The Drakensberg Grand Traverse - 14 Days


Activity Description

This epic trek follows the Drakensberg escarpment from the iconic Amphitheater in the North to Bushmans Nek at the Southern Tail of the dramatic Drakensberg range for approximately 210km.

The Grand Traverse of the Drakensberg is a challenging high altitude trek that traverses the remote and for the most part, untouched Drakensberg Mountain Range. The days are spent trekking through wilderness in the Ukhahlamba World Heritage in a Southerly to South Easterly direction. The spectacular Drakensberg escarpment with its peaks and pinnacles will be on our left and the rugged terrain of Lesotho the “Mountain Kingdom” on the right

The ‘Grand Traverse’ is a difficult trek with long days of hiking through rugged terrain carrying heavy packs; it is a rewarding challenge for experienced hikers whose fitness levels are high and whose mental tenacity is even higher. As difficult as the trek is, the views, total departure from civilization and the pristine mountain environment make this an unforgettable life time achievement.

There are optional checkpoints along The Grand Traverse, we can stop at each of these, so that once you have finished the two week trek; you’ll definitely be able to say you’ve completed the Grand Traverse. The check points are: ascent via The Chain Ladders onto the escarpment, Mont-aux-sources summit (3282m), Cleft Peak summit (3277m), Champagne Castle summit (3377m), Mafadi summit (3452m) – highest point in South Africa, Giants Castle summit (3314), Thabana Ntlenyana (3482m) highest Drakensberg Peak it’s in Lesotho and the descent must be via Thamathu Pass to Bushman’s Nek. (see NOTE below)

We carry all provisions with us during the trek, having one restock enroute. For camp we pitch tents on suitably chosen sites at night. The sources of many rivers are found along the escarpment, so we are never far from clean, clear mountain water. Mountain weather is notoriously fickle, so it’s important to be prepared for hot sunny days, icy nights, snow or anything in between.

This is an unparalleled way of experiencing South Africa’s Drakensberg and the views from the escarpment are grand. We round off the trip with a night a local Mountain Lodge, with a celebratory dinner and a well deserved soft bed!


We meet at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge at 8am and then transfer up to the Sentinel Car Park in the Northern Drakensberg. We hike to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment via the Chain ladders (1st Checkpoint) and set up camp on the Amphitheater and the source of the Tugela River one of South Africa’s main rivers emptying into the Indian Ocean. After lunch we climb to the second Checkpoint for the Grand Traverse, Mont-Aux-Sources 3282m and return to camp for our first night in the mountains.

Typically each day of trekking follows a similar routine:
After an early breakfast we break camp and start hiking no later than 08h00. We set a comfortable pace depending on the group dynamic, but also bearing the destination in mind. You will have magnificent views over the escarpment during the days hike and will be able to stop and admire the silent beauty of the mountains. We stop for lunch during the day and then continue to camp. Meals are prepared by your guide and camp duties are shared between the guide and the clients. If a check point needs to be reached, the guide may decide to set up camp before the summit of the peak, alternatively you may climb the peak with your back pack. Distances vary from 12km to 25km, dependant on weather, terrain and destination.

Check points :
Chain Ladders, Mont-aux-Sources Summit (3282m), Cleft Peak Summit (3277m)

Highlights :
Tugela Falls at the Amphitheater – 2nd highest waterfall drop in the world
Spectacular Amphitheater from The Sentinel to Devils Tooth and the Eastern Buttress
Icidi waterfall, perfect for a natural berg shower.
Madonna and her worshipers
Mponjwane and views down into the remote Mnweni cutback and the Mnweni needles
Swimming at the source of the Orange River another of the main rivers in South Africa, which winds it way to the Atlantic Ocean (Alexander Bay)
Cathedral Peak, The Bell and Horns
Cleft Peak summit (3277m)
Organ Pipes

Checkpoints :
Champagne Castle summit (3377m), Mafadi summit (3451m), Giant’s Castle summit (3314m)

Highlights :
Cathkin Peak
Champagne Castle
Monks Cowl
Injasuthi – The Zulu name for this beautiful area means ‘ well fed dog ‘
Mafadi Peak – South Africa’s highest peak, 3451m
Bannerman Pass – Food restock in this area – always welcome.
Giants Castle – Colossal peak and huge rock walls after which this area is named

Checkpoints :
Thabana Ntlenyana summit (3482m)
Thomathu Pass is used to descend to Bushman’s Nek

Highlights :
The Tent
The Hawk
Redi Peak
The Saddle
Thabana Ntlenyana – highest peak South of Kilimanjaro, highest in the Drakenberg and situated in Lesotho
Sani Pass – optional stop at South Africa’s highest Pub at the top of Sani Pass a notorious 4×4 route.
Giants Cup
Devils Knuckles ¬ – Thaba Ntsu, home of the Lammergeier
Bushmans Nek – Via Thamathu Pass, a decent of 700 metres
Hotel and shower!

DAY 14
Descent is via Thamathu Pass, we drop from 2500m to 1780m at Bushmans Nek. Transport will be waiting to take us to Dinner Bed and Breakfast accommodation in the town of Underberg. You’ll be able to enjoy all those mod cons you’ve been longing for as well as a delicious meal and a soft bed.

NOTE 1: If due to unforeseen circumstances, the groups choice, guides recommendation, desire to take the hike a little slower or any other reason, the full Grand Traverse cannot be completed in the allocated 14 days, it is possible to descend at Sani Pass, decreasing the distance to be walked in 14 days, the last night’s accommodation will still be in Underberg at the base of Sani Pass. This descent at Sani Pass is considered by most to be the complete Grand Traverse and is in no way a second class ending to the traverse. This is purely an option to keep in mind.

NOTE 2: The age limit on this trek is minimum 16 years old, maximum 65 years old. If you, or a member of your party are younger or older, it is possible to have this waived, but on a case by case basis, additional documents may be required.

DAY 15
After breakfast you can depart at your leisure.


ProviderGoVertical Mountaineering & Trekking
DurationOpen Ended
WhenAll year round
WhereWitsieshoek Mountain Lodge Reception. GPS Co ordinates -28.6855, 28.8986
WeatherAll weather
What to WearPlease see kit list
Things to BringKIT LIST: ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS – We will not proceed with the trek unless you have all of the absolute essentials. • Back Pack MINIMUM 75 liters, must have waist belt ** Available for hire see below • Tent light weight mountaineering tent ** Available for hire see below. If you are using your own tent please let us know what make and model it is. We would like to ensure its suitability. • Sleeping bag sub-zero -8 recommended (it can get cold even in summer) ** Available for hire see below • Sleeping mat – foam or Thermarest - We include foam rubber mats • Waterproof outer shell • Light weight waterproof rain pants • Hiking boots & socks ESSENTIALS • Water bottle 1 – 1.5 liters • Changes of clothing- layering is best with a good fleece for warmth • Gloves • Beanie/ Balaclava • Towel • Sun block • Sun glasses • Sun hat/ Cap • Toiletries (eco friendly) • Toilet paper • Torch + batteries, preferably headlamp OPTIONAL • Personal first aid eg plasters, deep heat, headache tablets, medication etc • Personal Energy sweets and drinks • Hiking staff • Camera AVAILABLE FOR RENTAL • 3 season 2 person mountaineering tents (2.3 kg) • Sleeping bag(-8 C, 1,4kg) with liner • Foam sleeping Mats • Backpack NOTES • Please remember to leave space in your Back pack for the cooking gear, food, utensils and 1st Aid, which will be shared between the group members. • You can expect to carry up to 15 kg in your back pack including your personal gear. • PORTERAGE • Clients carry a day pack and the porters will carry a maximum of 15kg per person which would include a clients personal belongings eg tent, sleeping bag as well as the clients share of food provided by GoVertical. A realistic balance would be 7kg of personal gear and 8kg of food/ provisions. • South African Porters use backpacks, so all your gear would need to be packaged so that it can fit inside their backpacks. • Please ask GoVertical Mountaineering if you are unsure about any items on this list
Guests or SpectatorsUnfortunately not


Minimum Age16 years
Minimum Height0.0 m
Maximum Height0.0 m
Fitness LevelVery Fit
QualificationsNot Applicable
Maximum Weight0.0 kg
CertificationNone Required
Experience LevelIntermediate

Inclusions and Exclusions


• 14 days hiking and 13 nights camping on the trek in the Drakensberg
• All meals for the trek which will be prepared for you by GoVertical guides from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 14
• General Camping gear e.g. stoves, plates, cups
• Park fees
• GoVertical Mountaineering guides
• 1 night, Bed and Breakfast accommodation at Mountain Lodge after the trek
• Transfer from trek end to accommodation


• Dinner at the Mountain lodge
• Alcoholic beverages and beverages consumed at Mountain Lodge
• Personal camping gear and the items suggested on the kit list
• Medical/ rescue insurance
• Transport to/ from the Drakensberg


Optional extra’s available:
• Transfers to the Drakensberg from Johannesburg or Durban (Approximately 5 hours from either city)
• Transfers are done the day before the trip starts so you would need a night of pre trek accommodation
• Dinner, Bed and Breakfast accommodation at mountain lodge before/ after the Adventure
• Gear hire
• Porters

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