This is the easiest pass in the Cathedral Peak area and is very convenient to access the escarpment in a short weekend hike. The climb along the ridge gives great views of both the Cathedral and Cathkin ridges and the Old Fire Lookout must be one of the best settings for a hut in the entire Drakensberg. This pass is great to use during your first trip to the escarpment due to its relative ease and easy navigation.


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:
Organ Pipes Pass is most directly accessed from the top of Mike’s Pass. The Organ Pipes Ridge leaves the contour path 3.5 km to the left (south) of the Mike’s Pass path.

Details:
The distance from the contour path to Windy Gap at the top of Organ Pipes Pass is 7 km with an altitude gain of 900m.

Route:
The path stays at the crest of the ridge after leaving the contour path at The Nek. After a steep climb, the Old Fire Lookout is passed and the path continues straight up the ridge going up and down over the hills on the way. The path then contours on the right-hand (northern) side of the ridge before zigzagging up to the crest of the ridge again just below the escarpment cliffs. The path then contours below the escarpment cliffs for about 1 km before descending steeply into the final gully of Organ Pipes Pass. From here, follow the steep, eroded path for about 100m in altitude to Windy Gap at the top of the Pass at 3000m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
The biggest gully heading over the escarpment edge between Cleft Peak and Ndumeni Dome is Organ Pipes Pass. It is marked with a clear path and a large cairn.

Overnight Spots:
The Old Fire Lookout is perfectly situated near the base of the ridge as an overnight stop on the ascent although the water tank is usually empty in winter. The Ndumeni Caves are 2 small shelters found about 50m down Thuthumi Pass, 500m from Windy Gap. Roland’s Cave is a great cave right on the edge of the escarpment above Thuthumi Pass but a very narrow ledge has to be negotiated to reach it. There are many good camping spots on the escarpment itself.

Water:
The water tank at the Old Fire Lookout has got water in it for most of the year excluding winter (since the time of writing, this tank has collapsed). There are also a couple of streams crossing the path when contouring below the escarpment cliffs. Water can also be found in a river on the escarpment, 500m from Windy Gap.

 

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Sanet1's Avatar
Sanet1 replied to: #73042 23 Mar 2018 15:26
Enough water to only carry a small amount on you, top up everywhere.
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #73040 23 Mar 2018 11:04
Can confirm that the Berg is really very wet at the moment, there is literally water everywhere, little streams even coming down the paths on Organ Pipes pass and the Camel. I wouldn't load up below the Camel, but to be safe just take a small amount if you are unsure of water availability higher up. Also, temperatures are low resulting in less water loss through sweat etc. so you should be able to get further with less water
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #73025 21 Mar 2018 19:02
The berg is very wet at the moment, my post before yours will be valid, plus possibly more small streams
petroengel's Avatar
petroengel replied to: #73024 21 Mar 2018 18:33
Hello everybody!
Does anyone know if there is water in the stream just above Old Fire Lookout? Or should we haul all our water from the last spot on the contour path coming from Ribbon Falls? I plan a scenic approach to OFL incorperating a pat of the contour path that I haven't done yet :silly:
HannesT's Avatar
HannesT replied to: #72434 01 Dec 2017 18:47
Thank you for the information and link. This helps a lot to plan when we have to be at Didima to start the first part of the hike. It will also be much easier to get up there without having to carry extra water.
firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #72432 01 Dec 2017 08:44
If i recall correctly Its about 7 km from Didima Office to old staff accommodation, more-or-less (depending if you use the shortcuts or not). & about the same again to the top of Organ Pipes.

That time of year there will be water in the stream below the old buildings. Also, you will be able to find water on the pass itself, checkout this thread:

www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55360-organ-pipes-pass.html?start=40#61293
HannesT's Avatar
HannesT replied to: #72430 30 Nov 2017 20:38
I am planning a hike to Roland's cave in December. I would like to go up Mike's pass and Organ Pipes pass since I have previously done the Camel pass route. We are planning to hike from Didima up Mike's pass in the afternoon and continue up Organ Pipes the next morning. I would please like to know the distances from Didima to the old staff accommodation on top of Mike's pass and then the distance from there to the top of Windy Gap. I would like to see how much time we would need on the afternoon.
From some of the posts that I have found about this route I get the impression that we will have to carry enough water on the afternoon to last us until some time the next morning. Or is there any water on top of Mike's pass?
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #63594 03 May 2015 18:10
Current water situation on the pass:
Small trickle by the old staff buildings, about 50m from the road
Ndumeni river obviously has plenty water around the contour path
The spring at 2500m has water
The Ndumeni river at about 2700m has water, as well as another stream just after this.
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #62724 27 Jan 2015 18:17
Hi guys

Just an update to say that our hike turned out perfectly and that Roland's Cave was absolutely fantastic!!!! Navigating that ledge was one of the most exciting things I've ever done :woohoo:

The Organ Pipes - Camel loop is a definite must do :thumbsup:
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #62595 13 Jan 2015 22:49
Thanks for the great information Guardian, it is highly appreciated!!! :thumbsup:

Will definitely look for that exact spot, we were obscured in mist when we descended Organs the last time around so couldn't get a proper "layout of the land". Will explore a bit on Google Earth.

Hahaha, thanks for the heads-up on the flat areas, wouldn't want to fall into that trap :)

I do agree with you about the Basotho's, have not experienced any issues with them in the past but do always try and set up camp away from busy paths. Those footsteps always scare the cr#p out of me when they pass at night :lol:
Guardian's Avatar
Guardian replied to: #62593 13 Jan 2015 18:08
When you get to the top of the pass turn right (Away from rolands cave, Northish) and go around Castle buttress and camp next to the escarpment and the base of cleft peak. One of my favourite areas to see the sunrise over the clouds... There is a stream.
Castle buttress is the little bump between organ pipes and cleft peak. Dont walk round cleft peak :D
Also don't pitch your tent on the attractive looking flat pebbly areas, they turn into dams when it rains, something I will not do again.

I think basotho's are much less of an issue than the other things the berg can throw at you :)
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #62568 11 Jan 2015 01:08
We are planning another trip Up Organ Pipes and down the Camel over the weekend of the 24th of Jan 2015.

We intend on spending a night at Roland's Cave but I am a bit concerned that if the weather is inclement and we can't navigate the ledge towards the cave that we'll need to pitch tents at the top of Organs as a back-up option.

I understand that security can be a bit of an issue at this point and was hoping that someone could give me advice on a "relatively" safe spot to pitch tents which would be out of sight. Any assistance will be highly appreciated
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #62567 11 Jan 2015 00:59
Hi guys

First of all I have to say thanks for the fantastic website. It has assisted me a great deal in planning many of my Berg trips over the last year and a half. This is my first official post which is long overdue :) I thought I would share this epic pic I took of my friend when we were at the Old Fire Lookout in November 2014.

firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #61300 15 Jul 2014 16:54
great, thanks tony :)
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #61299 15 Jul 2014 15:59
I have found 2 to be pretty reliable and only after prolonged dry periods are you unlikely to find enough water there to collect with a cup or bottle. I haven't ever used other points for water on Organ Pipes Pass, and don't specifically know your 1, but in the rainy season or after snow most of the gullies your photomap shows would have water somewhere close to the ridge, this is also mentioned in my earlier post, it's just a case of how far off the route you need to go to find it, as you discovered.

Yes, 2 is on the left side of the ridge looking up, and drains into the Thuthumi valley, whilst the (direct) path is on the right of the ridge, exactly as shown on your photomap. There is a bypass path that briefly crosses over to the left of the ridge and goes past the spring, before climbing steeply up and over the ridge to join the other path, but it is conventional to look for the spring (assuming you know to look for it) as you approach on the direct path, leave packs etc on the ridge and head down the 10 m or so to the spring only carrying your water containers to fill up.
firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #61293 15 Jul 2014 12:51

tonymarshall wrote: The spring is at S 29 00.488 E 29 12.581, 2551m, my gps co ordinates, and would be quite easy to miss by walking right past if you didn't know about it, as it's not visible from the path, being set slightly down on the opposite side of the ridge as the path. The photo is taken from the ridge above the path looking down at the hikers (ghaznavid is the guy wearing black) filling up their water with the path just behind me.


Hi, after struggling to find water on organ pipes it would be great if people in the know could clarify a few points. Wish i'd seen this post before the hike :)

The GPS track in the downloads section for organ pipes gives a location for water as -29.005775414407253" 29.216209715232253 (marked 1 below, drains down to the right side of the ridge), i see Tony indicates water can be found at S 29 00.488 E 29 12.581 (marked 2 below, seems to drain down to the left of the ridge?).

We found a trickle of water at 1, but had to descend quite far 150m? down the gully to get a usable amount ... almost killed me after Thuthumi Ridge :thumbsdown:
And walked right past 2 without being aware of it :whistle:

So what is the consensus as to:

1. which of these points is most reliable?
2. can you confirm 2 is on the left side of the ridge (looking up towards organ pipes)

This image is hidden for guests.

intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #59349 08 Jan 2014 20:05

tonymarshall wrote: It is just through neglect and lack of maintenance that Mike's Pass is in it's present poor condition; in the late 80's it was mostly still a two vehicle wide road, and it was commonplace to drive to the top with normal cars.

I still drove my old Citi Golf up Mikes Pass in the 90's even...
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #59348 08 Jan 2014 19:23
Thanks Spykid, those photos with the old forestry roads put the position of the truck nicely into perspective. There is some information and photos on the history of the area on the "The Pine Tree Project" thread.

Briefly that whole area below the hut was afforested with pine trees as part of a research project into the effect of afforestation on rainfall runoff, and the vintage of that truck would be about right to have been used to transport things on the afforestation project in the 50's and 60's. Mike's Pass and the forestry roads were constructed to a very high standard, and it would have been easy then for a truck like that to get up there. It is just through neglect and lack of maintenance that Mike's Pass is in it's present poor condition; in the late 80's it was mostly still a two vehicle wide road, and it was commonplace to drive to the top with normal cars.
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #59341 08 Jan 2014 17:37
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #59340 08 Jan 2014 17:32


Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #59339 08 Jan 2014 17:21
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #59338 08 Jan 2014 17:17
Tony. Sort of between the ridges up to Thutumi Hut and the Antennae station at the end of Mike's Pass. Really near to the Thutumi hut. It is strange for that kind of vehicle to get there.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #59310 05 Jan 2014 18:24
Where exactly is that old truck?
Spykid's Avatar
Spykid replied to: #59300 01 Jan 2014 18:50

I was in the area over last weekend and could not go up Organ Pipes due to slippery conditions. But decided to walk up Mikes Pass on Monday and ended up walking up to the old Fire Lookout.I must say that the walk with the return trip is quite a stiff walk if you are a bit unfit :P . It was interesting to see that you can see the Gatberg in the Cathkin area from Mikes top. I also came across an old truck on the lower slopes ? Any history to that ? I also noticed that the fire lookout is visible from the Didima Campsite, and tried to include a picture or 2 but my camera only support digital zoom.















elandman's Avatar
elandman replied to: #58764 10 Oct 2013 09:27
Thanks ghaznavid!

Yeah I've heard the same but some time ago. Havent been to the area in a while.
So was just wanting to see if they've changed their minds. Seems they haven't changed their minds about changing their minds too often.
If you get my drift. rofl