Ascending right up through the middle of the Giant's Cup, this pass catches the eye from all sides. It's obviously the most direct way to climb the Hodgson's Peaks (definitely worth it) and a good pass to use if you don't feel like slogging up its next-door neighbour, Sani Pass, along with all the traffic. For me, it's the approach to the pass that makes it special. Hiking up the Pholela River Valley and up into the pass via Fingall's Rock must be one of the best ways to start a berg hike: scenic, secluded and unique in the berg.
* * * (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.
It’s a 14 km walk-in from Cobham to one of three caves at the bottom of Masubasuba Pass. You can also access this pass via Gxalingenwa Cave on the high ridge between Masubasuba Pass and Sani Pass.
The distance from Spectacle Cave to the top of Masubasuba Pass is 6 km via Fingall's Rock and 4km if you continue up the Pholela River with an altitude gain of 1000m.
We did the route via Fingall's Rock so that is the one I will describe here. From Spectacle Cave, descend to the river and cross over it, into the valley directly opposite the cave. The path makes it's way through the forest thicket and crosses the river again just before the river swings sharply to the left to head straight up the pass. Continue along the river if you wish to follow the more direct route up the pass. To get to Fingall's Rock, locate the very faint path which zig-zags up the grassy little berg ridge directly in front of you after crossing the river. The path climbs diagonally all the way up to Fingall's Rock and above to contour path. Calling it a path is quite misleading however, so look out for flattened grass and other signs when the path seems to die. Once the contour path is reached at 2550m, it's plain sailing for 3 km to the river at the true start of the pass itself. Just across the river, there is a steep ridge heading straight up to the cliffs of Hodgson's South Peak. This ridge has a very steep and eroded path zig-zagging up it until the base of the cliffs are reached at 2800m. From here, the path contours to the right, into the throat of the pass, before turning sharply left up a 10m wide rocky gully. Climb this gully all the way to the top of the pass at 3050m.
Finding the pass from the top:
In the Giant's Cup, there are several gullies leading off the escarpment edge. The southern-most gully (on the slopes of Hodgson's South Peak) has two large cairns and a clear path marking it. This Masubasuba Pass.
At the base of the pass, Spectacle Cave and Pholela Cave offer good shelter with waterfalls cascading over both caves. Gorge Cave is in the river near the forest thicket but is very small and not recommended. It is possible to camp at the river just before the steep, eroded ridge but otherwise, flat space is abundant on the escarpment. There's also the Sani Top Chalet 5km north of the pass if you feel like some well-deserved luxury...
Other than a few tributaries on the contour path when heading into the throat of the pass, and the river crossing just before the steep, eroded ridge, this pass has no water so be sure to take some along.