Cockade pass and bell traverse. Which direction is best?

15 Feb 2021 15:19 #76507 by Joe Welman
A few hikers and I are heading to the berg in beginning March, hopefully the rain would've calmed down a bit by then. The plan is to sleep in bell cave and also at the top of cockade pass. I have done the bell traverse before,but it will be my first time on cockade pass.

Can anyone recommend the best direction for this hike please. And also, with all the rain we've been having, would cockade pass still be doable?

Thanks in advance

Joe

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15 Feb 2021 16:54 - 15 Feb 2021 16:55 #76509 by Serious tribe
Hi Joe

The berg has had a lot of rain recently, and I would assume that Bell Cave will be wet given this recent description of it - www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/12-drakensberg-caves/56221-bell-cave.html

This site has a lot of info in it, just go to the 'enhanced by google search bar on the rhs below the Blog icon and type in what you are looking for.

I think that Cockade should be doable, just depends if there has been any major rockfalls because of the rain events, they had between 22-30mm last Tuesday alone. I think crossing rivers on the way to Cockade along the switch back route C5 path might be a problem, especially if there has been heavy rain the night before, but then so would the crossing just below the hatchery going up toward Sherman's Cave. Though these mountain streams rise and fall very quickly, you don't want to be crossing them during those 10 hours when they are in flood from a big rain event. If the event is a number of days, then best to call the hike off, talking about a DeMoina type cyclone event, which we narrowly missed a few weeks ago!

I would say that Bell Cave first night should be less of a push than getting to the top of Cockade.
Last edit: 15 Feb 2021 16:55 by Serious tribe.

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15 Feb 2021 17:37 #76510 by Joe Welman
Thank you Karl! That helps. I'll keep an eye on the weather.

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16 Feb 2021 09:32 #76513 by GetaPix
Good day Joe

Sounds like a good hike you are planning. Recently went down Cockade and it was fine. Lots of loose rocks and it is not the most enjoyable pass but it is Dramatic with rock formations. Slow going down at the river bed once you swing right in to the valley searching for beacons etc but just dont try and rush it - Dont be pressed for time.

Regards
The following user(s) said Thank You: Grandeur

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16 Feb 2021 11:15 #76514 by Riaang
Welcome on VE Joe

As stated before, there's a wealth of info on both passes (and many others) on VE. Having done both, here's my 2cents worth:
Bell cave is basically split into two sections. The one section is more waterproof, the section closest to Buggers Gulch is definitely wetter. Last time we overnighted in it, another group pitched their tent in the one section, and the 3 of us slept in our bivvies in the section closest to Buggers Gulch. The chances of rain in March is still high, so bivvies/tents/rainproof gear is advisable.

There should be a lot of water available in both areas, but the Bell Traverse will have less available as you are walking on ridges. The Bell Traverse is also much easier in terms of it having a path most of the way, whereas Cockade will involve a lot of bushwhacking and boulder hopping. Cockade does offer a few camping spots before you get into the valley proper, so this will be shorter than a hike to Bell cave, and also lower. Also, you will be near water, whereas, unless there is a drip in Bell cave, your last water would probably be in the stream running off Cathedral peak itself. Not too far away, but not as close by as the river next to the Cockade camping spots.

If you go up via Cockade, you should be able to walk more in the shade on day 2 as you ascend the pass proper. You didn't say for how many days you plan to hike, I am assuming 3 days. If this is indeed the case, you will probably want to sleep a bit closer to the start of the Bell Traverse (i.e. Twins Cave), but if you prefer to sleep near the top of Cockade pass, I can recommend walking down a few hundred meters to the river, there are a couple of nice camping spots there. Your final day will be quite long though.

If I was doing this hike, I would go up via the Bell traverse and sleep in Bell cave (after filling up with water for the night and the first few hours of the next morning just before going over Buggers Gulch). Day 2 would then involve getting up on the escarpment and hiking south to the camping spot near Cockade, with a relatively easy and short day 3 back to the car. If opting to do it in reverse, I would (depending on the start time) aim for the Cockade camping spots on day 1, day 2 ascend Cockade and make my way to Twins Cave and on day 3 go down via the Bell Traverse.

Whichever option you go for, enjoy the Berg!

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16 Feb 2021 16:06 #76515 by Joe Welman
Thank you Getapix. That's good to know.

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16 Feb 2021 16:08 #76516 by Joe Welman
Dankie Riaan. Dit help baie!

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18 Feb 2021 21:55 #76528 by intrepid
Hi Joe,

Have a look at an official thread we have going for Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse (I will probably merge this thread into that one). How to link the Bell Traverse with other sections has come up often enough that we have separated this topic from the thread that deals specifically with the Bell Traverse trail itself.

I would agree with ST and Riaang - start by going up to Bell Cave on the first night.

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

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