What you should expect on a Drakensberg hike and how you prepare is not somethingto be underestimated. The Drakensberg Mountains are a remote wilderness area and you can experience drastic weather shifts and temperature changes. Our advice is that if you are not sure of your Drakensberg abilities hire the services of a specialized hiking guide or Drakensberg hiking specialist tour operator.
So just how hard is it to hike in the Drakensberg Mountains? Thats difficult to answer and it all depends on you mental and physical limits or capabilities. So when panning a trip plan for alternatives so that if you see the going is to hard or the weather is against you dont force yourself just opt for your gentler alternative or turn back.
The most common mistake hikesr make when deciding on what Drakensberg hike to do is that they assume they can handle say a 10km daily hike in the Drakensberg. I mean how hard can it be right? 10km on the road would take the average person about 2 hour’s right? What people fail to consider is that 10km in the Drakensberg can take up to 7 hours. In fact, when you plan a hike, budget on between 1.5km/h to 2.5 km/h depending on the gradient of the hike and how much you will be carrying. And if you have had a 1:50 000 map of the Drakensberg spread out before you, you might well consider upping your training regime when you see how close those contour lines really are.
A hiker might manage say 1.5km/h going up some really steep terrain and sometimes you move even slower downhill than uphill. A combination of sore knees and muscles, slippery or muddy conditions and an element of trusting your footing can sometimes make for a really slow descent.
Hikers also need to be honest with themselves when it comes to the duration of the hike and how fatigue will affect them. One of the greatest tips for hiking in the Drakensberg is energy conservation and fitness. Basically due to the severity of the hikes in the Drakensberg fatigue will compound especially over multi day expeditions. As general rule, hikers will get slower towards the end of the day.
The average backpack weight on a Drakensberg hike can easily max out at 15-25kg. Now add that weight to a 40 Degree gradient for 5 hours. It is probably best that willing hikers participate in a few training hikes so that they can not only get used to the weight but also consider what they really need to pack.
Drakensberg is famous for its volatile weather conditions attracted by the mountains. Your biggest threats are Hypothermia and Dehydration. Proper cold weather gear is essential especially in the winter months and when hiking on the escarpment. Determining the availability of water is also crucial for survival. Although there is a plenty supply in the summer months, winter can be dry and water may be scarce to come by. Although all the rivers and streams are demarcated on the maps they may be dry when you get there. Always prepare for the worst case scenario when hiking in the Drakensberg.
The Drakensberg is notorious for its thick mist. And sometimes it just magically appears out of nowhere. A sure way to get your self hopelessly lost in the mountains. A good understanding of low visibility navigation is the key to surviving. And don’t rely on your GPS. Sometimes the your batteries run flat. Remember. Always prepare for the worst case scenario. Make sure you have a detailed map of the area and a good old fashioned compass for navigation. And oh yes, try not to fall of one of the narrow ledges.
But dont let this article scare you and keep you away from these beautiful mountains. Most of the time the views are spectacular, the sense of achievement that the Drakensberg can give you is huge and its a place you will want to return to often.