Itineraries for doing the Bell Traverse

16 Mar 2017 16:01 - 17 Mar 2017 08:00 #71164 by JonWells
Hi Petroengel

We went up that route in May 2015 (

Looking at our track, our total time to the Old Fire Lookout was about 4 hrs. Bear in mind we didnt do it one push though. Roughly 10km and 900m gain.
Last edit: 17 Mar 2017 08:00 by JonWells.
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09 Sep 2017 06:20 #72105 by Carelkat
Hi all. We plan to hike the traverse during the long weekend in Sept. Are there any recent reports of the route? Water availability?

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28 Sep 2017 08:06 #72198 by HenkSeevinck
Hey VE,

Does anybody have some GPS Tracks or Data of the Bell Traverse? I've read some of the forum post and watched some Youtube videos of the traverse, I found that some of those ledges are really dodgy and was wandering if the majority of people doing the traverse does it while being roped-up or without ropes?



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28 Sep 2017 08:56 - 28 Sep 2017 09:02 #72199 by Andreas
Hi Henk.

We were a group of 7 that did the bell traverse (direction from Twins cave to Cathedral peak hotel) in good weather over December last year and didn't have a need for ropes. Most of the group were comfortable with the exposure, think it was only one person in group with a fear of heights that calmly followed the rest (only found out later in the day).

Others could comment if it's a bit rainy and the need for ropes.

If you're also making use of Rolands cave for the first time and have people that don't like the heights so much I would suggest to bring a rope. Can't remember exact distance but 10m rope is too short, 15m long enough for the 2 tie down points.

Enjoy, it's an amazing route and will definitely be doing it again!

And there is a gpx file under Downloads -> Drakensberg -> Drakensberg Passes -> Bell Twins Traverse GPS Data Jun 2016
Last edit: 28 Sep 2017 09:02 by Andreas.

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28 Sep 2017 11:01 #72200 by timoross
We were a group of 15 and no ropes. There were two exposed ledges. We were fine.

Some people still don't sleep that well, but they're fine.

I think the most dangerous part is getting hit by rocks while ascending/descending buggers gully, especially if you're with a big group. In the alps you would be required to wear a helmet for that section. Also it could be a bit scarier if the exposed areas are wet.

I don't think you really need a GPS, the two parts that are a bit confusing, the GPS probably won't work too well anyway. I think the one is at the outer or inner horn, where a fake path exists along the contour, from people missing the turn. Its just after hte point that the valley switches from being on your left, to being on your right (while ascending). If the path stops you've missed the real path. The real path climbs up, about 20 metres back. Then the second part, which might be confusing, at the end of a long day, and being quite tired, in my opinion is just after starting the ascent to Twins cave, near the top the path is a bit unclear, but highly unlikely that you wouldn't find the way.

If you're descending the only tricky part is finding the top of the pass and not missing the turn to twins cave. If you miss the turn you'll land up descending down Mlambanjo.

We hiked Cathedral peak hotel to the plateau above Sherman's Cave -> River at top of Mlambonja Pass -> Top Tseketseke -> Cathedral peak hotel

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14 Mar 2019 16:20 #74794 by zwakefield
Hi all, I'm new to this forum and planning my first multi-day hike in the Drakensberg over Easter with a small group. Our plan is to start early on Day 1 from Cathedral Peak Hotel, ascend via Shermans Cave and Orange Peel Gap, hopefully summit Cathedral Peak and camp somewhere near to the base of the summit/Bugger's Gulley. Day 2, will be Bell's Traverse to Twin's Cave, hopefully pushing on to camp somewhere near the peak of Cockade Pass that night. Day 3, descend via Cockade Pass and return to the hotel.
I've read a lot of the comments on this thread, which have been really useful, apologies if this has all been asked & answered before but I just have a couple of questions:
1. Does this sound like a doable itinerary? I guess we can always exit via Mlabonja Pass if necessary?
2. Is it easy enough to find Bell's cave and the start of the traverse from Cathedral's peak/Bugger's gulley? I've found the instructions quite vague on this point.
3. I haven't been able to find any GPS routes for the route from Twin's Cave to Cockade Pass, is this easy enough to find?
4. Does camping at the top of Cockade Pass for the 2nd night make sense?
5. Is the descent and return to the hotel from Cockade Pass easy enough?
Really appreciate the help in advance! 

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14 Mar 2019 16:50 #74795 by Smurfatefrog
Welcome Zoe

That all sounds very possible, places are easy enough to find and tracks are available.

However, what passes have you done previously in the berg?
The Bell traverse can be exposed and terrify some people, and Cockade doesn't really have a path and is bushy at the base, so just making sure you know what you're getting yourself and team in for

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15 Mar 2019 00:55 - 15 Mar 2019 00:57 #74798 by intrepid
Hi Zoë and welcome to VE.

1. As a standard response I'd say  it sounds ambitious to add on Cockade Pass as a 3-dayer, if this is your first multi-day in the Berg. Your fitness and endurance will have to be good, and on top of it you are navigating new terrain. There is lots of room for the days to become long and tiring. For some groups it may be achievable even if they are new to the Berg, but I'm not sure what level your group is at. For the average hiker I think its much better just to camp at the base of Cathedral Peak or at Bell Cave on Day 1. Take the morning of Day 2 to climb Cathedral Peak and then do the 4-5 odd hours from Bell Cave to Twins Cave and spend the night there. The scenery is great, try not to rush it. You can visit the escarpment in the afternoon. On Day 3 walk out via Mlambonja Pass.

2. You can spot Bell Cave from the neck between Cathedral Peak and the gendarme (ie the top of Bugger Gully/Gulch), and even see some of the trail leading up to the cave. From the top of the gully you descend a bit and exit right (if you are facing down) onto the trail from where it will take you right to the cave. I will try and dig up some photos at a later point. These will probably be posted on the main Bell Traverse thread .

3. You can use the GPS track for the Grand Traverse which is available in the Downloads, it will give you an idea. Please also see the Mlambonja Pass - Organ Pipes Pass link-up & escarpment traverse thread and the  Elephant Gully thread for details on this section of the escarpment.

4. This can easily become a long day depending on your group.

5. What smurf said regarding Cockade. I've walked out from there at an average pace, as have others, so it is do-able.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 15 Mar 2019 00:57 by intrepid. Reason: typo

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15 Mar 2019 11:25 - 15 Mar 2019 11:25 #74799 by Riaang
Agreed with above answers. 

Couple of quick pointers:
  1. Do you know the area around Cathedral peak itself? There is not much flat terrain available, you might have to look around a bit for a nice tenting spot.
  2. Also, water might be an issue, so once through orange peel gap, as you approach Cathedral peak and starts up the steep section check out water availability. There is usually a bit to be found here, but generally nothing at the base of Cathedral Peak itself. There is also no water on the rest of the Bell traverse, you will only find water on top of the escarpment so make sure you take enough on the morning of day 2.
  3. Bell cave is on the trail as you go over Buggers Gulch (really steep and loose section) so virtually impossible to miss. 
  4. There is this one section on the trail where the path is vague, round about the Outer Horn. Kerns mark the spot but easy to go wrong here. Helpful to have a GPS track here.
  5. Cockade is definitely slower than Mlambonja pass. It has no path and for large parts you will be boulder hopping (higher up) and fighting through vegetation (lower down). In the wet this is definitely less fun.
All in all doable as a 3 day pass (or a 2 day trip if you are fit), but if you are unfit, not used to the Berg or its terrain then it might be a good idea to make your trip longer or rather descend faster and easier via Mlambonja pass.

Last edit: 15 Mar 2019 11:25 by Riaang.

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19 Mar 2019 15:24 #74820 by zwakefield
Thanks very much Riaang, Intrepid and smurf - really helpful replies! As a group we are pretty fit and have done a few multi-day hikes around the Cape Town/Cederberg area but, as you all said, we are new to the Berg so we'll take your advice and plan on descending Mlambonja Pass instead. Are there any spots to pitch a tent around Twins Cave/the Mlambonja buttress? And is it easy enough to find the route down Mlambonja? I've plugged the Bell Traverse route into my Gaia app but don't think there are any downloads for Mlambonja. Thanks again for all the help, we are really looking forward to it! 

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