Drakensberg Lower Traverse

26 Jan 2021 15:06 - 26 Jan 2021 15:08 #76457 by diverian
This is something that has always interested me, Bushman's Neck to Royal Natal "on the bottom road" or maybe we could call it the "Not So Grand Traverse". I would be interested to hear from anyone who has done it or is thinking of doing it.
Last edit: 26 Jan 2021 15:08 by diverian.

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26 Jan 2021 16:20 #76458 by Smurfatefrog
The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian

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27 Jan 2021 11:18 #76459 by BobbyStanton
A route from RNNP to Bushman's Nek was recently completed by John and Christine Pickup as well as Natasha Williams, all of the Mountain Backpackers Club. I don't know who else if anyone was in the group. They had done part of the route some years ago. John and Christine live in Howick but I don't have any others contact details for them. I will try and gather more information about their exact path and perhaps construct a .gpx file, and let this site know more about it.
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27 Jan 2021 14:57 #76462 by swordfish
I have been interested to do this for quite sometime but it’s not on my priority list at the moment. Probably in couple of years time. I have a full gpx track for it. Someone posted a download link in another tread some time ago. If you would like it, PM with your email address.

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27 Jan 2021 19:32 #76463 by BobbyStanton
If its the route put together by certain trail runners that follows the Busingatha road through the Mweni area then I already have it. But thanks anyway. I am specifically interested in John Pickup's route. Apparently he did not collect a gps track so I need to speak to him to find out where he went when in certain more difficult areas.

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29 Jan 2021 08:38 #76467 by ghaznavid
To be honest - a lower traverse sounds really unpleasant. All the bad aspects of the Drakensberg - hot weather, overgrowth, poorly maintained trails etc - without most of the good parts. And because you are staying at Contour Path level, you miss most of the good rock pools too. There is a lot to love about a DGT - it generally doesn't get that hot, even the bad overgrowth is never more than knee high, and there are a number of really good pools - especially if you take the speed line. Not to mention the views on top are hard to beat.

In my mind, a lower traverse would be much harder than a DGT. I know a team did a DGT combined with a lower traverse a few years ago - which is properly epic.

If I was doing it - which I have no plan of doing (although 2021 is scheduled to include a traverse of the Cederberg) - I would do as follows:
- There will be plenty of trails between RNNP and MCC, which you will probably find on Google Earth and can use to draw a track.
- Tony has a route from MCC to Orange Peel Gap, which I would use.
- From Orange Peel, I'd go down to the hotel, collect a resupply and head up Mikes Pass to skip the bad section by Xeni/Cockade.
- I'd head down Shada Ridge and up Hearthbreak Hill to skip the bad Injisuthi section.
- I'd resupply again at Lotheni, seeing as you have to head past the car park on that contour path section anyway.
- When the contour path dies at Hlathimba Pass, I'd make my way across to Mhlangubo Pass via a slow and painful grassy side slope traverse, and then follow the trail down from the pass towards Vergelegen.
- I'd take the trail towards Sulfur Springs, and then traverse by yet another unpleasant side slope traverse to the ridge below Phinong Pass, where I'd take Dave G's line down to the Sani Road (GPS track on his website - I used this line last year, not bad at all). Getting from Hlathimba to the Sani Road would be the crux of the hike.
- Once on the Sani Road, it is just a case of walking to the GCT, the proverbial Country Road that takes you home.

One of the downsides of this route is that you are walking through a few car parks, which kind of breaks the extended wilderness experience. Although a hot shower will be nice, and it makes resupplies super easy. Also - bailing is super easy, which means your odds of finishing are much lower, especially after it has been raining for the past 3 days.

One of my minor projects that remains incomplete is doing the full Contour Path (not continuously). As it stands, I am missing a few sections:
1) The gap between Tryme Hill and Mikes Pass
2) Didima River to the Ntunja turnoff
3) Ships Prow to Marble Baths
4) About 1km below the Gable to the Highmoor turnoff
5) Top of Taylor's Pass to Lotheni Camp

As far as a lower traverse, over multiple hikes - I am missing most of the first section before the contour path, the connection between Halthimba and Mhalngubo, the short bit between the bottom of KaNtuba Pass and Manguan Pass, and the bit between Kaula Cave and the bottom of Mqatsheni Pass. Otherwise I have done the entire route.

Mountain traverses in SA that excite me right now:
- Full Hex Traverse from Ceres to De Doorns (probably more so than any other possible hike in SA right now)
- Cederberg Traverse (hopefully doing this in July)
- Kogelberg/Hottentots Holland (up to 1.2km above sea level and right next to the sea)
- Klein Swartberg/Seweweekspoort Ridge

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22 Feb 2021 05:37 #76541 by BigArnie
Replied by BigArnie on topic Drakensberg Lower Traverse
That Cedarberg traverse sounds amazing!

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