In September 2012 a group of 3 hikers decided to explore a possible route up the slopes of Gypaetus Point at Giant's Castle. The goal: a non-rock pass alternative to Bannerman Pass. The result was a non-rock pass that is very steep but incredibly scenic - well worth the effort.
* * * * (7/10)
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 easiest access to the pass is from Giant's Castle car-park via the Bannerman Hut route. The pass starts one stream north of the Martial Eagle Stream (the stream that flows down at Bannerman Hut).
The pass is approximately 2.7km long and gains 810m from Bannerman Hut. It includes a short traverse, but is otherwise very steep. There is no trail at any stage and no cairns to mark the route. A GPS is highly recommended.
Instead of taking the turnoff from the contour path to Bannerman Hut, follow the contour path for about 100m further till you reach a stream with a fairly rocky bed. Follow the south slope of the stream gully (don't hike up the gully itself). Most of the rock bands are easy to walk through without any scrambling. Near the top a small amount of scrambling is required. Continue to follow this gully through a few rock bands till 2850m. At the GPS co-ordinates of 29°14’55.9”S 29°25’33.3”E 2849m (WGS84) (a point known as "help point") you reach a large rock band. Do not attempt to scramble this rock band or climb one of the grassy routes through it (you can easily get through this rock band, but you don't need to). Traverse under this rock band until you reach a small waterfall (you will be looking head on at Bannerman Face). Continue to traverse until you are past the waterfall, where there is a steep but wide grassy bank. Climb the slope till you reach around 3060m. Traverse further toward Bannerman Pass under this 3m high rock band. The route turns around a sharp corner (very exposed) and then suddenly you are on the escarpment!
Finding the pass from the top:
This pass doesn't look like anything from the escarpment. The summit is roughly halfway between Gypaetus Point and Bannerman Pass' summit. There is a small cairn at the top.
Bannerman Hut is an easy to use overnight spot near the base of the pass. There is also an easy-to-access cave in the second layer of the bottom rock band of the pass (it is a simple traverse to reach it) - this cave has not been inspected and it should therefore not be relied on till it has been properly checked out. At about 2500m there are some small flattish spots on which a tent can be pitched. There are plenty of good spots to pitch tents near the river between Bannerman Ridge and Gypaetus Point on the escarpment.
There are a surprisingly high number of rivers and streams on the pass. The first gully of the pass is near a fairly large stream (it may be dry for parts of the year). Once the traverse is started there may be water on the waterfall that is traversed under, but otherwise the next water will be in the stream that runs between Bannerman Pass and Gypaetus Point on the escarpment.