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!
* * * * * (9/10)
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.
A full day (22 km) will be required to get to the base of Manxsome Pass from the Mnweni Cultural Centre. Follow the path all the way up the Mnweni valley to the base of Mnweni Pass where the route to Manxsome Pass continues up the Mnweni River.
The distance from the point where the path leaves the river to the top of Manxsome Pass is 1.4 km with an altitude gain of 860m.
Follow the Mnweni Pass path all the way to where it leaves the river off to the left. Stay in the river bed at this point and boulder-hop up past Pins Pass to your right. About 200m past the base of Pins Pass (at 2250m), a steep grassy ridge leaves the river on the Southern (left) slopes and heads straight up to Ukikicane. Ascend this steep grassy ridge for 50 vertical metres and then contour back into the Mnweni River at 2300m where a steep, broad, grassy gully leaves the Mnweni River up the Northern (right) slopes with a forest on its left-hand side. This is Manxsome Pass. Cross the Mnweni River just above a series of waterfalls and head straight up the pass. The gradient is initially VERY steep at about 60 degrees (watch for berg adders when pulling up on grass tufts). After about 50m, the gradient eases off slightly to a consistent 30-40 degrees all the way up to the top of the pass at 3160m. Stick to the right-hand side of the gully all the way up to avoid the forest and scree field and to make sure that you don't miss the viewpoint at 2700m! The pass ends at a tiny cairn which we built with a view over the Mnweni Pinnacles. Climb the short grassy slopes to the left to access the escarpment.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
From the top of Pins Pass, keep a contour and head South along the edge of the escarpment, passing the Mnweni Pinnacles to your left. About 50m before you would be forced to descend to the Mnweni Cutback, a steep gully can be seen below you to the left, running parallel to your direction (South). This is Manxsome Pass. There is a small cairn on a rock at the top of the pass.
There is a very good campsite at fork of the Rwanqua and Mnweni rivers about 4 km before the base of Mnweni Pass. There is also the option of camping at the secluded Chichi Bushcamp at the base of Pins Pass. There is a small (4 persons) cave in the cliffs on the left-hand side of the pass at about 3000m but it requires a tricky scramble to get to and is also quite far from water. Pins Cave is located in the Southern cliffs of Pins Pass, about 150 vertical metres down the pass. It has running water over its lip in summer but beware, there is hardly any wind protection offered by this cave and it's also rather small (4 persons).
The last water is at the point where the Mnweni River is crossed above the waterfalls to get into the pass itself. The next water is on the escarpment itself in the valley formed by the Mnweni Cutback, 1km from the top of the pass.
More info on Manxome Pass can be found on the forum here: