|Climbing in the Drakensberg

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 No.
 Camp fires Yes, but only low down.
 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.
    • Message from National Search & Rescue:Notice regarding Mountain Rescue during the COVID-19 lockdown

      We are all aware how Public Health guidelines have urged the public to 'flatten the curve' of the COVID-19 virus, and our President's announcement of lockdown is a welcomed show of courageous leadership that South Africa needs at this time.

      The Mountain Club of SA's Search and Rescue teams support this approach categorically.

      1) If engaging in some last minute pursuits this week, please engage in ultra-low-risk activities only. Please also respect closures already in place by SAN Parks and Ezemvelo.
      2) Please respect the lockdown unconditionally.
      Because it is the right thing to do.
      ...and accidents do happen, no matter how expert you think you may be.
      The MCSA's search and rescue team make themselves available because we believe in the value of responsible enjoyment of the wilderness, and in supporting our outdoor colleagues and community.
      Where life and limb is at stake, our members may still come to your aid.

      HOWEVER, during this crisis:
      - Healthcare infrastructure must be reserved for only the most critical, necessary cases.
      - Your own exposure to the virus will be significantly higher while being rescued and receiving healthcare.
      - Our search and rescue volunteers are not 'essential healthcare workers'. Don't be selfish!
      If our members must respond to a call-out during the lockdown period, they invalidate their and their family's quarantine activities during this critical time and that may have an impact on their ability to return to work.
      - S&R response may in fact be limited - our approach to incident management will be to coach and support self-rescue, or to send minimum-team responses.

      We look forward to a time soon where we can all enjoy our wilderness and natural areas together, assured of the safety and well being of our loved ones at home.

      Thank you.
      MCSA Search & Rescue


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  • "It is with further consideration of isolation that all MCSA meets have been cancelled pending further notice" steve Hoffe. Chairman.