Even though this pass uses the Organ Pipes Pass final gully to access the escarpment, it ascends to the final gully via a completely different ridge, the Camel Ridge. There are spectacular views to be seen on both sides of this ridge as you weave between the peaks as you climb higher. It is marked as difficult/dangerous on the official maps but there should only be a cause for concern in extremely icy conditions.

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:
There are many ways to access Camel Pass but the most direct route is to hike up Tryme Hill from the NPB Office. At the point where the Tryme Hill path joins the contour path, there is a path heading up the Camel Ridge. This is not the official route as marked on the maps but it joins the proper route after about 200m in altitude gain. The actual start of the pass is best accessed via the “waterfall route” from the hotel. It heads up the Camel Ridge just to the right (north) of the point where the Waterfall route joins the contour path.

Details:
The distance from the actual start on the contour path to the escarpment is 4km with an altitude gain of 900m. The direct access route has a distance of 5km from the contour path to the escarpment with an altitude gain of 1000m.

Route:
From the contour path, the path heads up the crest of the Camel Ridge. After about 200m of altitude gain, it levels out before zigzagging up the right-hand (northern) side of the ridge. The direct access path joins the actual route once the path levels out again and contours around the ridge to the left (south). This path starts climbing gradually again on the right-hand (northern) slopes of the Camel. Once the path has climbed around the Camel, a view of the Organ Pipes can be seen and the path contours around below Castle Buttress where a few exposed stream crossovers have to be negotiated. It then zigzags steeply up the slope before a short crack has to be climbed to give access to the Organ Pipes Pass final gully. After this short little scramble, a short slog will take you up to the escarpment at Windy Gap 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. About 100m down Organ Pipes Pass, the Camel Pass path branches off to the left (north).

Overnight Spots:
There is no good camping or caves on the pass itself. The nearest camping to the bottom of the pass is the Tseketseke campsite about 2 km from the actual start of the pass. 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 sites on the escarpment itself.

Water:
The only water on the pass itself can be found in a few small trickles in summer when contouring below Castle Buttress. There are a couple of rivers on the contour path and water can also be found in a river on the escarpment, 500m from Windy Gap.
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petroengel's Avatar
petroengel replied to: #73053 24 Mar 2018 13:53
Zecrates, I only see your post with this question now! :blush:
But, no, I wasn't part of that group. My story already happened in 2006, and not in the Berg :S
petroengel's Avatar
petroengel replied to: #73034 22 Mar 2018 14:23
You are refering then to route C1? I'd love to do C24 going to C26 onto Ribbon Falls. Is there any route markers for that route?
Thank you!
Stijn's Avatar
Stijn replied to: #73033 22 Mar 2018 13:10

tiska wrote:

firephish wrote: interesting, anyone got further experience / info on this one?

ghaznavid wrote: 5) There is some spot in the town before the reserve where people sometimes park if they want to hike up Didima Gorge. It isn't an official spot, but is included for completeness.


I think Ghaz is referring to the spot near 28 deg 55 min 56 sec S, 29 deg 16 min 04 sec E - the ruins of the old Brotherton Store about 2km south of the Mhlwazini-Mlambonja river confluence.


Good access point to the Didima Gorge and Mhlawazini Valley, but I wouldn't park there.. not an "official" parking spot and nobody around to keep an eye on things. I've usually just walked down the road or caught a lift to access that path.
tiska's Avatar
tiska replied to: #73030 22 Mar 2018 11:25

firephish wrote: interesting, anyone got further experience / info on this one?

ghaznavid wrote: 5) There is some spot in the town before the reserve where people sometimes park if they want to hike up Didima Gorge. It isn't an official spot, but is included for completeness.


I think Ghaz is referring to the spot near 28 deg 55 min 56 sec S, 29 deg 16 min 04 sec E - the ruins of the old Brotherton Store about 2km south of the Mhlwazini-Mlambonja river confluence.
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #73029 22 Mar 2018 10:59
@Petroengel

There is a marker at Cathedral Peak hotel.

You start at the stables basically, walk through the gate and start walking towards the valley with the black wattle forest on your right, river on your left. You could also drop down to the lower path on the other side of the river - this one branches off before the black wattle forest. But to get back to the higher path - the path shortly also drops down a bit lower towards the river, and you then get to a crossing - turn left to Doreen Falls (on the way to Ribbon falls cave)/Rainbow gorge or right to Mushroom Rock.

Both of these paths will get you to the lower berg and to the base of the Camel, then up Organ Pipes pass to the escarpment.

We did this route (Up Ribbon falls cave to Rolands cave and then down via the Camel) this past weekend and it was very wet and slippery, and navigating in the rain and mist with very low viz made it a bit tricky. Very easy to get lost in such conditions, so I would recommend taking a GPS along with the tracks loaded.

Enjoy
petroengel's Avatar
petroengel replied to: #73023 21 Mar 2018 12:19
Do you know if there is a trail marker for the Ribbon falls trail at the parking area?
We're going to have a very late start. I'd like to prevent us unnecessarily looking around for our starting point.
Much appreciated!
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #73019 20 Mar 2018 17:05

petroengel wrote: I have a question regarding the 5 different parking spots:
If I would like to hike via C24, to C26 to get to Ribbon Falls on route to the Camel, which parking would you advise? Will that be the parking just before the "s" taking you up to the hotel?What will your suggestion be?

That is correct.
The other option is to park at the hotel and go via C1
You'd need to pay for parking at the hotel
petroengel's Avatar
petroengel replied to: #73018 20 Mar 2018 16:38
I have a question regarding the 5 different parking spots:
If I would like to hike via C24, to C26 to get to Ribbon Falls on route to the Camel, which parking would you advise? Will that be the parking just before the "s" taking you up to the hotel?What will your suggestion be?
Halewyn's Avatar
Halewyn replied to: #67472 24 Mar 2016 20:17
Valuable info, thanks, I did a quick solo on Wednesday (23rd) from hotel carpark to top of Organ Pipes and back - nearly went off that bit on my way down as it was wet, slippery and had no proper hand holds. :sick: Fortunately I had no pack so I was able to pull some desperate moves and get across. Met a group further down who mentioned an alternative. Much recommended!
Redshift3's Avatar
Redshift3 replied to: #67360 16 Mar 2016 11:22
No problem ghaznavid, below was our actual track starting out from our overnight camp above Ribbon Falls and ending in Roland's cave.
Check points 656 to 673.

ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #67358 16 Mar 2016 11:10
Do you have a GPS track to share for a line around that bad bit?

Camel Route is on my to-do list for day hikes, possibly this year. It is one of the few passes I have left at Didima. Could be looped with the South Tseke Pass route for an unusual day out.
Redshift3's Avatar
Redshift3 replied to: #67357 16 Mar 2016 10:59
We completed the Camel route in mid January 2016, plenty rain and mist. We found it awesome and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Everyone refers to the "bad or dangerous"spot. We decided to circumnavigate it at the time has it was really wet and misty.

This is a close up of a Google Earth image showing the short detour up and around the bad bit.



The rest is really not to bad and insures a quick ascent to the top of Organ Pipes.



Enjoy

firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #67329 14 Mar 2016 08:09
interesting, anyone got further experience / info on this one?

ghaznavid wrote: 5) There is some spot in the town before the reserve where people sometimes park if they want to hike up Didima Gorge. It isn't an official spot, but is included for completeness.

ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #67327 13 Mar 2016 22:19

Smurfatefrog wrote: Mike's Pass is a lower berg pass that you'd go up before going up Organ Pipes Pass (using Thuthumi ridge) - you'd park at Didima for this route

When you drive into Didima, at the first boom gate there are some trees. You can also park your car there, which puts you at the base of Mikes Pass. You will still need to drive to Didima Camp first to fill in the mountain register and buy permits. If you get really lucky, they may give you a lift up Mikes Pass, or let you drive up the concrete bit and park at the staff quarters (which are almost 1km into the route) - but I don't think they are doing this any more.

There are also bypass trails on Mikes Pass that you can use to skip the big switchbacks on Mikes Pass (this is a road pass, but has been closed for a few years) - they cut off a lot of distance.

For the record, there are actually 5 places used for parking at Didima/Cathedral Peak area:
1) Cathedral Peak Hotel hiker parking, drive in the main gate and don't turn off until you reach the hotel
2) Didima Hikers Parking - drive through the boom gate at the entrance, and take the dirt turnoff to the left just before the second boom gate.
3) Didima Camp - take the left hand road just before the campsite, shortly after the first boom gate. This puts you immediately below Tryme Hill.
4) Mikes Pass base - under the trees at the entrance to the reserve.
5) There is some spot in the town before the reserve where people sometimes park if they want to hike up Didima Gorge. It isn't an official spot, but is included for completeness.
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #67326 13 Mar 2016 21:14
Welcome Stefan

Stefan wrote: 1. As far as i can see it is a non reserved hike- first-come-first-serve, but where do we leave our car, can we leave it at the Didama camp? or at the hotel ? or is there another place we can safely leave our car while we hike ?

Yes, either Didima or at Cathedral Peak hotel. Refer to Q3

Stefan wrote: 2. Is there a map we can get hold of to guide us on where the cave is, what passes to take and so on, when i called Didama and Cathedral Peak hotel, they just said that they dont do bookings for it.

There are maps available, try get the Didima one before the hike, otherwise it should be available at the Didima office. I thought they did do bookings for it, but generally escarpment caves are on a first come basis, normally its safer to take a tent in case. Although there are also the Ndumeni caves near Rolands should it be taken. You'd be unlucky to find none available, except at times like Easter

Stefan wrote: 3. What is the best way up to the cave? I do not know the Drakensberg that well yet, ive seen some go via the Camel, Thuthumi pass, and another mentioned Mikes pass.

The Camel is the shortest - you'd park at the hotel for this
Mike's Pass is a lower berg pass that you'd go up before going up Organ Pipes Pass (using Thuthumi ridge) - you'd park at Didima for this route
Thuthumi will be quite a bit harder & longer so avoid that being newcomers to the berg
Stefan's Avatar
Stefan replied to: #67325 13 Mar 2016 20:45
Myself and some friends are planning to go do the Roland's Cave hike, but cant seem to find the necessary info. Can someone please help ??

1. As far as i can see it is a non reserved hike- first-come-first-serve, but where do we leave our car, can we leave it at the Didama camp? or at the hotel ? or is there another place we can safely leave our car while we hike ?

2. Is there a map we can get hold of to guide us on where the cave is, what passes to take and so on, when i called Didama and Cathedral Peak hotel, they just said that they dont do bookings for it.

3. What is the best way up to the cave? I do not know the Drakensberg that well yet, ive seen some go via the Camel, Thuthumi pass, and another mentioned Mikes pass.

Would appreciate it if someone can please help
Thanks! :hike:
supertramp's Avatar
supertramp replied to: #66103 08 Dec 2015 22:49
Hi Joe,

I've done the Camel twice in the last year and the exposed section you are referring to is certainly doable and not that bad at all. I took 2 newbies along on a previous hike and they handled it with ease. See link below for a photo of the hairy section - only a potential hazard in icy conditions.

Thread

Enjoy your hike, the Camel is a personal favourite of mine. PM me if you would like more information.

Happy hiking
Viking's Avatar
Viking replied to: #66071 07 Dec 2015 10:50
Hi Eisbein,

Whilst Mike's Pass is closed to the general public, it is still possible to drive a high clearance vehicle up it. Mountain club members use it to access Cambalala hut and there is even some sort of research happening far beyond the Arendsig gate out on the old management tracks towards Monks Cowl that is accessed by bakkie.

Even if the road pass was blocked by rocks, it would still be possible to hike up the Mikes Pass ridge from Didima or the lower gate if you are that way inclined. There are also other ways to access organ Pipes pass.
eisbein's Avatar
eisbein replied to: #66068 07 Dec 2015 10:12
Hi Joe, i used the camel route to the top earlier this year. The "hairy" bit you describe is definitely doable even with minimum berg experience. My understanding is that you cannot actually do organ pipes proper as mikes pass (used for access) is not currently open due to rock falls. I stand to be corrected but this was the situation earlier this year. Regards
JOEDEVILLIERS's Avatar
JOEDEVILLIERS replied to: #66059 06 Dec 2015 16:00
Hi Drakensbergie.... ;-).

Ja, I am worried about the one hairy bit on the Camel. I remember years ago there was a bit where the path was basically missing - down to smooth rock with quite a drop... Taking 3 guys who have not done much hiking there on the 17th of Dec.
They have been on normal hikes ( you know those with beds and pots, hehe), but I was wondering if I should opt for the longer Organ Pipes pass in stead. Can you describe the hairy bit? Thanks so much. Joe
JOEDEVILLIERS's Avatar
JOEDEVILLIERS replied to: #66055 06 Dec 2015 12:46
Hey there - to whoever is listening... ;-).

Who has done the Camel route up to Organ Pipes pass recently?
I have not done this route for a few years and was wondering about that one dodgy bit.
The new maps also indicate that there is a difficult "rope may be required" section...

Is it safer to take the longer route (Organ Pipes all the way)...?

Any advice will be appreciated.

(planning a trip in a few weeks...)

thanks
Joe
Drakensbergie's Avatar
Drakensbergie replied to: #65190 24 Sep 2015 07:08
Was there two weeks ago, did the rocky bits in the wet and mist and it really is not bad at all. There is only really one part where things feel a bit hairy, but if you are careful you'll be fine. Check out my report...
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/55894-rolands-cave-hike-september-2015.html#65160
Dillon's Avatar
Dillon replied to: #65185 23 Sep 2015 15:09
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/55685-cathedral-peak-to-top-of-windy-gap.html?start=10#62325

I'll let you know current conditions after this weekend; coming down that way on Saturday.
JeemBaab's Avatar
JeemBaab replied to: #65184 23 Sep 2015 13:39
Some threads on VE indicates that Camel has become dangerous? I haven't been for 20 years, back then there were some rocky parts but nothing to hectic.. .. planning a trip - do you perhaps know ?



Mod note: Moved to relevant thread
Dillon's Avatar
Dillon replied to: #64315 18 Jun 2015 19:09
Hi Joe, welcome to the forum.
Roland's Cave unfortunately can't be booked and works on a first come, first served basis.
Organ Pipes via Thuthumi Ridge is pretty straight forward, nothing too tricky there. There are one or two tricky bits if you intend going via the Camel instead, I think they've been pretty well documented in these two threads:

www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55774-organ-pipes-pass-camel-route.html?limitstart=0

www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/55685-cathedral-peak-to-top-of-windy-gap.html?start=10#62252

Shout if you need any more advice/tips.