December hiking - weather forecast

10 Dec 2020 07:24 - 10 Dec 2020 07:24 #76360 by PaulineS
Hi fellow vertical endeavor hikers.

What are your opinions on hiking in the Berg in December with the unpredictable thunder storms? Especially on the escarp?

Any tips for December hiking apart from really good rain gear?

And lastly, which website do you rely on most for accuracy on weather predictions?
Last edit: 10 Dec 2020 07:24 by PaulineS.

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10 Dec 2020 09:59 - 10 Dec 2020 10:01 #76361 by grae22
I'd say you can be fairly certain that it will rain at some point (often in the late afternoon) and you may have to hike in mist (possibly for extended periods) - so I avoid clothing which doesn't dry quickly and be prepared to navigate in poor visibility (mist). If a thunderstorm is threatening avoid areas that may be prone to flash-flooding or exposed to lightning (i.e. high spots). River crossings may prove challenging (hiking poles are of great assistance here).

Enjoy tho, beautiful and green at the mo and plenty of water.

Forecast-wise I use Windy, Accuweather and MountainWeather. YR is ok, but I find they over-emphasize the threat of rain.
Last edit: 10 Dec 2020 10:01 by grae22.

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10 Dec 2020 10:30 #76362 by Smurfatefrog

YR is ok, but I find they over-emphasize the threat of rain.

and under-emphasize wind!
YR: "gentle breeze"
Reality: gale force winds

I mainly use Windguru

In summer though all forecasts are quite unreliable, especially looking ahead more than a few days

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10 Dec 2020 15:04 #76364 by ASL
agree with Grae22, you can almost set your watch on an afternoon thunderstorm that typically last an hour or less somewhere between 5 and 6pm ish. It's quite manageable and you can schedule your days around it. It's nice and cool though..

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10 Dec 2020 16:23 - 10 Dec 2020 16:24 #76365 by swordfish
Make sure you have a GPS to navigate. In the mist and rain, you can't see any landmarks to use a map. Also, do your proper research upfront for any caves enroute and save them in the GPS. If you get hit by a heavy storm, close to a cave, you can find shelter.
Last edit: 10 Dec 2020 16:24 by swordfish.

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14 Dec 2020 12:28 #76371 by Riaang
With lots of rain around, finding a level dry spot to pitch your tent could also prove to be a challenge. Overnighting in caves could offer better conditions.

Agreed with everything else said before.

While winter hiking offers clear blue cloudless skies, in December be prepared for heat and cloudbursts in the late afternoon, so don't forget sunscreen.

Enjoy!!!

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17 Dec 2020 12:47 #76382 by supertramp
Having just completed my second December Grand Traverse, my best piece of advice would be to start hiking very early (5am). This will allow you to limit your exposure to afternoon thunderstorms and to pick a "safe" camping spot (added benefit of catching the stunning sunrises). The storms really are like clockwork.

Weather forecast: Mountain Forecast

Fully agree with all other advice provided.

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21 Dec 2020 10:00 #76401 by retiefjan
Hi, how risky would it be, weatherwise, to hike up sentinel peak starting in the afternoon and camp on the escarpment.

I understand afternoon showers are like clockwork, we don’t mind rain but would it be too dangerous to even consider?

Regards
Drakensberg Novice
Jan

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21 Dec 2020 17:10 - 21 Dec 2020 17:17 #76404 by grae22
Hi Jan

The path to the bottom of the chain-ladders is very good (well, if concrete in the 'Berg is "good") so the walk in would be straight forward, irrespective of the weather (extreme conditions, aside).

Ascending the ladders in wet conditions would probably be another story, though... but, you could use the gully route or backtrack to the Sentinel Caves and stay there instead. I also haven't heard anything about whether the broken ladder has been repaired yet - you could contact Witsieshoek to find out.

Bear in mind, once on top you need to be able to find your way back down (either via the ladders or gully) - this can be harder than it sounds when visibility is limited (again, in Summer mist can last for days on the escarpment).

No need to be overly paranoid, though... but, go prepared - you need to be able to navigate (take a map and be able to use it, gps - even on a phone - is useful), take a little extra food in case you have to wait out any weather. Store emergency and mountain rescue numbers on your phones. Headlamps, spare batteries, etc.

Just to note - you wouldn't be hiking up Sentinel Peak to get up on top as it stands free of the escarpment.

- Graeme
Last edit: 21 Dec 2020 17:17 by grae22.
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23 Dec 2020 16:14 #76419 by Nicolaas
If I can add to this topic: The last seven days we spent in the berg, not in the Amfi area, but nevertheless I expect the same weather patterns throughout the berg. Not a single day went without having either mist, gentle rain or a thunderstorm. Most storms occurred in the early afternoon (lasted a few hours each) and in most cases cleared towards sunset (but not guaranteed!). Patience was a virtue when it came to waiting out thunderstorms (sunlight is good until 6:30 pm). I would start hiking no later than 8am and plan to be close to your camp for the night by 14pm (a few hours spare for the thunderstorm of course). Even if you plan to sleep in a cave, a small tent for comfort during rain is not a bad idea, even if it means a few extra kgs. Generally I would avoid going if the weather forecast looks anything like a large system over the country (As grae22 said: mist and rain could last for days, and can put you in a hairy situation with wet clothes, little food etc.). Hope it helps and that you enjoy the mountains!
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