Best time to hike the Drakensberg
As she seductively reached out for his warm embrace, the passion between them exploded into a cascade of wet kisses and wrongful probing.
“Oi? Wozz goin on ‘ere?”
Not sure. But now for something completely different. An article illustrating the best time to hike the Drakensberg.
Allow us to start off by saying that we do have some credibility on this subject. We have led over 300 guided hikes to the Drakensberg since 2009. And that was just the commercial side of our experience. We have been hiking in the Drakensberg since the tender age of 12. As you can imagine, we have been through all kinds of weather conditions from snowstorms to thunderstorms. From blazing heat to freezing cold. And yet, here we are. Still with all fingers in tact and able to share our advice on the best time to hike the Drakensberg. As usual we have included a mixture of dry humour with the actual facts. It’s up to you to decipher which is which. Just as in nature, we like to keep the balance. Summer-winter. Hot-cold. Stupid jokes-Serious time. Its how we roll. If you don’t like it, please feel free not to join us on a hike. Or you can lodge a complaint on 现在走吧，否则@wedontcare.com
When is the best time to hike the Drakensberg?
We reckon the best time to hike is on a Thursday at 3:26pm. So if you are reading this on Wednesday at 7:56pm then you better move it because you are going to miss the best time slot. Maybe a good way to make it in time is to take the last 15 minutes of your life. Compact it into 60 seconds using a TCA ( time compacting App), and put in the freezer for 1 hour. Then take the now frozen time segment and throw it against the wall as hard as you can. Take the smallest fragment and defrost it. Once defrosted, speed up the time of that specific fragment by 150. The result should be a reduction in your time/space continuum allowing you to make the decision to hike 1 week before Thursday. Make sense? No? Then please dial 3 now.
Summer Months in the Drakensberg
Summer in the Drakensberg is from the beginning of November to the end of February.
The advantages of a summer hike:
- The mountain a lot greener than in Winter. The scenery at this time of the year is frikken spectacular!!
- Longer daylight time for hiking. This is especially beneficial on the longer multi-day hikes when longer distances have to be covered. The sun in mid summer is up at about 4:45am and only sets at about 7:30pm. That gives hikers 14 hours of light to maximize the best time to hike.
- Its a lot more warmer in summer. The advantages of this is that your backpack is way lighter as you do not need all the heavy cold weather gear. It is also way better to wake up in the summer months as you do not freeze your winky off.
- Water is everywhere!! The rainy season in the Drakensberg is in the summer months. This means finding water is never a problem as there are an abundance of mountains streams and waterfalls.
- The plant life comes alive. There are thousands of colorful flowers in bloom. The most prominent is our national flower, the Protea. And please take it easy on on. There are a lot of plant species the Drakensberg. Although we can help identify the more common ones, we are not your average horti-f***ing-culturists. We climb mountains. Not flowers.
- People sweat more in the heat. This is perfect as we like to collect the sweat and cook with it. Salt is too heavy to carry.
- The Drakensberg is often shrouded in mist. This gives the mountains such a magical feel to them. We love it!!!
Disadvantages of a summer hike:
- Lets just say that the Drakensberg can get frikken hot in summer. Maybe not the best time to hike the Drakensberg if you are not used to the heat. Dehydration is a concern and would need to be proactively managed.
- The mountains are home to some hectic thunderstorms. We have been caught many a time on the escarpment in these storms. The major danger is of course lightning. We try and make use of caves in the summer months. They are a lot safer and drier. We have had some spectacular lightning shows from these caves.
- Rain gear is mandatory. If you don’t have proper rain gear, you are going to have to invest in some. Getting wet is not a good idea when hiking in the Drakensberg.
- Although we love the magical feeling of mist in the Drakensberg, the mist can also have its disadvantages. Firstly it can obscure the views. Secondly it can become dangerous in terms of getting lost. The mist can get very thick. We have been in mist where you cant see 3m in front of you. And thirdly, it obscures our view of the topless hikers.
- Snakes are more active in the summer months. Fear not!!! That is why you are going to book a hike with Soul Adventures. We will protect you. No extra charge for this.
- Some of the routes can be very dangerous in wet conditions. Take the Bell Traverse hike for example. There are some super exposed sections of cliff face that needs to be crossed. The rock gets very slippery and is not a good idea in the rain.
Winter Months in the Drakensberg
Winter months in the Drakensberg are from the beginning on May to the end of August.
Advantages of a winter hike:
- There is little chance of rain in the winter months. So no danger of getting caught in thunderstorms and lightning. It also means you wont be all grumpy and and moaning because all your gear, tents and shoes are soaking wet.
- Snow!!! If you are South African you will love the snow. We don’t get to experience it much. Waking up to a white mountain range is magical. And of course the occasional snowball fight is a must. If you are from Europe and live in snow…sorry for you.
- The temperatures are cooler than in the summer months. So no overheating when hiking old chap.
- The night time skies are just amazing and clear. The whole Milky Way billions of stars are visible on most nights.
- A lot of routes can be dangerous in summer when the rain comes. The wet rock becomes super slippery and therefore not the best option from a safety perspective. There is not much rain in winter. So routes like the Bell Traverse and Rolands cave become an option.
- Snow boarding on an ironing board in a Spiderman suite becomes a possibility.
Disadvantages of a winter hike:
- Its frikken freezing in the evenings!!! Yip, we have had overnight temperatures of -12 degrees Celsius on the escarpment before. This means your backpack is going to be a tad heavier than the summer hikes. You are going to have to ensure you have cold weather gear and a sleeping bag that can handle the freezing conditions.
- The winter months also bring with it the cold fronts. These fronts bring very cold conditions and usually snowstorms as well. If you are not experiences enough in these conditions, best to be on the look out for them and avoid if you can.
- Less daylight time for hiking. The sun rises at about 6:30am and is dark by about 5:30pm. The mornings are cold. So getting ready, packing up tents and cooking breakfast takes longer in these conditions. Realistically, there is only 9 hours of hiking time in the winter months. Would be way less on the first day if hiking if you have driven down from Johannesburg and only start hiking by say 12pm.
- The mountains are brown, hazy and dusty. Although they are still incredibly beautiful, not every ones cup of tea.
- Fires are a real concern in winter. The rainy season is in summer. This means the grass is super dry. The parks board are involved in controlled burning from time to time. It is a good idea to have a chat with the local ranger to find out the locations so you don’t get caught. The other concern is from the Basothos cattle smugglers. We have found that they will set fire to ransom areas to either discourage people coming to an area or to drive livestock up the mountain from South Africa.
- Finding water can be a problem. Especially if there has been no snow. We have been on multi day hikes on the escarpment of the Drakensberg where finding fresh water was a challenge.
So when is the best time to hike the Drakensberg?
We like to go in March, April and May. And why is that you ask? We have several reasons listed below:
- The Drakensberg is still green. So beautiful when green and lush
- There is still water in the streams and waterfalls
- Its not too unbearably cold yet.
- The chances of thunderstorms and getting wet is a lot less
- The temperatures are not as hot as the mid summer months.
- The air still clear. Perfect for photos and getting a clear view of the Milky Way.
- Because the chances of rain is less, there is a greater selection of hiking routes to choose from. Some of sections that are not navigable in the wet are now accessible.
There you have it. I hope you have a better insight into the best time to go hiking in the Drakensberg. We are looking forward to seeing you in the mountains. Give us a shout if you have any questions. Pleas feel free to leave a comment below.