Join this incredible 3 day guided hike to the summit of Champagne Castle at 3,337m.
Situated in the Central Drakensberg, this hike is perfect for fit hikers who are looking for a unique multi day hiking experience -South African Style.
Alrighty then…. we would just like to get the politically correct small print out of the way if you don’t mind. We will start this process with a quote in French. It goes a little something like this: comment osez-vous l’appeler Château de Champagne. Son château de vin mousseux’. For those uncouth savages of you out there who cannot talk French allow us to divulge. Basically it translates to, “how dare you call it Champagne Castle. Its Sparkling Wine Castle’’ However we have decided to keep the name as Champagne Castle. Sorry le Frogs.
About Champagne Castle and the hike
Is this a normal Drakensberg hike? Nah, it’s a ****ed-up skunk, class A, can’t-think-let-a-lone-move kind of hiking experience. Probably to the best wording from a marketing perspective hey? But we believe the Drakensberg and mountains alike are there to test us . Its not the mountain we conquer, its ourselves. So yes, a bit of pain and suffering while hiking is a good thing. It will elevate you to another level of perspective and alter your reality of life forever. We start the journey from the Monks Cowl park Board camping area. The hike covers about 45km over 3 days and 2 nights.
Hikers are required to carry their own gear in backpacks. And yes….this hike is rated as challenging. Not a hike for beginners or unfit individuals. The highlight of this epic Drakensberg hike is that we summit the second highest mountain in South Africa-Champagne Castle at 3,337m. ( The highest mountain in South Africa is Mafadi topping out at 3450m above sea level. Well ocean level in this case as we are surrounded by the Indian Ocean and not a sea. The first days hike sees us heading up via Blind Mans Corner into Keiths Bush camp situated at the bottom of Grays Pass.
In summer we play a game of Hokey Pokey with the rivers- We put one foot in. We take one foot out and shake it all about. Thats what its all about….when crossing rivers in the `Drakensberg mountains that is. We set up a ‘base’ camp here. The second day will see us slogging our way up Grays Pass to the Summit of Champagne Castle. The cool thing about this part of the hike is that we will to have any heavy backpacks. We will shed a tear or two on the summit and then make our way down again to the base camp.
On clear sunny days, we will be rewarded with Cape Vulture sightings. Their nests are situated on the cliffs just before the gully that opens up to the escarpment. Day 3 is a return hike back the way we came. Capisce? In summer there is a beautiful pool of water to swim in. Our guides used to be addicted to swimming but have been dry for over 6 years now. And as for the campsite? This is one of the most scenic in the Drakensberg. We are nestled into the end of the valley with the majestic basalt giants towering over 1000m above us. These mountain include Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle, The Dragons Back and Monks Cowl.
Climbing Champagne Castle-How we roll?
So some of our guides have been up to the summit of Grays Pass over 50 times. We actually use this hike as the training ground for our clients climbing Kilimanjaro with us. So yes, we have an intimate relationship with the mountain. We know the routes, conditions and terrain needed for a successful hiking experience. The like to keep the hikes pretty interactive-this means hikers will get involved from putting up tents to navigation and being part of the intricate dynamics of the group. Adversity introduces a man to himself. Are you looking forward to meeting yourself?
And no, that is not a threat. It was an exaggerated response to an uncompromising stance. We were taught never to make a threat unless you are prepared to carry it out and we are not a fan of carrying anything. In fact watching hikers carrying their backpacks makes us uncomfortable. Mainly because of the possibility they may ask us to help carry.
So best you get used to trekking for long distances with backpack. But there is hope….porters can be hired on a daily basis if you feel the need for one. Don’t get too tense, but we will be using tents. And that also means there are no toilets or showers. Time to swallow some concrete and Harden up sunshine. Its all part of the unique Drakensberg hiking experience.
Interesting fact about how Champagne Castle got its name.
So as legend has it, the first person to climb Champagne Castle decided to take up a bottle of Champagne to Christen his successful summit attempt. But alas, as he took the bottle out of his backpack, it dramatically slipped from his meaty hands and smashed on the summit. And so the name was borne. Cool story hey? Better than the 3 little pigs story about wolves blowing down houses we think.
Why we feel the need to climb in the Drakensberg?
People ask the question… what’s a mountaineer? And I tell ’em – it’s not about mountains, perseverance, and suffering oh no. There’s more there than that, my friend. All hikers like a bit of the good mountain life – some the burning legs, some the summits, others the mind game of conquering a mountain, the cold or the comradeship. But a mountaineer, oh, he’s different. Why? Because a real mountaineer wants the fricking lot.
- Qualified mountain guide and wilderness first responder
- Dinners, breakfasts and hot drinks on the mountain which ill team will cook and prepare
- Equipment including 4 season tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats and backpacks
- Hiking permits
- Cooking and eating utensils
- Lunches on the mountain
- Transport to Monks Cowl
- My wife
Our meeting point is at Monks Cowl Camp at 10am. We then do an equipment check and aim to start hiking by say 11pm. The hike today covers 14km and usually takes hikers about 5 hours to complete. Our camp for the night is Keiths Bush Camp. We access the camp via Blind Mans Corner. We then set up our base camp where we will be staying for the 2 nights. We then cook up a meal and put you to bed with a teddy bear and a small ping ping ball.
PLEASE NOTE!!! TODAY IS A CHALLENGING DAY!!!! We cover 14 km and takes us on average 7 hours to hike. The obvious fatigue factors being the backpack, terrain and gradient. So please don’t give us grief when we get into camp about us not warning you. This is our official warning so waaah. The warning has been registered with the The National Warnings Council of Southern Skankville. Sounds official doesn’t it? So call off the lawyers, get your ass of the couch and go do some training.
Wake call is at 6am. Breakfast is served at 7:30am. So gives you an hour and a half to wee, pooh and cry. We aim to start the summit to Champagne Castle via Grays Pass by 8:30am. The hike to summit covers about 7km and takes up to 5 hours. We then descend all the way back to the base camp again.
Back in camp by say 5pm. Then its a cry, swim in the river, dinner and splash of whiskey for the pain. And yes….it is a log day. The altitude gain is about 1200m. And that is without the use of any chemically induced drugs. We going to do it the old fashioned way by hiking up the mountain.
Wake up at 6am. Breakfast at 7am. Ready to leave by 8am. The route back is the same as the trek in with a slight detour on the last 5km. Walking time today is about 6 hours covering 14km. We should be done by say 2pm.