Ground and air temperature data are presented for the high Drakensberg, southern Africa, representing the period Jan-Dec, 2000. The ground temperatures were measured at depths of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 cm through a north-facing sorted circle and a nearby south-facing stone-banked lobe tread, thus providing data for comparative assessments. The primary focus is on determining contemporary cryogenic thermal parameters to 50 cm depth and ascertaining associated environmental implications. Whilst the mean annual ground temperatures are similar for the two sites, considerable variations of summer and winter ground temperatures occur on opposing slopes at ∼ 3,400 m a.s.l. The amplitude of ground freeze varied from -6.5 °C at 10 cm to -0.1 °C at 50 cm through the sorted circle, whilst temperatures dropped to -7.8 °C at 20 cm and - 2.8 °C at 50 cm in the stone-banked lobe. The rate of freeze penetration and freeze duration is considerably more pronounced through the stone-banked lobe, where a maximum freeze duration of 98 days was recorded at 40 cm. The differences in the thermal regimes at the two sites are controlled by site-specific differences in sedimentary properties and ground moisture, microrelief (microclimate) and snowpack characteristics. Given that seasonal freeze may continue into late spring at the stone-banked lobe site, contemporary gelifluction may be possible during periods of snowmelt or spring rainfall. In contrast, the sub-surface of the north-facing sorted circle site is already thawed by the time sufficient moisture is added to the soil profile, thus restricting the potential for contemporary frost heave at this site during years of mild to average climatic conditions. It is suggested that winter ground temperatures are directly affected by the longevity and depth of snow cover in the Drakensberg and thus snow is an important factor determining the distribution of periglacial landforms in the region. © 2004 Gebrüder Borntraeger, D-14129 Berlin · D-70176 Stuttgart.