Drakensberg Caves & Huts Database

Cowl Cave


Monk\\\'s Cowl Wilderness Area

Monk's Cowl / Mdedelelo Wilderness Area, Northern Drakensberg.  At over 3 000 m, this is a high berg cave, although it is not located on the escarpment.  It is situated slightly above the saddle between Champagne Castle and Monk's Cowl, in the foot of Champagne Castle itself.  It can be reached either from Keith Bush camp, or from the Cowl Fork campsite, which are situated respectively at the bottom of the north and south gullies leading up to the saddle between Monk's Cowl and Champagne Castle.  The route from the Cowl Fork campsite is only for the very fit and adventurous, since it involves clambering up the river over boulders and bed rock, around a waterfall via a steep, grassy slope, and finally up a steep, shaly slope.

The route from Keith Bush camp is far more pleasant and within the capabilities of more hikers, especially if only on a day walk without full backpacks, but keep to the right going up the broad, rock-strewn slope.  Both these routes come out at the top of the gully between Monk's Cowl and Cathkin Peak.  Reaching the cave from this point involves traversing around the south side of Monk's Cowl at a height slightly above that of this first saddle.  This traverse can be done safely in good weather, but in mist it could prove difficult to find a safe route.  Once around the corner behind Monk's Cowl, you then have to climb another gully for a further 150 m or so before arriving at the top of the saddle between Champagne Castle and Monk's Cowl.  The cave is small and in mist it may still be difficult to locate.

Co-ordinates (WGS84 / dd mm.mmm):

at metres


Accommodation: 4

Cowl Cave is not much of a cave at all since it is very shallow and has a crack in the roof at the one end.  Add to this the fact that in summer it is very damp, with water seeping down the back wall and dripping from the roof elsewhere, there is no guarantee you won't be better off sleeping in the open on the deep, soft grass in front of it!  However, in good winter weather it should be quite homely, especially with some snow to block the hole in the roof!  Both saddles offer some level ground for pitching tents, and this is a much better option in wet weather.  There is, however, another smaller, drier cave around the corner from Cowl Cave which can accommodate 2 or 3 people.


The floor of the cave is level and can accommodate 4 hikers comfortably in good, dry weather.  In cold, wet weather the cave can be perfectly miserable!


Despite the cave's dampness in wet weather, the nearest reliable source of water is above Keith Bush camp or on the way up the river from the Cowl Fork campsite.  In mid-winter you stand a good chance of finding snow in the south gully, otherwise you should not rely on finding water near the cave - carry your essential needs up with you.


No water means no pools!


There is a hole in the roof, the cave is shallow and it is exposed to the violent gusts of wind that can be expected in the saddles between any high peaks.


The cave's main attractions are the challenge of reaching it, and the magnificent views it affords once you have done so.  Both saddles offer outstanding scenery to the north and south, and the peaks themselves, especially Cathkin with its myriad spires and turrets, are breathtaking.


+27 (036) 4681103


Last updated: 2009-08-20 10:11:43 | Report Listing Report Listing
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