By Cal Snow, of Trail Bundu Basher
The Zulu cave hike from Monks cowl is quite a well-mixed bag for a two day hike. My wife, Nellie, and I chose this hike for our new year “event” 2019/2020, and for a memory wake up/tester/equipment re-training for an upcoming 5 day hike we were due to undertake in mid-January 2020.
The Monks-Zulu cave choice was partly due to its accessibility and proximity to infrastructure but also due to it being in the Drakensberg which always promises a nice mix of conditions. On both counts we were not disappointed.
We just love visiting and sleeping in the Drakensberg caves, so why not plan a hike to see as many as possible over three days. Five friends agreed to go with on this adventure knowing we would be spending the majority of this hike on no path.
On the first day starting at Bushman's Nek we walked 10km's with 850m elevation again and were privileged to see three caves, sleeping in Whyte's Cave for the night.
On Saturday 21 September 2019 one of the shackles that bolts the bottom, right-hand chain ladder to the rocks on the Amphitheatre sheared off at the rockface, and has compromised the structure of that ladder. The left-hand ladder has no problems. These ladders are accessed from the Sentinel Peak Car Park by hikers who are hiking to the top of the Amphitheatre and on to Tugela Falls and Mont-aux-Sources.
No-one was injured, and the ladder is still attached to the rockface. Temporary nylon rope has been used to reduce the movement of the ladder, but that ladder is unquestionably not safe for use. The Sentinel Peak Hike is still open and hikers can either use the ladder on the left, which is open, or the Gully.
A meeting was held at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge on Wednesday 25th September with the Department of Environmental Affairs and their Implementing Agent to determine the next steps.
The Department of Environmental Affairs has confirmed that they have allocated funds for access projects in the area, and are in the process of submitting plans to include the complete replacement of the Chain Ladders in that project. In the interim the lower ladder on the right remains closed to hikers.
Management of Witsieshoek are currently getting experts to assess repair and stabilization options pending the full replacement of the ladders.
In summray for now the Chain Ladders Hike is still open and hikers can either use the ladder on the left or the Gully.
NOMAD AND IN LOVE
Chloe & Michael Smulian
A family and children-friendly guide to hiking the Drakensberg in South Africa. Experience the adventure of a lifetime with the whole family.
Whether you're a traveller or South African local, hiking the Drakensburg Mountains is one of the top activities to experience when you're in the beautiful country of South Africa. Not only does it feature some of the most grandeur landscapes and dramatic rock formations in the world, but it's also known for some of the best hiking and cycling adventures in South Africa. A must-do, once in a lifetime experience if you're a nature lover and outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves. Yes, being in the remote outdoors isn't always the easiest choice when you have a family with young toddlers, but in this travel guide, we're sharing how you can have your cake and eat it! Yes, you can hike the Drakensberg AND share this experience with the whole family. This is the ultimate non-camping and children-friendly guide to hiking the Drakensberg Mountains.
In search of some warmer weather away from the Drakensberg we have just completed a five day, 89 kilometre guided hike (Elevation gain/loss: 1789m / -1778m) from Port Edward to Mbotyi. It was an unforgettable experience!
Each night we stayed in huts in villages along the way. The huts are those of widows and the money generated helps them earn an income. Supper, breakfast and a basic lunch pack for each day's hike is provided. Bathing is in warm water in a washing basin every night. A shuttle (hired taxi) brought us back from Mbotyi.
A three day circular hike from Giant's Castle camp to Bannerman Hut on day one; 10km and 690m elevation gain. Day two is a steep hike up Bannerman Pass to Bannerman Cave; 5km and 980m elevation gain and day three is a hike along the escarpment and down Langalibalele Pass back to Giant's Castle camp; 12km and 1400m elevation loss.
A 3 day circular hike starting at Injisuthi. Day 1 is an uphill 8km hike and 590m elevation gain to Lower Injisuhi Cave. Day 2 is a 6km hike with 320m elevation gain and 350 elevation loss to Marble Baths Cave and pools. Day 3 is a mostly downhill 8km hike with 220m elevation gain and 570m elevation loss back to Injisuthi Camp.
This hiking checklist highlights the ten essential items that every hiker should carry. Before you go on any hike, no matter how easy or short make sure your backpack has these ten essentials. When hiking you are responsible for your own safety and any one of these ten items may help to save your life. The total weight of your backpack will vary but should not be more than 20% of your bodyweight, 15% for children.
The items in Green are the ten essentials.
Daphne Berg | mountainaquarius.com
Going out there
Going on a mountain trip is always an unforgettable experience. I remember every summit I have stood on, and every multipitch I’ve made in my life. Being in the mountains is something special. To be surrounded by nature, realising how small and fragile we as humans are. Somehow depending on the mountain in order to get down alive.
Of course preparation is an incredibly important factor. I don’t wear flipflops when I want to reach 2.000 meter summit and have to do an 3 hour hike for it.
Jonathan Newman @ghaznavid
The Cathedral Peak Ridge is probably one of the most iconic ridges in the Drakensberg. With four different summits above 3000m, and a large collection of rock climbing routes – there is no shortage of activities to do on this ridge!
The following photo was taken from South Saddle Pass at Mnweni a few years back, and shows the different summits on the ridge:
The Monk's Cowl Nature Reserve with its breathtaking vistas of sweeping grasslands on the lower reaches, to magnificent towering cliffs and waterfalls cascading for hundreds of metres makes this an area of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park worth visiting.
For very fit and experienced hikers / trail runners Sterkhorn (Mount Memory) can be reached on a day hike and at the top you will find the M.O.T.H memory cross.
Ensure a successful hiking trip every time, be it a day hike or overnight hike by adopting these tried and tested tips and remember to always be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto, and it should be yours if you’re heading into the Drakensberg Mountains for a hike.
Forgetting items like rain gear, sunscreen or a fresh pair of socks can ruin a hike and even worse, being caught unprepared on top of the escarpment can be lethal. Follow these tips and stay safe.
Jonathan Newman @ghaznavid
I often say that the most beautiful part of the Drakensberg is the part you are in at the time of answering the question. The logic is simple – anything else is just a photo. Sadly no photo will ever do any justice to a mountain.
The Didima region of the Northern KZN Drakensberg has always been a special area to me. When I recently prepared a list of the top Drakensberg passes, four out of seven were at Didima. So when the forecast included 40cm of snow on Mafadi, and only 12cm on Cathedral Peak – it was an easy choice of where to move the hike.
It was Ross’ first time hiking to the top of the Drakensberg, so there were lots of unknowns. His recent running form had been very good, but road running and hiking are completely different sports with different challenges.
A four day circular hike from Injisuthi camp to Centenary hut on day one. Then up Corner pass and overnight in Upper Injisuthi Cave on day two. Summit Mafadi on day three and hike down Leslie's pass to camp at the base in tents. Day four is an easy hike to Marble baths and Injesuthi camp. Total distance is 42km and 2615m elevation gain and loss.
Kate + Ben (kateandben.org)
Rather than being about a specific adventure, it is about a place that we hold very close to our hearts: South Africa's Drakensberg mountains. It’s possibly our favourite place in South Africa.
There are two sides to the Drakensberg, the Midlands and the high Drakensberg. In this two-part series, we will describe exploring this mountainous world in Kwa-Zulu Natal, between Johannesburg and Durban. Part 1 will look at how to plan your own hiking adventure into the high Drakensberg and part 2 will look at exploring the Midlands and little Berg in a car and on foot.
Jonathan Newman @ghaznavid
For many years Didima Nature Reserve has been my personal favourite region of the Drakensberg. With the Cathedral Peak ridge, the Column and the Pyramid, the Organ Pipes and the Didima Cutback - it is truly a special area. I could list many reasons why Didima is my first choice in terms of beauty, but one small area stands head and shoulders above the rest - the cutback between Cockade Peak and the Elephant.
Having made three different trips that included Cockade Pass, its northern neighbour continued to elude me. Seeing as it stood as the only pass marked on the Geoseries Maps that I had not completed, I knew I needed to head out and bag the notorious Xeni Pass.
Xeni Pass is definitely not suitable for everyone, there are a few scrambles where you have to be careful not to bring a lot of rock down on yourself.
Philip & Christeen Grant
Christeen and I have been taking South Africans and overseas visitors on day and multi-day trips to Lesotho as professional mountain guides since 2006, sometimes two or three times a week.
These notes are an attempt to help hikers, when hiking over and along the top of the Drakensberg Escarpment, and overland travellers, understand some of the basic differences between their own and Basotho culture, and understand some of the ‘way things work’ in The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
A stunning guided trail into this lesser known part of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park. Discover San rock art, protea and tree ferns, indigenous forests, wild flower gardens and rare birds.
Pass through rural villages and be greeted by friendly local communities and experience traditional culture. At the end of each day be welcomed by your hostess at comfortable chalets where you can enjoy a hot shower, African cuisine and an inviting bed!
You have decided to want to go on a Hike in the Maloti-Drakensberg Park, what do you do next?
After assisting many people who have asked questions for a hike they would like to do and now knowing the types of questions asked we thought it may be helpful to outline the steps so that when you go on your hike you are fully prepared and know the type of hike that best suits you, how to get to your destination, what you need to pack, how long your hike will take, what to do in case of an emergency and most importantly how to get the most enjoyment out of your hike.
A four day hike from Cathedral Peak Hotel to Rolands Cave in May 2018. Day one is from the hotel past Ribbon falls and camping in tents below camel pass. Day two is up Organ Pipes Pass to Rolands Cave for the night. Day three is down the escarpment to Mikes pass for the night in tents and a short easy hike back to the hotel on day four.
Jonathan Newman @ghaznavid
Rhino Peak is a 3056m peak, traditionally hiked up, but does include a few rock climbing routes. The S Route and Eastern Arete Route are both considered classics.
The route is described as 6 pitches, which go at (South African Trad Grades) E3, F1, C, D, C, F1 per the latest guidebook, or F1, F1, E, E, B and F1 per the original route description. Seeing as I am relatively inexperienced at rock climbing, Carl agreed to lead all the difficult pitches, and I would see how I felt about leading the 3 easy ones.
We started walking just before 5AM, and sat in Pillar Cave Annex waiting for it to get light enough to head off.
Roughing It With Ruth
A three day circular hike from Mnweni Cultural Village up Mnweni Pass and down Rockeries Pass of 38km's and 2164m elevation gain and loss.
Jonathan Newman @ghaznavid
Organ Pipes Pass is probably one of the most commonly used passes in the KZN Drakensberg. The name is derived from the very impressive wall of rock pinnacles near the top of the pass.
The ridge offers stunning views of the Cathedral and Cathkin ridges. This route is commonly used for smuggling activities and is best avoided at night. Do not camp near the top of the pass.
In terms of scenery, there are few passes that can compete with this one.
Treverton College and Preparatory School
This past weekend a group of Treverton College boys, girls and teachers went to the pristine Mnweni area. We walked about 8km up into the Mnweni valley, above the Mnweni pools, where another set of pools offered a beautiful setting to set up tents.
Grace and Gaia (https://graceandgaia.com)
When I was a child, we used to go to the Northern Drakensberg every couple of months. My parents would attend meetings and work-related activities, and my sibling and I would roam around the resort. We played volley ball, rode horses, took the quad bikes for a spin and went on hikes.
This is where my love affair with hiking started…
Treverton College and Preparatory School
A group of five pupils accompanied by three staff members - Travers Pellew; Derek Brown; and Craig Robinson - headed off to Injisuthi to do two passes that were new to every member of the group. This hike formed part a students Venture Award and as such it was their duty to lead the group.
After navigating the Injisuthi road, we were greeted by a brief storm on our arrival and we headed off at 4:30pm and ended up taking refuge at an unmarked cave in the Mbomvaneni Valley. The following day had us ascend the not insignificant heart-break-hill before getting to Centenary Hut.
A permit system is going to be implemented at Monk’s Cowl (23rd April) to solve the problem of illegal visitation at rock art sites and problems accompanying this.
For example, making fires inside shelters and caves containing rock art that causes soot to accumulate over the art and the art to start exfoliating, making candles “stand” on “steps” of the parent rock that results in waxy blotches that causes chemical weathering to the parent rock and destroys the rock art, throwing water over the art to take “better pictures or clearer photos”, this causes mineral accretion and white blotches over the art that finely leads to pigment deterioration and exfoliation, littering inside rock art sites and writing or scratching over irreplaceable rock art.