This pass is one of the more difficult passes in the Cathedral Peak area but is still used quite often. This is probably due to the fact that it is the most direct route to the escarpment from the hotel, has a large and comfortable cave at it s top (Twins cave) and is often used as the third day of a popular weekend route between Mlambonja Pass and Organ Pipes Pass.

* * * (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.

The base of Mlambonja Pass can be reached from the Cathedral Peak Hotel by heading up the Mlambonja valley and climbing up the ridge which gets you to the contour path. Mlambonja Pass starts 2 km right (west) along the contour path when the path rejoins the Mlambonja River.

The distance from the contour path at the base of Mlambonja Pass to its summit is 3 km with an altitude gain of 1000m.

Where the contour path crosses the Mlambonja River, there are some cairns marking the path up the Mlambonja Pass along the river itself. The path is very vague and overgrown at first but as long as you keep climbing up along the river, you are on the right route. About 500m (in distance) up the river, the path heads up a small ridge on the left (south) side of the river. Reaching the top of the ridge, it contours to the right and descends quite steeply back to the main river just above a waterfall. From this point onwards, the path follows the river until the steep grassy slopes near the top of the pass are reached. It then follows an easier line of wide zigzags all the way to the top of the pass at 3000m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
The top of Mlambonja Pass is well-marked by 3 cairns and is situated at a high point on the edge of the escarpment, just south of where the Cathedral Range joins the escarpment.

Overnight Spots:
There is no good camping near the base of the pass except on a contour path ridge about 1 km before the pass itself. This campsite is, however, very exposed to wind and lightning. Twins cave is very roomy cave with good shelter and is situated about 100m in altitude below the top of Mlambonja Pass. To reach it, turn right off the main path to cross over the saddle between the Twins and the escarpment. A faint path then descends down the other end of the saddle and Twins cave can be found about 50m to the right (east) of this saddle. There are many good camping spots on the escarpment itself.

In Summer, there is water in the river all the way up the pass until the grassy slopes are reached just past the halfway mark. The next water can be found in the Kwakwatsi River on the escarpment, about 500m from the top of Mlambonja Pass.


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Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #74872 05 Apr 2019 13:54
Hi GriffBaker,

I've seen a number of flat spots around the Kakwatzi river you can use. Don't have co-ordinates for you, but I can describe the best of the bunch for you. When you come over the col from Twins cave and you start ascending via the footpath, don't go left to where the top of the pass is situated (with the kerns) but rather go straight up that short, steep, grassy section. Go down straight to the river (although this isn't quite possible due to the rocky outcrop in your way, so you will go slightly to the right to go around it, then curve in to the left again.). There is a spot down at the river (at the bend in the river) where (last time I was there) a bunch of rocks were packed where people made fire next to the river. This area could easily accommodate 5 tents. In this vicinity are a number of other flat spots to pitch tents.

Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #74870 04 Apr 2019 18:07
There are plenty up there, but a spot used fairly commonly is -28.956890° 29.109485°
GriffBaker's Avatar
GriffBaker replied to: #74869 04 Apr 2019 15:51
Hi Guys

Does anybody have a gps waypoint for a good flat camping/tenting area on the escarpment behind Mlambonja that can accommodate about 5 tents?

If I recall there is a good spot near the head of the Kwakwatsi but don't want to wander too far from the top of Mlambonja because we will be descending the following day.

Any info would be appreciated.
WarrenM's Avatar
WarrenM replied to: #73875 27 Aug 2018 11:33

swordfish wrote: Question for those been up and down the pass recently - how badly burned up is the area around the path from the hotel?

I can only comment to a certain degree, yesterday I ran to the zig zags by Neptune pools and while there has been so small section burnt very close the the hotel the balance of that 5k stretch is not burnt at all, and for the better part that I can remember from the day before I don't recall the upper section above those zigzags not been burnt, however the north side of one tree hill ridge has been burnt extensively just about all the way from there up to Cathedral peak, and the areas around Cathedral peak is fairly burnt as well

From the sight of Mlambonja pass that I did get the top of the pass is burnt only as far down as about the saddle that heads over to twins cave, I don't think the rest of the pass is burnt, as the south side of one tree hill and heading towards the pass looked un-burnt.
swordfish's Avatar
swordfish replied to: #73857 22 Aug 2018 15:42
Question for those been up and down the pass recently - how badly burned up is the area around the path from the hotel?
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #72486 11 Dec 2017 21:27

brettross32 wrote: Hi guys. Is the camp site therefore close to the river bed at C4?

Yup, campsite is 10 to 15m away from the river, on the south bank
brettross32's Avatar
brettross32 replied to: #72485 11 Dec 2017 20:47
Hi guys. Is the camp site therefore close to the river bed at C4?
AdrianT's Avatar
AdrianT replied to: #72242 09 Oct 2017 09:03
Interesting. If I recall we hiked a short bit on the river before heading up onto the path. Pretty similar but no real zig zag. Academic anyway :)

HannesT's Avatar
HannesT replied to: #72221 04 Oct 2017 21:47
Shortly after you start going up the river, after leaving the contour path from One tree hill's side, the path makes a zig-zag up the side of the river. If you follow this you will find a clear path on top. It seemed to go in the wrong direction so we left it and ended up rock hopping for quite some time before finding the path again. Coming back down it is much easier to follow the correct path. The attached photo is my attempt to indicate this zig-zag on my GPS track plot.

firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #68148 03 May 2016 11:51
thanks guys, PM sent. :thumbsup:
Stijn's Avatar
Stijn replied to: #68145 03 May 2016 10:51
Here you go: - note that we lost the path for about 200m at the 2.8km mark of that track - take care in that section as there are a few false paths heading into the bush. It should be fine coming up.

You should be able to download the GPS track from there. Otherwise, drop me a PM and I can send a GPX file.
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #68142 03 May 2016 09:44
Hi Firefish,

I've got a reliable track for Mlambonja pass. Send me a PM with your details and I'll send it to you.

firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #68140 03 May 2016 09:10
Planning on doing this soon. Has anyone got a gps track for Mlambonja they wouldn't mind sharing(in case of mist), don't see one in the downloads section?
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #63600 03 May 2015 19:55
No sign of that firepit in March, it's actually taking up one of the possible tent spaces under the tree.

Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #63595 03 May 2015 18:17
Campsite at the base @1960m

Communal area with a very recent firepit

There are 3 flat grass areas which can each take 1 tent, 2 additional tents could be put in the communal gravel areas if required.
Two tent areas here with communal area in the left of the pic, 3rd grass tent area out of the picture to the left

BTW, current path is very easy to follow, all the way to the campsite. Its easier to follow than the "contour" "path"
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #63548 28 Apr 2015 13:23
We caught the edge of that hail storm on Saturday. Got about 3 small hail stones and a slight bit of rain. Amazing how different the weather can be just a few kms away.
Dillon's Avatar
Dillon replied to: #63547 28 Apr 2015 13:11
We went up Mlambonja to Twins Cave this last Saturday, approached from One Tree Hill. The path wasn't too bad, it is a bit overgrown but definitely not as bad as I expected. I did have a GPS track (thanks tonymarshall!) but rarely had to use it as we didn't lose the path for more than a couple of meters once or twice.
Had a thunderstorm with rain and hail break directly over our heads about 200m before the split to Twin's Cave. Was quite exciting!
We ended up sharing Twin's cave with a young group of about 8 from Bloemfontein. They had come from Bell Cave that day heading for the escarpment, planning to go across and down Organ Pipes over 2 or 3 days. Unfortunately one of the girls in the group had fallen and hurt her ankle, presumably not far from Twin's Cave, so they cut short their plans and headed off (very slowly!) down Mlambonja Pass on Sunday morning. Hopefully they made it back okay!
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #63448 20 Apr 2015 13:38
Hi Dillion,

Our time was quite slow as I took two newbies who was reasonably fit but not strong (running fit but not used to carrying a heavy backpack) up to Twins cave. We started the hike at the hotel at 7:15am, got to where the 1TreeHill path drops down to the river with the big tree and campsite describe earlier by Tonymarshall at noon, had a break for lunch and started again at 12:30 and was at the cave by 16:30.

The path is fairly easy to find and stay on most of the way, we only lost it right at the top when thick mist came in and we just went straight up on the rocks till we came to the path coming down from the pass and walked the last 150m or so on it to the cave.

Must say I found the path going up 1TreeHill much more open than the "normal" one (i.e. the Southern path) and this worked quite well for my guests. A lekker steep but short climb early on in the hike when they were still fresh and the sun not too hot helped them later in the day.

Viking's Avatar
Viking replied to: #63447 20 Apr 2015 13:09
I've retrieved the following from my GPS track:

Hotel to C5: 2hrs30
C5 to C4 55mins
c4 to campsite/tree at bottom of pass 45mins
campsite/tree to twins turn-off 4hrs 15m (includes long break and route finding issues)
twins turnoff to top: 40mins
top to campsite near mlambonja buttress 50mins

Totals: 16.6km 10.5hrs 1750m/270m alt gain/lost

Times include breaks and other stops
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #63446 20 Apr 2015 12:33
I think we took 3-4 hours to get from the contour path to the top of Mlambonja pass. We left the Hotel car park around 8:30AM and summited around 4PM if I recall correctly. We must have lost an hour trying to find the pass though - we were on the trail by around midday, but reached the river crossing on the contour path at about 10:30 (we also took quite a long break before starting on the pass).

@Smurf and Viking: do you have any more reliable data available?

I agree with Intrepid - it isn't a hard pass.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #63445 20 Apr 2015 12:25
I can't really help with the times up the pass, as we came down. Riaang can maybe help you with an up time from C4 to Twins, although he did the One Tree Hill approach.

Anyway, for the record, our down times were:

Twins Cave to C4 3 hrs 12
C4 to C5 1 hr 15
C5 to Cathedral Peak Hotel 2 hrs 30

We managed to stick to the path the entire way, if you'd like my track, pm me your email address.
Dillon's Avatar
Dillon replied to: #63444 20 Apr 2015 10:15
Phew, all these point to remember. Heading up there for the first time this weekend, hopefully all of you have cleared the path nicely and there won't be too much bundu bashing! It's amazing how much quicker things go when you know just roughly where the path should be - last weekend my mate and I took just over an hour from the bottom of Leslie's Pass to Marble Baths...

Any rough estimates on walking times? Say, from C5 along the contour path to C4? And from C4 up to Twins Cave?
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #63442 20 Apr 2015 09:36
The peculiar thing about Mlambonja is that it isn't a particularly difficult pass (other than perhaps being quite a drawn-out slog), yet with some it has a "nasty" reputation, which seems to mainly have to do with the bushy sections where it is easy to loose the path. Having done it a few times up and down, it seems to me that it is easy to loose the trail on the uphill rather than the downhill. And it seems to be particularly around the waterfall section where the trail goes quite far over to the true right through the cycads. The pass does have an established trail throughout. If you suddenly find yourself bundu-bashing, stop immediately, look around and back-track if necessary - the trail is there.

On a descent of the pass, the contour path in either direction can indeed be difficult to locate in order to exit the valley, as the others have mentioned. Use the large tree at the campsite as a marker.
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #63441 20 Apr 2015 09:20
I agree with Tonymarshall about the difficulty with finding the trail from the large tree back onto the Southern contour path. I only realised I missed it when I looked on my GPS and saw that I missed the turnoff - I has a track of the route and when coming down to the river on our up trek (we went up via 1Treehill) I couls see the Southern contour coming down but couldn't see the trail so I was looking for it on day 2 when we descended. I couldn't find a cairn to indicate the turnoff at this spot and found a VERY overgrown path up the hill. When I say very overgrown i mean VERY OVERGROWN. The plants were higher than my head (i.e. over 2 meters tall) and they completely obscured the trail.

I knew the trail was up above me, the issue was (as is quite often the case) just how to get there :laugh:
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #63434 20 Apr 2015 07:52
Ok, will do. Give me a few days. I'll need to find some older photos to add in.

There are some good pictures on Ghaznavid's Mlambonja Pass - Cockade Pass write up too.