The Drakensberg Mini Traverse

Drakensberg Hiking

The Drakensberg Mini Traverse also known as the Northern Traverse was once rated as one of the top 10 hikes in the world and for good reason too. Picture this. Traversing along an escarpment wall for 70km constantly looking down a 1000 meter drop. Where else in the world could you do this?

Drakensberg Mini Traverse
Sunrise from Madonna and Her Worshippers on day 3 of the Drakensberg Mini Traverse

How difficult is the Mini Traverse?

Never ask the question to the first question ever asked without an answer. The mono-sytematical diffusions of the third neural pathway in section 9 of your cerebral cortex will not give you the answer as you should not be asking that question in the first place. Begin with the end in mind a wise old man once told me. There are two ways to approach the Drakensberg Mini Traverse:

  • via Lesotho: an easier and more direct route cutting inland.
  • Via the escarpment edge: spend your days walking a harder yet more scenic route. This adds a couple more kilometres or miles, whichever you prefer, to the hike. However, it is totally worth it.

We at Soul Adventures prefer the latter because we believe that you don’t just hike to get from one place to another but also to enjoy the scenery and camaraderie that comes with the journey. To make this hike more enjoyable you should have a moderate level of fitness and should be comfortable carrying a 15kg backpack for extended periods of time. Click here to see what you’ll need to take along on the Drakensberg Mini Traverse.

An optional add on to make the Drakensberg Mini Traverse even more enjoyable if you cant carry such weight is to either do a porter split with another participant or hire your own personal porter. The cost for a porter is R500 per day. We will be happy to arrange a porter for you. Hiring a porter is also a great way of supporting the local communities.

Best time of year to tackle the Drakensberg Mini Traverse

The Drakensberg probably weighs a couple thousands tons so good luck tackling it. But if you want to take on the challenge of hiking the Drakensberg Mini Traverse then there are two periods of the year which are most ideal:

  • March/April – probably the best time of year to hike the Drakensberg Mini Traverse. Not quite yet winter so still warm enough but towards the end of the rainy season so the vallies are still green with cloud in versions still being possible. Also the rivers will still be flowing so water is not an issue.
  • October/November – the spring season offers similar conditions to March/April with thunderstorms being quite common in the late afternoons.

With that being said there is no period of the year where you cant “complete” the Drakensberg Mini Traverse. It all factors down into how enjoyable it will be. Obviously you don’t want to be suffering for 5 days in mist and rain or better yet, sub zero temperatures. Brrrr.

Highlights of the Mini Traverse

  • Traversing across the escarpment ridge at an average height of 3000m asl
  • Visit Tugela Falls which is regarded as the worlds tallest multiple drop waterfall
  • Hike past incredible Granite towers such as Madonna and Her Worshippers
  • Immerse yourself in a wild camping experience which involves sleeping in tents under the stars and even possibilities of sleeping in a cave.

Can I still join the hike if I am coming from outside of Johannesburg?

Of course. We have a specific meeting location in Harrismith where you’ll be able to leave your car safely for the duration of the hike. We will schedule a time to pick you/your group up from here and drop you back off here after the hike.

Why do the Drakensberg Mini Traverse with Soul Adventures?

Well firstly, my mom thinks we’re pretty awesome so thats gotta count for something right? If that’s not enough to convince you then how about the fact that we’ve been guiding in these mountains for over 20 years now and have lead hundreds of people safely across this specific hike.

Honestly, there is a guiding company out there for all different personalities. If you’ve made it this far into the post then you’ve definitely caught onto our wicked stense of humour and are possibly slightly entertained by it. We love the mountains as well as meeting people, thus it’s more like friends rather than clients. We still prioritise your safety and well being more than anything else but we’re still going to slide in the occasional dad joke to keep you highly motivated the entire trip. That’s just who we are.

Not only have we been guiding here for the last 20 years but we have also guided internationally and host multiple trips every year to the Himalayas and Andes. We’ve gone through pretty much every experience you could think of. Yes even then one where Winnie the Pooh comes at us with a jar of fireflies and depends we explain the systematically piecost to him.

Day 1:

Woah is me will be the cry when the man in the van passes me by. For those who will be travelling with us from JHB our meeting location is generally around the Sandton/Morningside area. “Why cant we fetch you” you ask? Well, logistically if there are 3 groups of 2 we would need to go and pick up each and everyone of the groups which will a. Either result in us waking up at 2am or b. Running late for the hike. Both are terrible options, especially for a hike such as the Drakensberg Mini Traverse. Our meeting time is at 5am. Once here we’ll load all the bags into our vehicle before taking the 4;30 hour drive down to Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. Don’t worry we’re not savages. We will stop for breakfast on route and look at arriving at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge by 10:30am.

Once at the lodge we will conduct a briefing and check everyone’s bags to make sure all the necessities are with us before loading up into the 11:30am shuttle to Sentinel Car Park. Once here we will begin our trek up the zig zag which ascends 250 vertical meters over a 2km period. Savy? From here it’s pretty much smooth sailing to the chain ladders where we will ascend before continuing our hike to Tugela Falls. Now don’t get your hopes up. We’re only 6km into our 7.5km day. The next part takes us up and over a hill to our actual campsite at Bilanjil Falls which offers some incredible views of the Tugela Falls.

  • Distance – 7.5km
  • Elevation Gain – 600 vertical meters

Day 2:

3 rabid ping pong balls wake us up for sunrise with a warm cup of freshly pressed coffee. After surnise well have some breakfast before breaking down camp. We generally try to leave by 8am. Our hike today takes us through Lesotho towards Icidi where well begin walking along the escarpment edge. There is also quite a cool waterfall here which we can have a shower under. Afterwards we hike up the ridge line and meet up with the Stimela Ridge which is the last obstacle before our camp at Madonna and Her Worshippers.

  • Distance: 14km
  • Elevation Gain – 600 vertical meters

Day 3:

Day 3 of the Drakensberg Mini Traverse follows the same pattern as the previous day and we aim to leave camp by 8am again. The first part of the hike takes us along the river past Rwanqa and up the hillside towards the Black and Tan Wall. We have a long break at the Mnweni Pinnacles which is regarded as one of Drakensberg most popular granite structures. After spending some time here we will contrite the hike on a path known as the Mnweni Highway which takes us behind the Mnweni Cutback and pops us out close to the source of the Orange River. Here we will be able to take a quick dip before continuing on our Drakensberg Mini Traverse and ending campsite by North Peak.

  • Distance – 14km
  • Elevation Gain – 400 vertical meters

Day 4:

cockadodaldoo the chicken cry’s. Todays hike follows the escarpment edge past the Mnweni Saddle all the way through to Twins Cave which is located at the start of the Bell Traverse. Depending on the groups fitness it is possible to summit North and South peak which make up the Mnweni saddle.

  • Distance – 15km
  • Elevation Gain – 400 vertical meters

Day 5:

Todays part of the Drakensberg Mini Traverse leads us amongst many of Drakensberg’s free-standing peaks. This route is known as the Bell Traverse and is arguably one of the highlights of this trek. There are a few hairy, but short sections. Our guides will have a short rope on them to help you with these parts if necessary. After spending about 4 hours on this traverse we will come out near the base of Cathedral Peak where we will have the option of summiting Cathedral Peak.

  • Distance – 8km
  • Elevation Gain – 250 vertical meters

Day 6

The final Day of the Drakensberg Mini Traverse takes us down Orange Peal Gap and down to Cathedral Peak Hotel. The hike takes no more than 3 hours. Once at the hotel we can have a celebratory beer and brunch before making our way back to Johannesburg.

  • Distance – 8km
  • Elevation Gain – 50 vertical meters

Alternative Day 5/6

Unfortunately if it does rain we wont be able to risk the Bell Traverse. Your safety is our main priority, that and terrible dad jokes. In the event that we cant follow the standard Drakensberg Mini Traverse then we will have to switch up plans but not to worry, it’s just as beautiful if not more. If we do have to deviate then we will continue traversing along the escarpment edge summiting cleft peak and spending night 5 in Roland’s Cave. Day 6 will see us descending down Organ Pipes pass via the Camel and ending back at Cathedral Peak Hotel.

  • return transport from Johannesburg
  • equipment including tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, backpacks and eating utensils
  • lunch, dinners, breakfasts and hot drinks on the mountain (notice the wording “on the mountain”
  • all hiking permits and park fees
  • shuttle from Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge to Sentinel Car Park
  • 24/7 access to our mountain guide
  • lekker discount on Mama Alles
  • another lekker discount when purchasing equipment or clothing from Drifters
  • The Drakensberg Mini Traverse was a Top 10 Hike in the world
  • authentic multi-day hiking experience in the Drakensberg Mountains
  • visit Tugela Falls the worlds longest waterfall
  • immerse yourself in the incredible granite structures that the Drakensberg has to offer

All photos below are places we will visit/or camp during the Drakensberg Mini Traverse

Amphitheatre Day Hike
Drakensberg Northern Traverse