In the heart of the Mnweni Cutback lies this awesome pass which has one of the most rewarding ascents of any Drakensberg pass. It has a very steep gradient but is relatively short compared to some of the other huge passes in the area. This pass has got the best view of the impressive Mnweni Pinnacles and the overall view of the rest of the Mnweni Cutback gets better and better as you climb higher.

* * * *  (6/10)
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 Mnweni Pass from the Mnweni Cultural Centre. Follow the path all the way up the Mnweni valley and this path eventually turns up Mnweni Pass itself.

The distance from the point where the path leaves the river to the top of Mnweni Pass is 1.5 km with an altitude gain of 900m.

The Mnweni valley path stays on the left-hand (eastern) banks of the river after passing the Rwanqua valley. At one point, the path suddenly turns left and zigzags up a steep slope into the Mnweni Pass itself. The path is very well defined as it is often used as a dagga-smuggling route between Lesotho and South Africa. The path stays high above the river on the left-hand (north) side close up to the cliffs. It zigzags higher and higher up these really steep inclines until finally contouring out to the right into the throat of Mnweni Pass. The path is very eroded from here on and many alternatives are possible. Just pick any path and follow it up to the top of the right-hand fork of the pass. This will eventually bring you to the top of the pass at 3000m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
On the western end of the plains that give rise to the Orange River, you can get a good view of the Mnweni Pinnacles through a large saddle between two escarpment hills. This saddle is the top of Mnweni Pass and is marked with a large cairn and a clear path.

Overnight Spots:
There is a very good campsite at fork of the Rwanqua and Mnweni rivers about 4 km before the base of Mnweni Pass. On the escarpment, the closest cave is Ledger’s cave, 20m below the escarpment edge about 1 km north of the top of Mnweni Pass. This is one of the most spectacular Drakensberg caves to sleep in and fits about 8 people. Good camping spaces are also really easy to find on the escarpment.

The last water is just before the base of Mnweni Pass when the path descends to the huge Mnweni River. The Orange River on the escarpment, about 200m from the top of Mnweni Pass, is the next reliable water source.


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tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #63392 15 Apr 2015 14:28
Looking back along the grass slope traverse.

Looking down the grass slope zig zags

A view back up the long zig zag section.

The group taking a break on the pass, fltr tonymarshall, Grandeur, Sabine, Hermann and Getapix.

Negotiating the lower section of Mnweni Pass, another transition zone between grass slope and flatter, bushier terrain.

The view down to Chichi Bush Camp, a campsite area consisting of several isolated flat spots in the river bed gravel at the confluence of the Pins stream and Mnweni River.

Lower downstream the path follows the true right side of the Mnweni river for a while, with the awesome background view of the Mnweni cutback.

Just upstream of the confluence of the Rwanqa and Mnweni Rivers, the path crosses to the true left of the Mnweni River.

Further downstream, near the next river crossing just upstream of the confluence of the Mbundini and Mnweni Rivers we had lunch, before completing the walk out back to the Mnweni Cultural Centre.
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tonymarshall replied to: #63391 15 Apr 2015 14:23
In mid January an all VE member group of Sabine, Hermann, Grandeur (Steve), Getapix (Rian) and tonymarshall made a 3 day weekend trip in the Mnweni, ascending Rockeries Pass and descending Mnweni Pass.

After ascending Rockeries Pass on the first day and overnighting in Mponjwane Cave, we spent the next day exploring, photographing and relaxing, and overnighted in Ledges Cave before descending Mnweni Pass on the third day. Walking out along the spur next to the top of Mnweni Pass, the view across the Mnweni cutback is spectacular. Manxome Pass is the long straight grassy slope on the left, Pins Pass is the gully on the right, Pins Buttress is the high point to the left, with the Mnweni Pinnacles at the centre of the photo and Black and Tan Wall at the right background.

Looking down the pass from the same point, most of the pass is visible, with the top eroded boulder strewn section, middle grass traverses and zig zags, and part of the lower bushy section visible.

The top of the pass is quite obvious with numerous trails converging into the pass.

The group near the top of the pass in the eroded, boulder strewn section. Mnweni Pass is one of a handful of passes in the ‘berg that can be done the whole way with donkeys, and that no doubt has contributed to the severe erosion.

Numerous spires and towers line the sides of Mnweni Pass, creating a wonderland surrounding, and making this one of the most scenic passes.

A view down the pass to the transition from the eroded criss cross trails to the grassier traverse and zig zag section.

The group on the upper traverse with the view back up the pass.

The grassy slope traverse, with the ever present view to Manxome and Pins Passes.