Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mafadi with Gilly and Mark - July 2011

Brilliant picture on top of Mafadi. You can tell it was “quite” chilly.

UK-based Gilly and Mark had decided to spend their honeymoon in South Africa, Gilly’s mother’s country of origin. Being outdoor enthusiasts they had planned a very active holiday, including some good challenging hiking in the Drakensberg.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mafadi Trek with Charly and Charlie - July 2011

Cathkin peak and its other companions just before dark.

Charly from Belgium was coming to South Africa to take part in the Big Five Marathon in the Entabeni Game Reserve. But he wanted to take the challenge a little further and hike to SA’s highest peak a few days after the marathon. He admitted it would have been better if he had had a few more days rest in between. He had done Kilimanjaro by 3 different routes and according to him that was a child’s play in comparison with Mafadi.

A Snowy Hike in the Drakensberg - June 2011

Once on top we were surprised to see that the Berg was mostly covered in snow, especially on the southern slopes.

This year winter arrived early and in full force. At the beginning of June, a powerful cold front coming from the south west left the whole High Berg covered in snow, a beautiful wintry sight like I hadn’t seen in years. However, I was hoping that most of the snow would be melt for my next hike in 2 weeks time. It wasn’t going to be.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mountain rescue practice with the Mountain Club of South Africa - June 2011

MCSA rescue team members keeping low waiting to be hoisted up the helicopter.

All search & rescue operations in Kwazulu-Natal are lead by the KZN section of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) in conjunction with the provincial Emergency Rescue Medical Services (EMRS), the South African Polices Services (SAPS) and the South African Air Forces (SAAF)). The MCSA rescue team are all volunteers who regularly attend rescue sessions, cliff practices and helicopter practices.

Vaalribbokkop and Zulu Caves, a hike with friends - June 2011

Not a bad spot for lunch, is it? It was a spectacular day.

Even though I have been spending lots of time hiking in the Drakensberg lately as a mountain guide, I was looking forward to sharing the Berg with some of my friends, just for the sheer love of it. Without the weight of responsibility I could relax and admire the mountains I love so much.

Northern Drakensberg Traverse - Forsdick group - May 2011

The whole party. We had spent 5 unforgettable days together in the mountains. This is a picture to look at in 10 years time!

At the end of May 2011 I had the fortune of spending 5 fantastic days in the Drakensberg Mountains with 9 adventurous Capetownians. With 9 porters we were a big yet harmonious party. We had to endure tough weather conditions with ice cold high winds but the mind-blowing vistas made it all worth it.

Mafadi with Driekie and Riaan - May 2011

Driekie and Riaan with their Leslie's Pass. How to forget that climb?

Driekie and Riaan had visited the Drakensberg many times before and done a few challenging day hikes but they had never backpacked and been in the High Berg in the past. They had visited the Injisuthi Area before and knew that Mafadi, South Africa’s highest point, was somewhere up there not far from the top of Leslie’s Pass. It was time to go for it. But nothing could prepare them for that steep climb up the pass, not to mention the unexpected high winds that we would encounter on top. It’s so easy to underestimate the Drakensberg... However, even though it was probably the toughest 4 days they had ever been through, I knew they had what was needed and they managed just fine. It’s hard to forget that close look at the Dragon, its changing moods and its indescribable beauty.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mafadi Trek - April 2011

Our campsite by the Centenary Hut. As soon as the sun set the temperature plummeted.

Autumn is usually a lovely time of the year to hike in the Drakensberg as it offers the best weather conditions: cloudless skies and cool temperatures. The air is crispy, the visibility fantastic, the light simply stunning with beautiful sunrises and sunsets in cool pastel tones that provide food for the soul.

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg - April 2011

This is why I love what I do.

The Grand Traverse is the mother of all hikes in the Drakensberg. With a total distance of about 230km and a total elevation gain over 9000m (higher than Everest), the preferred length of this trip is between 12 to 15 days. The hike runs along the top of the escarpment, keeping as close to the edge as possible for good vistas, and stays at an average altitude of 3000m, crisscrossing the border between Lesotho and South Africa. It’s a remote area, inhabited by the hardy Basotho shepherds, accompanied by their loyal dogs, who use these high lands for grazing for their sheep, goats, cows and horses. They leave the area during the winter months when it gets too cold for comfort.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The first Span-African Bell Traverse - March 2011

A great outlook point of the Mlabonja Valley no far from Twins Cave.

Last week I had the opportunity to lead my first black group in the Drakensberg Mountains. African people haven’t traditionally practised mountain sports for pleasure, but times are changing and, with better education and economical resources, cultural barriers are gradually disappearing. So this was a really special trip and I had been looking forward to experiencing the new South Africa since the moment my clients had confirmed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An overnight hike to Zulu Cave - March 2011

Great light from Zulu Cave

Christina and Bernhard from Germany had never camped in the mountains before. They just wanted to do 2 day hikes in a nice area. Didn’t they want to overnight in a beautiful cave instead, I asked them? To stay in a cave is of the unique experiences that we are fortunate to have in the Drakensberg. The Bushmen used these natural shelters, formed by erosion in the Clarens sandstone, for many thousands of years before the arrival of the white man in the mid 1850s, when they were sadly hunted for trophies until they were completely exterminated. The Bushmen are now long gone but the caves are still there. Some of them feature some of the finest rock art in the world, which is one of the reasons why the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park was declared world heritage site in 2000.

A hike to Mafadi, the highest peak in South Africa - February 2011

Sabine and Herbie on the summit. At 3450m, Mafadi is the highest peak in South Africa

Sabine and Herbier from Holland have done some interesting and serious treks in the Andes and Jordan, and were eager to experience the Drakensberg during their visit to South Africa in March. Not surprisingly they were fit and were up for a serious challenge.

A 3 day "luxury" hike to the Amphitheatre - February 2011

The Elands River Falls from the top of the Chain Ladder.

Philippe was working in South Africa over an extended period so he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know some of highlights of the country, like the Drakensberg.His wife Anne and his 12-year old daughter Zoe were going to join him from France for a holiday, and he wanted to do something new this time: an overnight hike in the Drakensberg.

A 6 day traverse in the Northern Drakensberg - February 2011

Another beautiful sunrise from Roland's Cave
Oliver and Ben from the UK were attending a wedding in South Africa, so they took the opportunity to combine it with a 2 week holiday and do some of the things they love most, including kite surfing and hiking.  Naturally they were both very fit and were keen for a hiking challenge in the high berg.  Fortunately they had time and dedicated 6 days to their challenge. The choice of hike was obvious:  start at the northern extreme of the Natal Drakensberg, the Sentinel Car Park, and walk southwards as far as we could, potentially including Mafadi, the highest peak in the Drakensberg, along the way. It was an ambitious idea but it had been done before. With a high standard of fitness and long days it was possible.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vaalribbokkop Cave and Zulu Cave - A 3 day hike in the Monk's Cowl area - January 2011

Walking on sandstone towards Vaalribbokkop Cave

Adele and Bruce Arnott come from Johannesburg and, as many other South Africans, love outdoors. Life is fast in the biggest city in South Africa so they try to go for escapes around the country as often as they can. They had done a few day hikes in the berg in the past but lately they had been thinking it was about time to take a step further and experience the mountains a little more intimately.