Drakensberg Grand Traverse 2024

Hi All,

After a failed planning attempt back in 2019 to trek the DGT (due to COVID of-course), I’m hoping to reignite the dream.

Looking for anyone who would be interested in the DGT or would be able to give some advice on forming a plan/group to undertake it with me.

All the best,


Hey Brad, I’m keen - Something I’ve always wanted to do, but always had the plans fall apart.

Hi Mike, awesome to hear you’re keen !

Depending on what sort of group we could gather up to come along, I’ve been looking at the guided treks by ‘Drakensberghiker’ Drakensberg Grand Traverse (4-17 May 2024) - DrakensbergHiker .

It is a bit pricey, I’m happy to go with or without. I just spent a little time reading their website and thought it would reduce planning stress / could also add to the trip by going with a guide who knows all the best do’s and don’ts.

That thought has crossed my mind many times - there’s a few guiding companies that offer similar services. Will have a squiz, shot.

This was just the first I’d seen - likely some better / possibly cheaper ones out there I’m sure.

Hi there,

I don’t know at which level you are (general hiking experience, Drakensberg hiking experience, fitness, GT research etc.) but as a few general remarks:

  1. As someone who has done a GT (and a failed GT) without someone else who’s done a GT in the party, I would HIGHLY recommend that you get someone who’s done a GT to be part of your expedition.

  2. Unlike other hikes where not being prepared leads to less enjoyment, and more frustration, not being properly prepared for a GT could lead to much worse. Also, the GT has very specific and unique challenges, so general hiking preparedness is not the same as GT preparedness.

  3. Get to know this website by heart https://www.vertical-endeavour.com/ . It’s by far the best source for everything GT (and Berg) related. They have many write-ups and discussions on the GT. Just be sure to search for your questions before creating new threads. All of your questions will likely have been answered before.

  4. If I had to rate the most important keys to a successful GT they would be: 1. Knowledge of every aspect of your route and equipment-requirements. 2. Real navigation skills and tools. 3. Very good fitness. 4. Oodles of grit.

  5. I’m the last person to advise against doing a GT from scratch, that would be hypocritical of me, but in retrospect I can only urge you to take something like this very-very seriously.

You can read my GT write-up here: Grand Traverse Write-up: The Icy Dragon

I kind of wish I could volunteer to go with you, but I just don’t have the time.

Using a guiding company will certainly be the easiest/safest option, if you have the money.



Thank-you for the advice, it’s much appreciated - I’ll look into that link and your write up. I understand it’s no small feat and will require some hefty planning and preparations to reduce the risks. I think if failing to gather a well versed team, guided will be the option to go for.

If you do find the time, be sure to message :smiley: !

Hey Brad, I’m keen. Stumbled across your post while researching the trip from Australia.

I’ve never done a guided hike before (prefer solo) and was looking to join an experienced party if they’d have me. Or, look for a company that might offer logistical support with resupplies etc. That said, reading through some of these trip reports, it looks serious enough that a guide might be best.

If you do find anyone who’s keen and has been before, please let me know!


Hi Liz,

Awesome to hear you’re interested - by the sounds of it we’re on similar wavelengths, I’d prefer solo however, the more you delve into the GT the more risky it can be with poor weather conditions.

I’ve reached out to one guide company, awaiting a response so will post when I get news back.

I believe there’s good option to have supplies brought up, I have family out in SA who have offered to do so.

Apologies for the late response :slight_smile:


Hi Brad, what time period / time of year you scoping out?
Might help with prospective citizens…

Also, the link @Wandelaar gave to Vertical Endeavour might be a good place to look for hiking buddies.

Hi Carl,

I would hope to be making it within May but possibly June - having figured that’s the best time of year for weather conditions.

It really will depend on others and my own work schedule however and so could vary quite a bit !

Been trying to read up on the VE site, very good source of info :+1:

As a thought… a Guide offering their services to lead these kinds of hikes is putting a huge amount of eggs in one basket (Physically & Financially) they should be appropriately rewarded. Research them their CV and socials at the end of the day Price shouldn’t be a deciding point

Hi Brad;

I am planning to the DGT in Sep 24. Was planning a solo crossing, but two is better than one. Right now, I am in my training phase and gathering gear. Am seriously committed to this.

I am also interested in doing the GT.
I have done quite a few hikes in the Berg. September is a good time, but might be dry, so finding water might be a challenge.

I might join your group if you will have me.

Gotcha - a background checks needed by the sounds of it, thanks for the advice

Hi Ian & Rudolf,

September would actually work better for me - giving more time to prep and also will be better work wise. I am cautious though that this will mean hiking at the tail end of the ‘better’ conditions.

Ian, I assume given you’re keen to go solo or with others that your well-up on your hiking. Just coming back to contemplating using a guide as; though I’d rather not to use one, I’m aware that navigating the berg is pretty tough. I’m not too unexperienced, I do a lot of hiking in the UK however, these are always easy to follow trails and so I am concerned about the navigation more than anything.

Rudolf - I’m very much the more the merrier on this trip so of-course your welcome, so long as all those joining understand the scale of the challenge.

Would be good to create a group chat from those commenting their interest - I’m guessing WhatsApp would be a good call to make one on. @Ian , @Rudolf , @elthommo , @MikeLima would you like to send me a private message with your number I’ll get one going?



I’d say September is about the worst month of the year to do a GT. On my first GT (April 2012) we had snow on day 3 and it cost a lot of time on days 3 and 4 plus a huge hit to morale. We were doing S-N and we happened to have our stop at Sani on the snow day, which at least meant sitting next to a big fire while having lunch - but September is often the month with the biggest snowfall for the year, and if you’re up there in that, you might lose a full day or two to it.

I’ve completed 6 DGTs and started 8 (incidentally my first 6 were all successful, but my 7th and 8th tries both ended with a sick team mate). The only time I didn’t have bad weather was on my 107h51 traverse in November 2015 - and that was in no small part due to the severe drought that was occurring at the time. Unless you can do a full traverse in 3 days, and can time it perfectly with the weather (i.e. set the dates very close to the time) - you will almost definitely have some bad weather along the way. Summer - probably thunderstorms, winter - probably snow, autumn or spring- probably severe wind combined with rain or snow. Notably any weather is possible any time of the year - you can get snow in summer, and severe wind and rain happens year-round. Be ready for this, because there is very little you can do about it.

I agree with the points on the team, do a few overnight hikes together beforehand as training, a fitness test and to ensure that you all get on well. A GT is very mentally taxing and if you’re still friends at the end, you can probably get through anything together.

A GT is no joke - and while you won’t finish if you aren’t fit enough - mental strength is what counts the most. You’ll be halfway in with a sore back, sore feet, wet shoes and plenty of other issues and you’ll be questioning your life choices - knowing you’ll still be out there for another week. Pushing past that is really hard. Its why I have a rule on a GT - we do not even joke about bailing. The only scenario where anyone is even allowed to discuss it is if it is for a legitimate safety issue or an injury/sickness. This was very intentional, on a GT you’ll consider bailing a lot, and if you are all thinking about it at the same time (e.g. during a massive storm), your odds of bailing are high, even though you would be fine to finish if you just push through. Never underestimate the mental game on a GT. Don’t get me wrong, its an exceptional hike, one of the best in Southern Africa, but its not easy and it entails a fair bit of suffering. Steve House had three rules for bailing on a mountain:

  1. Never decide to bail when your heart rate is over 100.
  2. Never decide to bail when you are hungry.
  3. Never decide to bail at night.

Have you picked a line for the traverse yet? I’d suggest downloading the Vertical Endeavour GPS track for the non-speed traverse and studying the different route options to ensure you know what there is in advance. E.g. on a speed traverse you use the Mokhotlong to get from Giants to Sani very quickly, but you miss the great views at Vergelegen and Lotheni as a result - its good to know this is an option if you’re behind schedule or have bad weather on these days, but I wouldn’t suggest using it otherwise. The Jarateng shortcut is awful and best avoided - the second fastest DGT time ever (45h08) actually used the escarpment edge line through Giants Castle, as did my own fastest DGT (107h51) - as I really didn’t want to use the Jarateng.

If you need advice on any aspect of the traverse, you’re welcome to run it past me. You can also get hold of Tony Marshall on Vertical Endeavour - he is one of the most knowledgeable people regarding the route and might even help you put together a GPS track for the route if you ask him nicely.

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Massive thankyou for taking the time to give this advice. Honestly I still have many many questions and need to research heavily the route.

Given your experiences, it seems like luck is the most key ingredient to weather conditions! But I take on what you say about September. My initial hoping was to aim for earlier in the year but work may not permit it. When would you recommend the best time to try ?

I’m yet to decide on a navigation tool, contemplating the options of buying a GPS device, using my phone or using printed maps. Printed maps I am thinking to pack these as a backup regardless so not solely dependent on tech that can fail. Don’t suppose you also have a recommendation for what to go for ? I believe I’ve found those GPS points on VE - thanks for the heads up on them.

Would be great to get together for some hikes but I think home location might get in the way :sweat_smile:

Really depends. April/May is usually the best bet, but any time of the year you’ll get something. Just be prepared for it.

I’d highly recommend a GPS, especially since you don’t know the route. I would back myself to navigate most of the route in poor visibility if I had to, but a lot of it isn’t obvious if you don’t know the route. Also remember that there are a lot of trails up there, and more than half take you the wrong way.

Definitely also take a map, and important make sure you keep track of exactly where you are, as a map doesn’t help much if you aren’t sure of your current location. And if visibility is bad and you aren’t sure where you are, just wait for it to improve before you keep going. Plenty of people have become badly lost up there.

I don’t recommend a phone for navigation, the time when you need navigation aids the most is when its misty or raining, and that’s exactly when your phone won’t help. People talk about using it in some form of waterproof container, but that never works.

Also have a look at this thread on VE. It is a list I posted some time ago about routes to escape from a GT:

The reason this is important is that things go wrong - injuries, sickness, being too far behind schedule etc. It is important to know that Hilton Pass is not a viable way of getting down, but Bannerman Pass is - despite both having the same markings on the Geoseries maps. If you get the new Slingsby maps that have just been released, those include a pass difficulty rating (that I was involved in putting together), which can be handy in telling you which passes are viable and which aren’t. Also - the more sketchy passes have been removed from the maps, and some more recently documented passes have been added. But even then, researching the passes beforehand is useful - because Thumb Pass or Hlubi Pass wouldn’t make sense to use when Langalibalele Pass is right there, is easier and has a trail the entire way.

I’d suggest downloading the GPS tracks for these passes and having them saved on your device - someone once had to be rescued off North Rwanqa Pass because they thought it was the main Rwanqa Pass and didn’t know the way through the waterfall on this rarely used pass. You often don’t have good signal up there, so you can’t easily research a pass while on route or download a track for it - so best to go in prepared.


Thanks again for the advice - I think I’ll be looking into the Garmin range, bit pricey but I can imagine worth it in the long run. Funnily enough I did buy a waterproof case, tried it out on the holidays in horrible nort coastal english conditions and it was not ideal…

I have seen the slingsby maps, impressive you worked on them ! They’ll be getting brought along.

April / May would be great however with work, I’m not sure I’ll be able to take the time as I’m in construction and we’re in the thick of it around then. I think also I need more time to train, plan a few multi day hikes etc and test any gear I get.

I’ve read into your post, appreciate the link. Brings an emphasis on planning really. Not an easy place to get down from.

Would like to bombard you with a load more questions but first I’ll scour VE, as I know most of what I’ll ask will be on there. The mountain backpackers club sound like it could be a good option minus the fees.