This is a pass which suits the Mnweni area perfectly. Great views of the spires that jut out below the Mbundini Buttress, tricky route finding due to the absence of a path and a tough climb overall. It summits near the top of Stimela Peak with one of the best views of the Mnweni Cutback below you.
* * * 7/10
Difficulty of the pass is rated from 1-10 (10 being very difficult, only to be attempted by the fit and experienced). A subjective quality rating is indicated by the number of stars (1 being low, 5 being the highest). Factors such as scenic beauty and overall experience come into play here, which may differ from person to person.
Mbundini Pass is accessed by a long day’s walk-in (21 km) from the Mnweni Cultural Centre. The Mbundini River valley leaves the Mnweni River just before Shepherd’s cave. The pass starts where the tributary from Fangs Pass meets this river at a rather large dagga field.
The distance from the dagga field to the top of Mbundini Pass is 3 km with an altitude gain of 1100m.
There is a faint path which heads up the ridge between the Fangs tributary and the Mbundini River. It peters out just below the first rock band. Contour around to the right until you reach a passable route through the rock band about 500m further on. You should now set a diagonal line to the top of the pass, weaving your way through the intermittent rock bands on the way. Make sure you stay well above the river and closer to the basalt cliffs on the left-hand (southern) slopes of the pass. The reason for this is that there are a few scree fields and landslides on this slope which are easier crossed higher up. Keep left (south) of the river/boulder bed all the way to the top of the pass at 3100m.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
High up on the southern slopes of Stimela Peak, above the Mbundini Abbey and just to the right (south) of the Mbundini Buttress is a large gully which runs down the escarpment edge with a cairn on top of it. This is the Mbundini Pass.
There are a couple of nice campsites near the dagga field at the bottom of the pass at a small waterfall. There is also lots of camping on the escarpment itself. The Mbundini cave near the top of the pass is poor shelter and should be avoided.
The only water on the pass is right at the bottom at the small waterfall. Once you start heading up the ridge, there is no water until the river on the escarpment which is about 500m from the top of Mbundini Pass.