The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Climb

Grade: ***** An outing NOT to be missed!

Time in Hours Outward: 3-4hrs

Time in Hours total: 7hrs

Take a car up to Sentinel Car Park, pay the appropriate fee, and simply follow the extremely strong path leading off from the south side of the Car Park.  Follow the well-worn path, up to the right of the Witches, toward Sentinel, where the zig-zags take their toll, skirting around the base of Sentinel, along the contour path to the chain ladder.  Along the way, one passes the Sentinel Cave (tucked 20 metres above the path) and also the Gully, which presents an alternative route up, for those too nervous of the ladder.

The ladder is really not difficult. Five and six year old children also negotiate this steel rung chain ladder. From the Car Park to the base of the ladder usually takes the average walker about an hour to an hour and a half. From the top of the ladder there is a well-defined path leading to the “Hut” and to the top of Tugela Falls.  It is an accepted fact that provided that there are no clouds, this walk around the top is only a pleasure and one can spend hours exploring the many features of this area. However, if one is returning to the Lodge for the night, then please leave the top by 3:00 pm at the latest.

If one is sleeping over, then a trip to the top of Mont Aux Sources peak should not be missed.  There is not enough time on a one day trip to visit this beacon which is set well back from the Drakensberg Amphitheatre Wall, almost behind the Crow’s Nest Cave, which makes this a popular visit if sleeping over at the cave to spend a few minutes at the Beacon, watching a sunset.  Of course, to watch a sunrise from above the Falls, using frozen water as a foreground, is an experience to be enjoyed all of your life.  One cannot be too guarded or too careful, should clouds start building up, especially from below or from behind, as they very quickly close-in the area, reducing visibility to one or two metres.  Please take water with you to keep hydrated.

Mist is also a grave source of danger, as it has a habit of suddenly becoming thicker, with reduced visibility.  At the first signs of either clouds or mist, start back to the chain ladder and get off the top.  Once below, the path is usually strong enough for most walkers to follow.  We can’t stress enough the speed at which mist/clouds can appear, trapping the unwary on top.  Always use sound common sense and do not listen to anyone except an experienced climber who knows the Amphitheatre, if visibility is threatened.

For those inexperienced in the area, we strongly advise that you hire an experienced Mountain Guide through Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. Not only do they understand the routes and the weather patterns, and will help you manage your time, but their knowledge of the geology, fauna and flora will add a wonderful dimension to your hike.