This must be the easiest pass in the entire berg (yes, easier than the Chain Ladder route) as it tops out at only 2500m after an easy trundle up a Little Berg ridge. Thamathu Pass is used as the descent route for the Grand Traverse but it's certainly worth doing when you're feeling like a pretty chilled hike. The views of Thaba Ngwangwe and the Devil's Knuckles are impressive and some interesting rock formations can be seen on the way up.

* * * (1/10)
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.

Follow the path straight up the ridge from the Bushman's Nek Border post for 8km to Thamathu Cave at 2300m.

The distance from Thamathu Cave to the top of Thamathu Pass is 3 km with an altitude gain of 300m.

From Thamathu Cave, simply follow the clear path up the ridge until you reach the escarpment slopes (no cliffs here!). The path contours out to the right for a further 1km before you suddenly round a bulge after some boulders and find yourself looking into Lesotho.

Finding the pass from the escarpment:
Follow the path heading towards the escarpment edge from Lesotho and keep to the right. The path rounds a large escarpment bulge and then heads down the pass.

Overnight Spots:
Thamathu Cave is huge and has a nice lawn outside it to relax on. No other camping spots (the ridge is quite exposed to lightning) until the mother of all camping spots, the escarpment itself.

The only water on the pass is found at in the river flowing next to Thamathu Cave. On top, a 200m walk will get you to water in summer.

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ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #64391 25 Jun 2015 19:11
I recently took my mother most of the way to Thamathu Cave - part of her celebrations for being 6 years cancer free (she had stage 3 cancer in 2009). My mother might do a writeup, in which case I will post it here.

Nonetheless - there is a large rock that has always interested me on the ridge. Due to its shape and location, I always refer to it as "Mushroom on Thamathu". Here is a photo of my mother with it:

I was interested to see if I could get up it and, well:

The top is entirely stable, but it is an overhang the entire way round. The top lacks good handholds. The way I got up was to go round to the higher side, stood on the high rock quite close to the top and jumped up, rock marked with an X:

Sadly my mother didn't get as far as the cave, but she isn't a hiker and it was one of the hardest hikes she has ever done:
Stijn's Avatar
Stijn replied to: #5106 06 Dec 2011 08:04
I have an old FA Icebreaker and while the toe of the bag has often gotten quite wet on the outside from being pressed against the sidewall of the tent, it has never been wet on the inside. A similar thing happens when sleeping under the stars - you wake up with the outside of your down bag pretty soaked from the dew but it's still bone-dry on the inside. I suspect that the outer shell of a down sleeping bag is at least water-resistant to some extent.

The only time my down bag has become wet on the inside is when we had to sleep under an emergency shelter in a downpour. The tarp was not big enough to cover my entire sleeping bag and the part that was sticking out became a useless, heavy lump of down.
Boerkie's Avatar
Boerkie replied to: #5104 06 Dec 2011 07:53
Based on what Smurfatefrog posted.....

What would happen with a down bag in this case and maybe after consecutive days of this type of weather?

Also any suggestions drying base layers / clothing in that type of weather?
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #5094 04 Dec 2011 18:37
So we finally made our trip to Thamathu this weekend, delayed it a couple weeks due to rain but still ended up walking in the wet & mist on Saturday. In the last KM to the cave we could hardly see anything & were getting a little worried, luckily it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The path to the cave had a few steep climbs which we weren't expecting.
I would guess the temp dropped to about 2 or 3 during the night but we were warm enough in the main middle section of the cave in 8 deg sleeping bags. The air was so moist though, nothing dried during the night, in fact tissues we had left out were soaked in the morning just from the air!
Water was not an issue at all, we had water running down the overhang of the cave & the stream was flowing strongly & easily accessible
Unfortunately we woke up to more mist & terrible visibility, so decided to give the pass ascent a miss, got some more sleep & took out time with breakfast. As we were leaving the sun made an appearance & everything cleared up but it was too late to go up the pass

A couple pics of the cave from the stream & the pass

splatacat's Avatar
splatacat replied to: #4318 11 Oct 2011 11:53

Just plan it without thinking about me and ill see how things go and if i can join in.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4313 11 Oct 2011 10:06
No date set yet, a friend of mine from Canada (she's working here for a year) is interested in joining, so I'll probably fit it in around her schedule. I'll let you know when I've talked to the people who will probably join.
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splatacat replied to: #4309 11 Oct 2011 08:36
When are you planning this trip for?

the 4th 5th and 6th Nov i'm attending the international marine aquarium conference of south Africa.
and the 19th 20th Nov i'm climbing at Swinburne.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4272 09 Oct 2011 14:18
They person I'm doing the hike with has just pulled out, so if you are still up for a joined group (assuming I can get a group together for some other weekend from my side), let me know...
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #4271 09 Oct 2011 10:15

Too bad about the Boks... The Protea's can get revenge, maybe Morkel will break Ponting's toe with a plum LBW...

I just booked tickets for the Durban ODI this morning hoping to see exactly that
Now to decide when we're going to the berg, with a couple weekends opening up
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4269 09 Oct 2011 08:56
Too bad about the Boks... The Protea's can get revenge, maybe Morkel will break Ponting's toe with a plum LBW...
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ghaznavid replied to: #4211 29 Sep 2011 16:41
We also have to beat Oz in the next round, fun road to the finals, playing Oz and NZ prior to the finals, the finals will be like a relaxing game by comparison...

I'll post a story of what happens, provided it actually ends up happening...
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #4209 29 Sep 2011 16:26

Ok, I'm officially doing this pass and cave on the weekend of 15/16 October, if anyone is interested in increasing the numbers, please let me know...

I definitely won't make that weekend, my Drifta wont work on the escarpment to watch the Boks beat the All Blacks
And no, its not cos I want privacy in the cave :whistle:

I'll look out for more info from you though for our trip
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #4205 29 Sep 2011 08:36
I have climbed that small "Thamathu Peak" , or rather Senotlolong as its now referred to (the new Thamathu Peak being a 3328m summit in Lesotho behind Walker's Peak), and it is a fun, easy scramble for the record.

@ghaznavid: I do have pictures looking North from Thaba Ngwangwane (though not from its summit). Will post when I get a gap.
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4198 28 Sep 2011 18:23
Ok, I'm officially doing this pass and cave on the weekend of 15/16 October, if anyone is interested in increasing the numbers, please let me know...
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4196 28 Sep 2011 17:50
After looking at these photos and checking Google Earth I have moved Thaba Ngwangwe right to the top of my list of peaks to conquer, poor old Popple will have to wait...

Does anyone have a pic looking north from the summit? According to GE there is a 700m dropoff and then a steep ascent at Iscatula Pass and Walker's Peak, on GE the view looks so amazing.

Although my October already includes a definate hike up Rhino, and my first weekend of November already includes a probably attempt of the Bollard Wilson loop. Not too mention that I'm hoping to climb Thaba Ngwangwe on either the weekend of 8 or 15 October, pending me putting a group together... I guess I just need a good distraction after UNISA's ridiculous financial accounting exam today...
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #4193 28 Sep 2011 16:50
Thanks ghaznavid, will give you a shout when we confirm our plans

Tony, thanks for all your info & pic, much appreciated
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #4189 28 Sep 2011 12:44

Hi Ghaznavid and Smufatefrog, Yes it is quite possible to do the route proposed over two days.

This photo shows Thomathu Peak centre left, taken from Ngwangwe Cave, and you can see Thaba Ngwangwe is clearly a lot higher than Thomathu.Thomathu Cave is in the ridge just left of centre in the photo.

Thomathu Pass is shorter and easier than Ngwangwane Pass, and this may be relevant for Ghaznavid's Bannerman Pass friend, and it would thus be easier to ascend via Thomatu Pass and descend via Ngwangwane pass and the Bushman's River. As Elinda explained, it is quite a stiff climb up to Ngwangwe Cave, but worth it for the view, and also that this cave is amongst the highest in the 'berg. When we overnighted at Ngwangwe Cave in February, running water was only available about two thirds up the peak, but fortunately an afternoon thunderstorm came to our rescue with a lot of runoff water from above the cave, so be aware of collecting water on the way up.
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ghaznavid replied to: #4185 27 Sep 2011 19:42
What I'm thinking is border post > Thamathu > Ngwangwe Cave (overnight there, 13km in this day) > Thaba Ngwangwe > Ngwangwe Pass > border post (14km). Distances are per Google Earth.

There is Thamathu Peak straight above the pass, its free standing, so it should have an awesome view, but its only about 2700m, so its not very high. This is what it looks like (I assume this pic is from Ngwangwe, once again getting pics from

Thamathu pass tops out between Knuckles and Thaba Ngwangwe, but its closer to Thaba Ngwangwe. Go and check the list of Bushman's Nek passes and caves on, maybe also consider Goat's Pass or some of those, if you download the GPS track off you can see how the path is on Google Earth (including steepness etc), I found it very helpful...

Let me know what your plans end up as, if we end up going on the same weekend, I'm sure you and your wife would like some privacy ;) . Although if you would like to join groups together for safety in numbers or possibly sharing transport, let me know.
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #4184 27 Sep 2011 19:17
I was also wanting to do Thamathu cave & pass in the next few weeks (after the RWC), but now the Ngwangwane route is also looking like an option...

So ghaznavid what you thinking of doing is Border Post > up Ngwangwane > down Thamathu > Border post. With an overnight in either cave, Ngwangwane cave looking the most likely?

If we just had to do Thamathu are there any notable peaks just above the pass? Don't really want to try too much on my wife's first overnighter in the berg
ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4180 27 Sep 2011 13:40
Nice pics! So realistically, with not really going at great pace is it plausible to go from Bushman's Nek border post to Ngwangwe Cave in a day, overnight there, slay the "mountain of the pied starlin" the next morning and reach the car park before sunset? Would this be at all difficult? I guess we could always put in the mountain register that this is what we are doing, take a tent and if we don't reach Ngwangwe or Thamathu Cave, or if they are occupied, we just sleep where ever we end up.
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elinda replied to: #4179 27 Sep 2011 13:14
Correction!! I mistakenly gave an estimate from the top of Ngwangwe Pass. From the top of Thomatu Pass you will have to head North on the contour path - this should take about an hour until you get to the bottom of Thaba Ngwangwe and from here about another 2 hours
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elinda replied to: #4178 27 Sep 2011 13:07

It's not difficult and took us about 2 hours in snow - we took it slow and steady. I would guess about 800 metres from the top of the pass to the cave

ghaznavid's Avatar
ghaznavid replied to: #4177 27 Sep 2011 13:01
How far/difficult is it from Thamathu Pass's summit to the top of Thaba Ngwangwe?
elinda's Avatar
elinda replied to: #4176 27 Sep 2011 12:55
We went up Ngwangwe Pass last month and overnighted in Ngwangwe Cave - a lot of snow around! A strong wind came up during the night and blew snow into the cave continuously - we had very wet sleeping bags in the morning but stayed dry somehow. We had a lot of fun bum sliding down the slopes the following day and then walked out via Thomathu pass. I will post some pics
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ghaznavid replied to: #4175 27 Sep 2011 12:18
Thanks TonyMarshall. The problem with recycling threads is that old references come up again! I am hopefully going up Thamathu Peak with some friends who are not up to the more hectic stuff (the one guy complained that Langalibalele Pass was too difficult, although he did get up and down in with an overnight pack in a day - rock throwing Basotho's caused changed plans...).

Haven't really put much thought into what we will do on reaching the escarpment, probably climb Thamathu Peak (or that easier to climb peak next to it), any suggestions?

Later in the year, or maybe next year, I hope to go up Ngwangwe Pass, sleep in Ngwangwe Cave and climb Thaba Ngwangwe, Pied Starlin's aside...