One of the most identifiable passes around, Giant's Castle Pass is a short, steep and loose pass which is most often used to climb Giant's Castle itself. The gully can be seen from as far back as the lodge and looks fairly bland. Once in the throat of the pass, however, some very impressive buttresses and cliffs tower above you.

Rating:
* * (5/10)
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 get to the bottom of this pass, the most direct being the Giant's Ridge which leaves the Bushman's River just past the caves and joins the contour path 2km south of the base of Giant's Castle Pass. The total distance to the bottom is 11 km.

Details:
The distance from the contour path to the pass summit is 2 km of 650 m.

Route:
Just before reaching the river coming down from Giant's Castle Pass when approaching along the contour path from the south, a cairn marks a very vague path up to the left. This path gets even more faint but with care, it can be followed all the way to the boulder bed where the path becomes pretty clear. The initial path stays on the southern slopes, climbing quite steeply until it levels off and contours to the boulder bed in the throat of the pass. Cross the river and follow the cairns through the boulder section until a clear path is reached higher up. This path is very loose due to all the gravel and it is easy to follow it's steep gradient all the way to the short final gully which takes you to the top at 3000 m.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
Simply locate the lowest saddle between the main escarpment and Giant's Castle itself. A large cairn marks a clear path down the pass.

Overnight Spots:
There are some plausible camping spots in the river valley at contour path level. Apparently there are some small caves near the top of the pass but I have failed to locate these. Camping at the top is plentiful as always.

Water:
The boulder bed has an unreliable trickle in it so top up water at the base of the pass. Once at the top, head down the other side to some rivers which cascade of the escarpment edge.

 

Forum Post:

More info for Giants Castle Pass can be found here:

http://www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55369-giant-s-castle-pass.html

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tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #72374 15 Nov 2017 08:18
The variation is very obvious in clear visibility conditions, it is to the left when going up Giant's Castle Pass, although the clear visibility would also result in most hikers being discouraged from even attempting it. There is another variation to the right too, when going up the pass, which is quite doable and you top out at Giants Summit Cave, although the gully continues up higher and would continue to be doable right to the top end. Andrew and I descended this variation in September. The two variations join the main pass at just about the same point, and there is a cave in the pass at the base of the variation to the right.
WarrenM's Avatar
WarrenM replied to: #72365 14 Nov 2017 08:22
Hi Andrew, Tony - thank you

On our return from Giant's Castle, we were close to the escarpment, and we only saw that one break in this cliffs, we were not sure if it was the only one as visibility was not great. There was definitely a cairn at the top of that variation.

Tony - On using the river route, this would be more challenging in summer, as you do cross the river a couple times and there was water fairly high this weekend. As we descended the pass with the path it definitely got easier the lower we went.

Thanks for the feedback, I look forward to heading back there, hopefully with clear skies so we can actually make out the variation when entering the pass.
AndrewP's Avatar
AndrewP replied to: #72363 14 Nov 2017 08:04
Hello Warren

I cannot recall a cairn either.

There is only 1 break in the cliffs between the top of Giants Pass and the summit of Giants Castle, so you must have seen the top of the variation I did. I personally find scrambling up to be easier than scrambling down, so would rather go up the variation than down.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #72362 14 Nov 2017 07:22
Hi Warren,

I have used the diagonal angle up and down the ridge (to/from the Giants Cave at the bottom of the pass) several times, and each time think next time I must use the river gully, which I will do if there is a next time. The ridge route may be a bit of a shortcut, but has no path, and the sustained sideslope takes it's toll on your feet and ankles. I haven't done the river route, but my assumption is that it would be about the same difficulty overall, but perhaps easier going without the sideslope.

I'm not sure which route you took back to Giant's Castle Pass from Giant's Castle, if you followed the escarpment and went over the peak (Giant's Pass Peak) immediately east of Giant's Castle Pass, then the gully down into Giant's Castle Pass between Giant's Castle and Giant's Pass Peak, is the variation AndrewP refers to. I can't remember there being a cairn there though.
WarrenM's Avatar
WarrenM replied to: #72352 13 Nov 2017 14:10
Hi All

My wife and I went up Giants Pass on Saturday, it was our first time in the area and I was looking to use the route up to the cliffs and contour into the pass, from one of the photo's in this thread we did pass the same places at about 2600m but we decided to contour into the pass at that point below the large patch of scree and boulders, we were in heavy mist and didn't really know where the cliffs were or how far the contour was to the pass.

My first question and I may already have the answer, if you want to take this route up to the cliffs and contour in, there isn't any real path or specific ridge to climb up, or is there, you kind of pick a point on the contour path before the river and head straight up? There was a single stone on a rock on the contour path is the spot that marks the start of the ascent to the cliffs?

The Camp in their brochure seem to have this a the better route to take (see Below):



On our decent we went straight down the pass to the contour path and given that we struggled with the heavy mist it seemed like the better option both ways up and down, heading straight for the cliffs and contouring didn't actually avoid the very loose and steep gravel bits of the pass, which was what I was trying to avoid.

Second question - Once we had summited Giants Castle, on the way back to the pass, before you need to make that last climb up before getting back to the pass, we passed a cairn that looked like it marked a pass (in between Giants Castle and Giants pass), very steep from what we could see, not knowing about it we didn't even consider it, but is this a manageable alternative route back into or out Giants pass? AndrewP is this the variation that you are referring to?
AndrewP's Avatar
AndrewP replied to: #72213 03 Oct 2017 08:12
Giants Pass variations

Ifyou are heading up Giants Pass, then shortly after entering the pass proper, you can see an obvious gully heading up on either side.

The gully on the Giants Peak side is protected low down by an overhanging chockstone. Bypass this on a grass slope to the right.

From here, rock walls trap you for the remainder of the pass. A short rock stretch may be bypassed on the left, but ice there kept me in the main v slot. This involves about 2m of steep scramble and could be slippery when wet.

From here, the slope for the rest of the pass averages about 35 degrees. It was solidly iced up for me, but it is highly unlikely that the ice covered any nasty surprises.


The variation on the Long Wall side has no tricks at all. It is rather loose in places and has a lot of spikey plants. It looks like it has seen several ascents or descents over the years. Go for it if you are bored, but it is not recommended.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #58562 24 Sep 2013 09:33
Nice shot looking up the pass with the mist and snow.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #58559 23 Sep 2013 11:32
So this weekend myself and Hobbit (a 12 year old who excels at day hiking) did a 3 day loop up Central Jarding pass down Giants Pass. We overingted in Jarding Cave and Giant's Cave (we used the one shown on the map). Its actually a relatively easy route, no long days, no excessively hard days either.

Jarding Pass and cave details are at www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55389-jarateng-passes.html?start=10#58558

We hit the escarpment in rather thick mist. We had a few moments where we had a view of the Jarding valley in Lesotho. The traverse to Giant's Pass is a route I don't know well. I have done part of the route when doing GT last year, but it was on the day when I felt so sick and was in so much pain (achilies strain and a sore back/neck) that I thought I would have to pull out of the GT. We also had mist for part of it - so really not a spot I know well.

I didn't get many photos due to the thick mist - we often could only see 100m, sometimes less. It was also really cold and wet.

Jarding Pool - usually full of water was a still stagnant pool:


We ran out of water when we hit the escarpment (the river on the pass was dry from not far above the base of the pass). We planned to get water from the Jarding river, but it wasn't flowing. As the options were risking sickness due to contaminated water or dehydration, we took some non-flowing water and added chlorine pills to it. After leaving it for an hour, before drinking it we also boiled it.

Any way, after some heavy reliance on my GPS we eventually found Giant's Pass (harder to find than what I would have thought), the top of the pass was wet and slippery. We got down quite quickly and reached Giants Cave (the one on the map) at 1PM. We also saw 2 hikers going up the pass a bit later.

Giant's Cave is 2 linked caves with tons of sleeping areas. Not sure where the capacity of 4 comes from - could easily get 10 people in the cave. It was well sheltered and flat, but had no nearby water.

We woke up to see snow outside the cave:


Grass outside the cave dusted in snow:


Some icicles had formed overnight:


We briefly got a view of the cliffs above us, looks like the pass must be really beautiful:

Attachment GiantsPass.jpg not found



A skull on the pass covered in snow:


Summary of the pass - it was tricky when wet and snowy, but it wasn't steep, route finding was easy and for at least half the pass we were able to follow the pass. Its a really worthwhile pass.

We returned via Oribi Ridge. It is longer than Giant's ridge and has a lot of up and down. I have done both of these ridges in the mist, so I can't comment on the view, but I would do Giant's ridge over Oribi Ridge next time (although I am happy to have done both now).
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #57833 28 Jul 2013 18:11

We used the Oribi Ridge route to access the area, and had the morning view of the ‘berg from Giant’s Castle to the Cathkin Range, still with some snow on the high ridges, although this soon disappeared.

I was at this spot at sunrise today, it such an awesome wide view of the high berg! Pity I had to dash back down for breakfast, will definitely use Oribi ridge on my next trip towards the Giant.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #57753 18 Jul 2013 00:05
Wow i dig the tent city. Not because there would be lots of people on the hike, which is not my preferred way of hiking, i was just thinking it would make some interesting opportunities for photography. Nice pic, in fact nice pics on the whole report.
Bigsnake's Avatar
Bigsnake replied to: #57663 13 Jul 2013 15:32
Well done guys!...and gal.
Best video I have ever seen on the Berg and it's wintry potential.
Have had similar conditions before and have had to adjust the plan.

I always wanted to get a pair of snow shoes which would allow plan A
to continue but the cost,weight versus the number of times one would actually use them.....
But that was 15-20 years ago and I'm thinking that conditions are changing up there!
A lot more of the white stuff it seems.

Anyone got experience with using snow shoes in the Berg?
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #57655 13 Jul 2013 04:00
Gr8 vid guys. We had a blizzard going up KaMashilenga Pass and similar wind at the top of the eNtubeni Pass. I recall getting slapped in the face by the tent almost the entire night!!!
firephish's Avatar
firephish replied to: #57584 09 Jul 2013 07:34
great photos, thanks for sharing!
JonWells's Avatar
JonWells replied to: #57583 09 Jul 2013 06:24
Agreed, it looks like a doddle from the pics, but it aint :blink:
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #57582 08 Jul 2013 20:15
I always enjoy photos of passes - it makes them look so much easier than they actually are :laugh:

Thanks for sharing Tony, can't wait to bag this pass and the accompanying khulu next month :woohoo:
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #57581 08 Jul 2013 20:09
Map/track from the contour intersections to the head of the pass


And an alternate way of doing the pass
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #57580 08 Jul 2013 17:16
A view up Giant’s Castle Pass.



The view down the pass from the top, showing the upper section of scree.



The view from the top of the pass (in the opposite direction) to the escarpment, the Tent visible in the foreground with the Hawk to the left, kaMasihlenga Pass behind these two peaks and Redi the high point to the left.



From the top of Giant’s Castle Pass, we contoured around the peak to the south of the pass and got a good view of the Giant’s Castle high point from the ridge near the Makhaza ice climbing waterfall.



Soon it was just a short scramble up the final slope, and then 15 of us stood on the small summit of Giant’s Castle.



On the way back down the pass, some of us visited one of the Giant’s Caves, a short detour off the route into the largest gully entering the pass. The cave appeared well used and although the front area was on a slope, there was a flat area at the back of this cave where 4 to 5 could sleep.



After returning to our camp and packing up, we retraced our previous days route back along the Contour Path for a short distance before taking the path to our return route along Giant’s Ridge.



Near the Giant’s Castle Main Camp, we had a last view back to Giant’s Castle and the pass up the Bushman’s River.

tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #57579 08 Jul 2013 17:11
On the last weekend in June I was part of a large group that summited Giant’s Castle via Giant’s Castle Pass. Although there have recently been some write ups covering Giant’s Castle Pass (Giants hike report by Geordie and Jax, and Hike Report: Giants Castle – Giants Pass by Smurfatefrog) I want to supplement these with some more detail and photos on Giant’s Castle Pass and the approaches to the pass.

We used the Oribi Ridge route to access the area, and had the morning view of the ‘berg from Giant’s Castle to the Cathkin Range, still with some snow on the high ridges, although this soon disappeared.



Near the end of the ridge we passed the old Lammergeier hide. Giant’s Castle is the peak behind the hide, and Giant’s Castle Pass is to the right of Giant’s Castle, behind the ridge coming down to the right from Giant’s Castle in the photo below.



After a leisurely lunch break near where the Oribi Ridge route joined the Contour Path, we passed the newly roofed Giants Hut. See the ‘Giants hike report’ thread by Geordie and Jax for a picture of the roofless Giants Hut a few months ago.



We tented on a large flat area next to the Contour Path below Giant’s Castle, and had a great afternoon view of the peak and part of the pass.



Early the next morning, we departed from our camp, following the contour Path to cross a stream, and then heading diagonally up the ridge towards the Giant’s Castle Pass gully.



We kept to the left (true right) side of the gully on the ridge, crossing a large patch of scree and boulders.



After entering the gully, we found the trail which was on the right (true left) side and led us upwards into the pass.



A view down Giant’s Castle Pass, showing a steep section in the loose scree and gravel.

intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2394 14 Feb 2011 11:42
Yip, exactly, re: Eland Cave and other rock art sites! Nor do I appreciate material where their exact locations are made known.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #2390 12 Feb 2011 02:10
I did not realize there was a second cave on the other side. One wonders how many good caves there are sitting in side valleys that no one uses and never know about. I know that there are some with really good caves with paintings like Eland Cave which are not marked on the maps. And in this case for good reason.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #2387 11 Feb 2011 07:55
There is another cave on the opposite side of the gully at this point, more or less the same level, but not visible at that point. Involves a traverse on a steep scree slope to get there. Very roomy, with a large boulder which crashed down at the opening. Sleeping area only allows for 3 comfortable places though.
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #2348 03 Feb 2011 05:03
Yes, 120m sounds about right. By the way, we managed to squeeze our isodome tent into the cave, both the inner and outer. We slept 4 in the tent that night, a bit of a squeeze but it was snug and warm. It is always a good idea to know of these little caves if the weather turns sour.
TTCollins's Avatar
TTCollins replied to: #2342 01 Feb 2011 18:48
A useful winter cave,damp in summer, is on the left hand side ascending, shortly before the impressive crack/gulley on that side. This is all about 120 metres (?) below the head of the pass.