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Drakensberg Northern Traverse

27 Mar 2019 - 05 Apr 2019

What to Expect

This workshop by invite only, sorry!

This is a privately organised tour for experienced photographers and hikers. It will be my 10th organised tour in the Drakensberg! During this 10 day trip we will have 8 full days of hiking with two porters to help us along the way. We will backpack along the top of the escarpment staying at altitudes over 3000m. We are almost guaranteed to be alone for the duration of the hike and treated to unspoilt views of world class scenery. 

The Drakensberg is a spectacular mountain escarpment in the heart of South Africa. Also known by the Zulus as uKhahlamba, The Barrier of Spears, it includes vast cliffs, jagged ridge lines and endless pinnacles. With incredible weather conditions and awe inspiring scenery this is a UNESCO World Heritage site and prime photographic location that remains completely off the beaten track.

In the mornings mist swirls around the valleys below with the bark of baboons echoing off basalt cliffs. Cape Vultures, Lammergeier and black eagles soar overhead. In the afternoon thunderstorms crash around the mountains often bringing dramatic lighting conditions. This is the ultimate adventure photography trip made much more accessible with the help of the porters!Camping high on the Escarpment looking across to the Cathedral Ridge

AT A GLANCE

MountainPhotography
ActivityBackpacking
AccomodationTents
AccomodationHotel
PhysicalityHard
Group SizeSix
Duration10 days

Booking

This workshop is by invite only, sorry!

Itinerary

27 March Day 0 - Land, go to supermarket to buy food. Drive to the Berg (4hrs). Stay at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. Meet Zee (the guide) and porters. Possible sunset shoot.

28 March Day 1 - Proper sleep, no sunrise. Breakfast. Morning hike up to the top of Tugela Falls, 400m ascent. Arrive around 2pm. Swim.

29 March Day 2 - Hike to the Mbundini Abbey/Madonna and Her Workshippers. 14km several hills. This will be hard with all the kit!

30 March Day 3 - Hike to the Mnweni Pinnacles. 6km easy day.

31 March Day 4 - Hike to Rockeries Pass via the Mnweni Cutback. Day hike to Mponjwana for sunset. Photograph vultures. Swim. 10km ish, pretty straightforward.



1 April Day 5 - Hike to South Peak via the vulture colony. Short day, 6km. Swim



2 April Day 6 - Hike to Pyramid and Column via Ntonjelana and Elephant and Cockade. Long hard day to earn your stripes! 16km quite hilly.



3 April Day 7 - Over Cleft Peak and to Organ Pipes area. Short day 6km. We could possibly stay at the Ndumeni Caves.



4 April Day 8 - Down Camel Pass to Cathedral Peak Hotel. 10km well over 1000m decent, epic scenery, a few technical sections. MASSIVE BLOWOUT at the hotel!

5 April Day 9 - Those who wish to can shoot the sunrise up at the Cathedral Ridge in the morning from near the hotel. Return to Joburg for afternoon/evening flights home, or make your own arrangements to continue. 

Tuition

No tuition will be provided, this is a hiking tour for independant photographers. At some of the spots I have already shot extensively I may leave the group entirely.

Fitness And Experience

At this altitude the oxygen levels are only 70% of what you might be used to at sea level, but the distances we are covering are not significant. We will contour the hills as much as possible to avoid significant elevation changes. The group will have the use of 2 porters, each of whom can carry 8-10kg. In practical terms this will mean then carrying our tents and a few other bits. Based on this you can anticipate your backpack weighing around 24kg at the start of the trip and 16kg once you have eaten all your food! You need to be fit for this trip and you will greatly benefit from training beforehand to allow yourself the freedom to explore.

Equipment

It is very likely that we will be hiking in unbroken sunshine so sun protection is essential. You should dress for warm days (up to 18 Celsius at the top, warmer lower down), heavy rain showers and much cooler mornings/ evenings where it might even freeze. I can provide high end lightweight camping equipment perfectly suited for the trip. This includes Terra Nova Quasar tents, Rab Neutrino 400 sleeping bags and NeoAir Xtherm sleeping mats. If however you would prefer to use your own sleeping kit, or bring your own mountain tent then you are welcome to. A full equipment list will be sent out at a later date which tells you everything you need to know!

Accommodation

At the start of the trip will will stay at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. On the final day we will enjoy the total luxury of Cathdral Peak Hotel. Otherwise we will be camping every night in mountain tents.

Safety

The cliffs in the Drakensberg have deadly drops. If you are afraid of heights, or suffer from vertigo this trip is not suitable. You will be expected to follow my instruction as to what is regarded an acceptable distance to the edge.

Additional Expenses

The trip does not include flights, insurance, tips for the porters or food and drink. It does include transport from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg, accomodation, gear rental and guiding (Zee and I are both insured mountain leaders in our respective countries).

Transport

There are regular overnight flights from Europe to Johannesburg from Virgin, British Airways, Air France, Turkish Airlines and others. Prices fluctuate through the year, you should be able to find a flight for between £500-£600. You should aim to catch a flight overnight on Tuesday 26th March landing on Wednesday 27th before 11am. A 4 hour drive takes us to the Drakensberg. Return flights should be booked for the evening of Friday the 5th April.

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