Guided Drakensberg Mountaineering
PEAK HIGH offers guided ascents of most peaks in the Drakensberg. The climbs vary from easy scrambles to severe challenges. The peaks are all located a wilderness area and World Heritage Site. You do need to be fit and to have had some prior climbing experience. You must also be able to belay properly using double ropes and be competent at abseiling.
Scroll down to the end of this page to read more about Drakensberg climbing.
Contact PEAK HIGH for a free electronic information sheet on any of these listed peaks.
|Click on Image for enlarged version|
|Sentinel Peak North Face Route (also known as the Angus Leppan Route): This peak is 3166m or 10 386ft in altitude. The North Face Route is 6 pitches long and carries a grade of 14 (UK 4a and US 5.7). Guided ascents usually require meeting the clients the day before the climb, either in Durban or at the hotel at the base of the peak. The climb is then completed the next day. It can be climbed any time of the year.
This route is a favourite among Drakensberg climbers, especially for the relatively easy grade, great exposure, easy approach and fantastic views.
|Sentinel Peak Standard Route: This is a very easy climb, suitable for total beginners. It consists of one pitch followed by scrambling. It is often used as an introduction to Berg climbing.|
|Sentinel Peak MCM: A seven pitch sport route on a big Drakensberg Peak
This route is a long 7 pitch climb on the west face of Sentinel peak and end near the summit at 3165m. The first four pitches are sustained climbing in the grade 18-22 range. (French 6a-6c or USA 5.10a –5.11a). The crux can be reduced by two grades if the bolts are used for direct aid. Clients must be competent sport climbers and able to belay safely and abseil (rappel) without supervision or safety rope.
The approach is from Sentinel car park in the northern Drakensberg and takes one hour. Clients and guide usually spend the night before at Witsieshoek Hotel or bivvy in a nearby cave, if a more of a wilderness experience is wanted.
Monks Cowl south side, Standard Route Topo
|The Monk's Cowl Standard Route: Another Drakensberg Classic on a major free standing peak (3234m or 10611ft) in the central Drakensberg. The hardest pitch is grade 16 (approx. UK 4c and US 5.8). The peak is deep in the Wilderness area and takes six hours hiking to get to the campsite (day 1). The climb takes place the next day and then a third day is spent walking out. This route is best climbed during the months April till October.|
|The Pyramid Standard: Route (2926m or 9600ft) This is a spectacular free standing peak in the Cathedral Peak area. The route is graded 14 (UK 4a and US 5.6) and requires a five hour hike to the overnight hut. Can be climbed at any time of year.|
|Cathedral Peak Standard Route: (3004m or 9856ft) This is a very prominent and famous peak in the Northern Drakensberg. It is a scramble route sometimes requiring a rope. It is usually climbed in a day from the ranger station campsite or a cave nearby.|
|The Bell Hooper's Route: This peak is situated next to Cathedral Peak and uses a cave as a base camp. The climb consists of two pitches of grade 13 (UK4a and US 5.6).|
|The Column Escarpment Arête: (2929m or 9610ft) This peak is located behind the Pyramid and requires the same effort to get to the base camp. The route is quiet serious and is graded 17 A1 (approximately UK 5a and US 5.9). Best climbed between May and October.
|Rhino Peak S-Route: Rhino Peak (3051m or 10011ft) is located in the southern Drakensberg. The route climbs a long arête on the peak's south face. The hardest pitch is grade 13 (approximately UK 4a and US 5.6). To climb this peak a two hour approach is taken to get to the overnight bivvy at Pillar Cave. The climb and walk out then takes place the following day. This route is best climbed from April to October.
|Rhino Peak Eastern Arête: A shorter route than the S-Route (above) and is suitable for climbers with limited experience. The same approach is needed. Can be climbed any time of the year.|
|Mponjwana Peak Standard Route: (3085m or 10 120ft) This is a massive rock peak in the northern area and is the longest climb that PEAK HIGH guides. It is of an easy to moderate grade route (grade 13) which takes a full day to complete. It is in a remote area and usually takes a four day round trip to complete. This route is best climbed from May to September.|
|The Devil's Tooth: This is a serious route on a 150m needle of rock. Graded 17 A1 it is a Classic; only for the experienced.|
|Giant’s Castle, Schole’s Route: This is a moderate, 7 pitch route which ascends a prominent gully on the main wall of Giant’s Castle. There is good climbing and the route is not exposed. It requires a 4 hour trek to get to the bases camp, then a full day of scrambling and climbing before returning to camp. Then another 4 hour trek out the 3rd day. Giant’s Castle is located in the central Drakensberg.
|Giant’s Castle, Frontal Route: This is an easy 2 pitch rock-climb located on a one of the Drakensberg’s bigger peaks. It requires trekking into a base camp, then doing the climb the next day and returning to camp. Fit parties will get back to camp in time to walk out the same day. It does require a good degree of walking fitness. Giant’s Castle is located in the central Drakensberg.
|Jack and His Bean Stalk:
This is an easy 5 pitch climb in the southern Drakensberg. The grade is easy to moderate and is suitable for novice climbers. Experienced climbers can also enjoy this easy day out on good rock in a lovely setting. Peak High guides this route by a two hour trek from the road-head to Sleeping Beauty Cave. Here we spend the night in this remote valley of the Drakensberg Park. In the morning we the climb and return back to the road-head in the afternoon.
Climbers need to be able to climb moderate grades and to belay a lead climber properly and safely.
|The Spout on Garden Castle:
This is a lovely, easy route located on a small freestanding peak in the southern Drakensberg Park. Although the climbing is only of a moderate grade and well protected, it takes one to a tiny summit with breath taking views of the area. The climbing consists of 3 pitches with the middle pitch being the crux.
The approach takes about 1.5 hours of pleasant hiking. Peak High clients usually stay in nearby accommodation near the town of Underberg or we camp in a campsite nearby the start of the hike.
About “Berg” climbing.
Geography – The upper Berg was formed by the outpouring of molten lava, giving rise to what is today called Stormberg Basalt. Many climbs tend to have rock located between broad grass ledges. The rock is also formed into rounded overhangs, blocks and gullies, making the climbing often quite awkward. The rock quality can vary considerably from one climb to the next. Peak High only guides routes that are known to be of an acceptable quality.
Two “rules of thumb” when considering rock quality:
(i) The rock located at low altitudes is generally the worst while that near the summits is often quite acceptable.
(ii) The higher the technical grade, the greater the likelihood of good rock.
Protection – A selection of wired stoppers and small hexes are useful. Self-adjusting cams (friends etc.) are extremely useful and more adept than hexes at fitting into the unusual cracks of the basalt rock. A selection of a few knife-blade and channel pegs are usually also carried
Weather – The Drakensberg lies in the summer rainfall area of Southern Africa (October to March). This is the wetter time of year and some climbs are not in condition. Thunder storms are common in the afternoons preceded by hot humid conditions. The best months for climbing are April through to September. During this time stable weather is usually experienced with warm sunny days and cold nights. Note that snow can also occur during this time.
What if you need to be rescued? Medical emergencies in the Drakensberg fall under the authority of the Provincial Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS). However, due to the hazards and technical difficulties encountered in the Berg, rescues are carried out in conjunction with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Section of the Mountain Club of South Africa. This highly efficient and well-equipped rescue team is supported by helicopters from the South African Air Force’s 15 Squadron. The cost of the rescue is covered in the permit you buy when you enter the park. Clients never the less need to carry medical insurance for medical care when in hospital.
The guide, Gavin Raubenheimer is also a senior leader of the rescue team.