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.
* * (8/10)
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.
The walk-in from the Mnweni Cultural Centre to the bottom of Rwanqua pass is a very long slog (21 km). Follow the path up the Mnweni valley and turn right into the remote valley coming from under the Black and Tan Wall about 1 km after Shepherd’s Cave. Rwanqua Pass itself starts up a ridge about 3 km up this valley.
The distance from the start of the Rwanqua valley to the top of Rwanqua Pass is 4 km with an altitude gain of 1300m.
When we came down this pass, we stuck to the river and were eventually forced onto the very steep grass slopes to avoid the numerous waterfalls in the river valley. This route is definitely not the best way to tackle Rwanqua Pass. The route of least resistance would probably be to climb up the overgrown ridge which leaves the Rwanqua valley directly below the Black and Tan Wall on the left-hand (south) side. There are several rock bands on this ridge but all seem passable from below. Just before you reach the cliffs of the Black and Tan Wall, contour out right and diagonally upwards to the upper grassy slopes which are littered with huge rocks. Slog up the incredibly steep inclines to the top of the right-hand (north) fork of the pass at 3100m.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
There is a small plateau on the northern slopes of the Black and Tan Wall. There are two smallish gullies leaving this plateau down the escarpment edge. The most northerly one is marked with a white cairn. This is the top of Rwanqua Pass.
There is a very nice campsite at the intersection of the Rwanqua and Mnweni valleys. Not much can be found in the Rwanqua valley itself but there is a small cave sleeping about 4 people which can be found about 50m in altitude below the top of the escarpment in the left-hand (south) fork of Rwanqua Pass. This cave has a very low roof and is also quite dirty. It is therefore not recommended. There are lots of good camping places on the escarpment itself.
There is a big river at the base of the ridge at the bottom of the pass. There is no other water further up the pass until a river on the escarpment about 500m from the top of Rwanqua Pass.