Climbing in the Drakensberg

Name of venue Climbing in the Drakensberg

Information courtesy of Greg Devine and KZN Section of the MCSA

Brief summary of venue  Drakensberg climbing is strictly trad (though there are a couple of bolted routes in the Berg) and its objectives are usually to attain a summit, not for the actual climb. The climb is often the last 5% of the total effort, the rest being the walk-up.
Permit/ permission info  Entry and permit is through one of the KwaZulu Natal Parks Gates.
Approximate travelling time from Johannesburg  4 to 5 hours.
Parking information  Parking is usually at the KZN Parks reception areas and is reasonably safe. The cost is part of the entry fee, currently (2012) R50 per night.
Info on walk in  A typical walk up to one of the popular peaks is anything from 3 to 8 hours. It is usually quite strenuous, made more so by the weight of climbing and overnight gear.
Accommodation  Accommodation is most often in caves but sometimes tents or bivvy bags need to be taken.  Bookings for climbs are not needed, though caves can be booked.
Availability of water for drinking  Water is generally available and drinkable throughout the Berg but is scarce near caves.
Climbing route guide  The KZN Section of the MCSA has published a comprehensive route guide, Rock and Ice Climbs of Drakensberg, which is available from them, see http://kzn.mcsa.org.za.
Climbing information While there are many less known routes, the ten classic Berg routes are:

The North Face Route on Sentinel Peak (also called the Angus-Leppan Route).

  • Devil’s Tooth.
  • Mponjwana, Standard Route.
  • The Bell, Hooper’s Route.
  • The Pyramid, Standard Route.
  • The Column, Escarpment Arête.
  • The Monk’s Cowl, Standard and Barry’s Route.
  • The Injasuti Western Triplet, North West Ridge Route.
  • Giant’s Castle, Schole’s Route.
  • Giant’s Castle, Makaza and the Main Loteni Couloir (ice routes).

The rock quality is generally bad, with North facing routes worse than South facing ones. See the route guide for specific details. Most of the popular peaks have fixed abseil anchors. The length of climbs ranges from single pitch upwards. Grades start from about 13. Protection placements are not good and sometimes almost non-existent.

Child friendly  No.
Swimming  Yes, but only low down.
Camp fires  No.
Other attractions  Drakensberg climbing is an acquired taste, but like no other climbing for excitement and a sense of mountaineering achievement.
Dangers  Some mountaineering sense and experience is needed as conditions can deteriorate and become quite dangerous. Always take good clothes, helmets and torches on the climb. Local herders and travellers will steal anything left out, sometimes while you are there. Always hide your gear away from paths and local traffic routes.
Contacts Ask around the Club for someone who has done the route before, if you feel you need more information.

Make booking through the KwaZulu Natal Parks: www.kznwildlife.com.

The KwaZulu Natal MCSA website has info on climbing in the Berg:http://kzn.mcsa.org.za.