The Bell Traverse

18 Apr 2019 12:15 #74908 by MarleyB
Replied by MarleyB on topic The Bell Traverse
Thanks so much. We will definitely take this into consideration. 

Also thanks for the heads up regarding the Umlambonja river.

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15 May 2019 12:44 - 15 May 2019 16:04 #75031 by Dr1kus
Replied by Dr1kus on topic The Bell Traverse
Good day everyone. I want to do the Bell Traverse next month and need some info on the hike please. Where does it start and end? Are there GPS log of the route available? 

Thank you 






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Last edit: 15 May 2019 16:04 by JonWells.

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15 May 2019 15:11 #75032 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic The Bell Traverse
Hi Dr1kus,

Welcome on VE.

The Bell Traverse links Cathedral peak hotel with the escarpment,coming in at Twins Cave on Mlambonja pass. You can combine it with a number of other passes, all options will typically be determined by the amount of time and fitness levels you possess. I've done it both ways, can't say any direction was substantially easier or more difficult than the other.

If you are fit and only have a weekend available, you can start Sat morning early at CPH, go up through Orange Peel gap, then go over Buggers Gulch and make for Twins cave for the night. NB": There are no water on this route. Coming from below your last water spot will be at the waterfall (1900m ASL) just after Shermans cave. You will then also have to o up to the escarpment to get water on top for the night - quite a mission after your trek for the day. Anyway, has to be done if you want water...

Sunday you can come down via Mlambonja Pass as the most direct route back to the hotel.

A nice(er) variation could be to arrive Friday night, do a short hike up to say Ribbon falls cave (just below 1900m ASL), Sat hike up via the Camel, go North across the escarpment to Twins Cave and then Sun down via the Bell traverse. Note - Sat will be a long and tough day. After your ascent to the escarpment you still have to go over Cleft Peak and Mahout/Elephant. You can easily stretch this over a more relaxing 3 full day hike like we did recently. In reverse you could stay in Shermans cave on Friday night, then go up via the Bell traverse and come down via the Camel or Organ Pipes pass

You can download the tracks for the Bell traverse and other connecting passes and routes on this website in the downloads section.

Couple of things to take note of on the Bell traverse:
 - The route contains no or very little water as you will be walking on ridges most of the way. Plenty water on the escarpment
 - The route contains sections where the exposure can be a bit ....... daunting. On our recent Bell traverse trip my wife did her first unassisted walk into and out of Rolands cave. SERIOUS exposure risks on this approach (if you fall here you are dead, simple as that). She found the exposure on the Bell Traverse worse than the approach to Rolands cave. This was probably due to the prolonged exposure on the Bell Traverse, vs the very short approach to Rolands cave, although there is this one dodgy section under the chessmen.
 - In thick mist (like we had) you do want to be sure of the route, as the switchback between the inner and outer horns could be missed if you don't pay attention.

I've always enjoyed this route - it is very scenic with spectacular views and I don't have issues with heights, but if you have then I'm not sure this route is for you. There are many other routes to get you to the top of the escarpment in this area with less exposure risk but no less dramatic scenery.

Either way, enjoy!!!
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25 Jun 2019 22:06 #75113 by zwakefield
Replied by zwakefield on topic The Bell Traverse
Hi all, I just wanted to follow up to say thank you for the information for our Bell Traverse hike over Easter. It was incredibly useful and all paid off as we had a very successful three-day hike. My boyfriend pulled together this photo blog of our trip if it might be useful or of interest to anyone:  www.archieleeming.com/drakensberg/ Thanks again, this is the most amazing resource! 
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06 Aug 2019 09:01 #75211 by swartpeet
Replied by swartpeet on topic The Bell Traverse
Hi Guys, I'm also a noob on the forum and have a few questions.

I am planning to hike the bell traverse, first week in December. We will probably be a group of 9, mostly inexperienced hikers with a couple that has hike Cathedral peak and Mafadi in the past. 

The planned route is, arrive Friday and spent the night in Shermans Cave. 
Saturday hike, with brunch beneath Cathedral peak, and then the fittest will summit CP without backpack with the rest waiting at the rest point. We then continue to Twins Cave to spend the night there. 
Sunday morning hike back from Twins Cave to CPH (Hoping to reach it within 7/8 hours)

Firstly, does my time frame seem doable for inexperienced hikers? 
I have heard the weather will be unpredictable that time of year, should this scare me away or should we just be careful?
What should I be more afraid of, going up/down Buggers Gully or the exposure on the Traverse? 
@Riaang, at the moment I only have the map supplied by Didima, (also a GPS), but I am not familiar with the different pass names (Camel or Organ Pipe etc) Can you maybe indicate them on a map for me? See my map below
Also, if we reach BG and see that we are not up for the task, is there another way down than turning back to range Peel Gap?

Thanks in advance. 

Riaang wrote: Hi Dr1kus,

Welcome on VE.

The Bell Traverse links Cathedral peak hotel with the escarpment,coming in at Twins Cave on Mlambonja pass. You can combine it with a number of other passes, all options will typically be determined by the amount of time and fitness levels you possess. I've done it both ways, can't say any direction was substantially easier or more difficult than the other.

If you are fit and only have a weekend available, you can start Sat morning early at CPH, go up through Orange Peel gap, then go over Buggers Gulch and make for Twins cave for the night. NB": There are no water on this route. Coming from below your last water spot will be at the waterfall (1900m ASL) just after Shermans cave. You will then also have to o up to the escarpment to get water on top for the night - quite a mission after your trek for the day. Anyway, has to be done if you want water...

Sunday you can come down via Mlambonja Pass as the most direct route back to the hotel.

A nice(er) variation could be to arrive Friday night, do a short hike up to say Ribbon falls cave (just below 1900m ASL), Sat hike up via the Camel, go North across the escarpment to Twins Cave and then Sun down via the Bell traverse. Note - Sat will be a long and tough day. After your ascent to the escarpment you still have to go over Cleft Peak and Mahout/Elephant. You can easily stretch this over a more relaxing 3 full day hike like we did recently. In reverse you could stay in Shermans cave on Friday night, then go up via the Bell traverse and come down via the Camel or Organ Pipes pass

You can download the tracks for the Bell traverse and other connecting passes and routes on this website in the downloads section.

Couple of things to take note of on the Bell traverse:
 - The route contains no or very little water as you will be walking on ridges most of the way. Plenty water on the escarpment
 - The route contains sections where the exposure can be a bit ....... daunting. On our recent Bell traverse trip my wife did her first unassisted walk into and out of Rolands cave. SERIOUS exposure risks on this approach (if you fall here you are dead, simple as that). She found the exposure on the Bell Traverse worse than the approach to Rolands cave. This was probably due to the prolonged exposure on the Bell Traverse, vs the very short approach to Rolands cave, although there is this one dodgy section under the chessmen.
 - In thick mist (like we had) you do want to be sure of the route, as the switchback between the inner and outer horns could be missed if you don't pay attention.

I've always enjoyed this route - it is very scenic with spectacular views and I don't have issues with heights, but if you have then I'm not sure this route is for you. There are many other routes to get you to the top of the escarpment in this area with less exposure risk but no less dramatic scenery.

Either way, enjoy!!!

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12 Aug 2019 10:31 #75239 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic The Bell Traverse
Hi Swartpeet,

The weather during December is generally hot and rainy, with lots of mist covering the escarpment. Not to say it will be like this every day, but statistically speaking the probability for having rain and mist is high. The rain usually occurs just as in the Highveld in the afternoon. Heat buildup during the day with nice thunderstorms during the afternoon. This I can handle, but walking in mist means no views, which is one of the reasons I come to the Berg for.

Your timelines seems fair. I'vetaken novice hikers on this route before, also sleeping over at Shermans cave so then you should definitely make it to Twins cave before nightfall. As I've written in the section you pasted, take note of the lack of water on the Bell Traverse. If you don't take enough water along (you will in all likelihood find water coming off Cathedral Peak itself, so top up on your final approach just before Buggers Gulch) then remember to add at least 2 more hours to your day as you would need to go to the top of Mlambonja Pass and then down on the other side to fill up with water. I got sort of lost the one time (first time I did the return leg at night) so take note of the lie of the land as you drop down to the river. Thinks appear differently at night.

The side of Buggers Gulch that is more challenging for me is the side facing CPH. Not much to hold onto during the first 10m or so till you get to the grasses. The other side (Bell cave side) is also steep and loose but slightly more stable. If you don't go over Buggers Gulch you have to return via Orange Peel Gap, but then thereafter you have choices as you are on the contour path level, i.e. you can go back to CPH via another route like down one tree hill (longer route).

There are some dodgy exposure sections that could be even more intimidating in rain as the wet rock would be slippery. Check if anyone in your group has a fear of heights or exposure issues as this could become problematic. In general it's not that bad, but there is this one section that is definitely dangerous if you get it wrong, there around the chessmen area. Other than that, just make sure you don't loose concentration and you should be fine.

Send me a pm and I'll send you a track of this circle route. I wouldn't want to do this route for the first time route in thick mist/rain without a gps as there is one tricky section between the two horns where you could get off track and really get lost if you continue straight rather than turn left and up, but the coordinates takes care of that. 

It's a very scenic route and as you switch in and out of the different sections you are rewarded with stunning views North and South.

Enjoy!!!
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12 Aug 2019 10:36 #75240 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic The Bell Traverse
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12 Aug 2019 10:40 #75241 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic The Bell Traverse
The routes in question is marked at the bottom of your map.

May I suggest you buy a map at the shop at Didima, think it is map nr. 2. It will give you much more detail which should assist you in discovering many more awesome routes.

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12 Aug 2019 10:51 #75242 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic The Bell Traverse

Riaang wrote: remember to add at least 2 more hours to your day as you would need to go to the top of Mlambonja Pass and then down on the other side to fill up with water.


I find it a lot easier to just drop down about 100m to the spring down Twins Pass, which should be very reliable in December

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07 Sep 2019 15:11 #75300 by ethanb
Replied by ethanb on topic The Bell Traverse
Hello! I am currently planning a Drakensberg trip for early October. As of right now I am looking to do the Bell Traverse route beginning at Cathedral hotel and ending at Mikes Pass over 3 days. How's the weather at this time? However, I am having trouble finding any information on how and where to pick up permits and maps for any of the Drakensburg hikes. Does anyone have a good itinerary and any tips on getting to and from the route from Durban via public transport.  

I would also appreciate any recommendations or advice on the Bells Traverse or another 3 day hike for someone who enjoys a good grueling hike and is new to the area.

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