Pass index of the Northern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.

In Bill Barnes book “Giants Castle: A personal history” he described an obvious pass between Langalibalele Pass and Bannerman Pass which was used by Chief Langalibalele to move stolen cattle into Lesotho. At the time of the rebellion, the pass now known as Langalibalele Pass was called Bushman’s River Pass and this “obvious” pass was known as Langalibalele Pass. Based on the description it seems that this “obvious” pass was one or both of the Hlubi Passes. Based on Barnes describing a large cave on the pass it would appear that he was referring to the north gully, but could easily have been referring to either gully.

In September 2012 a group of 3 hikers decided to explore a possible route up the slopes of Gypaetus Point at Giant's Castle. The goal: a non-rock pass alternative to Bannerman Pass. The result was a non-rock pass that is very steep but incredibly scenic - well worth the effort.

The term "Langalibalele Pass" was originally a reference to a pass used by the Hlubi people led by Chief Langalibalele. The route was mainly used for cattle theft, but after Langalibalele's Rebelion ended in 1873, this pass fell into disuse. The name "Langalibalele Pass" was then appropriated to the "Bushman's River" Pass. The original Langalibalele Pass is still usable and is now known as "Hlubi" Pass.

This pass is definitely one of the easiest routes to the escarpment. It tops out between the Sanqebethu and Durnford ridges. With a good path along the entire route and no overly steep sections, its a good route for newbies.

This short and steep gully used to be the only way of accessing the escarpment in this area before the chain ladder was put in place. It is a really fun alternative to the over-used Chain Ladder Route (see above). No scrambling is involved but it is a boulder-strewn gully and a lot of the rock is loose. It tops out near the summit of Beacon Buttress and has an awesome view as a reward for the steep climb.

This is undoubtedly the most popular and heavily-used trail to the escarpment in the entire Drakensberg. The path is very well defined and usually quite crowded during weekends and holidays. The only obstacle on the way to the top is the chain ladder itself which ascends the final 30m of cliff face in two sections. The ladder should only pose a problem to those with a fear of heights.

This must be the easiest pass in the entire berg (yes, easier than the Chain Ladder route) as it tops out at only 2500m after an easy trundle up a Little Berg ridge. Thamathu Pass is used as the descent route for the Grand Traverse but it's certainly worth doing when you're feeling like a pretty chilled hike. The views of Thaba Ngwangwe and the Devil's Knuckles are impressive and some interesting rock formations can be seen on the way up.

This pass is frequently used by hikers climbing the Rhino as it is by far the most direct (hiking) route to the top of this impressive peak. It is by no means a walk in the park though and there are some tricky sections higher up due to some heavy erosion and scree fields.

Ascending right up through the middle of the Giant's Cup, this pass catches the eye from all sides. It's obviously the most direct way to climb the Hodgson's Peaks (definitely worth it) and a good pass to use if you don't feel like slogging up its next-door neighbour, Sani Pass, along with all the traffic. For me, it's the approach to the pass that makes it special. Hiking up the Pholela River Valley and up into the pass via Fingall's Rock must be one of the best ways to start a berg hike: scenic, secluded and unique in the berg.

One of the most identifiable passes around, Giant's Castle Pass is a short, steep and loose pass which is most often used to climb Giant's Castle itself. The gully can be seen from as far back as the lodge and looks fairly bland. Once in the throat of the pass, however, some very impressive buttresses and cliffs tower above you.