Drakensberg Grand Traverse


We started out on the 14th of May 2009, hiking on a good path past the enormous Sentinel peak 3165m and up the infamous Chain Ladders to reach the Mont-Aux-Sources Plateau 3100m for our first nights camp. We were greeted by the rare bearded vultures swooping a mere 20m above us, a trend that continued throughout our trip. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset that highlighted the dramatic Amphitheatre, home of the Thukela Falls.The days that followed melded into a mosaic of spectacular cliffs, superb mountain views and breath taking rivers with their chilly plunge pools. It's an amazing feeling to climb to the crest of one of those seemily endless uphills, peer at the horizon, recognise famous peaks such as Cathederal, Monks Cowl, Giants Castle and a few dayIf you want peace and quiet, real peace and quiet then the The Drakensberg Traverse is the most awesome trek you could imagine. We took 14 days leave from life and walked from The Sentinel in the Northern Drakensberg to Sani Pass in the South. A little over 200km of the most pristine Mountain Wilderness in the world.Much of the trek was through the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park a UNESCO World Hertitage site (it's status granted due to the greatest collection of San Rock Art, the magnificent mountains and their unspoilt high altitude wetland and river system that provides South Africa with most of it's quality drinking water. The rest of our route took us through the rugged landscape of Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom.s later you turn your back on them as you set your sights on the next majestic peak.
We hiked past the stone mountain huts of the Basotho Herdsman. If we were starting to feel sorry for ourselves because of terrain altitude (mainly above 3000m), aching muscles and the cold, these guys would remind us of what it's really like to rough it. A friendly nation the herdsman wear gumboots, a traditional blanket and a balaklava, that's it, to put it in perspective, day time teperatures while we were trekking were below 10 deg. C and night time left us chilly when they dropped as low as -10 deg C. It wasn't even mid winter! These guys look after their tribe or family's herd of goats, sheep, cows or horses and they have the coolest dogs; huge beasts a delightful mixture of spaniel ears, labrador girth,st bernard hight & fur and brindled staffie colouring.We were fortunate with wildlife too, yip, even at that altitude, we saw plenty of Cape Vultures, Bearded Vultures, Jackal buzzards, Rock Kestrel, a Berg Adder, Grey Rhebok, Klipspringer, baboons, Dassies (Rock Hyrax) and the adorable Sloggerts Ice Rats. Two surprises were the owls we heard at night and amazingly a pair of Secretary Birds that joined us at our lunch spot at a high altitude tarn one day.If you're keen on picking up eye catching stones, there are fantastic examples of amygdale, agate, quartz crystals and geodes. Eating all your food quickly isn't difficult to do, we got hungrier and hungrier by the day and were desperate to break into our emergency food rations in the last few days. We climbed to the top of Mafadi, South Africa's highest peak 3450m and also Thabana Ntlenyana 3482m the highest African peak South of Mt Kilimanjaro. It's in the Drakensberg range but is actually situated in Lesotho. Unfortunately T. Ntlenyana signaled the end of our trip, it's a days walk from Sani Pass. It took us a long time to get there, we were dragging our heels, it had been so easy to immerse ourselves in the rythm of the wilderness, it took quite some effort to relinquish our freedom and succumb to civilisation.This is a strenuous trip, you do need to be able to navigate confidently with map and compass - gps is a good back up & we mapped our route, but mountain skill is a definite requirement. The Drakensberg like any other mountain range has notoriously fickle weather we were blessed with stable sunny, if cold weather except for 2 days when we had a short blizzard,sleet and snow, gale force winds of +100km/hour, so you also need to be prepared for any conditions, it's known to have snowed every month of the year in the Drakensberg and even though it's Africa sub zero conditions are common. Also, not much telecom, no civilisation and you'll need to carry all your gear and food with you.If you're ever keen to do all or part (5 days is fantastic) of this spectacular trek contact GoVertical Mountaineering Adventures, it'll get rid of any guess work! 
GoVertical Mountaineering Adventures