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Hiking Clubs

Are there any hiking clubs I can join that do hikes in the Drakensberg?

There are two well known and respected hiking clubs we can recommend. You can join either or both. Explore the Drakensberg with an experienced, knowledgeable leader in whom you can place your confidence and trust.

 

1. Mountain Backpackers Clublogo default

To become a member of the Club the cost is R290 per single person or R370 per family per annum.

The hiking club offers the following:

  • The Club has a core of experienced, knowledgeable leaders in whom you can place your confidence and trust.
  • We welcome members of all ages and abilities.
  • We offer several activities each week, catering for a wide range of abilities.
  • Members receive a quarterly magazine containing a fixture list and other useful information.
  • Beginners can hire equipment while they decide what is best for them to purchase for themselves.
  • Members qualify for discounts at leading outdoor equipment suppliers.
  • Regular talks and presentations by guest speakers allow you the opportunity to learn from their knowledge and experiences.

The membership form can be downloaded here and their website can be viewed here.

 

mcosa kzn2. The Mountain Club of South Africa - KwaZulu-Natal Section

The annual membership fees vary from R135 to R520.

The hiking club offers:

  • Regular hiking meets in the Drakensberg and elsewhere.
  • Regular climbing meets in KZN and throughout SA.
  • Regular sport and competition climbing events.
  • Privileged access to a significant number of Club-owned properties country-wide, most of which are in wild, isolated and incredibly scenic locations.
  • Exclusive use of Cambalala house on Mikes Pass.
  • Reduced fees for, and access to, other huts owned by the Mountain Club of SA throughout the country.
  • Reduced climbing competition entry fees (for some events).
  • Social and slide/video evenings in Durban and PMB.
  • Access to Mountain Club libraries both in Durban and around the country.
  • Opportunities to attend national and international mountaineering events.
  • The national MCSA body to whom we are affiliated is a member of the world mountaineering body, the UIAA. This provides club members with a growing range of priviledges internationally, through reciprocity agreements.
  • High quality quarterly newsletters.
  • Professional, hardcover journal.

The membership form can be downloaded here and their website can be viewed here.

 

Featured Hike

 

Langalibalele Pass Hike (by Jonathan Newman)

If you want to hike up a Drakensberg pass and you haven't yet joined one of the hiking clubs above, or you and your friends feel like adventure awaits and you want to try hiking up a pass. This is the hike for you!

This pass is one of the easiest routes to the Drakensberg Escarpment. It tops out between the Sanqebethu and Durnford ridges. With a good path along the entire route and no exceptionally steep sections. This route is suitable for beginners, or fast-and-light day hikers provided they are fit and sufficiently knowledgeable.

A full hike report on how to get to Giants Castle (your starting point) and detailed directions with pictures has kindly been written by Jonathan. Jonathan has probably done the pass more than most people and his article can be read here.

hike Langalibalele

Featured Accommodation

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Hiking in Winter

The winter months are a great time to hike the Drakensberg so long as you are prepared and have the correct gear. Below are some basic tips to ensure you have a successful winter hike.

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Never go alone

Dress appropriately

Dress like an onion - in layers.

The temperature will vary at the bottom of the trail and on the summit of the mountain. Having layers will help you regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable.

Avoid cotton (it holds moisture and will make you cold when wet) and rather use wool or synthetics for your base layer. A fleece is the ideal mid-layer and a waterproof and breathable shell jacket will protect you from bad weather.

On your legs use thermals, then walking pants and waterproof pants on top.

Frostbite is a real danger and is most likely to affect your fingers, toes and face so covering the extremities is vital. Consider two pairs of gloves, a warm liner and a waterproof outer pair. A good quality hat, a beanie and a buff or balaclava will help keep you warm.

Think about your feet

Your lightweight summer hiking boots will not work. A boot with a sturdy sole, designed for tougher conditions, is recommended. Always wear thick, winter-weight socks (Merino wool is a good choice) since your toes are the first place you’ll feel cold.

Be prepared

Always pack more water and food than you think you’ll need so you have enough in case of an emergency. Hot drinks like soup and hot chocolate will help to keep you warm.

Be prepared to turn around.

The mountains have been here for a long time, and they'll be here for a long time still.

Don’t hesitate to turn around if weather conditions change and look dangerous. Reaching your destination is only half of the hike, you must have time and energy left over for the return.

Start early and finish early

Sunlight hours are a lot less in winter so hike when the sun is rising so you can make best use of the available daylight and be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. Ice and snow make trails much slower than normal.

Use walking poles

If you’ve never used walking poles now’s the time to start. The extra contact points help your balance and are useful for finding snow banks and holes in the path that become hidden.

Take eye protection

Sunglasses with UV protection or goggles are essential for winter hiking as the glare from the snow can make it impossible to see. If the wind picks up you won’t be able to keep your eyes open and will get into trouble very quickly. The use lip balm to protect your lips from wind chill is essential.

Be wary of natural hazards

Frozen rivers covered with snow and ice can be very dangerous. Always be on the lookout for potential dangerous areas and use your walking poles to test the ground ahead when unsure of whats below the snow.

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Learn how to use an ice axe if you intend to hike in areas with snow

An ice axe is very useful when hiking in winter and can be used for support whilst ascending, cutting steps into hard packed snow and ice with the back of the axe or arresting your descent should you fall.

Learn how to ascend and descend in snow

Going uphill, take short steps and “kick in” to the snow bank. Do not to use old kicked steps from previous hikers as they may be icy. If traversing a slope, make sure you have your ice axe on the rise side for support.

Going downhill, learn a technique known as plunge stepping. This is a gravity assisted step down, not forward. Don’t lock out your leg otherwise you may end up jarring your knee. Keep your ice axe angled in front of you for self-arresting if you lose your footing.

If you do go on a winter hike stay safe and remember to tag us in Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, we would love to share your adventure and pictures with everyone.

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Featured Hike

 

Game Pass Shelter

If you have never seen bushman paintings this short hike suitable for the whole family is the one for you. One of the Drakensberg's greatest treasures is cultural. Some 40 000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 600 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal and Bushman's Neck.

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This three-hour guided trail starts at the Kamberg Rock Art centre, where you can watch a 20-minute DVD on the art and history of this famous rock-art site. As you walk, take heed of the poignant verse that is found on all the marketing brochures:  "No more do we Bushmen hunt in these hills. The fire is cold. Our songs are quiet. But listen carefully. You will hear us in the water. Look carefully, you will see us in the rock." And you will.

Leaving the centre, the trail heads south, then, after crossing a small stream, gradually meanders up the hill under the spray coming off the Waterfall Shelter. Shortly after this overhang, the path crosses a small river and then it’s a bit of a slog up a zigzagging path until, about 40 minutes from the start, you reach the gate of the shelter.

Most of the paintings in the shelter are complex polychrome images and the first ones you’ll see as you enter are imposing therianthropic figures (mythological creatures that are part human, part animal) clad in long black karosses. The most frequently depicted animal is the eland, the largest antelope in the Drakensberg. Apart from providing meat, fat and skins, eland had symbolic importance to the San, who believed they had supernatural powers. Archaeologists studying these paintings uncovered a vital key to understanding the symbolism of San rock art(how hunters gained power from the animals they killed) so, in a sense, they "cracked the code" – hence, the site is commonly referred to as the "Rosetta Stone".

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It’s then downhill all the way back to the centre, which has a few books, posters and videos, as well as limited snacks, tea and coffee for sale.

Walks are limited to groups of 10 people and leave from the centre at 9am, 11am and 12.30pm or by special arrangement with community guides based at the centre.

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Why go camping?

There are eight camping options within Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, each has its own unique charm and reason why you would want to camp here. While many have a favourite camping destination, some of us have never tried camping or may have tried once and not enjoyed it.

So why should you go camping and why do some of us love camping so much? The answer is simple, it's the memories.

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As a teenager it's the memory of going on this big adventure with the folks who are so excited, (maybe not mom as much but who to this day fondly treasures the memories with her children) it's seeing the pack of  marshmallows your mom packed and it's the time spent with your folks in an environment outside of normal daily life, you really do have moments of connecting with your parents.

It's the stolen bottle of sherry you as a teenager shared with your friends and cousins in your tent at Injisuthi with the adults in the text next door in the middle of winter, a memory that connects you all.

It's learning about the stars and night photography from your eldest cousin, the start of a life-long passion for photography.

It's the time spent with parents, uncles and aunts on a day hike while camping, getting very lost and having to scramble down what then seemed like a large mountain (which is small in hindsight). My dad to this day is reminded of this trip by my aunts every time they see him.

As a young adult it's the excitement of preparing, organising and having a braai and beer or glass of wine with your friends at Monk's Cowl while the sun sets, an experience you will always remember.

It's the memory of the time the hail came down on the first afternoon in Highmoor, shredding one of the tents and everyone coming together to help fix the tent and offer (not always good) advice.

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It's the memory of breaking your toe while playing soccer with your children and still going out on a day hike the next day (not as fast as usual) to everyone's amusement.

It's the morning sunrise with a cup of coffee, sometimes by yourself and often with your loved one, a moment that's never forgotten.

It's the cold showers in the morning when the gas stops working, how awake you feel afterwards!

All of these and many more camping experiences make irreplaceable memories which connect you with your children and wife and stay with you forever. Go out there and give it a try with your family and friends and you will all create a treasured memory to value forever.

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All the Ezemvelo KZN Reserves can be viewed here.

Featured Hike

 

Bushman's Nek Camp to Thamathu Cave - 7km (636m elevation gain) to the Cave

Starting at the Bushman's Nek Office, where you fill in the mountain register. You pass the South African border post and then cross the stream twice and turn right (if you go straight you are heading towards Tarn Cave and would cross the stream a third time) thus walking with Bushman's River on your right. To your right on the other side of the river you will see Bushman's Nek Hut as you walk along a slightly upward path.

thamathu cave

After 300m where you turned right after the 2nd river crossing the path has two options, straight ahead which takes you to Bushman's Cave and left up the hill in front of you, this is your route, turn left and start up the hill.

After climbing the 1st hill the path flattens out for a short breather, then up the next hill. The path is visible all the way as you wind up this hill on the left-hand side. At the top you have now done 3.2km, the views start to show themselves all around you.

A nice flat section is next and then up the next hill. You are heading in a West / North West direction all the way from here until just before Thamathu cave. The gradient over this next hill is pretty similar to what you have already climbed. At 5.8km (you only have 1.1km's to go) the path again has two options, a short steep uphill (this path is not well defined) of about 150m uphill or to continue straight along the contours of the hill you are on. Both will get you to Thamathu cave.

Choosing to go left and up the hill now means that after this uphill the rest of the hike to the cave is along the contour path. Choosing to go straight at this point seems easier but your last 300m will then be uphill to the cave. The choice is yours.

This is a great family day hike (kids over ten). Enjoy your lunch and stunning views from the cave.

thamathu cave1

 

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If you are a resident, business owner, worker, or other stakeholder of the Champagne Valley, this is your
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Please click here to read the Autumn 2019 edition of Champagne News.

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Hiking Checklist

We have compiled a comprehensive hiking checklist to assit you on your hike, be it a day hike or overnight hike. This checklist highlights the ten essential items that every hiker should carry. The food suggestions are our personal favourites from many hikes over the years, a little bit of luxury we think is deserved when hiking through these magnificant mountains.

Before you go on any hike no matter how easy or short make sure your backpack has the 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 and 15% for children.

The hiking checklist can be read and downloaded here...

checklist

Featured Hike & Accommodation

 

Sehlabathebe National Park Lodge

It's not often you have the option to hike to a lodge in Lesotho. Your hike starts at Bushman's Nek and it's 20km to the lodge with an elevation gain of just over 1km.

Along the route you go past Cedric's Pool, Tarn Cave, Irish Cave and what is known as Jonathan's Lodge (this lodge is being converted to a Museum). Once you reach this old lodge, you have the option of walking along the "road" which keeps to the mountain contours or a path (not always visible) which is more direct.

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The lodge can accommodate up to 40 people (18 rooms) on a self-catering basis. Camping with separate ablutions within the Lodge is also available. Contact details are +266 5899 7307 (Mabari Lebamang).

The rates are R250 per person per night. The phone number above is the only way to currently make a booking, no emails are guaranteed to be received due to the remoteness of the location. You need to take your passport and get it stamped at Bushman's Nek before starting your hike and on your return.

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The gps track for this hike can be downloaded here. This gps track shows the "short cut" instead of going along the "road" from Jonathans lodge. If you feel unsure or it is misty then rather walk along the road to the lodge after reaching Jonathans lodge.

The gps track if used and hike is at your own risk as per our standard disclaimer.

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Featured Activity

drakensberg canopy tour

Drakensberg Canopy Tour

What can we say, your adrenelin level definitely goes up, yes it's a bit scary and yes it's a lot of fun. Something people of all ages should try at least once. I did the canopy tour with my children and it was an absolute thrill, kids are fearless and keep us parents going till the end.

The guides are friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable making the experience something you will never forget!

Boasting Africa’s first elevated rock face walkway with a good mix of both cliff face and treetop platforms, and cable slides over the forest up to 60 metres high, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour® must automatically go to the top of your “must do” list.

The inspiring nature of the majestic Drakensberg, the ancient indigenous forest, waterfalls and the cascading stream make this an opportunity not to be missed.

Read more...

 

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Hiking Tents

 

The number of manufacturers and options when it comes to a hiking tent are seemingly endless and which is the "best" tent generally ends up being a personal preference.

Our favourite is the Berghaus Peak 3.3 Pro Tent. The full specs can be viewed here.

What makes this our tent of choice (we are not sponsored or paid, this is a personal opinion) is detailed below and will hopefully assist you when deciding on what to look for when buying a hiking tent.

  • A 3-man tent that only weighs 2.9kg's (thus less than 1kg per person) with lots of space for 3 backpacks to also fit inside.
  • 5000mm hydrostatic head and ground sheet. You won't find many tents that go above 3000mm.
  • The tent has withstood winds in excess of 80km/h on the escarpment top (pic below shows the tent in 80km/h winds).
  • It is a warm tent and copes well in the cold winter months.
  • It only takes 5 minutes to pitch the tent.
  • The tent can be pitched in the rain and the inside section stays 100% dry (double wall tent).
  • Three colour coded lightweight alloy poles that can easily be replaced if damaged.

Which tent do you have or would you buy?

berghaus

Featured Hike

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Mafadi

Mafadi/Ntheledi peak is the highest peak in South Africa @ 3450m. The original Sotho name Ntheledi meaning "Makes me slip", refers to the nearby stream and it is considered by some to be a more relevant and correct name.

This is a 3 or 4 day hike and you need to be fit for this one.

The most common route is to Centenary Hut on day one and then up Corner Pass or Judge Pass on day two. Sleep at Injisuthi Summit Cave (upper Injisuthi Cave) and summit Mafadi early on day three and then hike down Leslie's Pass and sleep at Marble Baths Cave. A short hike on the final day back to Injisuthi Campsite. The total hike is roughly 45km and 2.5km elevation gain.

If planning to do this hike a guide is recommended. Hiking Guides can be viewed here and some of the scheduled guided hikes offered by hiking guides can be viewed here.

 

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