"Rock" Passes vs. ROCK Passes

07 Nov 2008 11:39 #212 by Stijn
Hi all

Over the years, the passes I've enjoyed most in the berg are those with a bit of scrambling invloved eg. Corner Pass and Ifidi Pass. There are some "rock" passes that are often done and well known as not requiring rope, just some easy scrambling (I suppose this is very relative...).

What about passes like Nguza, Xeni, Injasuti & Hilton Pass? I see you have the track log on this site for Xeni Pass, what are the rock sections like? I've often had a look while heading up Cockade Pass and wondered... would be very keen to try some of these more infamous berg passes.

Anyone got any first-hand experience or info?


P.S. I tried to post this in the Passes forum but my work internet filter blocks access to that one only :huh:

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07 Nov 2008 12:33 - 30 Jun 2015 17:02 #214 by intrepid
Trip report featuring Xeni Pass here

Xeni Pass has some of the worst, exposed grass slopes that I've climbed up on a "hike". You have to bypass 3 waterfalls on grass slopes before you can enter the final, classic rock gully which is clambery, full of loose boulders and has some minor obstacles (much like Ifidi). Just before the top there is the most interesting worm-hole formed by a huge chock-stone wedged into the gully.

It's the most technical rock section on the pass, but not that difficult and actually quite fun. It took us around 8 hours to the top from the Cockade camp site.

The wormhole on Xeni:

I've done Injasuthi Pass, just haven’t gotten around to posting the GPS data (as with several others), will put it up when I get a gap.
This is probably the most technically challenging that I've done to date. It took 8 1/2 hours from our camp, near the junction where Leslies Pass starts, to do 3.5 kms to the top.
Whereas with Xeni and Ifidi I could still do large portions with trekking poles, on Injasuthi these were packed away at the bottom since the gully was so steep that we needed to scramble on all fours a lot.

A friend of mine in the group took a nasty fall at the bottom of the gully on some steep, loose terrain. He was shaken but continued on amazingly enough. He sustained some nasty scratches and we found out afterwards that he had a small crack on one of his elbows and had light concussion!

It's a beaut of a gully, very sustained and just below the top it has a technical chimney, perhaps just under 10m in length and possibly around a grade 12. We had climbing equipment with, 2 of us soloed it and set up a belay for the rest. There is a picture of the chimney in the galleries. Click here.

We had intended to descend Hilton Pass on the same trip but decided not to because of the fall. Apparently there are 2 sections that require abseiling. I'm not sure what its like ascending this pass, some seem to doubt that this is possible by normal means. I'll have another go at it sometime. I have a feeling Hilton Pass may be the most technical of all named passes.

I've descended some 100m from the top of Nguza to have a look at the crux - it's a deep and sudden chasm in the gully with a waterfall. It seemed like it was possible to do some precarious scrambling on mixed terrain just before the chasm, which would probably be better done with ropes, though I don’t think the leader would be able to protect himself/herself.

I've observed an alternative route in one of the grassy gullies on the slopes below the North Peak, which would then involve a level traverse around to the top of the pass. Very steep, exposed grass slopes though and I don’t think this is the standard route.

More than anything else I'm dreading the ChiChi bush on the approach to Nguza, when I get around to it, as there seems to be a good dose of it at the bottom.

I think anything harder than Injusuthi and Hilton Pass should actually be a climbing route rather than a "pass".

Also interesting is that the most technical passes are not necessarily the "hardest" in every sense. There are several which I classify as "dirty", but not "technical", because of a long, difficult approach through bush and boulders or because of steep scree slopes. Among these are Icidi Pass and Cathkin Mountain Pass (Ships Prow North Fork), which are magnificent from afar but downright sadistic to those clambering up them!

Not sure why you got blocked trying to post to the "passes" section :huh: ...what message did you get? I have moved the post now anyway.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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Last edit: 30 Jun 2015 17:02 by Smurfatefrog.

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12 Nov 2008 13:00 - 12 Nov 2008 13:02 #217 by Stijn
Thanks for the info - Injsuti Pass sounds like great fun... might take a rope though! And I second your comment on Icidi pass - must be my least favoured pass due to all the bundu-bashing from Grasscutter's Cave onwards!

Oh and I am now able to access this section of the forums too - seems like you changed the structure or something? My work filter automatically categorised as "games" before and hence blocked access :laugh:
Last edit: 12 Nov 2008 13:02 by Stijn.

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28 Nov 2008 11:30 #244 by Magan
How about Pins Pass ? Any info ?

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28 Nov 2008 14:43 #245 by pjvrey
I'm the guy who took the fall on Injasuthi pass - at least I Showed everyone else where not to go!

I've done Pins last year. I rated it harder than Ifidi but easier than Injasuthi. Its biggest problem is that about 200m below the summit it has a nasty, steep, loose section which gave us a bit of a scare but when we exited past this tricky spot to the left (about 100m below Pins cave) we were OK. The top is quite choked with spear grass and bushes but Pins cave makes up for this - quite a good cave as far as pass caves go but despite this we had snow inside last year in May.

Xeni I've done too but experienced it as quite a bit easier than Ifidi - however, I was only carrying a daypack at the time. The description above for Xeni as well as Injasuthi is pretty accurate.

Same goes for Hilton - the MCSA consider Hilton a climbing pass.

Down in the south, Redi pass is supposed to be hard but apart from reasonably steep grass slopes and a very short, safe scramble about 150m below the top, is good throughout. I've heard though that Amakehla and Loteni passes are very hard?

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28 Nov 2008 15:51 #246 by intrepid
I think Lotheni is also one of those shy but worthy monster passes. Was gonna have a crack at it in September but the trip didn't happen. Will be ascending Amakehla Pass next Friday but since the Basuths use it now I don't expect it to be difficult any longer. The same happened to Judge Pass - it's now a smuggling route, straightforward and has a trail. It should no longer be classified as a rock pass.

On a more philosophical note, what makes the Berg so interesting is that there are heaps of unnamed peaks, passes and caves that never made it onto the maps. Obviously one of the early pioneers ascended Hilton Pass and literally put it on the map, but several magnificent and easier passes didn't get the same attention.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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31 Aug 2011 20:20 #3887 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Amakehla Pass
The EKZN maps are of little use in distinguishing rope passes from non-rope passes. According to the maps the top section of Bannerman Pass requires ropes (when I was there in Jan this year and it was flooded we didn't need ropes, we only had 2 rocks which where high enough to require packs being passed up), they mark the same thing on Injisuthi Pass but not on Hilton Pass which seems to need ropes more than any other "Pass".

Does anyone have a list of passes which are listed on maps and require ropes to be summited?

On another point of note, what defines a pass, surely if a pass cannot be realistically done without ropes (eg Hilton Pass), it is not a pass? By contrast (talking from photos and descriptions, not experience), surely something like Thamathu Pass (or Bushman's Nek Pass for that matter) is not actually a pass as it is not passing between rock faces?

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01 Sep 2011 08:23 - 01 Sep 2011 12:01 #3894 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Amakehla Pass
I agree ghaznavid, if a route requires too much ropework it shouldn't be called a pass, then it becomes a climbing route, like Amphitheatre Frontal, Singati Wall etc.

A Berg pass is one which provides access to the escarpment, I don't think one can get more technical in definition than that (ie how much rock face on either side).

The red lines on the hiking maps simply indicate areas of exposure, or very steep or full of loose rock, where you might need a rope - but this is a conservative caution - necessary to warn people. I often joke with my fiend, who does not enjoy too much exposure, that the thick red lines mean scenic route :) More often than not, when rope is needed, it is a short bit of nylon rope to haul packs up, and to provide something to hold onto for those that are less steady on rock.

Hilton Pass can apparently be done without rope, but I think route finding is critical on this pass, and it isnt a good pass for people that don't like scrambling and exposure. Injasuthi Pass can be done without ropes. I did do the short crux section without ropes and with a pack on, but must add that I did slip and fell half a meter or so before I caught myself. If I had fallen further I probably would have broken an ankle or a leg. I did set up a belay for 2 of our members at the time, who definitely wanted it. Many technical passes can be called technical simply because they do require some moves on rock - but this doesn't necessarily make it hard overall. Corner Pass is like this but everyone does it. Xeni Pass is technical, and the 3 short rock steps on Ifidi. But in dry conditions they can be scrambled without ropes, and you don't need to be a climber - just have a sense of adventure.

It is also a relative thing that depends on the person. Take Inner Tower Gully for example, before the Chain Ladders this was used as a pass, and I don't think the guys roped up. These days it is barely used and I wouldn't recommend it as a hiking pass to just anyone.

Also, there are non-technical passes that are very hard. Ships Prow North and South Fork and not technical at all. They are treacherous and arduous for other reasons. Same with Icidi.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 01 Sep 2011 12:01 by intrepid.

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01 Sep 2011 15:15 #3902 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Amakehla Pass
How tough is Cathkin Mountain Pass?

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01 Sep 2011 17:24 #3905 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Amakehla Pass
It's just another name for Ship's Prow North Fork and from what I hear from intrepid is pretty loose, steep and rough-going...

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