, I am implementing the following:

- This is the official Bell Traverse thread. The Bell Traverse is defined by the hike between Orange Peel Gap and Twins Cave. The vast majority of hikes approach Organge Peel Gap from Cathedral Peak Hotel, or vice versa, and so that lower section of trail can also be included in reference to the traverse, to be practical.

- All future discussion should be posted here and any new posts not warranting their own thread will be moved here by the moderators. All historical threads that have no need for new posts have been locked.

- Often the Twins Cave end of the traverse is complimented by the lower section of Mlambonja Pass (ie as a classic 3-day itinerary). Many however also use the upper section of the pass, to connect escarpment traverses either from the South (ie from Cathedral Peak area) or from the North (from the Mnweni). In order to cater for discussion which is more about this aspect, ie the itinerary of a trip which includes the Traverse, the Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse thread is the one to use (that thread used to be called "Bell Advice"). This is to help those who specifically want to read about the Traverse so they don't have to read through pages of posts which aren’t directly related to the topic.

- Some useful links to other posts on the Traverse:
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/2713-bell-traversetipssuggestions.html
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/drakensberg-trips/55335-hike-report-bell-traverse-via-cathedral-peak.html (write-up with good pictures in the snow)
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/2516-dont-look-down.html (includes some discussion on the exposure aspect of the Traverse)
www.vertical-endeavour.com/blog/38-drakensberg/passes/152-the-bell-traverse.html (a formal review)

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last Edit: 11 Jun 2013 06:46 by intrepid. Reason: typo

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06 Feb 2014 17:46 #59642 by Paul Neame
Hi All

Trying to get up to date info on the Traverse between Cathedral and bell cave on way to twins whats the condition of the trail will be going down in April struggling to get answers from Mountain club and Cathedral staff

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