Drakensberg

This pass is one of the more difficult passes in the Cathedral Peak area but is still used quite often. This is probably due to the fact that it is the most direct route to the escarpment from the hotel, has a large and comfortable cave at it s top (Twins cave) and is often used as the third day of a popular weekend route between Mlambonja Pass and Organ Pipes Pass.

A number of years ago, whilst camping in the valley of Sleeping Beauty/Engagement caves, I took a stroll up the same valley in the afternoon. At turn around time I was at a point where I could look clear up the gully to the escarpment. With low sun and little shadow present, without binoculars, it looked like it was passable. 

Although the Bell Traverse is not technically a pass, it gives access to the escarpment and I have therefore included it in this list. In my opinion, the Bell Traverse has the most spectacular route of any pass in the Drakensberg. Contouring just below the famous peaks of the Cathedral Range, it offers the hiker awe-inspiring views of both the Mnweni and Cathedral Peak areas. There are huge drops on the side of the narrow path all along the traverse but this exposure just adds to the fun of the route. The path is fairly clear but it should be avoided in misty weather.

This is the easiest pass in the entire Mnweni area. It has probably got some great views of the Cathedral Range as it ascends to the escarpment just on the other side of the range. When we did this pass, however, it was very misty and we couldn’t see a thing. The path is very clear due to the use of this pass as a dagga-smuggling route between Lesotho and South Africa.

This pass is one of two relatively easy ways to access the escarpment in the Mnweni area. The other pass is Ntonjelana Pass (see below) and both passes are used as dagga-smuggling routes from Lesotho to South Africa. Rockeries Pass makes it possible to see the breathtaking Mnweni Cutback in a short weekend hike. It is a good pass to use as an introduction to the Mnweni area as the path is clear and therefore navigation won’t be a problem.

I wonder if anyone has further information on the following:

(All references made to Maps here relate to Slingsby old Maps - the REAL ones that you can sleep in/on/under, fold, eat off and use in high wind/rain/snow, without them turning to mush- including orientation/grid lines, spot height etc.)

In the heart of the Mnweni Cutback lies this awesome pass which has one of the most rewarding ascents of any Drakensberg pass. It has a very steep gradient but is relatively short compared to some of the other huge passes in the area. This pass has got the best view of the impressive Mnweni Pinnacles and the overall view of the rest of the Mnweni Cutback gets better and better as you climb higher.

So the Cathedral Peak Hotel is taking the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Department to court over the state of the roads leading to the hotel. Good for them, I'm thinking!

When you ascend Mnweni Pass, a striking grass gully can be seen on the opposite slopes, just West (left) of Pins Pass (Rock). This gully is not marked as a pass on the official maps but we decided to go check it out in December 2004. What we found was one of the most spectacular passes in the entire Berg and it's a route that should not be missed if you're an avid berg explorer! As we were probably the first people to do this pass (correct me if I'm wrong), there is obviously no path at all but the route-finding is fairly simple and the views are mind-blowing. You get a completely new perspective of the Mnweni Cutback and it's quite interesting to look at Mnweni Pass from the other side. There's a little grassy shoudler at about 2700m which offers the most impressive views - don't miss it!

On the official Drakensberg maps, Rwanqua Pass does not have a marked route at all. There is a very good reason for this as Rwanqua Pass is probably one of the most overgrown passes with no obvious route past all the rock bands, waterfalls and scree-filled gullies. That said, the pass does have some very beautiful scenery with great views of the Black and Tan Wall and the Mnweni Needles.

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