Advice for surviving a Drakensberg hike
Let us start off this incredible article by answering the question to the first question ever thought of before a thought of a Drakensberg hike existed. Its best not to know what you don’t need to know. You should not even know that there are things to know that you don’t know about. You should go one step further and protect yourself from knowing that you decided not to know about the things that you decided not to know about. Once you have done this, open the 3rd level of your weakest neural pathway next to section 5.7 of your cerebral cortex and get to know the best advice for surviving a Drakensberg hike.
Shew….now that we sorted that out, lets get straight into it shall we….
Surviving a Drakensberg Hike
Mountains are all about adversity and unpredictability. They are the perfect levelers. There has been many a mountain in my life that has just left me completely and utterly broken me. But in hindsight, it is the perspective that I learnt about myself and life that will stay with me forever. It is not always about the summit. Many of the lessons learnt have been on the mountains where I had to turn around. A Drakensberg hike is no different. Mountains are NOT easy. There is a saying in mountaineering: Its always further, harder and higher than it looks. Take an average multi-day hike in the Drakensberg for example. It would be wise to try and adopt this philosophy of thinking before you go hiking. That way you will not have any false expectation into thinking hiking in these majestic mountains is easy.
How hard is the average Drakensberg hike?
How hard is the Drakensberg Hike? Good thing my name is not Drakensberg Hike or I might have taken offence to that question. Anyway…..Difficult to say sunshine. How long is a piece of string? The perceived difficulty level is all dependent on so many factors from your mental and physical endurance, your fitness levels, your hiking experience and whether or not you cut your toenails before the hike. We have had so many people joining our guided hikes in the Drakensberg thinking that it wont be that bad. And when the going gets tough they attack. Armed with a quiver of accusational arrows all aimed at us. “You said we only doing 10km today”. “You didn’t tell us I was going to get so cold in the night”. “Why did you not know that we were going to get caught in a snowstorm”. “You never told me how hard going up this pass was going to be” ….blah blah blah blah. There are some things in life that require a certain je ne sais quoi. Disguised also as common sense to many. You are going to be hiking in the mountains sunshine!!! Its not a tickling competition. What did you expect? A grease-down and a shiatsu. Walking 10km around your neighborhood may seem easy, but 10 km in the mountains is another kettle of fish. There are many factors to consider from the terrain, altitude, the weight of your backpack, the weather and the food you eat. Best advice we can give when hiking in the Drakensberg. Expect a challenging experience. Expect you are going to be way out of your comfort zones. Expect pain and suffering. They are all good things to expect. They are the building blocks to an incredible feeling of perspective, accomplishment and self mastery. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Learn from it. That is what mountains are all about.
Right then…Now that I’ve finished having my say,here are a few factors that you would need to take into consideration before challenging yourself in the mighty Barrier of Spears (or Dragon Mountains as they are also known):
Hiking Distances can vary from 10-12km a day:
The are a multitude of routes to choose from in the Drakensberg. Moat of them have set ‘way points’ that serve as a great spot to spend the night. These spots vary from a good area to set up a tent to a decent cave. A lot of the routes involve hiking on some exposed and extreme sections. Take the Bell Traverse Hike for example. There is no place to set up camp on the exposed cliff edges. So invariably, hikers have no option but to keep on plodding to the next way point. Another reality to consider would be the days you have planned to complete the hike. If you planned to do a 45km hike in 3 days, you have to hammer 15km a day in order to finish as planned.
The Actual Hiking time per day:
A lot of people underestimate how long a hike can actually take to complete. We have been involved in guided Drakensberg hikes for over 15 years. So yip, we have got compiled sufficient data through the years to know that the average hiking speed is a whopping 2 km per hour. Now lets see how well our Degree in Maths has turned out for us. We mentioned that the hiking distance on a multi day hike can average between 10 and 12km a day. Divide that by the average hiking speed ( 2 km per hour) and……..ta da…. we have an answer of 6 hours. And that is just an average. You then have to consider getting up the Passes. May of the Drakensberg Passes rise steeply up to the escarpment. They often rise up over 1000m in just 2-3km. Its on these Passes you will need to adjust your averages. With a 15kg backpack a 50 degree incline, and the altitude to worry about, your hiking speed will most likely drop to 7oom per hour. Yip. Crazy stuff hey? You have been warned!! Obviously this warning does not apply to Klu Klux Clan hikers. There are 3 things that scare us in this world. Mother Nature. My Mother in Law. And the Mother F****ing Klu Klux Clan.
Which route to take:
Deciding on the best route to take is something you might want to consider. Read up and research the pros and cons of each route. There are some routes that may be way out of your comfort zone. Some of the examples we are talking about here could include your fear of heights, fitness level, how well you know the area, water supply and terrain.Don’t go and choose a route that requires an average of 15km a day hiking if you are not capable of it. Rather choose a shorter route to start out with. Shorter routes would include the Amphitheatre or Cathedral Peak hike. If you are afraid of heights, stick to the flatter routes and avoid exposed ridges and cliff faces. Routes to avoid in this case would be the Bell Taverse Hike,the summit section of Cathedral Peak and the chainladders of the Amphitheatre hike. If your navigation an map reading sucks then stick to well marked routes. Many hiker get lost in the Drakensberg because they underestimate their skills. Know which routes have a problem with finding water. Dehydration is a danger and you will need to know how to find a reliable water source. That is why a guided Drakensberg hike with Soul Adventures is the way to go. We take care of all the logistics and planning.
This is an important aspect to consider. The Drakensberg has super volatile weather conditions. It is sometimes difficult to predict what the day will be like. It is for this reason we always recommend that hikers plan for the worst case scenario. Rather carry a little extra weight in terms of equipment than get exposed to an extreme weather phenomenon. Obviously taking the seasons into account is also a factor. It is always best to research or ask someone who knows the conditions intimately for advice. Never underestimate the cold for example in winter. We have experienced -15 degrees Celsius on the escarpment before. And then there is the thunderstorms that appear out of nowhere!! You wanna be ready for that sunshine. Not pleasant at all.
Make sure you have the correct hiking equipment:
Always ensure you have the correct hiking equipment!! this cannot be emphasized enough. As mentioned, the weather conditions in the Drakensberg can change drastically without warning. The only warning you may get is the guide running in the opposite direction.And no…pink panties do not keep you warm boys. If you are unsure of what equipment you need for a hike, give us a shout and we will give you advice. For more information on what equipment is needed, please click on this link: http://www.souladventures.co.za/equipment-list-for-drakensberg-hike/
And there we have it!!! Our 2 cents worth on surviving a hike in the Drakensberg. We offer a variety of guided hikes into the Drakensberg. We would love to be a part of your experience. Contact us for more details if you are keen to join. We assume that if you have read this far, you don’t take offence at our humour or innuendos. You are the clients we love to take into the mountains. We are not fans of the haughty-toity-toffee-eating-stick-it-up-your-toity-lah-dee-dahs.