Join us on this epic and challenging guided hike to the summit of the highest mountain in South Africa.
The hike covers about 65km lasting 4 days. Situated in the Central Drakensberg, this hike includes some of the remotest and epic Drakensberg Mountain scenery. It is no wonder J.R Tolkien was inspired by these majestic mountains to include them as the Misty Mountains in his legendary Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
About the mountain
Mafadi is officially the highest mountain in South Africa. And by the highest, we don’t mean a chemically induced, “skunk, class-A, messed up, I can think let alone walk” high that you may or may not be wondering about. By highest, we mean 3,464m above sea level. The hike is completed in 4 days with an altitude gain of over 2500m.
And of course, what goes up…must come down, so brace those knees for a steep descent of relatively the same height. We pack extra packets of sympathy that we hand out to hikers for this part of the hike. The starting point for the hike is at the Injasuthi Parks Board campsite which is situated in the province of KwaZulu Natal.
The route to the summit?
So basically we hit the escarpment of the Drakensberg via Judges Pass with a night at Centenary Hut beforehand. If the conditions are good and we feel that the group is capable, we will sometimes climb up Corner Pass. Both of the Passes will include an altitude gain of over 1000m in just a mere 3km of distance. And yes, you will be hiking up with backpacks. So as you can imagine….it will be challenging….. and you will be in danger of breaking into a sweat.
But that is what hiking in the Drakensberg is all about. You need to earn that summit sunshine. No short cuts to the top in the mountains I’m afraid.-helps build character, they say. Give perspective on life and help find a deeper understanding of yourself.
Well thats what they think anyway. Maybe you just want to climb to fine tune those calf muscles to attract a mate on the beach. But we reckon the more philosophical approach to Mafadi is way better. The descent is via the notorious, cramp and cry inducing Leslies Pass. After spending a night in the summit cave known as the Upper Injasuthi Cave, we tackle this beast of a Pass. We drop over 1200m and hobble into the Marble Bath Cave where we spend the final night holding back a tear or two and longing for our mommies.
How challenging is the Mafadi Hike?
Umm….lets just say its frikken challenging. Imagine this if you can… hikers cover 65km in 4 days with backpacks weighing say 12kg. The altitude gain is over 2500m. The altitude loss is over 2500m. The terrain is on rugged, uneven, single track, mountain paths ( that are virtually non-existent) strewn with lose rocks and sand.
The conditions on the Drakensberg escarpment can also get pretty extreme, resulting in a scream which attracts poets that don’t even know it. In winter we can get snow and temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius.
We have even had a few cases of men turning into woman in just 5 minutes from not being in their tents in time. In Summer we are exposed to some super crazy thunderstorms. And….some people may suffer with the altitude-3,451m love sea level can affect hikers, especially if they have just driven up from the lowlands.
Now our marketing and sales team may suggest that we word this tour in a different way to encourage excess sales and massive profit margins.
But we have decided not to. We need hikers to understand the difficulty of this hike. We not only do we want to avoid any potentially life threatening situations due to fatigue and exposure, but would also like our clients to enjoy the hike.
If we had to grade the hike against other Drakensberg hikes, we would rate this as an 8/10. Now calm down princess….we know that climbing Everest is also rated as 8/10. But of course the rating system is totally different due to the differences in terrain, altitude and so forth.
So lets sort the hikers from the slack packers and the strollers from the rollers and those who trust us from those who don’t, because if you don’t get the bigger picture of how challenging this hike is today, you’re not on this site shopping, your on it shoplifting.
And yes, we want to know that, by completing this challenging Drakensberg hike, you will be helping yourself find perspective on life and NOT become a haughty, hoity, stick it up your toity, high and mighty, tight-nosed, toffee-arsed, sun-dried-tomato-eating lah-de-dah.
Is this a good choice as a first hiking experience?
Ummm…maybe not sunshine. If you have never hiked before, let alone in the Drakensberg, would we suggest you join this hike to the highest mountain in South Africa?
No can do. And that is not a place near Khathmandu.
As mentioned, the hike is challenging and if you have never experienced a multi day hike covering 65km we suggest maybe starting with a less challenging hike like our 3 day Cathedral Peak hike or even the 3 day ‘slack packing’ hike in the Amphitheatre region.
And if hiking 65km is not your game, then we suggest you order an Aristotle of the most ping pong tiddly in the nuclear sub and get back to your algebra equations. Or your alge -panties equations if you so prefer.
The average hiking distance and time per day?
One thing that people seem to underestimate when hiking in the Drakensberg is the time it takes to cover the required distance for a particular day. And that particular day is not last year Wednesday at 14:23am as that was the day of the Alien Invasion.
Right then…back to the topic at hand… What is the average time it takes to hike 1km on a Drakensberg hike to Mafadi? We average between 1.5-2km/h. ( which includes the rest breaks) for snacks, weed and poohs) So this is where our mathematical degree we bought from da second hand hiking shop comes in handy.
Lets’ say we average 14km distance per day. Divide that by 2km per hour and…Robert’s your father’s brother….7 hours hiking time per day.Savvy? And of course that all makes perfect sense given the crazy gradient, altitude, backpack and uneven mountain terrain.
A fully inclusive guided hiking experience in the Drakensberg
We supply the guide, tents, cooking and eating utensils, sleeping mat and food. Hikers on this Drakensberg tour must bring a backpack, sleeping bag and their clothing. And then its one foot in front of the other as you willingly follow the guide into these ancient mountains.
Where do hikers sleep?
On the first night of the hike we make use of tents. Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts,Ts….See..10 of them. If you get that pathetic attempt at a joke then you are more than ready to join us on Mafadi. If you didn’t get it please dial 4 now. And please…no “hanky panky, can I smack you with my blankie” in the tents. We need them for future Mafadi hikes if you don’t mind old chap.
The second night is spent in the summit cave known as the Upper Injasuthi Cave. The cave is situated within 2km of Mafadi and offers some breathtaking views in tot he valley below. The third night is spent in the Marble Bath Cave. Now this is a gem of a spot. The highlight of this spot is that we get to take a dip in the refreshing natural pools-a welcome relief after a long day hiking.
Who leads the way?
Not only have we been hiking in the Drakensberg since we were 10 years old, but are proud to say we have led over 300 guided hikes into these ancient and majestic mountains. We have an absolute passion for the Drakensberg. Some of our guides are also involved in may other mountaineering expeditions around the world from Kilimanjaro, Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in the Andes and many Himalayan giants from Island Peak, Cho Oyu, Loboche and 85.23% of Everest.
So yes, we have been through all kinds of conditions and circumstances from snow storms, surviving the elements, getting lost, extreme altitude, dealing with group dynamics and putting our clients to bed with their favourite teddy bear. Mountaineering is not something you learn from a book.
Our trade is forged in the harsh environment of mountains where a baptism of fire is the norm. Our knowledge and wisdom of the Drakensberg has been earned through years of experience. So we reckon you are in good hands. We have been through the learning curves. That’s why you are paying us the big bucks right? …to make help your hike to highest mountain in South Africa a more enjoyable and safe one.
Why climb Mafadi with us?
- Free pre-climb advice.
- We are based in Johannesburg. Come and have a beer with us to discuss the logistics of the trip
- We offer free training sessions on selected weekends. It would be a pretty good idea to come and join one or two sessions. We will inflict some pain and suffering on you as a test to see if you are indeed ready for a Mafadi hike. You can also get to meet fellow hikers so we can sort out the group dynamics prior to the trip. We don’t want any unnecessary squabbles at 3400m.
- You have access to our guides via Wottsup. So if you have any questions, feel free to bombard them.
- We have been involved in guided hikes to the summit of Mafadi for over 20 years with over 100 summits.
- Although we have a whacked out sense of humour, safety is still our primary concern.
- Because my mom says you must
- qualified mountain guide
- dinners, breakfasts and hot drinks on the mountain which our team will prepare and cook
- equipment including tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, backpacks and eating utensils
- hiking permits and park fees
- Free rock from the summit
- discount when purchasing equipment from Drifters
- Lunch’s on the Mountain
- Any meals on route
- transport but can be arranged
- My wife
Our meeting location is located at Injesuthi Camp at 9am. Upon arrival we will have a briefing session and double check the backpacks to ensure all hikers have the necessary equipment for the trek.
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.
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.
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.
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.