South Africa Highlands

Practicalities
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Climate

Frost occurs on about 150 nights a year, while snowfalls are recorded six to 12 times a year. Although snow can be expected any time of the year, it generally occurs between April and September. In the southern Berg snowfalls are generally more frequent and heavier than in the northern Berg. During summer the Little Berg and the summit are often blanketed by heavy cloud and mist which could last for anything up to two weeks before clearing.

The Drakensberg is notorious for sudden weather changes and you should, consequently, always be prepared for adverse weather conditions.

Sunglasses or sun goggles are advisable in the event of snowfalls, when the glare can be damaging to the eyes.

Group size

In wilderness areas groups are limited to a maximum of 12 people and the number of groups is also restricted. Groups should consist of at least three people.

Permits

• Access is by permit only and permit conditions must be strictly adhered to. The addresses where permits can be obtained are given in the relevant sections in this book
• Entry permits can be obtained by making a written or telephone reservation in advance or on arrival, provided the number of persons already in the area does not exceed the maximum capacity. The maximum group size is 12, but the number of groups permitted in a particular area is also limited.
• Angling permits are available upon production of a valid Kwazulu/Natal Provincial angling license.
• A valid passport is required for excursions beyond the escarpment into Lesotho.
• Persons wishing to spend the night in the mountains may be refused a permit unless the following equipment is carried: tent, sleeping bag, adequate footwear and warm clothing, torch, candle and matches, camping stove and fuel, food including sufficient emergency rations, and a first aid kit.

Maps

The entire Drakensberg from Mont aux Sources in the north to Sehlabathebe in the south is covered by a three part recreational map series which is invaluable to backpackers.

The maps are printed to a scale of 1 50 000 on all weather plasticised material, which is extremely durable. They provide a wealth of useful information on the Berg such as the location and maximum capacity of caves, perennial streams, dangerous river crossings, major and minor paths, ill defined 'Ways to Go," difficult sections where a rope may be required and approximate distances between path junctions.

A useful feature of the maps is the numbered intersections of footpaths. It has become standard practice for backpackers completing the mountain register to state the actual junction numbers of their intended routes. Another useful feature is the safety grid which enables you to pinpoint your position very quickly.

Emergencies

It is compulsory to complete the mountain register upon entering any of the mountain areas. Do this as accurately as possible as this information will speed up assistance or rescue operations should these be necessary. The various mountain register points are listed under the relevant sections in this book.

It is imperative to record the actual time and date of your return in the rescue register to avoid being held liable for the costs of unnecessary rescue operations.

Rescue operations are costly and often extremely hazardous, especially when carried out in adverse weather conditions. You are therefore requested to take the necessary precautions and to avoid taking careless risks.

In the event of an accident or illness where the victim is immobile a Natal Parks Board official or the South African Police Services in charge of the area concerned must be contacted.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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