The Grand Traverse
The Grand Traverse is a world famous hike that traverses the whole of the Drakensberg range from Sentinel Peak in the Northern Drakensberg, to Bushmens Nek in the Southern Drakensberg. It is 220km long and takes 14 days to complete. You are self-sufficient, carrying all equipment and food through the high berg, at times entering the remote valleys of Lesotho. Days are spent walking along the ridges of the escarpment edge. Above Vulture Colonies, with views of 1000m free standing peaks, and never ending valleys that drop down into the Little Berg. There are times we are above the clouds, with South Africa hidden by a white carpet, and blue African sky above. The hike is physically demanding, yet it is the feeling of solitude that requires you to bring your spirit.
The terrain is an alpine environment, where ridges and valleys are crossed daily, and altitude change varies accordingly. Distances covered each day are between 12 to 20km, depending on the group, and weather conditions. The Northern part consists of steep ascents and descents over high mountain ridges that are often over 3200m high. The average altitude is 3000m, Lesotho’s known as the highest country in the world, due the fact that it has the highest low point. It is not about the altitude, more the distance and remoteness. The Drakensberg is not very high compared to other mountains around the world, it is long and wild.
Day 1: We start at Sentinel Car Park (2500m). Access to the car park is via a 12km dirt road and shuttles to the car park need to be arranged. (See notes). Shuttles from Buhmens Nek at the end are also required. Thanks to this road we only change altitude of 600m to gain access to High Berg, and the Lesotho highlands. Two chain ladders 22m and 12m, also make the day less steep, and provide a feeling of exposure. After lunch at the Tugela Falls, we cross a ridge into the Kubedu valley, to camp the first night listening to the river running gentle next to us under star lit skies.
Day 2: Up a river valley and steep ridge to gain the escarpment edge by Mbundini Abbey. Past Fangs and Rwanga Passes. To camp below Pins Pass.
Day 3: Around the Mnweni Cut Back, with awesome views of the Pins, Pinnacles and other peaks of the Mnweni Tribal Area. We camp below Rockeries Pass and the majestic Mponjwane. (Clients wanting to make the steep ascent to Mponjwane Cave, can overnight in the cave.)
Day 4: A gentle up hill, via the source of the Orange River, to have brunch above a Vulture Colony with hundreds of Cape Vultures soaring around us. Around the North and South Peaks of the Saddle, and over a ridge into the Kaokaostan Valley to camp below Xeni Pass.
Day 5: An incredible day that holds the essence of the berg experience in terms of views. We walk next Elephant Peak, with awe-inspiring views of the Plume, Cockades, and Cathedral Peak.
Day 6: Up a steep ridge around the Didima Buttress and Domes to camp in the valley below Ships Prow.
Day 7: We enter into the Monks Cowl conservation area, past Old Woman Grinding Corn, The Ape, Injasuti Buttresses and Triplets, into the Injasuti Area. Mafadi Peak the highest peak in South Africa (3450m) is where we have lunch. A gradual descent into a valley, up a ridge past Popple Peak and Judges Pass, to Bannermans Pass, where we are resupplied and camp. (The cost for the resupply will depend on the size of the group).
Day 8: Up over past Bannermans Face to Lanlalbelile Pass. Past the Carbineers Cross to the escarpment ridge ,past the Bond, Potterilll and Mount Dumford. Down to a valley and over a ridge to camp by the famous Giants Castle.
Day 9:Typical of the Southern Berg, the valleys begin to get longer, and the ridges more gradual, as we pass Lotheni, The Tent, and Redi Peaks. We camp in the Mohlesi River valley, to prepare for the climb to Thabana Ntlenyana.
Day 10: A long gradual climb brings us onto the highest peak in Southern Africa. Thabana Ntlenyana (3482m). Down to the Sehonghong River and over a ridge to camp by the Manguang River
Day 11: Over a ridge the Sani River Valley. A stop for lunch at the famous Sani Top Lodge above Sani Pass is very tempting, yet is does take away the feeling of the Wilderness, and is recommended to bypass. Past Hodgsons Peak to camp in the Pitsaneng Valley.
Day 12: Along long river valleys making our way past Sandleni Buttress, Rhino and Wilsons Peaks, to camp by the Leqooa River.
Day 13: The last steep climb to Thamathu (Boritsa) ridge, down into the Thamathu river valley to Thamathu Pass. A three km walk to Thamathu Cave allows us to spend the last night without having to pitch tents.
Day 14: A long gradual descent to the Bushmens Nek border post. Shuttles from the border post need to be arranged to the destination of choice.
Prices per person decrease the more people go on the hike as follows: A minimim of 4 people. Between 4 and eight people is R11 200 each and between 9 and 12 people is R9 800 each. The cost of resupply will be advised once the total number of people going on the hike is known.
- Basic first aid kit
- Food, gas, pots and cutlery hire included. (Three mountain meals a day.)
- Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife entrance and overnight camping fees
- Tents, cooking equipment and gas
- Backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping mats & hiking poles
- The cost for the resupply will depend on the size of the group
- Transport to Cathedral Peak
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Meals & drinks not specified
- Snacks, personal medicine
- Travel and medical insurance
- Client will be expected to carry a backpack with their clothes and sleeping bag only if a porter is added. If no porter then you also carry your share of food and tent
- Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
- Clothes, raingear and footwear
- 100% deposit forefeited if cancelled 14 days or less prior to departure date.
- 50% deposit is forfeited if cancelled within 15 - 30 days of departure date.
- Distances covered, and campsites depend on the Dragons Wrath, and client’s capability. Therefore the itinerary is subject to change.