Noob visit to the Drakensberg

Hello Guys and Girls

I would like to know if the 2nd half of March is any good or bad to attempt a hike in the Drakensberg…?

Would probably do Witsieshoek area…

Not sure we will attempt an overnight but we have to start somewhere.


Perfect time! Still green, but less thundershowers :ok_hand:


Thank you Arno

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Any time is a good time to go hiking, but seriously end of March is a good time as the weather is a lot more stable and days still warm, nights do get a bit more chilly. We had some good rains so water will also not be a issue.

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Hi Antonroland

Here’s what you will typically find in March in the northern berg.

  • Less sunlight
  • It’s not so oppressively hot during the day,
  • Nights will become cooler (jippee!!!)
  • Less humidity
  • Less thunderstorms, more overcast if rainy
  • The amphitheater will be less of a boggy marshland

All in all, nicer hiking weather (for me). I prefer the cooler dry winter months in the berg. Fighting through high dense undergrowth to get to the passes is not that much fun for me. That being said, remember that you can experience any type of weather at any time in the Berg - including snow on Christmas day :slight_smile:

You didn’t mention what gear you have. March/April is typically still fine for people used to hiking at lower altitudes, but from May onwards it can get properly cold, necessitating proper warm gear for survival.


Guys, thanks very much for all the wonderfully informative responses.

We have some decent gear I reckon but very little experience and my wife is not the bravest of outdoors-people…at least not yet…

I would happily suffer through stuff where she will lose her sense of humour double-quick but I will get her there.

We have a variety of small tents of which I reckon the Nerolite 3 will probably do well and we have some sleeping bags good for around -3 to -5 if I remember correctly.

We are K-Way fans by the way. Our backpacks are decent for day hikes or longer. One is 50L and the other 65L so we should be good. Food, stove and most basics are sorted I believe so it is really just a matter of getting out there to see what works better and what doesn’t…

Trekking poles? Essential or nice-to-have?

If essential is 10 and nice to have is 0 poles are 7-8.
You can do without them, but they make a significant difference with odd terrain, river crossings and when you’re tired at the end of day. And with going uphill. And downhill.

If you’re unexperienced they will certainly add to your general safety and mobility, and toning of arms. They just make a funny clinky-clanky noise and the toggles often snag long grass. If you’ve aqcuired your essentials and have bob in the gear-kitty I’d say go for it…I did a fair amount of walking with longer thin walking staffs, quite useful for smashing bramble and threatening whatsisnames

Hope that helps.



If I may…

Could we also please discuss the worst times to visit the Drakensberg area and specifically the Witsieshoek / amphitheater kind of area?

I am working from the (very uninformed!) assumption that the whole Drakensberg might not experience identical weather all round the year?


Hi Anton, maybe think of packing a thermal sleeping bag liner

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Hello Petro

We have some of those, thanks…+15° improvement…good enough? Our cold weather bags (K-Way Aspen 1250 Eco) are rated -3 to +10 as recommended sleeping zone so I reckon they should be good for all but the coldest months in the ‘berg? Especially with the +15° liners?

Much appreciated👍🏻

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Beware of the “+15° liner” marketing. Unless it has battery that’s turning it into an electric blanket, it’s more like 3-5°. I’ve tested the Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme - it’s a great liner and does take the edge off on colder nights, but definitely doesn’t add the claimed amount. Don’t risk dangerously cold conditions based on what the label says.


Cheers Arno!:+1:t2:

Yes, the fact that the numbers are printed on something does not always guarantee much.

I like toys and research them a lot and then buy a variety of toys for different conditions much to my wife’s…well…let’s say amusement.

The harsh reality is most of it sits unused because getting a decent amount of time off that suits both my wife’s diary and mine…but hey, I HAVE it and when the time comes we will be good to play.

Kinda getting back on topic though…and assuming the Aspen sleeping bags specs of -3 to +10 are accurate, how many months of the year would it be safe and suitable for the ‘berg?


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At a guess, I would say that sleeping bag would be suitable for September-April, bearing in mind that cold fronts can arrive out of season as well. Layering up with clothes definitely adds a few extra degrees of warmth as well.

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I guess the answer depends a lot on what you classify as the Drakensberg. If you are referring to the eastern ridge of the basalt range, between Metjhantijane Peak in the Free State and the Knuckles near Underberg (which is what people usually mean) - the weather isn’t massively different. If you extend it to the most southern 3000m peak on the continent (Ben Mac in the Eastern Cape) - the differences are more noticeable.

Between Icidi Ridge (Mnweni) and Yodelers Ridge (Didima), you generally get less rain and snow due rain shadows caused by the angle of the ridges vs the usual angle of cold fronts. Be aware that dryer does not mean dry. Conversely, best spot in the range for snow is Walkers Peak at Garden Castle/Bushman’s Nek. Unsurprisingly, snow is more common the further south you go. Oddly enough, the Amphitheatre often gets decent amounts of snow - but Cathedral Peak rarely gets anything too significant. A few years ago I was sleeping in Twins Cave - it was cold enough for me to make a cup of coffee from an icicle I broke off the cave roof, and my friends who slept in Rolands Cave (about 8km away) couldn’t get out of the cave due to the amount of snow on the exit ledge, yet we didn’t have any snow at all near Twins Cave. It was lovely - the beautiful views of snow on Monks Cowl, and none of the unpleasantness of wet shoes!

Cold fronts move south-west to north-east across the range, so in winter, if you are watching webcams at Sani, you can get an idea of what will likely be hitting the northern range a day or two later. Naturally the system can dissipate before it reaches the northern end of the range, so you will generally get something less severe further north.

But the general guidelines to Drakensberg weather by season:

  • Spring - prepare for anything, hot days, cold days, snow, hail, thunderstorms, mist. Most days will be clear, though. Expect a lot of wind. Rivers are often low, unless it has been a wet winter.
  • Summer: plenty of water in the rivers (baring really bad droughts like in 2015). Afternoon thunderstorms are common, and mist between 2500m and 3000m on roughly half of the days. If you get up in the morning to find cloud between 2000m and 3000m - it is probably sunny on top and cloudy below. On days like that, thunderstorms are unlikely - but no impossible. Then again, one of the worst storms I’ve ever been caught in was around lunchtime after a morning with cloud at 2800m.
  • Autumn: pretty much the same as spring, except that the rivers hopefully still have decent water from summer.
  • Winter: look for cold fronts, the weather forecasts usually predict them fairly accurately by about 3 days beforehand (by contrast to summer where forecasts are often wildly wrong). The cycle goes like this -
  1. after the cold front has passed, it is usually beautifully clear and sunny, absolutely beautiful clear crisp (albeit cold) air, very pleasant to be in, with the right clothing.
  2. Over the next few days, it starts becoming windy, the air becomes hazy and dry, and it starts getting hot during the day (still sub zero at night on top) - beware of fires.
  3. Then the cold front approaches - strong winds (known as Berg Winds) hit, as the coastal low pressure system ahead of the cold front develops, it is still warm at this stage.
  4. The cold front itself looks like a massive wall of cloud approaching from the south/south-west. Cold fronts are not pleasant to be in - they are, well, cold, wet and often include snow. Worst case scenario, they include rain instead of snow - try and avoid being on top of the Drakensberg when one hits.
  5. Then the front dissipates and the cycle restarts. The cycle is usually 7 to 10 days. In a dry winter, you just get stuck in the unpleasant hazy dry windy weather - which isn’t fun to hike in.

When considering seasons in the Drakensberg, shift the usual seasons by a month. So summer becomes January to March, autumn becomes April to June, winter becomes July to September, and spring becomes October to December. The weather makes more sense if you do that.

What makes Drakensberg weather so bad is that the range is just warm enough that most annual precipitation is rain rather than snow. Snow is much easier to deal with - you just need the right equipment - and staying dry is easy. I have owned more than 10 different raincoats from various different manufacturers - they all have the same fatal design flaw: a large hole near the top at the front (i.e. in front of ones face). The problem is that the combination of wind and rain means that water will get in irrespective of how much you close it up or how good your raincoat is. When it is bucketing down in a strong wind, you are very lucky if any part of you is still dry after half an hour. In the really bad storm I mentioned above - my sleeping bag was wrapped in plastic, inside a bag liner, at the bottom of a pack that was covered with a splash cover. When we got to Sani Stones after more than an hour in the storm, my sleeping bag was actually damp in places. Now combine being wet with wind and you have a recipe for being very cold. I rate hypothermia in summer is far more likely in the Drakensberg than it is in winter.

Anyway - overly detailed, and moderately off topic, reply aside :rofl:


Great - this is so helpful!

Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

We’ll definitely use it as a guide for our Drakensberg trips this year.

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@Ghaznavid Wow… Thank you for the detailed answer. We’re going there (Mnweni and Rockeries Pass) next week.
I really appreciate your post!

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