We visited the Drakensberg Mountains in the autumn of 2004. Starting from Underberg, where a guidebook and maps can be bought at the Tourist Office, we stayed at the nearby Sani Lodge. Stromness, 1742m is a short ascent from here. Khanti, 2207m provides an wonderful day out of around 7 hours, including a visit to the Balancing Rocks. Passes and maps can be bought at the Lodge. The Lodge can also make bookings for Sani Top Chalet in Lesotho and arrange for you to join a tourist Land Rover to Sani Pass (the road is a little rough for most rental cars). From Sani Pass we climbed Hodgson's Peaks South and North (both 3256m) and did the long trek to a Rather Beautiful Smallish Mountain called Thabana Ntlenyana in the local Sesotho tongue. At 3482m, it is the highest point in Southern Africa.
From Underberg we drove to Winterton and on to the highly recommended Cathedral Peak Hotel. Climbing Tarn Hill, 1967m, we got stupendous views of the Drakensberg range, and visited a San cave with its characteristic paintings.
The following day we were lucky to get fine weather for the long ascent of Cathedral Peak.
Cathedral Peak, 3005m
Cathedral Peak provides a fine day of 8 to 10 hours with pleasant ridge walking culminating in a testing scramble up the intimidating summit pyramid (PD with moves of II).
The only description we found is in David Bristow's "Best Walks of the Drakensberg". This is poorly written, inaccurate and confusing. At one point the author admits: 'I have not climbed this peak for some years'. If you buy the book, be sure to flick through it - my copy had a number of blank pages!
A 1:50000 map can be bought locally. It is fairly accurate, but difficult to read - the tourist info often obscures vital detail. However, the route is quite easy to follow and I append my description below.
If you are not staying at the Cathedral Peak Hotel, cars can be parked in a field just before the guard house. From here it is about 400m to the U bend below the Hotel. At the bend, follow a jeep track and, at the trout pond, go right to the river (sign). Once across the river (no bridge) you are on a good path which leads ultimately to the top of Cathedral Peak. The path heads towards the Bnemana River valley and ascends the steep south bank, avoiding various detours to caves containing paintings. At the top of the valley, at 2000m, is a spring, the only water we found on the route in October. The path then follows a long, grassy ridge before traversing right at the headwall into a steep, vegetated gully. At the top is Orange Peel Gap, 2420m. The path now contours along the N side of the ridge into the Nxwaye River valley, following it to its source at the foot of the summit pyramid. Above is a steep, loose gully bounded by a pinnacle on its left. Two-thirds of the way up the gully, a sensational traverse on good holds leads across the right wall to a good path. Alternatively, the gully can be avoided by following a faint path to the lowest rock band and crossing it by a delicate move at its narrowest point (cairn). The path and cairns are then followed up the left flank of the summit pyramid over short walls and exposed slabs. A chain ladder gets you up the final 10m wall. The path then traverses right to the rocky summit cone, which is climbed pleasantly to the top.