A Snowy Hike in the Drakensberg – June 2011

This year winter arrived early and in full force. At the beginning of June, a powerful cold front coming from the south west left the whole High Berg covered in snow, a beautiful wintry sight like I hadn’t seen in years. However, I was hoping that most of the snow would be melt for my next hike in 2 weeks time. It wasn’t going to be.

Snowy landscapes are picturesque, inspiring, beautiful…, especially in Africa, but soft snow is not a hikers’ favourite. Matt, Tank and I tried and walked for 2 days at a crawling pace. That was enough. It was decided to take the first escape route out of the escarpment to spend the final 3 days in a more pleasant environment.

If you would like to do this hike contact us at [email protected] or have a look at our website www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za for other exciting options.

Tank and Matt on the path leading from Sentinel Car Park to the Chain Ladders with the snowy Maloti Mountains in the background.


Tank in the final metres of the Chain Ladder. He was very happy to be over. He definitely felt the rush!


Matt loving the void!


A beautiful wintry sight. So nice to see but not so much when you keep on sinking in soft snow.


On top of the Amphitheatre with Beacon Buttress and the Sentinel looming behind us.


Overlooking from the 1000m basalt cliffs of the Amphitheatre.


In a clear day, the vistas from the Amphitheatre are simply mind-blowing.


We especially struggled on the Southern slopes which were fully under the snow. We would have died for a good pair of snow shoes.


Sometimes we would even go down to our hips.


This is the spot of our second campsite. We had to put the tent on the snow for the second time. A new experience for the 3 of us.


As usual the wind picked up during the night and in the morning it was still blowing. In the southwest direction the sky was full of cirrus, a harbinger of an approaching cold front


The weather deteriorated quickly in the next few hours. Gale force winds were expected for the next few days which, together with the struggle in the soft snow, suggested that it was time to get out of the escarpment.


So we took the first pass down, Fangs Pass, not the easiest of the Berg passes.


There was no path to follow and for most of the time we were boulder hopping. The going was at a crawling pace but we had no other choice but to be patient and try not to sprain an ankle. On the other hand it was a pleasure to be out of the wind and take some layers of clothes off.


In spite of being only 18 Matt proved to be a tough hiker. He just kept going and going without any complaints. He was having a good time after all.


Tank, who had been with me in a previous hike, was loving the challenge. That night he was already asking for the next one.


That night we stayed at 5-Star cave at the end of the Mbundini Valley


Mweni Baths at the bottom of the Icidi Valley


Matt gave it a go and had a swim in the freezing waters. Tank and I were more than happy to be spectators.


Walking in the beautiful red grass (Themeda triandra).


makeshift aerial in the Mnweni Area. It works!


Enjoying a rest at the local spaza shop


From there we’ve got a lift to the Mnweni visitor’s Centre


For the 4th night I thought it was a good idea to stay with a local Zulu family


Local guide Chaiphus Mthabela has been hosting tourists at his home for years


Caiphus’ children enjoying the morning warm sunlight


Caiphus and his 4 children.


The Saddle, a prominent landmark in the Mnweni area.

Carlos Gonzalez

Life has been good since his arrival in South Africa. It was September 2005 and he fell in love with the country straightaway. Places like the Drakensberg, Wild Coast and the Midlands provide all the inspiration he needs. After the taste of freedom, working in an office again was out of the question. He has since qualified as a nature and mountain guide, and as his friends joke, embarked on a serious love affair... with the Drakensberg, where he spends most weekends.
3 thoughts on “A Snowy Hike in the Drakensberg – June 2011
  • This was unlike anything i had ever done in my life. The "natural high" i got while climbing the chain ladder, with a heavy backpack(±15kg) was insane. i didnt think i would be able to do it. Thanks to Carlos encouraging words..This is the craziest thing i have done, since white water rafting the mighty Zambezi river.....I Just cant get enough!!!.

  • This hike was an amazing and rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone. Hiking along the top of the Drakensberg in winter is a place to respect. The views are awe-striking not to mention looking down over the 2nd highest waterfall in the world and the infamous chain ladders. Carlos and team are professional and friendly, always going the extra mile. It was an unforgettable experience.

  • Thanks Matt for your nice comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the hike so much. I must say it was a very challenging experience due to the soft snow but it was a great one nonetheless. We couldn't do the route as planned but we got to do something new and completely unexpected. Such is life.All the best,Carlos