We are 2 french trail runners who would like to do a multi day hike next week (around 6-8 days). We were wondering about the Grande Traverse Drakensberg but we don’t know if it’s possible with the winter conditions. We have all the staff to hike but not in winter conditions. For this hike we have to carry the food for all the trip, right ? There’s nowhere to buy rice or something ? We are very flexible about the place (we can move in all the country).
So do you know a hike that we can do ? Or can we do the Grande Traverse ?
It is possible to do the Grand Traverse in 6-8 days, but you do need to be very fit to accomplish this. There is not really anywhere to replenish supplies; you will need to take all your food with you, or organise for a team to meet you somewhere to resupply. If you can manage to do it in 8 days, it is possible to carry all your own food. The Drakensberg is very remote, so you will need to be completely self sufficient and be able to navigate well. There is no cellphone coverage over a lot of the Drakensberg mountains. The north and south ends of the Drakensberg are quite far away from each other, so getting a shuttle or taxi between the 2 will be very expensive. If you have friends or family that can pick you up / drop you off then that is ideal. You can check out vertical-endeavour.com as well, as they have a lot of great resources about the Drakensberg Grand Traverse and Drakensberg passes.
Hi !! Thanks a lot for your answer. We went to Lotheni this weekend and we saw the bad weather… I don’t know if we can do it in 6-8 days because it will be a recovery week after 75k trail ahah. Unfortunately we don’t have family or car to pick up us… maybe it could be better to do an other one or in a less remote area…
Thanks for answering again
Have a nice evening
Maybe break your trip up into exploring different sections of the Drakensberg?
Visit Injisuthi for 4 days. Hike up/down some passes. Then move north to Cathedral Peak area and do the same for 4days.
Then it would be easier to resupply in between, you’ll be doing a loop at each location (eg Injisuthi camp - Marble Baths - up Leslies Pass - walk south towards Judges or Corner pass and down via Centenary Hut [no accommodation there] then back to Injisuthi camp).
A winter Drakensberg Grand Traverse is possible. You need sleeping bags rated for at least -7C, although something closer to -12C is advisable. You will also need a strong 4 season tent as winds can be very strong.
Snow is possible. We are having an abnormally snowy winter, so you need to be prepared for that.
The only shops on the route are by the top of Sani Pass. On a 6 day north to south traverse, you will pass Sani on day 5 or 6, so it is a bit late, though. You won’t find rice there, either. What you can do is a south to north traverse, where you start at Bushman’s Nek. If you arrange for one of the Underberg companies, like Sani Pass Tours, to take food up for you to the restaurant at Sani Top, you can then collect it on the way past.
Just a note on the traverse - there is no marked trail for it. For that matter, less than half of it is even on a trail, and a lot of the trails you will find go in the wrong direction. Make sure you read up on the route first and have a good GPS track, and study the maps well. There are also two distinct variations - the speed line (about 205km with 9km vertical) and the scenic line (about 230km with 11km vertical) - and within each variation, there are further variations, such as Mahout vs Elephant Gully, Yodeler’s Cascades vs Didima Ridge. So please read up well on the route before trying it.
Have a look at the website Vertical Endeavour and look over the Drakensberg Grande Traverse section - there is a lot of good content there. The download section also has GPS tracks for the speed (Stijn’s track) and normal (Intrepid’s track) lines.
Emergency exit routes are also important. You don’t want to try and escape by Hilton Pass only to find yourself in a very dangerous position, seeing as the maps are very vague as to which passes are easy and which aren’t.
On a the scenic line, viable escape routes are:
Rockeries Pass (for any pass before this, you would be better off turning back and heading down the chain ladders)
Organ Pipes/Camel Pass
Grays Pass (although it is far out of the way)
South Jarding Pass
Ngwangwane Pass if you really can’t handle that last 1km to Thamathu Pass