This is the easiest pass in the entire Mnweni area. It has probably got some great views of the Cathedral Range as it ascends to the escarpment just on the other side of the range. When we did this pass, however, it was very misty and we couldn’t see a thing. The path is very clear due to the use of this pass as a dagga-smuggling route between Lesotho and South Africa.


Rating:
* * (4/10)
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.

Access:
It is a relatively short (13 km) and easy walk-in from the Mnweni Cultural Centre. Instead of heading up the Mnweni valley as usual, follow the path to Hlongwane’s Kraal up the Ntonjelana valley. Head up the left-hand (eastern) fork of the valley, following the Ntonjelana Ephumalanga River. The path heads straight to the escarpment and becomes Ntonjelana Pass from there.

Details:
The distance from the campsite near the river to the top of Ntonjelana Pass is 4 km with an altitude gain of 1100m.

Route:
From the river crossing, the path heads up towards the escarpment by climbing up a long ridge. Higher up this ridge, the path starts zigzagging before crossing over right to another ridge about halfway up the pass. It continues zigzagging up this second ridge and eventually levels out when it contours along the base of the escarpment cliffs to the left. Just after crossing over a small saddle, the path heads straight up the final rock-strewn gully of the Ntonjelana Pass. The gully is fairly wide and gains about 100m towards the top of the pass. Make your own zigzag route up to the cairns at the top of Ntonjelana Pass at 2900m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
The pass is clearly marked with a couple of cairns. The gully leaves off a high point on the ridge leading up to the South Saddle on the edge of the escarpment.

Overnight Spots:
Waterfall Cave, situated high up a side gully right (west) of the Ntonjelana valley near the base of the pass, is a great cave to stay in even though it is rather dirty. As the name suggests, it has a waterfall cascading over the lip of the cave and it sleeps 12 people. There is a reasonable campsite about 500m further on. There is, as always, lots of camping on the escarpment.

Water:
There is a small stream at the base of the pass and another one where the path crosses over to the next ridge, about halfway up the pass. The next water is available from the Kwakwatsi River on the escarpment, about 500m from the top of Ntonjelana Pass.

 

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ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #72621 11 Jan 2018 12:41
On New Years Day, WarrenM went from Ledgers Cave to MCC via Ntonjelana Pass, 27km total distance (and an unusual line over the Nguza Ridge, courtesy of the sun being in my eyes as I was trying to pick a line). Obviously not the most efficient line, but we both wanted to bag the pass.

My 2c worth on this pass:

If the approach wasn't so long, this would be one of the easiest passes in the Berg. The pass is long, but mostly gradual, and on a very easy to follow path. The approach is long, and one could easily end up on the wrong trail if they didn't know where to go. I have only been to the lower Ntonjelana region twice, and on both occasions I have been walking out, so navigation was fairly simple. I guess I could navigate my way into this region from the centre without a GPS (basically take the left split of the river when you would normally leave the road to go right to Rockeries), but I would probably end up with some long convoluted approach. The lower region is full of trails used by the people living in the area, naturally most won't lead to the pass, so just a case of making sure you are still going in the right direction.

The views from the pass are exceptional, and the trail quality is surprisingly good for such a heavily used trail (although the ground moisture was just perfect when we were there, I guess it wouldn't be so nice in normal conditions).

Some photos:

Near the top of the pass


Below the summit gully, the pass traverses out before it starts dropping properly


An interesting rock formation before you start descending


WarrenM enjoying the view towards North Ntonjelana Pass




Waterfall Cave, just below the bottom of the pass


* and with that, I only need Rwanqa Pass to get all 10 map marked Mnweni Passes.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #72613 10 Jan 2018 07:46
Now available as a download:
www.vertical-endeavour.com/downloads/download/8-drakensberg-passes/203-ntonjelana-pass-gps-data.html

This thread will be merged with the main thread for Ntonjelana Pass.
WarrenM's Avatar
WarrenM replied to: #72526 28 Dec 2017 07:21
Hi All, sorry I've obviously missed the GPS track for Ntonjelana pass, I can't find it under downloads and I can see that Intrepid says that it is included in this thread but I can't see where, could I ask that someone please send me the gps track for the North Ntonjelana pass route.

Much appreciated.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #58321 02 Sep 2013 03:21
@Intrepid I will keep that in mind.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #58306 29 Aug 2013 15:30
Thanks Tony.

Ntonjelana ranks pretty highly in my books in terms of scenery.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #58274 27 Aug 2013 22:34
Great documenting of the route as always.

I have not done Ntonjelana Pass, it always seems to be sightly in between the routes that i have planned.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #58272 27 Aug 2013 18:27
The path follows the crest of the ridge in the final descent into the Ntonjelan ephumalanga valley. There is a strong drip at the top of the pass, with no water on the pass until the river crossing.



A view back up the ridge.



The hikers path descends quite steeply down to the river crossing, with the route used by the donkeys following the right side of the valley and winding slowly up and over the ridge in the background of the photo below. The route follows the left side of the valley, and the clear paths seen crossing the burnt area to the left of the centre of the photo are not the hiking route.



The path crosses the numerous side streams joining the river in the 5 km or so that the path follows the river.



A view back up the valley to the Cathedral Range.



The valley broadens out downstream, with the path diverging away to the left, with an easy climb up the ridge towards the kraals.



The end of the path at the kraals, where the road starts and the Ntonjelana and Rockeries/Nguza Pass routes meet.



The long walk back along the road (for those with weary legs and sore feet unfortunate enough not to get a ride) to the Mnweni Cultural Centre at dusk is dominated by the Saddle in the background, around which our hike was centred.

tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #58271 27 Aug 2013 18:24
On the August long weekend, elinda, Richard Hunt, Thora and tonymarshall descended Ntonjelana Pass after our epic ascent of Nguza Pass. We had overnighted in Easter Cave the previous night, with the intention of descending Christmas Pass, but ended up descending Ntonjelana Pass. From the top of the pass (and much of the upper reaches) fantastic views of the Cathedral Range can be seen.



Ntonjelana Pass is one of the few northern ‘berg passes which can be used by donkeys over the entire length of the route, with the result that the pass has a wide, eroded trail. The pass itself starts from the top, and a path zigzags down through the short steep section. There are numerous skulls and bones of donkeys that didn’t make it over this rocky section.



The rocky, steep, gully section of the pass is short, before the route flattens out and traverses out to the left,



passing between some interesting rock formations.





While on the traverse section parallel to the escarpment, the lower section of the route can be seen on the ridge far below.



The path is mostly flattish down the ridge, with a multitude of paths in places.



There are also some steeper, eroded zigzag sections. The gully to the right of the photo below is South Saddle Pass.

Geordie's Avatar
Geordie replied to: #4403 17 Oct 2011 21:34
Thanks Intrepid

Picked it up on the thread.
George C
Geordie's Avatar
Geordie replied to: #4402 17 Oct 2011 21:24
Sorry I let this one get off track. Smugglers and I have a great working relationship where we leave eachother be, and my advice to others is to keep it that way.

Now about that gps track?
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #4401 17 Oct 2011 20:05
.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #4399 17 Oct 2011 19:37
You can get the GPS tracks in this thread .

One of the reasons for the rise of Rockeries Pass a popular smuggling route may have been politics with the two tribes living in the Mnweni. At one time the locals tried to make Ntonjelana impassable for donkeys, which in turn also happened with Rockeries, and is still the case presently, yet they still persist in using it (the donkey's simply get offloaded at that point). On the Lesotho side both passes give access to the Senqu valley and ultimately Mokhotlong (same with Organ Pipes and Tlanyaku), and this is where the goods come from. The choice of exact route is not always that clear to me either. It can also be due to factions and rivalry among the smugglers themselves (apparently they are not all comrades).

It is a good thing to ask the locals for updates when hiking in a particular area. That together with your own observations keeps the rest of us informed.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #4398 17 Oct 2011 18:41
A four pass Mnweni hike sounds like a fantastic challenge, enjoy it. :thumbsup:

There are gps tracks for Fangs, Ifidi and Icidi in the 'Drakensberg Passes' downloads section.
Geordie's Avatar
Geordie replied to: #4397 17 Oct 2011 16:18
Thank you all for the info. I need the track more for calculating distance on a planed "4 passes hike", and of cource, hitting the right spot if the dragons breath comes in.
Passes do change, look at Judges, many years back it was clasified as "Rock" and went up the river cource, now it's all pushed up to the left ( Going Up), fully mule compatable, and with overtaking lanes too.
Look out for more info requests on Fangs, Ifidi and Icidi.

George C
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #4395 17 Oct 2011 15:30
Thanks for the photo. Ntonjelane does look a whole lot better for donkeys. The only thing I can think of which might explain the popularity of Rockeries is that Rockeries makes a more direct link to the big highway that more or less starts at the Mnweni cut-back. Going north on that path from Rockeries instead of Ntonjelane would save someone a few hours to half a day. I've never really worked out where that highway goes.

When I first walked Rockeries pass, the path on the river terrace leading into the Pass itself (so upstream of Scaly Cave and downstream of Nguza) was vague and quite wooden with many, many cycads. Last time I walked it, fire from dagga clearance had changed the veg to almost entirely grass.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #4394 17 Oct 2011 15:08
To my knowledge and by recent observation, both passes have heavy traffic, although I'm uncertain whether pack animals still use Rockeries Pass.



We came across several donkeys and their master quite high up while descending iNtonyelana Pass two weeks ago in the rain. They were returning to Lesotho and most were unladen or loaded with bundles of empty bags.

It also surprised me that Rockeries Pass became more popular in the 1990s, considering iNtonyelana's popularity before then.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #4391 17 Oct 2011 14:04
In the early to mid 1990s, Rockeries pass started to be much more heavily used by smugglers and general traffic to and from Lesotho. The pass was tricky in places, especially for horses and donkeys and so it is suprising that Rockeries was used so heavily when Ntonjelane had until then been the traditional pass for local traffic.

Tony, is Ntonjelane still heavily used and is it used by pack animals? Has it replaced Rockeries or is there traffic on both?
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #4390 17 Oct 2011 13:39
I see there isn't a track for iNtonyelana Pass, but there are co ordinates for the top of the pass on the GPS co orinates of passes list.

We did iNtonyelana Pass two weeks ago and it is an easy route with a very clear path throughout, from the end of the road from the Cultural Centre to the top of the pass.



tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #4388 17 Oct 2011 10:38

If possible the Waypoint for the cultural Centre as well please.

Regards


28 deg 49.166S
29 deg 6.100E
Geordie's Avatar
Geordie replied to: #4387 17 Oct 2011 10:00
Can anyone please supply me with a GPS track for Ntonjelana pass .

If possible the Waypoint for the cultural Centre as well please.

Regards
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2840 11 May 2011 14:16
Read this write-up too:
www.vertical-endeavour.com/blog/38-drakensberg/passes/146-ntonjelana-pass.html

Remember that the donkeys have right of way. ;)
Simon Waterkeyn's Avatar
Simon Waterkeyn replied to: #2832 10 May 2011 19:10
Mangan and Anthony thank you both

All sorted and planned track now complete
anthony's Avatar
anthony replied to: #2828 10 May 2011 16:38
HI Simon hope this helps it is a very easy but long pass
Magan's Avatar
Magan replied to: #2824 10 May 2011 08:40
Hi Simon

Can help u out with a short descrition : The Pass leaves at the low point in the Ecarp North of Mlambonja Pass. Its a few 100mtrs of descent of a rocky gulley, then it contours left into the next valley. 2 Options presents itself : the longer contour, or a direct descent down a ridge that requires a sandy abt 5mtr scramble. It joins the other further down. The path is badly eroded. You see the exit of the valley way down to the left towards Waterfall Cave but when I was there last local herders had brought their cattle as far up as the cave. Then its a long gentle walk to the locals huts where it joins up to the path from Rockeries Pass. Find your way to the 'main' road and head right to the Cultural Centre.
The view from Ntonjelane Pass is absolutely stunning across to the Northern section of the Cathedral Range
Simon Waterkeyn's Avatar
Simon Waterkeyn replied to: #2821 09 May 2011 21:34
Hoping someone out there might either email me or upload the gpx file for Ntonjelana Pass on the VE site ?

Any comments re decending this pass would be helpful too