Drakensberg safety:

Hi all. This past weekend I overheard a converstaion where people disgussed the safety of hiking in the Drakensberg, more specifically high berg and I was shocked at what I heard. From people being told to avoid the berg from hiking in big groups and being armed. The sad thing the discussion was between experienced hikers all belonging to hiking clubs. This made me think how many people are discouraged to hike the high berg because of these misconceptions. Yes, some parts of the berg are safer than others and there has been incidents in the past but I for one has not heard of any attacks or incidents in the last couple of years. If hiking clubs would rather avoid the berg and discourage people how will people wanting to hike the berg be able to do so if they don’t want to go at it on their own. In South Africa safety is never a gurantee, not even in your local park but I feel the Drakensberg gets unfair bad reputation. Does anyone know when the last incident in the berg was?

What is your opinion on safety in the Drakensberg and the reputation surrounding it?

Vertical Endeavour has a dedicated forum for reporting and monitoring safety incidents in the Drakensberg (“Berg Alert”) going back to 2010 (a new thread for each year). To my knowledge, there’s not much that goes past their radar. The only listed issue for the entire 2020 so far is " that there have been recent rock-throwing and harassment issues at the top of Mashai Pass (Rhino)". Even the synopisis of issues the last 5 years is but a handful of cases. One certainly has to be aware and hike in groups, but its probably safer than most urban areas and definitely safer than Table Mountain! It’s perhaps the remoteness that’s also an intimidation factor.
Before heading to the Berg I would check out the recent Berg Alert posts and avoid areas with recent issues.
The link to Berg Alert 2020 below, and it contains the links for prior years.

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Agreed - security problems in the Berg are rare. I’ve spent over 400 days in the Drakensberg without major issue caused by other people.

Had plenty of problems (storms, near misses on rock falls etc), but security is not one of them. Been stopped by Lesotho military a bunch of times - which can be scary, especially in the dark.

To be clear - there are plenty of areas I won’t camp, I use caves over tents wherever possible (mostly because they are awesome and you don’t have to carry them, but they are better for safety too), am always friendly towards people I see up there etc. Just take standard precautions like not leaving your things outside - notably wild animals may take your food if it isn’t put away, so this is a good idea anywhere.

There is often paranoia around the shepherds up there - probably a legacy of the hostilities between hikers and locals a century ago. Those issues are very rare these days, aside from where hikers start the hostilities. But do remember that you are crossing their land without their permission, for that matter, you are illegally entering their country. Be polite and share some food with them, they aren’t obligated to let you cross their land.

On a related note - something that is often lost on hikers: in Sotho culture (any Sotho individual who would like to correct me on this, please do), eating in front of people without sharing is very rude. To be fair, this would be rude in most cultures. So if you are low on food and can’t share, don’t eat in front of them. Otherwise share with them.

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Sensible suggestions, Jonathan.