Bell treverse

10 Feb 2024 17:26 - 10 Feb 2024 17:46 #78886 by Divanhatt
Bell treverse was created by Divanhatt
Hi all, I'll be doing the bell treverse this April with a friend.
It will be our first Hike in the Drakensberg (but we hike in the alps quite often). I have a couple of questions and I really need help.

1- We're quite experienced hikers but not experienced with those tight Ridgelines of this route, any suggestions on how to prepare for this? And if I bring Rope are there clamps to tie the rope to on those spots?

2- I downloaded the GPX for the route from here but none of my devices can access it, where else can I find it and why won't it open? Do I need specific software?

3- which side do you recommend that I start from. And what is the current condition of the route after the rainy season is it safe?

4- If I do the Hike in 4 days and decide to add another highlight, what would you recommend (other than cathedral peak) and is 4 days to much?

5- Do you know of any campgrounds nearby to spend the night before and the night after.

6- Any general recommendations would be appreciated aswell.

Thank you so much, we're very much looking forward to this magnificent hike!
Last edit: 10 Feb 2024 17:46 by Divanhatt.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

10 Feb 2024 17:48 #78887 by matroskinn
Replied by matroskinn on topic Bell treverse
1- You don't really need ropes on the Bell Traverse. If you want to go up Cathedral Peak just start with that and hire a guide who can attach a short rope in one or two places. He'll also save you time with navigating the very last kilometer to get to the peak. After the peak you pay him and send him down while continuing the traverse through Bugger's Gully - my personal favorite in Drakensberg ;) 

2- You don't list what devises you tried opening the .gpx files you downloaded but they all open in OsmAnd app (iPhone/Android).

3- The mountains are incredible from either side for me. 

4- You can add going down Xeni and up Cockade (or vis versa) passes that form a triangle of only about 4km but very challenging. I've done Bell Traverse in 2 days but I was rushing. 

5- Didima Camp is awesome - They have camping grounds that have been fenced off every time I visited the past few years.

6- Stay on the GPS track and don't improvise unless you're with someone experienced in those mountains. Bell traverse trail is well traveled and you should have a relativelly easy time navigating it. If you were going to Mnweni area I'd highly recommend getting a local guide and save yourself a lot of frusteration and time.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

12 Feb 2024 11:29 - 12 Feb 2024 13:12 #78891 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Bell treverse
Hi Divanhatt,

Welcome to VE!!!

1-There are no clamps to tie in on the Bell Traverse that I am aware of. A couple of things to consider when comparing Alp walking to Drakensberg walking. There's basically no signposts in the Berg. Lower down sometimes, but pretty much nothing once you are about 5km's from the camps. It's therefore easy to miss turnoffs.
There are paths, mostly, but they can get overgrown or disappear in sections. Also, there are game paths that can easily be mistaken for a hiking path. Some of them are well worn as people walk on them by mistake, However, much less so on the Bell traverse, except perhaps the section between the inner and outer horn, as well as near the Mitre near Twins cave. How to prepare for exposure? Don't look down and watch where you place your feet is about the best advice I can give you. Keep in mind that this is basically a wilderness area, definitely not as civilized as the Alps.

2-The downloads on this website work fine on all my Garmin devices. Not sure which device you use, but if it's a Garmin it should work. Remember to change your datum to WGS84 for Berg hiking. I can send you my tracks of this route and others in this vicinity as well, just send me a pm. There is also a Drakensberg map you can download on this website, which works really well in combination with the tracks also found here. No special software is needed, just Basecamp and the e-map.

3-Either side works well, it might come down to personal preference. I like going up the Bell Traverse as I prefer the exposure on my right-hand side. Also, hopping over buggers gulch going up, on the northern side, the soil is typically very loose and I don't like sliding down this side if I descend it. Might have something to do with the precipice looming down to the right. Not that I have a fear of heights, but sliding down a loose sidebank is just a tad more dangerous to me than walking down on the southern side where there are rocks in place. Aso sections of loose pebbles and sand underfoot, but I find it more secure than the northern side. I haven't done it for just over a year now so can't comment on the current condition, but it would in all likelihood be worse than when I last did it. Typically the soil should be slightly more compacted after a light rain than if it is dry.

4-Four days round trip I presume? We normally do one day up and one day down, but depending on your fitness level 4 days is more than enough time. You can make your round trip bigger with a four-day timeframe. Not sure about your fitness, but you can easily do the following if you are fit and strong:
Day 1 up the Bell Traverse and then sleeping over in Twins Cave, Easter cave etc. Or even sleep over in Bell cave for a more leisurely approach. Day 2 you can either explore the area or go down south towards Rolands cave near Organ pipes pass. Day 3 then down the Camel and find a tenting spot somewhere on the lower berg and then day 34 a very easy hike down to Cathedral Peak hotel.

5-Shermans cave near the hotel (or Barkers chalet a bit lower) is ur preferred overnight spot. It's not far out, maybe 4km's and you're in the mountains. Shermans is at around 1900m asl so it gives you a bit of elevation making day 2 easier. It's also within a short distance of water. Coming back, find a spot anywhere on the lower berg to tent. Lots of places to choose from.

6-General recommendations? Typically the ridges doesn't have water, so make sure of where you can find water and plan accordingly. It shouldn't be a major problem in April, but if it gets hot and humid and you are out of water it's not much fun. I speak from experience here. Also, don't camp near pass heads at night where possible, due to the security risk. And very much unlike hiking in the Alps - do not leave any gear outside your tent at night - unless you want to donate things like boots, stoves etc. to the local community. Before climbing into our sleeping bags we normally pack up everything and put it in our backpacks when we tent at night, so nothing is left to be seen outside. Maybe a bit over cautious, but we've never had anything stolen this way.

Lastly, if you have the time and don't care about walking very far each day, take your time and smell the roses. Immerse yourself in the berg and enjoy nature. I made the mistake on a previous Fish River hike to do it fast, and afterward I regretted not spending more time in that canyon. I won't make that mistake again, it's quite a far drive down from Gauteng!

Whichever route you choose, enjoy the Berg!!!
Last edit: 12 Feb 2024 13:12 by Riaang.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Powered by Kunena Forum