This list of Frequently Asked Questions will grow over time. If you have a question and don't see it here, feel free to ask...

This is a somewhat complex question, unfortunately requiring a slightly not-so-clear answer. The short answer is: it depends who does the rescue...


If a private emergency medical service (NetCare, ER24 and others) conducts the rescue you will be billed, the same as you would have been billed if they fetched you after you broke your leg playing a game of soccer. Even if you are rescued out of the mountain by a free service, if you use an ambulance to get transferred to hospital you will be billed for the ambulance trip just as you always would.

In the Western Cape the rescue service is essentially free, but the Western Cape Provincial Government may attempt cost recovery. This is normally done by submitting an invoice to your medical aid (insurance). If you don't have medical aid (insurance) then they don't appear to pursue the matter.

In the Drakensberg, your entry fee includes a tiny sum that goes towards a rescue fund. As long as you have paid your permit fee to KZN Wildlife, you are covered for all rescue. However, take note that nearly all high Drakensberg treks go out of South Africa and into Lesotho - a different country. You have to be reasonably close to the border for rescue to take place from the South African side. We cannot speak to the implications of rescue from the Lesotho side if you are too deep into Lesotho or the weather precludes rescue from the SA side.

For the rest of the country, the state will conduct the rescue for free, or the rescue will be conducted free-of-charge on behalf of the state by volunteer organisations such as The Mountain Club of South Africa, which fields a number of all-volunteer mountain rescue teams throughout the country.

Very few of the state agencies possess their own hoist-equipped or short-haul configured helicopters, so they need to request assistance from the South African Air Force. If the Air Force has an appropriately equipped aircraft available then they will assist, but they will normally ask the requesting agency to pay for the costs of he aircraft. Depending on how cash-strapped the requesting agency is, they may ask the patient if they have the means to cover the cost. If not they may feel compelled to conduct the rescue 'the hard way' - using rope rescue and teams of bearers to carry the stretcher cross-country to the nearest road.

We can't provide an actual example of this actually happening exactly this way but we are aware of cases where rescues were done 'the hard way' because of financial constraints.

For peace of mind we strongly recommend that you join the UK Section of the Austrian Alpine Club. Their membership includes free rescue insurance for any non-professional mountaineering. 

To become a full-scale mountain guide in South Africa will probably take you 2½ - 3 years almost full-time. The current Generic Adventure Site Guide course doesn't stipulate the number of days of experience you need in total - just that you need 40 days of logged experience, but that only applies to entry-level guides. To get a proper idea we need to look at the (now deprecated) unit standards that previously applied to mountaineering. The original versions of these standards had explanatory notes at the end that gave a much better understanding of the career path one would be likely to follow. Combining the current GASG and the old unit standards, along with some common-sense thinking gives us the following:







 1 Week

 ± 1-3 weeks depending on your commitment



 7 Days

 20 days <60m drops + 5 days > 60m drops



4 Days

20 days, Must demonstrate ability to lead Grade 14 Trad comfortably



1 Week

 21 Days



 1 Week

200 days, of which 100 are multi-day off trail, 100 in winter, 50 as group leader



 3-5 Days

85 multi-pitch climbs, of which 20 are country routes, across 3 different geopraphic regions.

Must demonstrate the ability to lead Grade 17 Trad comfortably.



 4 Days

200 mountain days, of which 100 must be canyoning. 50 days of canyon leadership



1 Week

 100 days of sole-leader experience, with international experience. Snow and ice.



1 Week




1 Week

*Prerequisite for canyoning guide


Distilling this down to something more understandable, it means that you would spend approximately 2 - 2½ months undergoing training or engaged in self-study, interspersed with a minimum of:


  • 25 days of abseiling

  • 20 days of single-pitch trad rock climbing

  • 200 days of mountain walking, across 3 regios of the country in all seasons.

  • 100 additional days of canyoning, of which 50 would be as leader

  • 60 days of multi-pitch climbing

  • 100 days of general mountaineering (snow, ice, high altitude trekking) in SA and abroad.


This works out at 505 days of actual time in the mountains. If one assumes a 5-day 'working week' that means 101 weeks of experience, excluding travel time to desinations further afield, time off to rest ("leave") and down-time for illness ("sick leave"). Given that there are 52 weeks in a year, this equates to approximately 2½ years from a blank slate to the point of being ready to take the final assessment. This excludes all those other courses that you should be taking - short courses in:

  • Basic business administration

  • Marketing

  • Photography

  • Website Development (if you want to run your own website)

  • etc

  • etc


With the current training scheme, the best course of action for someone who want to do this seriously would be:


The five courses of Level III first Aid, Abseil Supervisor, Single Pitch Supervisor, Walking Group Leader and Generic Adventure Site Guide (for which you have 3 months to do it self study, to do this one last).


Spend 2 months gaining experience in these disciplines whilst doing the GASG  assignments.


Schedule the GASG and practical assessments. These will probably take about 7-10 days to do. If you pass the assessments you will be able to register as a guide for these disciplines and be able to start earning some income.


Thereafter do the Multi-pitch Climbing, Mountain Walking Guide, Swift Water Rescue, Canyoning and Snow & Ice courses.

Spend a further 2 years gaining this experience, then register for a GASG Add-On assessment. At this stage it would be a great idea to add one more course - an Advenced Wilderness First Aid course. This teaches you so much more than you will ever learn on a level III and is highly recommended.


If you leave out the Mountaineering Guide portion then you can probably realistically achieve the second portion in about 18 months as opposed to the additional 2 years. Leaving out the Canyoning guide portion would also eliminate a further 100 days of experience and a week of training, reducing the time by a further 6 months.


If this career path interests you then drop us a line...



We certainly can!


Last Updated 2020-11-05

PLEASE NOTE: The School for Mountain Leadership has no official affiliation with the Wolkberg Wilderness Area, which is managed by the Limpopo Department of Economic Develoopment, Environment and Land Affairs (LEDET). This information is posted here simply because neither LEDET nor anyone else seems to be able to get a simple web page together explaining a little bit about one of the most amazing hiking places in South Africa! Unless you want us to guide you in the Wolkberg, please don't phone us to try and arrange anything in the Wolkberg - we can't help you. We're just trying to make this information available.



What is Wolkberg?

Wolkberg Wilderness Area is one of only 3 proclaimed mountain wilderness areas in South Africa, encompassing some 24,000 ha. It is a place where you can hike where you like, with no fixed trails of overnight facilities - you camp wherever suits you at the end of the day. The elevation range starts off at around 1000m ASL (Above Sea Level) and continues up as high as 2054m ASL on Serala. The vegetation ranges from indigenous forest through bush to alpine grasslands. This area is home to some very special species of bird, grasses and plants.


Where is it?

Wolkberg is on the Northern end of the Transvaal Drakensberg, just south-west of Tzaneen.


How do I get there?

These directions are from Johannesburg:

  • Take the N1 North

  • Just before Polokwane (used to be Pietersburg) and just after the Shell Ultra City take the R71 Turn off. It is now also marked as N1.

  • Cross two significant intersections then follow a stretch of road (probably more then 4km) until you see signs for the R71 to TZANEEN or HAENERTSBURG. Take the offramp and turn RIGHT at the bottom.

  • Follow this road for probably about 20km until you go down a hill and the roas sweeps to the right. Just after this is ZCC Moria.

  • About 2km after ZCC Moria is a turn-off to the right marked WOLKBERG. Take it. This is now GRAVEL road.

  • The gravel road becomes a tar road. Follow it until the tar road does a sharp bend to the right. Do not follow the bend - go straight on the gravel road. (About 24° 01.224' S 029° 49.200' E)

  • Follow the gravel road. It seems quite minor initially but soon becomes more significant. It climbs. A lot!

  • At a point the gravel road goes over a hill (big antenna about 2km on the left). The road bends sharply right and starts a steep downhill. (24° 00.723' S 029° 56.745' E)

  • Keep a look out for turn-off to the left with a small sign that says WOLKBERG (24° 01.532' S 029° 57.860' E). Follow it. It will take you to the gate. The total distance from the main R71 tar road is about 30km (I think)

  • There is a small camp-site at the main gate (24° 02.830' S 030° 00.149' E)


How do I book?

The office can be contacted on 015-276-9909 / 015-276-9910. The office is seldom manned except early in the morning. Your best bet is to call at around 08h00. However, it is not necessary to book in advance.

If you do wish to book in advance then you can contact the person responsible in Polokwane on 015-293-8300.


What does it cost?

As of 2019 the costing model has been simplified. The rates are now simply: R50 per person per day plus R50 per person per night. Take note, though, that there are NO card facilities and you either have to pay cash when you arrive, or you will have to book beforehand and do an EFT.



What can I do there?

Hike, climb, go bird watching.

There are no hiking maps! You need to bring your own. The relevant 1:50 000 maps from the Surveyor General are 2330CC and 2430AA. You can find some routes which have previously been hiked here



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