This short and steep gully used to be the only way of accessing the escarpment in this area before the chain ladder was put in place. It is a really fun alternative to the over-used Chain Ladder Route (see above). No scrambling is involved but it is a boulder-strewn gully and a lot of the rock is loose. It tops out near the summit of Beacon Buttress and has an awesome view as a reward for the steep climb.
* * * (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.
The Beacon Buttress Gully is accessed via the Sentinel Car Park which is just up the road from the Witzieshoek Mountain Resort. The first 2 km of the Chain Ladder Route must be followed before turning up the gully itself.
The distance from the Sentinel Car Park to the top of the Beacon Buttress Gully is 2.5 km with an altitude gain of 500m.
The first 2 km of the route follows along the Chain Ladder Route. Just after the saddle between the Sentinel and the escarpment is passed, a steep gully heads up to the escarpment. There is a very vague path in the beginning but the best way is just to make your own route up this narrow gully. There is a cairn at the top of the gully where you must just contour out to the right to reach the escarpment.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
Climb up the Beacon Buttress and hike towards the Sentinel. The last gully before the edge of the escarpment with the cairn on top of it is the Beacon Buttress Gully.
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 along the Chain Ladder Route just past the Beacon Buttress Gully. 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.