* * (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.
The Chain Ladder route is accessed via the Sentinel Car Park which is just up the road from the Witzieshoek Mountain Resort.
The distance from the Sentinel Car Park to the top of the chain ladders is 3km with an altitude gain of 400m.
The initial concrete path fortunately only lasts for the first 500m or so before the well-defined path zigzags up the northern slopes of the Sentinel. Most of the 400m gain in altitude is climbed in this section. After about 1km, there is an optional detour to a wonderful viewpoint over the Amphitheatre, Devil’s Tooth and the Inner Tower. This slight deviation off the path is highly recommended on a clear day. There are a number of paths which continue around the Sentinel to the right. Some of them are dead-ends but climbing a little higher up the slope usually gets you on the right track. From this point on, the path contours around the western side of the Sentinel and after passing Beacon Buttress Gully (see below), contours along the escarpment cliffs until the chain ladders are reached on the edge of a large gully. All that remains is to make your way up either of the ladders (the newer one is a lot more stable) and climb the short, steep slope to the 3 enormous cairns that mark the top of the pass.
Finding the pass from the top:
Follow the clear path from the ranger’s hut along to the west of the Beacon Buttress where the 3 huge cairns marking the top of the chain ladders will be found.
There is a hiker’s hut at the Sentinel Car Park which sleeps 12 people. Sentinel cave is situated in one of the side gullies when contouring below the escarpment about 500m before the chain ladders. It is, however, not a very pleasant cave to sleep in. The escarpment, as always, has plenty of flat space for camping but robberies by Basothos are very frequent in the amphitheatre area. Rather hike across past Ifidi Pass before camping or alternatively, arrange a night-watch system. The hut near the top of the Tugela Falls is a ranger’s hut and may only be used in emergencies.
There is water available at the Sentinel Car Park but from there, the next available water is the Tugela River on the escarpment.