Thabana Ntlenyana, Highest peak in the Drakensberg

Thabana Ntlenyana the highest peak in the Drakensberg.

Thabana Ntlenyana is the highest peak in the Drakensberg and Lesotho. I bet that almost every South African has never heard of it, let alone walked up it.  I am continually amazed that so many of us are quick to spend a fortune climbing the highest peak in Africa for the sake of ‘Kili’ bragging rights on Instagram. There is a far cheaper, challenging, and rewarding opportunity on our doorstep!  Fortunately a few like-minded souls gathered at Pietermaritzburg to take on the challenge presented by Thabana Ntlenyana this past weekend. Boy what an adventure is was!

Thabana Ntlenyana means “pretty little mountain” in seSotho and is a 2 day hike from Sani pass.

Our group comprised of an English couple that were carrying on with me through Lesotho and on to Botswana for 3 weeks. Two thoroughly seasoned hikers that have hiked with Drakensberghiker before. A couple of Germans and a local lady. Assisting us all was Drakensberg Hiker’s crack team of porters. Youngster Teta, veteran Spalie, stoic Spamandla, and the boss, Sdudla. Read about us here.

Even though Thabana Ntlenyana is the highest peak in Lesotho we can still do the hike in 2 days from the top of Sani pass.

But still one does not simply ‘conquer’ Thabana Ntlenyana. The Drakensberg allows you to summit her if she is in a generous mood!

Having said that all you really need is a sense of adventure and a love of wild open spaces in the mountains. Oh and not having a hot shower for 2 nights. Yup, the showers at Sani back packers are not always working.

The day started at 10am with us all driving up in my 3 landys. On the way was a compulsory stop for the best tea and scones or sandwiches or pie. This is at Colleens place in Himeville.

You need a 4×4 vehicle to drive up Sani pass.

After a lovely lunch in Himeville we carry one up Sani pass into Lesotho. The bottom part of the road is a bit of a mess with road works going on. They plan on taring the whole pass one of these days. Anyway we stop at the South African border to get our passports stamped and then it is about a 1000m vertical climb. The Lesotho border is waiting on top of the escarpment. As we drive up it is interesting to see how the vegetation changes. If fact as we go above 2500m it really starts to change. This is the special height where trees stop growing and gets colder quicker.

Tonight is spent having a huge bbq and staying in the Sani back packers.

After a breakfast of eggs and bacon with a few pan cakes thrown in for strength, off we go. Really after maybe 1km we hit our first hill. Short but sweet or steep. I don’t know. Luckily it is not too long but is down the other side. At the bottom I was hoping to collect some water but the stream was bone dry. We had to get water so a stroll down the valley was required. Then… up another hill. Well I suppose we are walking to Thabana Ntlenyana the highest peak in the Drakensberg. It shouldn’t be easy. You can watch a video I made of this hike here.

Thabana Ntlenyana the highest peak in the Drakensberg shouldn’t be easy!

Thank goodness we had lunch high up here. The views were pretty special too. Then it was just a relaxed saunter down a valley to our camp site. But the day wasn’t done. After a mug of tea we headed off to the pretty little mountain. The wind was pumping and we didn’t spent too much time up there although it did keep the clouds at bay. We could even see all the way to Mafadi which is the highest peak in South Africa.

I must say the views from Thabana Ntlenyana are quite special.

Heading back down to our camp didn’t take as long as walking up. I think people were rather hungry by then. We settled in for a hot supper in the Drakensberghiker restaurant but then everyone left. Was it something I said?

We had some much needed rain during the night but luckily was mostly clear when we started walking back to Sani top. We arrived at Sani pub just in time for lunch. How nice is that?

And so you have it. We just summited Thabana Ntlenyana the highest peak in the Drakensberg and Lesotho.

Sani Pass To Thabana Ntlenyana Hike
Sani Pass to Thabana Ntlenyana Lesotho's highest peak
Sun above the clouds, Thabana Ntlenyana
Mist below our camp at Thabana Ntlenyana
Spectacular views on our Thabana Ntlenyana Drakensberg Hike
Sani pass to Thabana Ntlenyana Lesotho's highest peak