Ship’s Prow Pass - South Fork

26 Oct 2010 07:26 #63773 by Stijn
Stijn created the topic: Ship’s Prow Pass

This is a very difficult pass which is notorious for rock falls which have killed hikers in the past. In good weather, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem (except for the fact that it’s very steep) in climbing up Ship’s Prow Pass. The impressive “Prow” itself towers over you as you climb higher up this long pass. The pass tops out at 3300m, giving it the highest summit of any pass in the Drakensberg.

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08 Oct 2012 15:43 #55397 by Sabine
Sabine replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
I have not been able to find much info on Ship's Prow Pass on this forum. Who has done it from Monk's Cowl campsite and how doable is it to the top of the pass in a day?

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08 Oct 2012 16:01 #55398 by tiska
tiska replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
I've not walked up Ship's Prow - thankfully. But to give you some idea, our descent left the top at 3:30pm and stopped at 7pm still about 40 minutes upstream of where the contour path leaves off the valley. Its one of the longer passes to do for at least three reasons:
a) there is no real path
b) the pass tops out very high - perhaps the highest in the Berg?
c) there is a fair bit of bush at the bottom.

If you are keen to ascend the pass, I would recommend walking in and camping at one of the few flat spots upstream of the contour path in the Ships Prow valley and then tackling the pass early the next morning. One day from Monks Cowl campsite to the summit would be tough. I don't know of anyone having done this.

Another way to deal with it is to go up Gray's Pass and down Ships Prow. We went up Gray's and down Ship's Prow from Keith Bush to the contour Path in Ships in a day. Early start, late finish, aftrenoon thunderstorn and a mid morning kip in Nkosasana.

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08 Oct 2012 17:47 #55399 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Ship's Prow Pass

mnt_tiska wrote: b) the pass tops out very high - perhaps the highest in the Berg?


Indeed it is B) approx 3300m. Next up is about 3250m - kaNtuba Pass if I am correct...

Some context: check this discussion

My opinion:
Hardest non-rock pass is Ships Prow, hardest "rock" pass is Ifidi and hardest ROCK pass is a tough call between Xeni and Hilton Pass, but goes to Xeni pass as I feel that 3 pitches of tough roped climbing disqualifies a "pass" from being a pass.

#note that I have only done the top 100m of Ships Prow Pass while on GT, the view from there is incredible...

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09 Oct 2012 06:23 #55405 by Stijn
Stijn replied to: Ship's Prow Pass

ghaznavid wrote: My opinion:
Hardest non-rock pass is Ships Prow, hardest "rock" pass is Ifidi and hardest ROCK pass is a tough call between Xeni and Hilton Pass, but goes to Xeni pass as I feel that 3 pitches of tough roped climbing disqualifies a "pass" from being a pass.


Ghaz, I'm sorry if this comes across as rude, but how can you possibly have an opinion if you haven't yet done any of the passes you mention above? Yes, you have the stats at your disposal, but surely you need personal experience to make broad sweeping claims like the above?

For example, I'm going to disagree on your Ship's Prow comment as in my personal experience, I found Icidi harder.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Vynbos

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09 Oct 2012 06:31 #55406 by Sabine
Sabine replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
Hi Stijn,
Thanks. Did you go up or down Icidi and Ships? I have gone down Icidi, and you reckon that's harder than Ships? I have worked out about 15km to the bottom of Ships, how much time should I estimate to go up the Pass?

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09 Oct 2012 06:45 #55407 by Stijn
Stijn replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
I've been up and down Ship's Prow once each and down Icidi twice. Down Icidi both times took us longer than getting up Ships, mainly due to all that bundu-bashing at the bottom!

When we went up Ship's Prow we had terrible weather (sleet, hail, etc) and it took us about 8 hours from the contour path. We were in high school at the time so I would call our pace pretty average. The time can vary massively based on the level of water in the boulder bed for the first 4km. With lots of water and/or slippery rocks, route finding and progress can be much slower. Once you reach the steep grassy ramps, it's just a matter of slogging all the way up... If I recall correctly, there is also a scree field near the top of the pass which makes the going a bit slower. Mostly grass though.

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09 Oct 2012 07:26 #55408 by Sabine
Sabine replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
yeah, that bundu bashing at the bottom of Icidi really is a nightmare!!

The availability of water was going to be my next question. So does that boulder bed go about half way up the pass?

I was hoping on about 4-5 hours (but closer to 4hr) up the pass or is that too enthusiastic? The water levels should still be low.

Then I also see that the pass divides into a left and a right gully towards the top? Does one keep to the left?

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09 Oct 2012 08:23 - 09 Oct 2012 08:41 #55409 by tiska
tiska replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
"Then I also see that the pass divides into a left and a right gully towards the top? Does one keep to the left?"
Yes, on the way up, keep to the left gully. The right gully is mobile and steep and has claimed lives in the past - so the left hander will be an important call.

The timing of the length of the 'pass' depends on where one defines the start of the pass. From the contour path to the top would take more than 4 hours. From where the you leave the river (boulder bed) for the slopes is more like 4 hours. But note that different parties leave onto the slope at different points.

I've been up and down Icidi and down Ships. Just to complicate things, I found Ships to be tougher. Depends on the line one takes I think. In Icidi we stayed mainly in the river and avoided the bush and it was OK. In Ships we stayed mainly in the river and couldn't avoid the bush. And the whole pass was done at the end of the day.
Last Edit: 09 Oct 2012 08:41 by tiska.

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09 Oct 2012 08:29 #55410 by Sabine
Sabine replied to: Ship's Prow Pass
Interesting, thanks for all the info, Tiska! It will definitely be a most challenging pass

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