Elbrus Training hike to Mafadi

Elbrus Training hike to Mafadi

Dates of the Mafadi Hike

4-7 February 2022.

Cost of the hike

R2,800 per person

What the cost includes

  • Guides
  • Tents
  • Hiking Permits for 4 days
  • Breakfast and dinner on the mountain
  • Cooking and eating utensils
  • Bedtime story and foot massage from Rikkus
  • Backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping mats.

What the cost excludes

  • Transport ( you will need to meet us at the start of the hike)
  • Lunches/snacks on the hike
  • Inner Thigh massages
  • Your hiking equipment/clothing

How to make the booking?

You would need to  complete the online booking form. the link is detailed booking form

When is payment due and how do I pay?

Payment due by 32nd Of January. Payment can be made into our bank account below. Please use you name as reference:

Bank: Discovery

Account Type: Cheque

Account name: SA Adventures

Account no: 10438938099

Where do you have to meet  on 4 February and the time?

You will need to arrive at the Injasuthi Camp Site at about 9am. We aim to start the hike by 10am.

Ultimate Mafadi Circuit hike

This is the longest route to take. We ascend via Judges Pass with and overnight in the Upper Injasuthi summit cave. We descend via Leslies with a night in the Marble Bath cave. One of the most challenging days would be day 2. We start off from Centenary Hut and contour for 5km to the base of Judges Pass. We then ascend about 1000m over 2km to the top of the escarpment. By this time the effects of altitude, fatigue and a 15kg backpack are starting to take its toll. The last push for the day is up ‘heart break’ hill to the Upper Injasuthi cave. This section covers about 7km and takes up to 3 hours to complete. The other challenging part of the hike is the descent. Once we have shed a tear or two on the highest mountain in South Africa, we take the knee hammering Pass known as Leslies. We drop over 1300m to the Marble Bath Cave- a long day that takes about 12 hours to complete. 

Mafadi Hiking distances and daily itinerary

The total distance covered on the Mafadi hike is about 65km broken up as follows:

“Day 1”

We aim to hit the trail by say 11am. The first part of the hike covers about 14km with an altitude gain of about 700m. The last 4km are probably the most challenging as we head sharply up the ridge of what we like to call “the burns”. We overnight at the Centenary Hut. You ca then begin the nesting process while we get dinner ready. Dinner at say 7pm. Then we tuck you into bed with your favourite teddy bear and a small orange ping pong ball called Dave.

“Day 2”

We are going to entice you from the sleeping process  at 5:30am with a thunder flash and clanging pots. Breakfast is served at 7am. So you have 1.5 hours to wee, pooh and get yourself ready for the hike ahead. We aim to leave by 8am. Today is frikken long. We are going to be hiking for at least 10 hours today. Our first challenge is up Judges Pass. Once that is behind us, we take the 8km slog up to the Upper Injasuthi Cave for the night. Dinner, sleep.

“Day 3”

Wake up at 5am ready to start hiking by 6am. We are going to take all of our gear and make the 1 hour hike to he summit of Mafadi. We will have a cry, offer all round congratulations and head North towards Leslies Pass. We will have breakfast at a stream on route there. 

The distance from Mafadi to Leslies Pass is about 7km and takes about 2 hours. We then begin the knee crushing, thigh walloping descent. We are going to drop 1000m over say 1.5 km. So yes…its going to hurt. We aim to be in the Marble Bath Cave by say 5pm if everything goes according to plan. The last 4km into the cave involves some rough terrain through the dry river bed and bush. 

“Day 4”

Wake up at 6am. Have breakfast and ready to leave by 8am. The hiking distance today Is only about 10km on relatively flat terrain and takes about 3 hours to complete. So back at Injasuthi ( where we started) by 11am. Ready to leave for the drive back to Johannesburg by say 12. 

The Hiking Terrain?

Hiking in the Drakensberg is way different to what you may have encountered before. A lot of the route is unmarked. The paths are single track and strewn with rocks that you need to step over, tufts of stubborn grass, lose gravel and sand. So you have to be constantly aware of your foot steps ( especially on ledges or on the steep inclines). If you take your eye of the path to admire the view, you may find yourself tripping over something. And that something could include a rock, loose sand, a wild ping pong ball or your ego.  But I want to see the view!!! Chill out Winston. We take regular breaks so you can absorb the incredible mountain scenery. As for the gradients…they can be pretty intense. Most of the passes are straight up. Usually about 1000m over 2km. So as you can imagine, the gradient is wild. Nothing that can’t be conquered though. A little pain and suffering on your way to the top is good for you. Builds Character. Adversity introduces a man to himself. The summit of the highest mountain in South African needs to be earned. So embrace those slogs up to the top.

How long is the hike?

To give you an idea how challenging the hike is, check this out:

  • The average distance covered is about 63km. So that is about 14km a day. 
  • The altitude gain on day 1 is 700m
  • The altitude gain on day 2 is 1200m. Of that, 900m is over a mere 2km. So you can just imagine the gradient. Pretty intense. 
  • Due to the gradient, condition of the terrain, hiking with a backpack, altitude and the commanding affects of fatigue, the average hiking speed is about 2km/h. So haul out those trusty calculators and due the maths. 14km distance per day divided by 2km/h and…..bobs your uncles mother……7 hours of hiking time per day. That is a lot of time, especially with a 15kg backpack. 
  • There is a altitude drop of 1300m on day 3 as we make the descent from the escarpment of Mafadi. As is the norm on most Drakensberg hikes, the first part of the descent  to the middle ‘berg’ is a knee bashing 1200m over 2km. We make our way down either Leslies or Judges Pass.

What about lunch?

Our modus Operandi in the mountains is all about keeping the rhythm and momentum going. We take breaks every 45 minutes for about 10 minutes. That gives you time to fuel upon snacks, energy bars, nuts etc.

What do we suggest for snacks?

You are going to need snacks for basically 4 days. Now don’t go stock up on heavy, bulky stuff. We suggest a mixture of nuts, biltong, energy bars, and dried fruit. And try compartmentalizing the food into small zip lock bags for ease of use and convenience.  You may want to also consider a powdered energy drink or rehydrate solution to help with energy. Just bare in mind you are going to be burning some serious calories. And for all you protein only type, may we suggest you drop that idea for this hike. Try and get snacks that cover carbohydrates ( 60% of your RDA), Fats (20% of your RDA) and protein (30 % of your RDA).

What equipment would I need for the hike?

Ok, so you are going to spending 3 nights in the mountains. So you are going to need to have the correct equipment to survive in the mountains. Sounds dramatic I know but safety first.

These are the basic things you will need, but please check out the following links for a more detailed description. And PLEASE, watch the Youtube video as well. It will give you a visual aspect on what to bring.

  • A 65 to 75 litre backpack ( it must be able to fit your sleeping bag, clothing, snacks, water, sleeping mat).  A 35 LITRE DAYPACK IS NOT SUFFICIENT  (unless you can fit all your stuff in it. And good luck with  that we say)
  • Sleeping bag that can handle 6 Degrees Celcius. ( Of course you can sleep in all your fleece jerseys if need be as well. A good sleeping bag liner also adds a few degrees to the sleeping bag rating)
  • Warm fleece and waterproof jacket. The rainy season is here, we always prepare for the worst. Getting wet in the Drakensberg can be potentially dangerous and lead to hypothermia.

Link to the equipment list ( summer version but maybe add a few items like gloves and beanie):

What should the weight of the backpack be?

The guideline is not more than a third of your body weight. The average weight is about 12kg.

What are the hiking conditions, terrain and difficulty levels like on the hike?

So, mountains are not easy. There are going to be some challenging sections that are going to need you to dig deep mentally as well as physically. The paths are mostly single track and sometimes hug the edge of the mountain. And yes….there is going to be a lot of ‘uphills’.  But stress not. It’s not the mountain you conquer but yourself. We will mentally guide you through the tough sections to help you get to the top. But for the most part, the hike is pretty easy and a moderate level of fitness will see you survive with maybe a few sore leg muscles as a reminder of the awesome hike you just completed. To give you an idea of the difficulty, we average between 1 and 1.5 km/h. This is due to various factors like the gradient, terrain, weather conditions, fatigue, altitude and hiding from the coronavirus.

What if it rains?

So what if it rains you ask? Well then we dish out a big dollop of sympathy and carry on with the hike. Obviously you are going to have to ensure you have all of your bags and yourself waterproofed.

Rainy Seasons are from October to March. The chances of rain and thunderstoems is high. But again…we are dealing with mountains and they have their own set of agendas and love working with Murphy and his band of merry law makers. We will check the weather a few days prior to the trip to see if their is a chance of rain. But if Murphy decides to send a cold front, then we need to be prepared.

How do I go about waterproofing my gear?

Okay so the first thing you will need is a  rain jacket to keep yourself dry.

What we suggest for your gear is pretty simple. You will need 3 waterproof bags. (Either thick plastic bags or the more expensive waterproof bags that can seal-you can get both from a reputable hiking or outdoor retail shop). The first bag you use for your clothing. It must be large enough to fit all your clothing. The second bag is for your sleeping bag. You do not want to get this wet!!!!. The third bag is for your sleeping mat.

And over all of this you will need a backpack rain cover for extra protection. And also a few zip lock bags to keep your cell phone and toilet paper dry.

Do I need Gaitors?

If you are asking ‘what are those?’ then probably not. In fact I have never worn them and I have been up there like 250 times. Gaitors are used to keep snow out of your boots. And rain. But I find my hiking pants cover the boots so they keep the rain out. And the possibility of snow is minimal.

Do I need hiking boots or are trail shoes sufficient?

Yeah you can get away with trail shoes. Just bear in mind that if it rains you are going to get wet feet. If you cool with that and promise not to bleat in our poor guides ear about wet feet..then we cool with it.

Water bottles vs bladders

If you are looking for approval on a bladder then you’ve come to the wrong place. I have spent way too much time in the mountains to see the disadvantages of a bladder. They are squishy. They are difficult to pack in your backpack. They leak. The mouth pieces break. And they are not easy to fill with water which is sometimes a freezing trickle from a rock. And you never know how much you have drunk. I prefer 2x 1 litre Nalgene water bottles with a wide mouth- Easy to fill up-Easy to drink from- Versatile.   Easy to clean.

Do we need water purification tablets?

No. The water in the Drakensberg is pure. No human settlement and no animals to pollute the water. Sometimes you get a few floating things like grass and the likes but nothing that will kill you. And water purification drops are not going to dissolve the grass particles either. We have never had an upset stomach from the water.

What about wees and poohs?

Okay so there are a few rules and procedures when it comes to this wonderful human experience in the mountains. First of all let us star of by telling you that there are no toilets in the mountains. Eish. So you are going to have to find a suitable spot for your business. The modus operandi? Dig a whole and a) burn the toilet paper or b) keep it in a ziplock bag and carry the paper out with you.  We leave the mountain as we found it!!!! No trace that we were ever there. And of course you are going to have to bear with us in terms of where you can go. The mountain is pretty limited in terms of space due to the terrain. And privacy is also a big concern. So we will work out a plan on the mountain in terms of how where and how. All part of the experience right?

How do I wash or keep myself clean?

There are obviously no showers in the mountains. And we can’t fit any in our backpacks . So you are going to have to live with the fact that you are going 3 days without a shower. And there is no bathing in the rivers allowed either!!! Unless you are brave enough to jump in without soap.  We respect our rivers and would like to keep them as pristine as possible. Having said that, there are no rivers really on the hike big enough to swim in. So…..its wetwipes and hand sanitizer to keep you all fresh and lovely smelling I’m afraid. And bear in mind you are going to be sharing a tent with a possible stranger so keep those smelly feet under control.

What are we going to be eating on the hike?

So we are going to be bringing our very own mountain chefess Emma, who has worked out the art of creating tasty and nutritious food in the mountains.

Breakfast: oats with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.

Dinners: Depending on her mood, Emma will conjure up a really cool meal. We keep things pretty healthy. So no 2 minute noodles. She will create stews with quinoa, couscous, potatoes, onions, vegetables and a secret sauce with either smoked chicken or tuna. Obviously if you are vegetarian there will be a vegetarian version. We have your booking forms with your requirements so stress not. And please be kind to Emma. Cooking in the mountains is not easy. And we don’t want you to get the ‘special’ order

What happens at meal times?

You will be assigned a plate, spoon and cup at the beginning of the hike. It is yours for the duration of the hike. At meal times you present yourself in an orderly fashion please ( no biting, scratching or pushing allowed) and help yourself to Emmas delicious food. Buffet…. but mountain style!!!  After you have finished eating, there will be a bowl of hot water for you to clean your bowl, spoon and cup with. Then of course……put them away safely for the next meal. You don’t want to be eating with your hands from a rock if you misplace them. At the end of the hike we will collect the mountain cutlery from you again.




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