Bell Traverse

07 Sep 2019 15:11 #75300 by ethanb
Bell Traverse was created by ethanb
Hello! I am currently planning a Drakensberg trip for early October. As of right now I am looking to do the Bell Traverse route beginning at Cathedral hotel and ending at Mikes Pass over 3 days. How's the weather at this time? However, I am having trouble finding any information on how and where to pick up permits and maps for any of the Drakensburg hikes. Does anyone have a good itinerary and any tips on getting to and from the route from Durban via public transport.  

I would also appreciate any recommendations or advice on the Bells Traverse or another 3 day hike for someone who enjoys a good grueling hike and is new to the area.

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07 Sep 2019 19:25 #75301 by MarkT
Replied by MarkT on topic Bell Traverse
Hi Ethan,

You can get your permits at Cathedral Peak where the hike starts, when you fill out the hiker's register. That's they way everyone does it.
The weather in October can be windy and still a bit cold, perhaps some rain but not like summer time. Not as cold as mid-winter, typically.
I don't think it's possible to get there using public transport. You'd have to organise a guide with transport, or a private shuttle. Send me a private message if you want a recommendation for a guide.
Maps are available from the store at the gate, usually, but they are often out of stock. Check Cape Union Mart who also often have them. There are 6 maps in the series.
I would not recommend doing the route by yourself. Definitely go with someone experienced and familiar with the area. It's very exposed and steep, dangerous in the mist or bad conditions. 

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09 Sep 2019 10:20 #75308 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Bell Traverse
Hi Ethanb,

Welcome to VE

Seeing that Mark has already answered most of your questions, I'll just focus on the route itself. Firstly, there are quite a number of trip reports right here on VE covering the Bell traverse. Have a read through them as they would answer most of your questions.

You didn't mention which way around you want to do it. You can either go up Mlambonja pass (or further south, depending on how grueling you want to make the hike :)-) and then down the Bell traverse, or you can go up it and then down any of the other passes to the South of Twins Cave for the return leg.

Route finding is pretty straight forward, but having a gps track will help, especially if the mist rolls in (you can find it here on this website under the downloads section). There are a couple of dodgy exposure sections on this route, so if you (or anyone in your group) has a fear of heights it could possibly be an issue. That said, I've taken people with a fear of heights on this route and they were fine. Just don't lose your concentration as a tumble down the side would be, er.......problematic.

I would suggest going up via the Bell traverse. You can complete the route in 2 days, but if you want to take it a bit easier you can arrive the Friday afternoon and walk the short distance (less than 4km) to Shermans cave, which will get you up to just under 1900m ASL. There is a nice waterfall about 150m further up the path where you can top up with water. From here you go up via Orage peel gap and then onto the rigde. Then you approach Cathedral Peak itself. You might find water here, but don't bet on it, so rather fill up at the waterfall near Shermans. October can be hot so take enough water.

Buggers Gulch is getting more interesting every time I do it. Pretty steep and on loose ground, but the berg grasses will help you get up it :-)
Just over Buggers Gulch is where the Bell traverse starts. If you arrived earlier on the Friday you could also sleep over in Bell cave, which is about 350m after Buggers Gulch. From here the path takes you around the Bell and the outer and inner horns. There is this one tricky spot between the two horns where the path looks like it continuous straight ahead, but you actually have to climb up to your left. There's a couple of cairns at this spot. You then traverse below the chessman, where the dodgy exposure section is located. Don't worry, you'll understand exactly where this spot is when you get to it. You have to go around a rock that juts out a bit, with a high and low step around it. Interesting section, not difficult but don't slip here.

There is now one more nasty steep little climb to get to Twins cave. There is no water at the cave, so you will have to go over theescarpment edge and down to the river below to get water. There are a number of caves in this area to choose from. Twins, or Twins annex, or a bit further north Easter cave or the overhang at Christmas pass.

The next day you can easily go down via Mlambonja pass or any other pass in the area that takes your fancy.


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12 Sep 2019 21:13 #75321 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Bell Traverse
Hi enthanb and welcome to VE.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will see a link for Frequently Asked Questions for the Berg. There you will see some info which will help you with maps and with planning your Bell Traverse.

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

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