Passes

The Bannerman hut at the bottom of this pass makes this one of the very popular passes in the Drakensberg. It’s a very short pass and you’ll find yourself at the top in no time at all. Despite its relative ease, it is still quite a fun pass to do with the final section heading up a narrow rock-filled gully. No real scrambling is required to do this section and it is therefore a great pass to do when you are new to the Drakensberg.

If you're keen to start doing some rock passes in the berg, this is probably the pass to start with. It's relatively short and quite easy to access from both Injasuti and Giant's Castle in a day. The scrambles on the pass are fairly easy and there is no exposure to worry about at all. There is no path to speak of but the route finding is quite straightforward due to the narrow gully one has to follow. This is another great pass to use for an ascent of Mafadi and is much more interesting than it's neighbors (Bannerman and Langalibalele).

Leslie’s Pass is a pass which is very pleasant to hike. There are some great features in this pass like the Marble Baths and the huge cliffs of the Molar towering over you near the top of the pass. It is a fairly long pass but most of the distance is covered by bushwhacking and boulder-hopping up the river. This is also the most direct non-rock pass to access Mafadi which is about 6 km south of the top of Leslie’s Pass.

This is a very difficult pass which is notorious for rock falls which have killed hikers in the past. In good weather, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem (except for the fact that it’s very steep) in climbing up Ship’s Prow Pass. The impressive “Prow” itself towers over you as you climb higher up this long pass. The pass tops out at 3300m, giving it the highest summit of any pass in the Drakensberg.

If you’re looking for great views without too much strenuous hiking involved, Gray’s Pass is a must. This is probably the best pass to use for a weekend hike in the Drakensberg and it takes the hiker deep into the throat of the Mhlawazini Valley at the base of Cathkin, Champagne Castle and Monk’s Cowl. The pass itself is relatively short which allows for a lot of time to explore the many great escarpment features in the wide valley at the top of Gray’s Pass.

An interesting alternative route if you've done the Organ Pipes thing too often. This route is well used by Basothos as can be seen by the eroded path but don't let this keep you away from checking it out. There are some impressive views of the Ndumeni Dome cliffs and the back of the Organ Pipes on offer and it is a very direct route to (or from) the Didima Gorge.

Even though this pass uses the Organ Pipes Pass final gully to access the escarpment, it ascends to the final gully via a completely different ridge, the Camel Ridge. There are spectacular views to be seen on both sides of this ridge as you weave between the peaks as you climb higher. It is marked as difficult/dangerous on the official maps but there should only be a cause for concern in extremely icy conditions.

This is the easiest pass in the Cathedral Peak area and is very convenient to access the escarpment in a short weekend hike. The climb along the ridge gives great views of both the Cathedral and Cathkin ridges and the Old Fire Lookout must be one of the best settings for a hut in the entire Drakensberg. This pass is great to use during your first trip to the escarpment due to its relative ease and easy navigation.

This pass follows a spectacular route up the Tseketseke River and gully alongside the Pyramid and the Column. Even though it has similar route details to Mlambonja Pass (see above), the upper grassy slopes are a lot steeper and make this pass feel as if it belongs in the Mnweni area. The beautiful river section and stunning views near the top make this a classic Drakensberg Pass.

Halfway between the more popular routes of Mlambonja Pass and Organ Pipes Pass lies the Xeni Cutback, a steep river valley with dramatic cliffs towering in all directions. There are two passes which climb up to the escarpment via this cutback. Xeni Pass, however, looks pretty mean and unlike Cockade Pass, probably deserves its "rock" affix. Cockade Pass is one of the most direct routes to the escarpment in the Cathedral Peak area and with its spectacular views and enclosure, one wonders why so few hikers see this secluded part of the Berg.