We did the Amatola hiking trail a year and half ago. They market it as the toughest hiking trail in South Africa. Now, obviously you go and hike in a wilderness area and make it as hard as you want (Drakensberg Grand Traverse springs to mind ), so that’s why I specified the “hutted” hike. I found the Amatola proper tough and thought that it lives up to it’s name, but wondered if anyone has another route that deserves the title?
Please state if you have, or have not, hiked the Amatola
i have done the Amatola and it is HARD. hard and beautiful. haven’t done anything more committing in South Africa - a big one for any hiker’s tick-list and the gateway to do just about anything.
The Amatola is the toughest multi-day hike I’ve done, BY FAR! The Outeniqua trail felt relaxed in comparison.
With the Amatola, I benefitted a lot from some proper strength training for my legs and core before the hike - first time I ever used a leg-press machine . There are some BIG hills!
The Amatola is indeed the toughest. Sadly, I have not done it (had the opportunity once, but personal commitments required me to cancel - a story for the campfire).
I have done most of the big multi-day “hutted” hikes in mostly the southern parts of the country, including Outeniqua (x10+), Tsitsikamma, Swartberg (x2), Swellendam (x2), Otter…
Amatola trumps them all.
So if anyone is keen to organise another Amatola, please count me in!!
Interesting discussion - I haven’t done the Amatola, but will probably have a go at it in the next year or so.
Anyone have the stats or a GPS track for the trail? I am mostly interested in the vertical profile.
I did the Giants Cup Trail in 15h52 on Saturday, not as fast as I was shooting for, but it is 62km with 2km in vertical - so not exactly a walk in the park (well, technically it is in a national park).
It would be interesting to put together a list of every 3+day hutted hiking trail in SA and compare the list in terms of vertical and horizontal distance. Altitude is also a relevant factor - I assume Giants Cup Trail would be the highest in terms of average elevation (roughly 2000m, with 2160m as a high point).
Non-hutted trails would be a contest between a Drakensberg Grand Traverse and Rim of Africa, I guess. And that would depend on definition, seeing as Golden Gate to Tiffindell has been done as a full Drakensberg Grand Traverse. For that matter - what is a “trail” - about half of the DGT is off-trail, and roughly half of what is on trail is a case of “follow that trail for 200m, then walk 50m and pick up the next trail that goes at a 30 degree angle to where you are actually trying to go”.
Chatting to some friends on this topic - interesting question on how does one define a hutted trail. E.g. what about the following:
Day 1 start at Vergelegen and hike to Bannerman Hut
Day 2 to Tseketseke Hut
Day 3 to Amphitheatre Hut
Day 4 to Tseki Hut near Phuthaditjhaba
Day 5 finish up at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge
That would be a solid 200+km entirely hutted trail.
@Ghaznavid - let’s not get too contrived/technical here. A hutted trail is one that is booked as a fixed itinerary with huts to sleep at every night. Also almost always marked with painted footprints or similar, so self-navigation along part of a network of wilderness trails doesn’t really fit the bill. Good examples: Otter, Tsitsikamma, Fanie Botha, Outeniqua, etc.
And yes, I’d agree that Amatola trumps them all. Typically about 18km with 1000m climb daily.
@stijnless - that is true. Had a good chuckle when Andrew made the above suggestion, thought it was worth sharing.
Did the Amathola Trail when I was quite a lot younger and it is easily the toughest hutted trail I’ve done.
I can’t imagine any formal/itinerary-based hutted trail in SA being more difficult especially if one is doing the entire Amatola. Perhaps the Fanie Botha Trail? Has anybody done both?
That would certainly rank right up there, surely unbeatable in southern Africa. That said it would take a very brave, cold or injured man to actually sleep in the hut on Mont-Aux Sources (Amphitheatre).
I’ve done both, and while Fanie Botha does have one or two big climbs over the 5 day route, it’s certainly easier than Amatola overall.
One of the amazing things about the Amatola is that it’s one of the few hutted trails in the country that hasn’t succumbed to the rather annoying habit of rerouting trails along forestry roads once the original single-track becomes too overgrown. Did it again recently and I’d say 95km of the 100km is on blissful, beautiful single-track
This sounds like a bucketlist hike!
I am organizing an Amatola hike for 3 - 8 October this year. There are still a few spaces available. Come and join us!
Feel free to send a WhatsApp at 082 341 2296
Hi there. I am organizing an Amatola hike for 3 - 8 October this year. My contact details are below.
I did it last year, but going back again. Just cannot stay away!
With what you guys describe as the mother of all local hikes practically in my back yard I should probably consider it?
Thanks for all the info, folks!
Still deciding: Amatolla , Swellendam or Oorlogskloof. But I am going back to all of them!
Do you still have any spaces left on your Amatola hike? Thinking about it!
Yes we do! You can send me a WhatsApp on 082 341 2296 for more info.
Not sure if it’s the toughest - but it sure is one for the books. Humbling, isolated and utterly beautiful. We did the hike in Dec 2016 and I’d go back tomorrow if I could! Here’s a little clip of our trip