beginner hiking advice and where to start

21 Apr 2020 17:05 #75814 by sibr
Hi all, 
where can I find a beginner hiking thread? I have hiked a lot in the past but want to restart after the lockdown. is there a thread where I can see berg hikes, rating per hike, route, days, experience level required etc ?
I am based in JHB so having an understanding of drive time would help as well :)

my idea is
this hike is a 2 day with overnight in a Cave,
rating 2 out of 5.
route picture 

thanks a million 

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22 Apr 2020 12:24 - 22 Apr 2020 12:24 #75815 by Riaang
Hi sibr

You will find the answers to most of your questions on VE, you will just have to search around a bit. Most passes (on the downloads section) have a rating, but these things are always a bit subjective. people have different fitness levels, so for example my easy might be hard for you and vice versa. Even doing the same pass in different weather can necessitate a different rating. For instance, one of my tougher days was starting from the Mnweni Cultural Centre and hiking all the way to the escarpment via Ifidi pass. I've done it in colder weather and managed to get to the top 3 hours faster than the exact same route in hot weather. Throw in snow, rain etc. and you are dealing with an entirely different animal.

With that being said, go read the various trip reports on VE to get an idea of what you are in for, or perhaps joining a group going for an easy berg hike.

Regarding your planned hike, you didn't say if you wanted to sleep overnight on the escarpment. For this to happen, you would need to be reasonably berg fit. For a 2-day berg hike as a beginner, I would not recommend a trip to the escarpment as a general rule. With that being said, here are my suggestions:
  • For starters, most Berg trips will involve an (approximately) 400km one-way trip from Jhb. The Northern berg is closer to home for you, and anything south of Giants Castle is getting a bit far to drive for a weekend.
  • You can stretch your weekend trip a bit by leaving Friday afternoon. I've done this plenty of times. Leave Jhb at around 3pm and arrive at the Berg at around 8pm. For these type of hikes the Cathedral Peak area works well as you can then walk up to a cave or tenting spot somewhere on the lower berg. Getting more berg for your buck, so to speak. This way, should you want to go to the top, you have an entire day at your disposal. Something like sleeping over in Ribbon falls cave works well for this kind of endeavor. You can then get up early on the Saturday morning and go up via the Camel, and walk across north to Mlambonja pass where you can sleep over in Twins cave, or, closer to the top of the pass you can tent at the Top of Tseketseke pass. You can even stay at the top of Organs pass once you get up on the escarpment and sleep over in any of the 5 caves withing a 600m radius.
  • Sunday morning you can get up early and walk back down to the hotel.
  • Moncs Cowl also has some nice spots for a lower berg hike. You can arrive the Friday evening and hike up (in the dark on a nice footpath) to Blind mans corner. Sat morning you can go to KBC at the bottom of Grays pass to marvel at the mountains, or you can go south up via Shada ridge and camp on top of the ridge and enjoy the views over the escarpment. The walk to Wonder valley caves on Shada ridge is fairly easy. Take note that there is often no water on the ridges, so you might have to take extra. 
And there you have it - 2 options for you to consider :-)

Last edit: 22 Apr 2020 12:24 by Riaang.

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27 Apr 2020 06:18 #75819 by sibr
thanks a million. I will do more digging

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02 May 2020 21:56 - 02 May 2020 21:57 #75823 by intrepid
Hi sibr,

the info on VE is in many cases an uncut diamond. The info is there, and its good info, but often isn't presented well or easy to find. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions on the forum too and you can get fantastic, detailed responses! Like Riaang said, you have to dig a little. Under the Drakensberg Hiking section you will find threads like A beginner's guide to getting to the escarpment and Overnight Berg hikes for beginners . You will also see that the Drakensberg Hiking section is further broken down into region. Under those regions you will generally find threads that discuss day hikes, 2 day hikes, 3 day hikes etc. If you post specific questions under existing threads, I am sure you will get some good responses.

You can also looks through the FAQ thread .

We do hope to get to a place where we can better present the info that is available on this site. We understand the need that many people have in searching for information. It will take time to get there because this site is run on a volunteer basis and depends on community participation. In the mean time, the forum is there and can be an incredibly powerful platform for sharing information. It just takes a bit of interaction.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 02 May 2020 21:57 by intrepid.

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05 May 2020 11:52 #75826 by ASL
The other way to approach it is to describe the type of experience you would like to have and ask for input to plan an itinery. You should get tons of information from people on the forum.

One thing that did not show up in the links provided by Intrepid is gear and safety. It's important, especially in winter to understand how to look after yourself in the mountains. This will also vary according to the route choices or area you hike in. I find people who have hiked in other areas don't always realise how severe Berg conditions can get. Altitude is a big factor as there are large temperature differentials between base of mountain and summit (20 to 30 deg possible).

So as I said, if you ask for or decide on route plan options then you can get some detailed input to help you plan an enjoyable and safe trip..

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