Cathedral Peak Hiking Trail

Details of the 3 Day Cathedral Peak Hiking Trail-summit one the few free standing mountains in the Drakensberg

If hiking and adventure are you thing, then you have definitely come to the right place. The  Cathedral Peak Hiking Trail has it all. Incredible mountain scenery. The challenge of summiting the peak. And a bit of abseiling!!

What the Cathedral Peak Hiking Trail cost includes

  • Guides
  • Tents
  • Hiking Permits for 3 days
  • Breakfast and dinner on the mountain
  • Cooking and eating utensils
  • Ropes and harness for the exposed sections near the summit of Cathedral Peak

What the cost excludes

  • Transport. Hikers will have to meet us at the Cathedral Peak Hotel Parking
  • Porters ( they can be hired for R400 a day)
  • Lunches/snacks on the hike
  • Backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping mats. ( you can hire them from us if you need)
  • Your hiking equipment/clothing

How to make a booking?

Each person  in your group looking at joining the Cathedral peak Hiking Trail tour would have to complete the online booking form. the link is detailed booking form

Where do you have to meet and the time?

You will need meet us at the Cathedral Peak Hotel carpark at 10am.

Cathedral peak Hiking Trail  distances and daily itinerary

The total distance covered on this guided Drakensberg  hike is about 24 km broken up as follows:

Day 1: 

Distance: 4km

Duration: 3 hours

Altitude Gain: 400m

Camp: Shermans Cave camp

We meet hikers at the Cathedral Peak hotel carpark at 10am. We spend the next hour checking equipment and meeting the team. We start the hike by 11am. The hike today is relatively easy. There is 1 river crossing at the start of the hike. And a short steep section after about 2km. We should be in camp by 3pm. The rest of the afternoon is all yours to explore, relax or take in the epic mountain views. We will prepare dinner which will be ready by 6pm.

Day 2: 

Distance: 14km

Duration: 9-10 hours

Altitude Gain: 1000m

Camp: Shermans Cave camp

Wake up call is at 6am. Breakfast and hot water will be ready from 6am. We aim to start the hike by 7:30am.  A tough day today. We will be hiking without your heavy backpacks. The hike is a return one. We aim to hit the summit of cathedral peak and return again to the same camp.  ****note**the last 200m section to the summit is exposed. We will set up ropes and have harnesses available for hikers who feel uneasy. The going is slow in this section. So please be patient. We should be back down at camp again by 5:30pm. The turnaround time is 1:30pm. Once again, hot water and dinner will be prepared.

Day 3: 

Distance: 4km

Duration: 2-3hours hours

Altitude Drop: 400m

The last day of hiking.  Wake up at 6am, have breakfast and start hiking by 7:30am. We should be back at the carpark  by about 11am. Enough time for you to have lunch and Drive back o JHB. Back by say 8pm.

The Cathedral peak Hiking Trail is rated as moderate to easy

23km over 3 days. Not too bad. The perfect hike for novice hikers. The great aspect of the tour is that at any point, you feel like you can’t make it, the escape route back to camp is not drastic. Of course, you can hire a porter if you are concerned about your fitness. Hiking without a backpack will make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

What South Africa Adventures supplies?

This is what we supply on the trip. Please refer to the section on what you will need to bring

  • 2 man tents
  • Cup, spoon and bowel.
  • Park Fees
  • Breakfast on the mountain (x2)
  • Dinner on the mountain (x2)
  • Guides

Do I get my own tent?

Nope. If you do not have a partner you are going to have to find a friend. If you can’t make friends we will assign a friend to you.  And of course the pairing will be kept gender based. So no ladies… we are not going to put you in a tent with a complete stranger. So no hanky panky on this hike please.  Unless of course a budding romance is fired up on the hike and circumstances dictate otherwise, we may turn a blind eye. The tents are 3 man tents but we put 2 people in them. See how kind we are hey? That gives you space for your hiking bags as well in the tent.

BUT…… ITS COVID TIME. SO if you do not have a parter, we will give you you your own tent. Don’t stress about sharing a tent or a covid germ with a stranger.

What about lunch?

Our modus Operandi in the mountains is all about keeping the rhythm and momentum going. We take breaks every 45 minutes for about 10 minutes. That gives you time to fuel upon snacks, energy bars, nuts etc.

What do we suggest for snacks?

You are going to need snacks for basically 4 days. Now don’t go stock up on heavy, bulky stuff. We suggest a mixture of nuts, biltong, energy bars, and dried fruit. And try compartmentalizing the food into small zip lock bags for ease of use and convenience.  You may want to also consider a powdered energy drink or rehydrate solution to help with energy. Just bare in mind you are going to be burning some serious calories. And for all you protein only type, may we suggest you drop that idea for this hike. Try and get snacks that cover carbohydrates ( 60% of your RDA), Fats (20% of your RDA) and protein (30 % of your RDA).

What equipment would I need for the hike?

Ok, so you are going to spending 2 nights in the mountains. So you are going to need to have the correct equipment to survive in the mountains. Sounds dramatic I know but safety first.

These are the basic things you will need, but please check out the following links for a more detailed description. And PLEASE, watch the Youtube video as well. It will give you a visual aspect on what to bring.

  • A 65 to 75 litre backpack ( it must be able to fit your sleeping bag, clothing, snacks, water, sleeping mat).  A 35 LITRE DAYPACK IS NOT SUFFICIENT  (unless you can fit all your stuff in it. And good luck with  that we say)
  • Sleeping bag that can handle 6 Degrees Celcius. ( Of course you can sleep in all your fleece jerseys if need be as well. A good sleeping bag liner also adds a few degrees to the sleeping bag rating)
  • Warm fleece and waterproof jacket. The rainy season is here, we always prepare for the worst. Getting wet in the Drakensberg can be potentially dangerous and lead to hypothermia.

Link to the equipment list ( summer version but maybe add a few items like gloves and beanie):

What should the weight of the backpack be?

The guideline is not more than a third of your body weight. The average weight is about 12kg.

What are the hiking conditions, terrain and difficulty levels like on the hike?

So, mountains are not easy. There are going to be some challenging sections that are going to need you to dig deep mentally as well as physically. The paths are mostly single track and sometimes hug the edge of the mountain. And yes….there is going to be a lot of ‘uphills’.  But stress not. It’s not the mountain you conquer but yourself. We will mentally guide you through the tough sections to help you get to the top. But for the most part, the Cathedral peak Hiking Trail is pretty easy and a moderate level of fitness will see you survive with maybe a few sore leg muscles as a reminder of the awesome hike you just completed. To give you an idea of the difficulty, we average between 1 and 1.5 km/h. This is due to various factors like the gradient, terrain, weather conditions, fatigue, altitude and hiding from the coronavirus.

What if it rains?

So what if it rains you ask? Well then we dish out a big dollop of sympathy and carry on with the hike. Obviously you are going to have to ensure you have all of your bags and yourself waterproofed.

Rainy Seasons are from October to March. The chances of rain and thunderstorms is high. But again…we are dealing with mountains and they have their own set of agendas and love working with Murphy and his band of merry law makers. We will check the weather a few days prior to the trip to see if their is a chance of rain. But if Murphy decides to send a cold front, then we need to be prepared.

How do I go about waterproofing my gear?

Okay so the first thing you will need is a  rain jacket to keep yourself dry.

What we suggest for your gear is pretty simple. You will need 3 waterproof bags. (Either thick plastic bags or the more expensive waterproof bags that can seal-you can get both from a reputable hiking or outdoor retail shop). The first bag you use for your clothing. It must be large enough to fit all your clothing. The second bag is for your sleeping bag. You do not want to get this wet!!!!. The third bag is for your sleeping mat.

And over all of this you will need a backpack rain cover for extra protection. And also a few zip lock bags to keep your cell phone and toilet paper dry.

Do I need Gaitors?

If you are asking ‘what are those?’ then probably not. In fact I have never worn them and I have been up there like 250 times. Gaitors are used to keep snow out of your boots. And rain. But I find my hiking pants cover the boots so they keep the rain out. And the possibility of snow is minimal.

Do I need hiking boots or are trail shoes sufficient?

Yeah you can get away with trail shoes. Just bear in mind that if it rains you are going to get wet feet. If you cool with that and promise not to bleat in our poor guides ear about wet feet..then we cool with it.

Water bottles vs bladders

If you are looking for approval on a bladder then you’ve come to the wrong place. I have spent way too much time in the mountains to see the disadvantages of a bladder. They are squishy. They are difficult to pack in your backpack. They leak. The mouth pieces break. And they are not easy to fill with water which is sometimes a freezing trickle from a rock. And you never know how much you have drunk. I prefer 2x 1 litre Nalgene water bottles with a wide mouth- Easy to fill up-Easy to drink from- Versatile.   Easy to clean.

Do we need water purification tablets?

No. The water in the Drakensberg is pure. No human settlement and no animals to pollute the water. Sometimes you get a few floating things like grass and the likes but nothing that will kill you. And water purification drops are not going to dissolve the grass particles either. We have never had an upset stomach from the water.

What about wees and poohs?

Okay so there are a few rules and procedures when it comes to this wonderful human experience  on the Cathedral peak Hiking Trail. First of all let us star of by telling you that there are no toilets in the mountains. Eish. So you are going to have to find a suitable spot for your business. The modus operandi? Dig a whole and a) burn the toilet paper or b) keep it in a ziplock bag and carry the paper out with you.  We leave the mountain as we found it!!!! No trace that we were ever there. And of course you are going to have to bear with us in terms of where you can go. The mountain is pretty limited in terms of space due to the terrain. And privacy is also a big concern. So we will work out a plan on the mountain in terms of how where and how. All part of the experience right?

How do I wash or keep myself clean?

There are obviously no showers in the mountains. And we can’t fit any in our backpacks . So you are going to have to live with the fact that you are going 3 days without a shower. And there is no bathing in the rivers allowed either!!! Unless you are brave enough to jump in without soap.  We respect our rivers and would like to keep them as pristine as possible. Having said that, there are no rivers really on the hike big enough to swim in. So…..its wetwipes and hand sanitizer to keep you all fresh and lovely smelling I’m afraid. And bear in mind you are going to be sharing a tent with a possible stranger so keep those smelly feet under control.

What are we going to be eating on the hike?

So we are going to be bringing our very own mountain chefess Emma, who has worked out the art of creating tasty and nutritious food in the mountains.

Breakfast: oats with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.

Dinners: Depending on her mood, Emma will conjure up a really cool meal. We keep things pretty healthy. So no 2 minute noodles. She will create stews with quinoa, couscous, potatoes, onions, vegetables and a secret sauce with either smoked chicken or tuna. Obviously if you are vegetarian there will be a vegetarian version. We have your booking forms with your requirements so stress not. And please be kind to Emma. Cooking in the mountains is not easy. And we don’t want you to get the ‘special’ order

What happens at meal times?

You will be assigned a plate, spoon and cup at the beginning of the hike. It is yours for the duration of the hike. At meal times you present yourself in an orderly fashion please ( no biting, scratching or pushing allowed) and help yourself to Emmas delicious food. Buffet…. but mountain style!!!  After you have finished eating, there will be a bowl of hot water for you to clean your bowl, spoon and cup with. Then of course……put them away safely for the next meal. You don’t want to be eating with your hands from a rock if you misplace them. At the end of the hike we will collect the mountain cutlery from you again.

It’s my first overnight hike ever and I pretty freaked out!!!

That’s super cool. In fact 80% of the people joining the group are also on their first overnight hike. So there will be a lot of people walking the same path as you.  So take it easy and enjoy the experience. Of course there is going to be pre-climb anxiety. That is super normal. We have been taking people up mountains all over the world and it is normal. Let’s face it…you are on an adventure. It’s not meant to be predictable. Adventure is all about stepping out of your comfort zone into a world of uncertainty. And that is what mountains are all about- Uncertainty. We deal with whatever comes our way. Bad weather, cold, smelly socks etc etc.

Please be kind and understanding to our guides.

Sometimes things cannot go according to plan in the mountains. Sometimes there are things that are beyond our control. Sometimes decisions are made or change of hiking plans. We are in the mountains. Please be patient and understanding with our guides. I promise you they will be trying their best (sometimes under some hectic conditions) to make you experience the best ever.

Can I bring alcohol on the hike?

Okay so a debatable topic. We are inclined to say yes but in limited quantities. Not some messed-up skunk, class A, can’t-think-let-a-lone-move stuff. And no glass bottles please. . Decanter the wine or whisky into a plastic bottle- It’s lighter to carry and you can just squish the bottle when empty.

How many people on the hike?

Between 8 and 20. Final numbers not confiremd as yet

Is there cell phone reception:

Yes. On 60% of the hike. It’s not the best signal but you should be able to make a call or wottsup. But please be considerate to fellow hikers. No late night heavy breathing calls to your loved ones.

Music on the mountains?

Absolutely not!! We are here to experience the peace and quiet that the mountains so feely give. And of course there is the courtesy factor as well. The chances of everyone liking your music are pretty low. So we rather go with the ‘no music policy’ to keep the peace.

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