Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse

22 Feb 2021 19:03 #76546 by Smurfatefrog

Nicolaas wrote: When coming down Mlambonja, I have struggled to get onto the contour path (red line on the above map) on a previous instance. Quite tall grass and difficult to find. Path goes straight out the valley against the steep slope on the true right. Maybe just my experience :S ? A frustrating few minutes, I guess wont be a problem when going up. Any advice? I know it is around the point where you cross quite a big river cascade across a large flat rock in the river

That path can be tough to find, I've battled going up and down!
The best option is to get to the "big tree" at the campsite and find the path from there
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23 Feb 2021 08:55 #76547 by Badger
Link to instructions and an exe that creates a nice topo drakensberg map in Basecamp

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23 Feb 2021 11:41 #76550 by Riaang
Nicolaas, there is a path going up the right, but the trick is to find the start of it, else you are in for a nice bit of bushwacking. Been there, done that a few times myself. The easiest way I know to find the turnoff to the right onto the ridge, is to basically walk down the riverbed until you get to the biggest tree in the riverbed. So, if you come down Mlambonja pas, you will eventually get to the point where the valley opens up a bit, and here you will have to cross a wide open stream/rocky section. I normally stop here for a break after finishing the pass. This spot, incidentally, is also where you need to exit the valley if you want to do the One Tree Hill route back to the hotel.

However, if you insist on going down via the zig-zags, then cross the stream and continue roughly 500m downstream till you get to the largest tree on the right-hand side (true right) of the stream. You will know you are at the correct tree when you see a couple of cleared sleeping spaces underneath the tree. I think there are 2 under the tree itself, and then one in close proximity but closer towards the river. From this spot you will notice a path that will either take you back up the pass, or it splits off to the left to get up to the contour path. It's still steep but will involve less bushwhacking than just trying to find your way up the ridge.

Give the One Tree Hill route a try, you might be pleasantly surprised. I've done it before, but quite a while back, but then last Nov I decided (after going down the Xeni Zig-zags for the umpteenth time) to take my friends down via 1TreeHill, and they all agreed it was a nice change. The path is typically shaded in the afternoon, it is definitely less overgrown (for the most part), there are plenty of water around, and you gradually descend until the last part where the drop is steep down to the river. The nice thing is that the final stretch back to the hotel is shorter than the Zeni alternative, so you don't feel like a baked potato by the time you arrive back at the hotel.

Anyway, enjoy the mountains!!!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Nicolaas

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01 Mar 2021 09:41 #76571 by Smurfatefrog
We did the Bell traverse on Saturday, some updates.

- The whole area is gushing with water, if you lose a path just listen for running water and chances are that is the path
- Loads of water coming off Cathedral Peak itself
- Buggers gully is not too bad at all, surprisingly
- Bell cave is just a big puddle
- Bell annex is wet with lots of drips
- There are 3 washaways along the route, but nothing dangerous
- The scramble sections are the same as always, just wet
- Twins cave is basically a poo puddle. Animals droppings and the whole cave is wet except for the western walled sleeping area which can sleep about 5. We still got wet in here from the mist though
- Twins annex is dry. This would've been the better choice
- Mlambonja river near the hotel is way too full to cross, use the golf course route
- Xeni and Tseke river crossings that you would use if coming down the Neptunes Pools (zig zag) route are quite full and need to be carefully negotiated. We crossed the Xeni 200m upstream of the path, and Tseke about 50m downstream

Two washaways visible here, larger one behind the hikers

Bell cave

Twins cave

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