High Traverse Hiking Trail
Take on this 5 Day High Berg challenge from the Sentinel to Cathedral Peak Hotel via the famous Bell Traverse. Sleeping in tents and caves, this is an adventurous expedition-style trail. A bucket-list hike, but should only be attempted by the fit.
- Trip Duration5 Hike Days / 4 Nights on the Escarpment
- Daily DistancesDay 1: 8km/ 600m ascent/ 4hrDay 2: 16km / 400m ascent / 7hrDay 3: 15km / 250m ascent / 7.5hrDay 4: 17km / 250m ascent/ 7.5hrDay 5: 14.5km / 400m ascent/ 8hr
- Trail Grading4.5 - 5 / 5 - Fitness. An excellent level of physical fitness is required for this high berg hike4 / 5 - Technicality. Hiking at altitude (2800 – 3000m) with a backpack, even if porters are taken. Exposed sections and rugged in most parts.
- Trail TerrainMostly along the top of the Drakensberg escarpment which is anything but flat. Some long steep passes and descents. Preceding injuries will be felt over this terrain.
- AccommodationWild camping in hiking tents and sleeping in caves or overhangs.
- Logistic SupportExperienced & Qualified Mountain GuideCatered or self-catered optionPorters for hire. Budget 1.5 porters/per person to keep your backpack weight <10kg
- Group SizePreferred min of 2 persons - maximum 10 per guide
- PricingBased on a group of 4 persons: R7,000/pp
At a Glance
Take on this 5 Day High Berg challenge from the Sentinel to Cathedral Peak Hotel via the famous Bell Traverse. Overnighting in tents and caves, this is a bucket-list hike for the fit and adventurous.
It is effectively half the Grand Traverse (GT) and includes the epic 'Bell Traverse' which the GT does not.
- Day 1Arrival / Hike Day 1: Sentinel Car Park – Tugela / Bilanjil Falls (8km/ 600m ascent/ 4hr)
Vehicle transfer from Witsieshoek to Sentinel car park.
Around the base of the Sentinel Massif, up the chain-ladders and summit the escarpment. Camping near the Thukela falls or 1km further at Bilanjil falls (2960m).
- Day 2Hike Day 2: Thukela Falls – Mbundini Abbey overlooking Madonna & her worshippers (16km / 400m ascent / 7hr)
From the Amphitheatre, you will head back inland through Lesotho following the Kubeda river.
Camping at Mbundini Abbey or on the edge of Fangs Pass, the well-known feature of ‘Madonna and her Worshippers’ comes into view.
- Day 3Hike Day 3: Mbundini Abbey to Orange River Source (15km / min 250m ascent / 7.5hr)
Dramatic views of Mweni needles, the cutback and Rockeries beyond.
After making camp near the stream (2860m), provided the light is good and you have the stamina, it’s worth walking out to either the top of Mnweni pass, or Rockeries Pass (both about 30mins from camp) for sundowner views.
- Day 4Hike Day 4: Orange River Source to Twins Cave (17km / 250m ascent/ 7.5hr)
Continue hiking along a river valley which cuts behind the Saddle peaks, until you can cut up to the escarpment edge which offers a superb view over the whole Cathedral Peak range: the Chessmen, the Inner and Outer Horns, the Bell and Cathedral Peak itself.
This is the line of the Bell Traverse which you should expect to follow tomorrow, conditions and abilities permitting.
- Day 5Hike Day 5: Twins Cave – Bell Traverse – Cathedral Peak Hotel (14.5km / 400m ascent/ 8hr)
The Bell Traverse is the ‘cherry’ of hike experiences in the Drakensberg. From the moment you leave Twins cave, a surprise awaits around every corner.
The impossible path reveals itself in parts. Where it goes next, you cannot guess: around the Mitre, by the Chessmen, behind the Inner and outer Horns, around the Bell and then, before getting to the foot of the Cathedral Peak, the final big daunting challenge: Bugger’s gully.
From here it is a 'relatively' easy 8km down to Cathedral Peak hotel, via Orange Peel Gap.
Recommend - overnighting at Cathedral Peak hotel this final night
Mostly wild camping (lightweight hiking tents carried) close to a water source, and the opportunity to spend a night or two in a cave along the way.
- How experienced do you need to be to do this trail?
It is not essential for you to have done prior High Berg hikes of this nature, but we do recommend that you have previous experience in multi-day hikes over challenging terrain. A high level of fitness and endurance is necessary for this expedition.
- Is it possible to NOT carry a backpack?
Porters can certainly be arranged, and indeed, recommended for almost everyone. However, porters also need to carry their own shelter and food. If you are looking to carry only a large daypack, no more than 10kgs in weight, than you should budget on approx. 1.5 porters/per person based on a group of 4 or more. Vehicle luggage transfers are definitely NOT an option on this trail.
- What type of footwear is appropriate?
High quality, waterproofed (goretex or nickwaxed) boots with good ankle support and rigid rubber sole, are necessary for this trail.
- What is the best time of year for this trail?
Autumn (Mar – May) and Spring (Sept-early November) are the best months for this trail. Winter months generally have the most stable weather, but it will regularly drop below O deg C overnight, and snow is more possible.
- Can this hike be shortened?
Not easily. Better to look at another of our hike options if you looking for a long-weekender.
- Can you rent equipment?
You will need to provide your own backpack, personal clothing and headlight. 4-season high mountain tents, sleeping bags and mats can be rented.
at a glance
|Group Size||Price (PP)|
Whats included in this tour
- Professional Mountain Guide – 5 Hike Days
- All food during the hike and cooking gear (pots, stove, fuel, etc)
- Hiking & Cave Permits
Whats not included in this tour
- Porters: avail at R500/porter/per day. Porters can carry 11kg on top of their own gear. Porters are self-sufficient. If you wish to keep your backpack to a 40L (large daypack) and less than 10kgs, you should budget 1.5 porters/per person.
- Transfers from end-point (Cathedral) to start of hike (Sentinel Car Park) - budget around R3500 for a group transfer in a Quantum vehicle.
- Pre & Post Hike Accommodation: recommend overnighting at Witsies Lodge (R1100 - R1350/pp/sharing B&B) & Cathedral Peak hotel at the end (approx R1900/pp - FB)
- Equipment Hire - tents, sleeping bag & mats are available for hire
- Self-catered Option: you can chose to self-cater (& if you have dietary constraints) - deduct R2000/pp off the pp/price.