Drakensberg Grand Traverse

Drakensberg Grand Traverse

The Drakensberg Grand Traverse is a hike along the entire length of the Drakensberg Escarpment. In other words, all along the international border between South Africa and Lesotho. It can either be done in a north to south direction or south to north direction. It can be done in any length of time too. We have refined it down to a standard 14-day hike. The longest day is roughly 22 kilometres and the shortest around 8 kilometres. The average distance per day is roughly 15 kilometres. It starts at the Sentinel Car Park in the Northern Drakensberg and ends at Bushmans Nek in the Southern Drakensberg. It is roughly a distance of 230 kilometres with a total height gain of roughly 8000 metres. Six peaks are also summited which include Mont-Aux-Sources (3282 metres), Cleft Peak (3277 metres), Champagne Castle (3377 metres), Madafi (3450 metres and the highest point in South Africa), Giants Castle (3314 metres) and Thabana-Ntlenyana (3482 metres and the highest point in Southern Africa). Due to the length of the hike encountering a wide range of weather is good. Therefore we aim for the best time of the year to take it on, which is roughly from mid March to the end of May. The weather is then quite stable. Three resupplies are used to help share the carrying load. The most you end up carrying on the entire trip is only for four days. There are ample opportunities for viewing. Some of the peaks you will be climbing and a lot of the walking you will be doing is right on the edge of the escarpment. In addition, those deep and very far off valleys in Lesotho will also be seen, like the Yodlers Cascades. And to top it all, you are way out there in wild country, just the way we like it. It certainly is a thorough physical and mental challenge, but definitely a very big accomplishment when completed successfully. You have to be fit and you have to be use to carrying a backpack.

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Description

Group size: For a Grand Traverse to go ahead we need a minimum of four persons. The maximum is eight persons.

Cost: This depends on a variety of factors, like group size, number of days, how many resupplies, porters, etc.

Date: At the start of the traverse we will get together at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. We normally spend the first night after the hike at a guesthouse in Underberg. This is not compulsory. If you rather want to shoot off home on the day when the hike is done feel free to do so. It is only there to celebrate a bit and to enjoy a bit of comfort before we go our separate ways. This is totally up to you.

The following is included:

  1. GUIDING:  For the duration of the hike by an accredited Mountain Leader (NQF and MDT). All guiding we provide complies with the adventure guiding laws of South Africa.
    •           NQF – National Qualifications Framework.
    •           MDT – Mountain Development and Training Trust.
  2. Your OVERNIGHT FEE for the duration of the hike (13 nights). This would be your hiking permit.
  3. ACCOMMODATION and BREAKFAST at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. We will be going for bungalows which sleeps two persons each with an en suite bathroom. This is for the night before the hike commences.
  4. ACCOMMODATION and DINNER at Sani Mountain Lodge: We will be going for the backpackers lodge. There are hot showers, basic cooking equipment, beds and bedding. This is for the night when we arrive at Sani Mountain Lodge.
  5. TRANSPORT:  All transport related arrangements. By this we mean getting ourselves to the start, getting our vehicles to end as well as your vehicles (where needed).
  6. RESUPPLIES:
    • THE FIRST RESUPPLY AT ORGAN PIPES PASS (day 4).
    • – This covers:
    • The resupply team’s guiding fee. This will be driven and led by an accredited Mountain Leader.
    • Porters and their daily porter fees.
    • Their overnight fee for the duration of the resupply (their hiking permits).
    • Their transport costs to get to and from Cathedral Peak (Organ Pipes Pass is in the Cathedral Peak area).
    • Their catering costs.
    • This resupply is 2 days and 1 night in duration.
    • THE SECOND RESUPPLY AT BANNERMAN PASS (day 7). 
    • – This covers:
    • The resupply team’s guiding fee. This will be driven and led by an accredited Mountain Leader.
    • Porters and their daily porter fees.
    • Their overnight fee for the duration of the resupply (their hiking permits).
    • Their transport costs to get to and from Giants Castle (Bannerman Pass is in the Giants Castle area).
    • Their catering costs.
    • This resupply is 2 days and 1 night in duration.
    • THE THIRD RESUPPLY AT SANI MOUNTAIN LODGE (day 11).
    • – This covers:
    • A vehicle, trailer and driver up Sani Pass.
    • NoteThe resupply teams are there to bring you clean clothing, fresh food and take away your rubbish. We cannot carry gear for 14 days (in case you did not know).
  7. ACCOMMODATION and DINNER at a guesthouse in Underberg for the night when the hike is done.
    • NoteIt is up to you to decide if you want this to be included or not.
  8. GRAND TRAVERSE / ITCHYFEET SA goody bag.  You will have to wait and see what this is.
  9. ARRANGEMENTS.

In short, the ROUTE looks like this:

  • Arrive at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.
  • Day 1 – Sentinel Car Park to Ifidi Buttress area (distance, 17km / height gain, 1260m). Mont-Aux-Sources summit day.
  • Day 2 – Ifidi Buttress area to the source of the Orange River (distance, 16.5km / height gain 622m).
  • Day 3 – Source of the Orange River to Mlambonja Pass area (distance, 12.2km / height gain, 566m).
  • Day 4 – Mlambonja Pass area to Organ Pipes Pass. The first resupply is here (distance, 12.6km / height gain, 728m). Cleft Peak summit day.
  • Day 5 – Organ Pipes Pass to Didima Cave area (distance, 15.2km, height gain, 982m). Champagne Castle summit day.
  • Day 6 – Didima Cave area to Leslies Pass (distance, 17.3km / height gain, 517m).
  • Day 7 – Leslies Pass to Bannerman Pass. The second resupply is here (distance, 16km / height gain, 727m). Mafadi summit day.
  • Day 8 – Bannerman Pass to the Lotheni area (distance, 15.9km / height gain, 847m). Giants Castle summit day.
  • Day 9 – Lotheni area to the foot of Thabana Ntlenyana (distance, 18.7km / height gain, 755m).
  • Day 10 – Foot of Thabana Ntlenyana to Sani Mountain Lodge area (distance, 16.8km / height gain, 880m). Thabana Ntlenyana summit day.
  • Day 11 – Hike to Sani Mountain Lodge. The third resupply is here (distance, 6.5km / height gain, 110m).
  • Day 12 – Sani Mountain Lodge to Mashai Pass (distance, 20.5km / height gain, 960m).
  • Day 13 – Mashai Pass to Thomathu Pass (distance, 16.8km / height gain, 730m).
  • Day 14 – Thomathu Pass to Bushmans Nek (distance, 11km / height gain, 270m).

Remember this is a self-catered hike. We always encourage self-catering because (1) it is more cost effective and (2) practically it makes a lot more sense.

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