NORTHERN DRAKENSBERG TRAVERSE - APRIL 2018

MAX PHOTOGRAPHERS
6

WORKSHOP DURATION
6 days / 5 nights

WORKSHOP COST
R13,900 per person

ACCOMMODATION
Hiking tents every night

PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDES
Carl Smorenburg & Mark Dumbleton

DATE OF WORKSHOP
12 - 17 April 2018

AVAILABILITY
6 spots remaining

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY
Medium

HIGHLIGHTS
Dramatic landscape photography
Backpacking workshop
Learn new photographic skills
Guided adventure into the mountains
Porter included for each client
Traverse the beautiful Northern Drakensberg
Climb the world famous chain-ladders

Spend 6 days & 5 nights exploring the nuances of some of the most dramatic scenery in all of the Drakensberg. This Northern Drakensberg Traverse workshop is lead by Carl Smorenburg and Mark Dumbleton. Together with their photographic experience and mountain knowledge, this workshop will provide an unparalleled opportunity to capture dramatic imagery of the most dynamic mountain landscape of South Africa. This workshop is designed for people with a passion for landscape photography and adventure.
 
During April in the Drakensberg the temperatures can be warm, but can become cold during the night, especially after thunderstorms or a cold front passing through. The potential conditions we could encounter include thunderstorms, beautiful cloudy sunrises and mist inversions. The Drakensberg is at its best during the summer months with wonderful green grass displayed everywhere. It is a wonderful time of year to experience this magnificent mountainous wonderland.

Gallery of images from previous hikes


Itinerary

12 April 2018 - The AMPHITHEATRE

All meet at Sentinel Motors Petrol Station in Bergville on Thursday 12th of April at 8:30am. We will drive to the Mnweni Cultural Centre and leave our cars at the centre, the parking is safe. We will then be picked up and travel to Sentinel car park. It is about a 2 hour drive. Once we arrive at the Sentinel car park we will sign the mountain register and proceed to hike via the chain-ladders through to Ribbon Falls (our first overnight stop). It is about an 8km hike from the car park to Ribbon Falls and should take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. We will set up camp and shoot sunset. We will then have dinner and turn in for the night. During each night, Mark or Carl will get up to check for any star photography opportunities, and will wake those up that want to get up to shoot stars.

13 APRIL - ICIDI PASS

Wake up early to shoot the Devils Tooth and the Tugela Falls. Have breakfast, pack up and start walking to the top of Icidi Pass. Icidi is about 9km from Ribbon Falls and should take about 5 hours at a very leisurely pace with a few stops on the way. It is an undulating route but don’t underestimate the altitude. Once we arrive we will set up camp, have a rest and then start exploring the area. Shoot till dark, have dinner and turn in for the night.

14 APRIL - MADONNA AND HER WORSHIPPERS

Wake early to shoot Icidi, there are some fantastic views of the lower Drakensberg and also over the Mnweni valley, including the Mnweni pinnacles and Needles. Back for some breakfast and pack up. Start walking to the Madonna and Her Worshippers. This is a short day of about 6 to 7km and should take about 4 hours. I am overestimating how long these days will take as the fitness of the group may vary. I do want to set up camp before 3pm each day as there are summer storms to consider. Set up camp and then shoot till dark. This is a fantastic location, one of the most grand in the whole of the Drakensberg. If we are lucky we might have a cloud inversion at night and then we can shoot stars. We will head back to camp after the evening shoot and eat dinner and turn in for the night.

15 April - Mnweni Pinnacles

Wake up early and shoot the Madonna and Her Worshippers then head back for breakfast and pack up. We will then hike to the Mnweni Pinnacles. This day will be the shortest of the trip. It will be about 5-6km, also undulating but the easiest day by far.  We will be camping far from water but our porters will get water for us. The Mnweni Pinnacles are a spectacular rock formation with grand views of the Mnweni valley. Our afternoon / evening shoot will be of the Mnweni Pinnacles. We will head back to camp after the evening shoot and eat dinner and turn in for the night.

16 April - Mponjwane

Wake up early to shoot the Mnweni Pinnacles, thereafter head back to camp and make breakfast and pack up. We will then leave for Mponjwane. This is a long day but an easy day of flat and undulating terrain. It will be about 10km, but definitely an easy walk. We will be walking to Mponjwana, The Little Horn. This is a very iconic huge outcrop of rock, with fantastic views of it and the Mnweni needles. We will shoot in the area of Mponjwane for the afternoon / evening. We will head back to camp after the evening shoot and eat dinner and turn in for the night.

17 APRIL - ROCKERIES PASS AND HOME

Wake up early and shoot Mponjwana, then head back and pack up. The last day will be the longest and maybe the hardest. We will be going down The Rockeries Pass, which is a long zig-zagging pass to the valley below. It is mostly downhill but going downhill takes its toll and sore feet and knees will be the order of the day. This should take us 5 to 6 hours for the 13km walk.We will get a lift back to the Mnweni Cultural centre, which will have to be done in relays. Once we arrive back at the Mnweni cultural centre we can have hot showers, say our farewell and head home.


INFORMATION

INCLUDED IN THE COST

  • Expert personal photographic instruction and guidance, advice on capture techniques, thoughts on composition and location scouting, informal post-processing chats and critique on captured photographs.
  • Free copy of Mark Dumbleton's Landscape Photograph Processing Video Tutorials.
  • All hiking fees
  • Transport from the Mnweni Cultural Centre to Sentinel Peak Car Park.
  • Porter included for each client.

NOT INCLUDED IN THE COST

  • Food (we will provide a list of what we take on a hike).
  • Transportation to and from the Mnweni Cultural Centre.

NOTES

  • At any time during the workshop you may choose to search for your own compositions away from other workshop participants. You do not need to stay with the group during sunrise / sunset sessions.
  • Carl and Mark will be taking photographs on the workshop, but only when each client has been attended to and is comfortable with their own shooting. The goal is to take you to these amazing locations and teach you how to photograph them.
  • We unfortunately cannot control the weather. Carl and Mark are not responsible for an unpleasant experience because of foul weather. The best will be done with the circumstances at hand to make the workshop as enjoyable for you as possible.
  • PLEASE make sure to cater for sub-zero temperatures. The Drakensberg can become very cold, so plan for worst case scenario. Snow has fallen in every month of the year in the Drakensberg, so expect the worse and we will be comfortable.
  • The camera gear Mark uses whilst on a hike in the Drakensberg includes : 1 x DSLR Camera (Nikon D810), 14-24 mm lens, 24-120mm lens with a 77mm circular polariser, tripod and ball head, spare camera batteries and memory cards, micro fibre cloth and camera cable release. I keep my camera gear in a soft pouch, inside a small dry bag to keep the gear dry if it rains. For those who enjoy a bit of wildlife, it may be a good idea to bring a light telephoto lens as we will be in the vicinity of Vulture colonies. Mark will be taking a Nikon 200-500 with him, so something of that calibre is highly recommended. Carl uses a Canon 5Dmk3 with a 16-35 f/2.8 lens as well as a 70-200 f/2.8 lens.
  • There are no toilet facilities up on the mountain, so any toilet duties will be done purely "in the wild". Please remember to pack enough toilet paper.
  • You are free to wash in the rivers close to each of our camps. The water is very cold but adequate for a good "freshen Up". Please use biodegradeable soap.
  • At 3000m above sea level, the oxygen is a lot thinner than at sea level. This makes any physical activity much harder so please bear this in mind when choosing to hike with us.

BOOKINGS

To make a booking, please click the "Book for this workshop" button at the top of this page and enter in your details, alternatively email Mark at info@markdumbleton.com. A booking confirmation form will be emailed to you to confirm your booking. A 50% deposit is required to secure your booking. Final 50% payment required 60 days before departure.

HIKING GEAR RENTAL

If you are new to hiking and want to join us but don't have the necessary hiking gear, for R1000 per person we can offer the following gear on a rental basis for the workshop,

  • 65 Litre Hiking Pack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Cooking stove and pot

PORTER INFORMATION

A few important notes regarding the use of porters - The porters are only human and cannot carry everything and the kitchen sink, so please be careful with what and how you pack. They have to carry your stuff and as well as their stuff in the same bag. That includes their tent, food and clothes. Please bring a large day pack or camera bag so that you can carry your camera equipment. Limit your food to about a 1kg a day. When we arrive at the Mnweni Cultural Centre we will have a look at everyones gear and work out the luggage for the porters. The porters are such nice guys are always willing to help. Each porter will be able to carry 8-10kg of your gear. No provisions need to be made for the porters, they will have their own tent, food etc. but please feel free to spoil them a bit with extra food, they are very appreciative of that. Extra remuneration for the porters at the end of the hike is also welcomed, but not compulsory.

TIPS ON HIKING GEAR AND FOOD

On my first hike I took far too much equipment into the Drakensberg. My pack was about 28kg for 2 nights. I was warned before hand to make sure to only take the absolute essentials. I followed this advice to a degree, but I did end up taking probably 5-7kg of unnecessary gear, food and clothing. It is very difficult to judge what you should take having never done a hike before, but I have learned from experience and can to the best of my ability assist with what gear to take. Keep things as simple as possible, find the lightest gear possible (without breaking the bank) and look for multiple uses in items. Remember, everything you pack will have to be carried, and as insignificant as a saving of 100g in some form of gear is, it all adds up! The lighter your pack, the more you will enjoy your time out in the Drakensberg wilderness and take full advantage of the experience with us.

For a comprehensive analysis of the gear I take on a hike, please have a look at this blog post.