This peak, although not particularly spectacular, is the highest in South Africa. At 3450m it is just 32m lower than Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest in southern Africa.
Situated in the central Drakensberg, it is on the border between South Africa and Lesotho.
The peak itself has no technically challenging routes, but as is the case throughout the Drakensberg range the real climbing takes place in the ascent to the top of the escarpment, and from here one is left with a simple but potentially exhausting slog to the summit. The mountain can be climbed from bottom to top without any technical expertise, all that is required is a good level of fitness, an eye on the weather, and a little patience. The whole climb should be spread over 2 or 3 days.
Due to the fact that the Drakensberg range is a long escarpment, it is common to do multi-day traverses at an altitude consistently around 3000m, tagging peaks along the way. The only ways to get on and off the escarpment are by the various passes which penetrate the otherwise formidable basalt cliffs. It is these cliffs and other other jagged, sometimes free-standing peaks that attract most of the visitors to this region
For more info on the Drakensberg including good pass descriptions and GPS waypoints, see the Super Traverse webpage.
From the town of Ladysmith one should head south-west for about 40-50 kilometres to the little town of Winterton. From here there is a road to the Injasuti Hutted Camp, which is the closest resort to Mafadi. From Injasuti there are marked and unmarked trails leading in various directions. It is important to consult a map, otherwise one could very easily choose the wrong path. One should hike up the very pleasant Injasuti valley in the direction of the Marble Baths, and from here take great care in choosing the correct path, in order to reach Leslie's Pass (there are a lot of gullies in this part of the escarpment, make sure you take the correct one). From Marble Baths the pass involves 6 km of walking and rises 1300m in altitude to its summit at 3070m. Once in the main gully the path should be quite clear. From the pass summit one must proceed south, gradually gaining altitude for about 6 km until reaching the summit, comfortably the highest point in the area. There are also a number of rock passes in this area, but they should only be attempted by those with technical ability and experience in Drakensberg conditions.
A permit is required to access the area and its facilities. This can be obtained from the Injasuti gate on arrival. One should always carry one's passport as the border with Lesotho is close to the escarpment edge. Hikers are requested to sign a register for mountain rescue purposes. There are restrictions on camping, so check all the details at the hutted camps or forest stations. Various conservation rules must also be observed, notably that fires are completely forbidden, whether in a cave or camping out anywhere. It is not permitted to camp in caves with bushman paintings - there are several of these in the little 'Berg.
When To Climb
There are different opinions as to what is the best climbing season. Basically, the weather is more stable in winter, but days are short and usually very cold at either end. Snow is common in winter and can make the passes rather tricky. If it does not snow, the area can be very dry, so water should be carried. In summer the days are long and hot, the sun rises very early, but thunder storms and rain regularly occur in the afternoons. Many people are attracted to the lush green that covers the slopes in summer, as well as the atmospheric mists that frequently occur at this time of year, while the landscape is golden brown in winter.
Camping is allowed on the escarpment, and anywhere in the Drakensberg Park away from intensive use zones, but there are restrictions in areas close to the hutted camps and official camp sites. There are caves in the area, but one may have to book in order to use these. One can of course rent the huts or designated camping areas at the Injasuti Hutted Camp itself.
Weather forecasts for the Drakensberg can be obtained from www.weathersa.co.za, but it is important to remember that the weather on the escarpment is often very localised and can change very rapidly. Lightning strike is a risk in summer. Gear theft can occur on the escarpment, as there are Basotho viliages among the Lesotho hills some way inland from the escarpment, so be alert, don't leave your gear unattended, and try to travel in a party of at least four people.
The phone number for Injasuti section of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is (036) 431 7848