10 – 11 May 2008
Report & Pics by Dave Sclanders
The Grande Traverse (GT), the Comrades hike of Mountain hikers. The 2008 GT , the UP Hike, from Bushman’s Nek in the Southern Drakensberg, to The Sentinel in the Northern Berg. 230 kilometers, 13 grinding, grueling days of hiking across the inhospitable escarpment of the mighty uKhahlamba Drakensberg. Very few paths, no roads carry everything on your back from food, clothes and tents, and in the process climb a staggering 13 000 meters during the period.
To do the traverse one needs exceptionally fit, strong minded people, here the rule “No Pain no Gain” really applies. To do this extraordinary hike, one needs to be re-supplied twice during the hike. Good friends are needed for this.
The Midlands Hiking Club(MHC) and the Mountain Backpackers Club(MBP), both KZN based clubs have combined on several occasions to do this great hike. Club members from both clubs join in to help with taking re-supplies up to the top of the escarpment to supply their fellow club members.
The 2008 GT consisted of 12 exceptional hikers. These hikers are amongst a group of very few hikers who can say that they have done the GT in both directions, North to South, and South to North .
GT and Re-supply teams at the summit of Organ Pipes Pass
The GT Team ready to leave for the start of the hike
Keith Ashton , who at 68 years of age is the oldest known hiker to do the traverse in both directions
Luciano Colombo at 67 years of age, the 2nd eldest hiker to have done both G.T’s.
Once at the top , tents were set up ,water collected from a nearby stream , tea made and warm clothing put on. The evening promised to be very cold
Then from out of a higher valley , the first GT member arrived, then the rest followed. A great relief for all, and a special welcome from all to all. Hugs and congratulations on getting this far, especially for those hikers who had family or friends on the GT.
Tents were put up, food parcels given out, and the inevitable bottles of sherry, whisky, drambuie, and other good stuff was shared, and enjoyed in great circle of friendship and camaraderie of special people in a special place. As the cold increased, so came the wind and the rain as well. Time to get into the tents, do a good supper, and snuggle down into a warm sleeping bag.
Wonderful views over the berg this week end made it all worth while. Call it hiking, trekking, mountain walking, whatever. It was great to share these magnificent mountains with a few special people.