Things To Do in Champagne ValleyChampagne Castle Big Five Hikes
Where? Champagne Castle, Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal
When? Booking is essential.
How? Call +27 (0)36 468-1063
How much? Price on request
Start: Champagne Castle Hotel
Finish: Champagne Castle Hotel
Duration: Varies per trail
Our tip: if you want your name on the honours' board in the hotel you'll need to climb all five peaks, but you'll receive a certificate for every peak conquered
Champagne Castle, called such after the bottle of bubbly carried up the mountain by the first people to ascend the peak, that was then accidentally broken, is renowned for five 'big' peak hikes that are at once a mountaineering challenge and a feat.
They are: Matterhorn, Gatberg, Amphlett, Sterkhorn and Champagne Castle (the third highest peak in the 'berg).
At 1 995 metres is the easiest of the hikes, although the route has eroded somewhat. Advantages are that you will be back in time for lunch if you set off at about 9am, and you can do this hike unguided.
Also known as Intunja, or eye of the needle, for the hole through its base, estimated at about 9 metres in diameter. It is one of the most dominent peaks of the Champagne Castle area. Hikers often include this peak on other hikes, like the one to Zulu cave, heading over the back ridge and up Gatberg, before going back down to Monk's Cowl.
Is 2 620 metres high, and a challenge; more of a mountain scramble than a hike.
At 2906 metres, is a demanding climb possible in a day, but regarded more as a rock climb than a hike (more for mountaineers than walkers). The path is eroded initially and not easy to follow, and when it reaches the rocky terrain it peters out completely. Follow the occasional cairn to the top, where you squeeze through a narrow chimney and scale a high rockface before making the summit.
At 3377 metres, this is one of the highest peaks in the 'berg. There are various routes to the summit, and the hike usually takes a few days (although the incredibly fit can do it in a day, they do miss out on drinking in the views), but the favoured route is over Gray's Pass.