Sentinel Car Park to Cathedral Peak - Northern Berg Escarpment Traverse

17 Feb 2012 14:31 #53066 by ccjoubert
The maps can be bought from MountainMailOrder

Finishing this hike with the Bell Traverse would be very nice. You can sleep in caves most nights on this hike
Day 1 : Ifidi Cave
Day 2 : Fangs Pass
Day 3 : Mponjwane Cave
Day 4 : Twins Cave
Day 5 : Cathedral Peak Hotel/Campsite

Don't miss summit of cathedral peak, if you do the bell traverse!!

Navigation on this part is not very difficult, you just stay next to the escarpment, this would also give you the best views
For the bell traverse, I think there are a few threads on this forum which gives good info.

Good luck, and Enjoy

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17 Feb 2012 15:44 #53067 by tiska
Just to confirm all the replies above.....

This is a great hike and you'll be fine. I did hte hike (in reverse) with a school friend age 14 or 15 with lousy maps and no GPS. I like to remember it as an adventure but it was quite very do-able.

There are a few things to bear in mind:
1) as Ghaznavid pointed out - don't camp near the falls if you can help it - Ifidi cave (as ccjoubert notes) is the answer on day 1
2) if it is really, really misty it can be awkward to make progress. Best to wait for the mist to clear which means walking early in summer or waiting till the rainy weather system has pushed through
3) there are no paths most of the way on the escarpment apart from near Fangs to top of Mnweni cut-back (day 3 as per CCJoubert schedule) and on the first and last days. Along the escarpment you just choose the best route by sight which is part of the fun and also the reason the mist can be a hassle.
4) The most difficult part route finding wise will be coming off the escarpment to C Peak if you choose the Twins/Bell Traverse. But it is such a nice route that you really ought to go for it.
5) Depending on what season you do the route in, it is always worth walking with a bit of water (say a litre each). There are times on the walk when you will go for a couple of hours or so without seeing a water source.
Good luck

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17 Feb 2012 23:28 #53068 by ulisan
Many thanks for all the replies!
I read now through some security threads! Really good to know.
And good to hear, that a tour guide is not a must. Nevertheless, I may need to update my equipment with a GPS, although I really like the use of map and compass (especially in cases when batteries have run out and solar power is not available).

So far, the planning looks really like ccjoubert suggested:
Day 1: Khubedu Valey, Ifidi Cave
Day 2: Fangs pass, Rwanqa Cave
Day 3: Hanging Valleys, Escarpment, Mponjwane Cave
Day 4: Rockeries pass, Escarpment, Twins Cave
Day 5: Cathedral Peak Hotel campsite

Not sure where the bell traverse exactly is, but I will read through the threads! And as it sounds so promising, we presumable will plan for it! Does the bell traverse require another day or can it be included in the five days?

Hike start will be in the beginning of April - hopefully with a bit less rain. As I have seen there will be the GT event at the same time ...

Thanks for the tip with the drinking water. I forgot to ask how frequent water sources are.

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18 Feb 2012 12:21 - 18 Feb 2012 12:23 #53069 by tiska
The easy way back to C Peak hotel is straight down Mlamnonje Pass. The alternative is to take the ridge of mountains that runs 90 degrees to the escarpment and includes the following: Twins, Mitre, Chessmen, Inner & Outer Horns, Bell, Cathedral Peak and the ridge which continues ENE from there. This is the Twins-Bell traverse. Access to the Bell traverse is down Mlambonje Pass for a few hundred metres and then left over a neck down to Twins Cave. There is a path along the entire traverse but it is not that well defined in places. The path drops down from Twins Cave and then contours along the Mnweni side of the string of mountains below the Mitre, Chessmen etc. The path goes over to the Cathedral Peak side later on and then over neck on the side of Cathedral Peak. The reason the route is nice to do is that it gives great views over two major regions of the Berg (Cathedral Peak area and Mnweni) and views back on to the escarpment.

A detail on your proposed Day two stopover: Rwanqa cave is quite hard to get in to - it involves scrambling up 3 or 4 metres of quite steep rock. As a result it is not used much. Fangs Cave or Mbundini Cave is better. Fangs cave is down Fangs Pass for a few hundred metres and then a right turn up a gully which has a distinctive rock arch near the top. The whole cut-back in the escarpment near Fangs is beautiful and also therefore worth the overnight stop.
Last edit: 18 Feb 2012 12:23 by tiska.

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19 Feb 2012 19:46 #53074 by RobD
For good accommodation and some transport options to the beginning of the hike call the Amphitheatre Backpackers +27364386675. They are on the Baz Bus route and have their own bus that takes tours to the Sentinel Car Park.

I have had some really strange experiences with a compass on the top of the 'Berg and can only think that the rock can interfere with the magnetic properties, so just be sure you have enough of an idea of your direction that you will know when the compass is lying!

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19 Feb 2012 22:10 #53075 by ulisan
@ mnt_tiska: Thanks for the detailed description. The Bell traverse sounds very interesting. I think, if the weather is not too bad we will go for it. Great views are always worth

@ RobD: So far we planned to stay the first night at Amphi Backpackers. They have offered us a transport to the Sentinel Car Park.
The next week I am going to buy a GPS. Then compass will be the backup.
Maybe the the area has magnetic minerals? Good to know ...

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20 Feb 2012 09:20 #53077 by tiska
One more thing about the caves. Most of them are 1 or 2 km from water. So I usually take a 10L ortlieb sack along. The water is normally in small pools or little streams running into Lesotho. So, for example, for Mponjwane Cave, you'd need to fetch water in the big basin at the bottom of the long slope leading up to Mponjwane cave. It takes 30 minutes or so to walk up the slope.

In addition to the GPS, get some GPS way points for the caves and the top of the passes along the way. I walked the Berg for 20 years before having a GPS and it took about that long to find all the caves. With GPS it can still be tricky on steep terrain, but it is a whole lot easier than map and compass alone.

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20 Feb 2012 18:20 - 20 Feb 2012 18:21 #53081 by intrepid
Welcome to the forum ulisan. We hope you have great time here. Please let us know afterwards how the hike went, we'd love to know.

I see you've been adequately advised already. I can only confirm what others have said.

- I have heard of the compass issue before, something in the Berg rock interferes with it. Before the days of GPSes I simply navigated by sight, using the older maps. This is a critical skill you will need: being able to interpret the map from what you see. This of course does pose problems when it is misty with 30m visibility and no GPS! The GPS will help you walk in the mist (get the tracks from the download sections), locate caves which are not easy to find, and to verify peaks and passes. But it is no substitute for good mountain sense and navigation skills.

- Agree, do not go for Rwanqa Cave (in addition to the access problem it is too far down the pass, and it is large but has very little sleeping room). Fangs Cave is brilliant (a personal favourite) but can be hard to find. If you are only 2 people, Rat Hole Cave is easier to find, but is very cramped.

- Bell Traverse is an excellent route, provided you can deal with the exposed bits. You can do it in a day from Twins Cave and all the way down to the hotel but that can be pretty long. Give yourself an extra day if you can afford it.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 20 Feb 2012 18:21 by intrepid.

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07 Jun 2012 10:32 #54231 by Davidtrickey

I am planning to do the northern traverse from the 9th – 13th of July. We are trying to catch some snow :)

The planned route is as follows:

Day 1 Sentinel Car Park – Ifidi Cave
Day 2 Ifidi – Fangs Cave
Day 3 Fangs – Mponjwane Cave
Day 4 Mponjwane – Easter Cave
Day 5 Easter – Cathedral Peak Hotel

I have two questions and if you have any other advice as I am a relative novice to the Berg.

Are the caves listed safe at the moment from the light fingered locals and is it worth sleeping in caves?
As in are the benefits of going light and sleeping in caves more beneficial than the comparative warmth and flexibility of a tent? As we have tents and have just completed a three day route from Cathedral Peak via organ pipes and down Cocade.

Any other feedback will be great.

I have the GPS coordinates for the caves and we are going to bring gear for -15 degrees min.


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07 Jun 2012 15:43 #54233 by ghaznavid
Hi Dave, welcome to the VE family - the friendliest forum on the net :thumbsup:

I posted a full write up on a grand traverse, it was south to north, but it may have some useful tips under the last few days. You can read it on this thread .

Basothos in the north are usually not too bad, and shouldn't be too close to the escarpment edge any way.

As for caves in winter, insert frozen smilie here :) Its a risk to assume that no one else will be in a cave, you will find the cave (even with a gps) and especially with snow around, that the inside of the cave will be dry enough for use. There are really good writeups on caves on this forum and at, they also talk about water near the caves etc. Personally I prefer caves in every aspect to tents, but (especially since your days aren't too long) I would always recommend taking a tent. You are always welcome to mock me afterward about how you never used the tent, rather that than reading a tragic story of hypothermia...

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