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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Vicki's Avatar
Vicki replied to: #75042 03 Jun 2019 09:58
Thanks everyone. We went up on the 11th of May. We filled up some water above Ribbon Falls (not our full 2L - to keep the load light)... Half our group split off and stayed at Tseketseke Hut for the night, as some of the newbies weren't fit enough. Three of us continued up the pass. From the top of the pass, we walked straight inland, slightly to the left (hugging the base of Ndumeni Dome) for about +-200m and found some trickles in the stream. The water was running very slowly, so it took a while to fill up our bladders, but we just kept patient and got enough water for each of us. :)

Thanks for all the info, everyone, and for hiking up to check it out (Riaang)! You're a legend!
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #75024 13 May 2019 11:21
Thanks for the pics.  The problem can be water fowl that decide to dump their load into the tarn.  So can be a bit dicy!
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #75023 13 May 2019 11:12
Thanks for the advice Serious Tribe.
Attached two images showing the recent water level in the tarn

Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #75022 12 May 2019 20:42
I have drunk water out of similar tarns and have never had any issues.  However, if there is running water nearby, that would be preferable.
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #74993 06 May 2019 13:49
Hi Vicky,

Because you asked so nicely, I decided to go check first hand what the water situation currently is on the camel/Organ Pipes pass. We went up last week Friday. The reality is that there is virtually no water on the Camel at this point in time. At the spot marked on the map (or in that vicinity) we could hear a small amount of water trickling over rocks, but nothing close to the path, so if you are prepared to down-climb quite a distance you can possibly find water, however, it was too far down to be able to see the volume of water. Also, the wind was blowing up the pass so it carried the sound a bit - the trickle could be far down and it was very faint - I only heard it while I took a short break while waiting for the rest of the group.

Your best bet would be to fill up at the stream above Ribbon falls. We ascended via mushroom rock and filled up at the small stream about 100m before mushroom rock. Wait, the tarn on the way to the base of the Camel also had water in it - not sure how safe it is to drink tarn water. Anyone know? This was the last water we found until we topped out at Organ Pipes pass and we then found water in the stream about 250m inland, on our way up Ndumeni dome towards Rolands cave. There was very little water higher up the rocky section, but a couple of nice pools about 10m vertically higher than the pass head. 

Enjoy!!!
MarleyB's Avatar
MarleyB replied to: #74974 02 May 2019 14:49
Hi Vicky,

We just did the Organ Pipes Pass Camel Route over Easter.
There was water in a small stream just before you start climbing towards Windy Gap. I have marked the location below on a map snippet attached.

We had some trouble getting to the escarpment before dark as some of the newbies in the group were a bit unfit, we had to make do and slept on a small section just before Windy Gap without tents just bivies and sleeping bags as there were not enough space for everyone's tents. We dozed off quite early.
At 22h00 two people sneaked up on us, they were probably on the route to the escarpment (as it is a used smuggling route)  and they saw the opportunity. It was not a nice experience with 2 faces standing over you when you open your eyes. I suspect they were looking to steal some items lying around, fortunately everything was in our packs and our packs were covered with drybags and we were using it as headrests. Everyone was screaming when we woke up and everyone got a fright, including the two basuthos/smugglers, I don't think they expected the large group. Everyone in close vicinity most certainly knew that we were there after the screaming. After the encounter they held their hands up showing that they were peaceful, they then greeted us and left. They disappeared very quickly through the Windy Gap. We could not believe that they were walking in slops and and without torches. The one guy wore knee high gaitors and a very expensive First Ascent jacket.
.
After this encounter no one could sleep and we decided to take 1 hour shifts to keep guard. The next encounter happened between 04h00 and 05h00, everyone was sleeping peacefully except for the people on guard duty shining the torch every few minutes to keep watch. Then in the Windy Gap, coming from the escarpment, 2 guys stood watching us. They only left after we shone the torches on them for a few minutes. We could not see if it were the same to guys or possibly other people who heard us screaming earlier the evening and came to investigate an opportunity. The second encounter gives me chills because they watched us for a while.

The rest of the hike we saw some basuthos from a distance away ontop the escarpment but they were peaceful. Due to bad weather conditions we only explored Cleft Peak and descended via Mike's Pass(one of our backup plans) and not Bell Traverse as planned. But I'll be back later to do that.

Hope you enjoy your hike!
Regards 
vivo101's Avatar
vivo101 replied to: #74967 30 Apr 2019 15:55
Hey Vicki 

I think you are referring to the small stream just before you start the climb to Windy gap while ascending Camel. To answer your question, I would not put my hopes on reliable water on any part of the route, especially in winter, as none of the streams are Perennial. That includes the stream I just mentioned. Fill up at the stream above Ribbon falls, as if you are not going to find any water from there to the escarpment.
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #74964 30 Apr 2019 12:17
Vicky,

If it rains you can find water on the pass itself, but generally there isn't anything reliable until you top out on the escarpment. Here you have 2 choices - (which will depend on how much water is available in the veld) - you can either head up a bit to the left (as if going to Rolands cave) and find water in the top of the stream, or if it is dry you will have to walk straight forward into Lesotho where I've always managed to find water in the stream that is in the valley in front of you. Normally you don't have to descend too far down the valley to get water. 
Vicki's Avatar
Vicki replied to: #74961 30 Apr 2019 10:26
Hi, sorry if this has already been mentioned... I haven't read the whole thread as it's quite long :-) 
Can someone please comment on the water situation at the top of the pass?
It mentions there is water 500m from windy gap. In which direction is this? Is it easy to locate?
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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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: