Amakehla Pass

08 Dec 2008 20:41 #249 by intrepid
Amakehla Pass is now pretty straightforward and poses few difficulties other than a few places which are slippery when wet, and some short sections near the top which are a bit exposed (and where extra caution should be taken especially in ice/snow conditions).

The smugglers have created a path which starts from Lakes Cave and runs along the Amabili ridge. The pass can also be accessed from Pholela Cave, as indicated on the map, but there is no path until one gains the ridge. The entire ridge can also be done, starting from the neck on the connecting path between the two caves.

It is conceivable that the original route is different to the current one. But the pass should no longer be classified as a rock pass.

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

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21 Apr 2009 21:11 #418 by ClimbyKel
Was reading up on posts relating to Xeni and Ifidi Passes today. Thanks for all the good info. I'm planning a trip, and definately want to do some of these passes with scrambling involved.

What are the challenges of Amakehla pass?

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22 Apr 2009 08:40 #419 by intrepid
The first thing about Amakehla is that it has some really steep sections. While nothing technical, it can get pretty slippery in muddy or icy conditions. I did it in wet conditions and found myself slipping back a number of times.

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Then there is an exposed bit between a false summit and the short, final gully to the real summit. At one point the trail crosses some bare rock with a substantial drop-off right there. Though short-lived, caution should be taken here, especially in wet or icy conditions. Thick ice conditions (if it ever forms there) could prove to especially interesting. :)

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10 Jun 2010 12:34 #1368 by Sterkhorn
@Intrepid (comments from others are welcome too)
Your descriptions of the pass give a good indication of what can be expected, but I am needing some comparisons in respect of the "exposed bit" near the top of the pass.

I do a number of trips where I introduce newbies to the berg or the high berg. I have discovered that there are a number of hikers who enjoy the berg, but suffer from various degrees of vertigo. Although this does not exclude them from these kinds of hikes, they do sometimes struggle with some of the conditions involved. Being forewarned helps me either prepare them or avoid the specific spots.

I am planning a trip to the top of Giants Cup (did it 18 years ago), but I like the idea of Amakehla as an alternate ascent.

If possible, could you compare the "exposed bit" with the following "exposed bits" that some of my hikers have managed, but struggled with in varying degrees:
1. Bell Traverse - the ledge immediately after the scree slope on the Bell side of the Cathedral Peak gendarme gully, and any of the exposed rock outcrops along the Bell Traverse.
2. The initial rock slopes when ascending the start of Cathedral Peak.
3. The rock ledge before entering Roland Cave.
4. Some of the exposed rocks on the path descending Grays Pass.

In your opinion, would it be easier to approach the pass from Pholela Cave up the valley as indicated on the map, or would the route up towards Lakes cave and then up the Amabili ridge be better?

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10 Jun 2010 14:54 #1369 by SeriousTribe2
@ sterkhorn.

We have been up and down this pass about 3 times.
Easiest access to ascend would be via the Amakhela ridge, either by contouring in from lakes cave, or as we have done once before, by going on up from lakes towards Minaret, and contouring around the base of Amakehla [more strenous].
the first initial steep bit is very loose and gravelly and goes almost straight up [as it is used by Basotho's of varying trades].In the wet this will be step-back stuff.
In misty or rainy weather you will need to be aware of the tricky exit. After climbing the vertical path you top out on a wide saddle [not the top]. You need to contour around [now on the South side of the 2 Amakhela] into the first of the 'exposed sections'. I can best compare the exposure to the switchbacks near the ascent of Organ Pipes via The Camel. You have some air below you if you do not watch your step. Through a zig and out a zag then you will see a narrow gully cutting straight up from the base of the last cliffline. There is a small slabby stepthrough before the section under the cliffline, we have done it in icy conditions and you need to take care. the section traversing below the cliffline also has some exposure [now closer to the rolands cave path versus edge, but not depth, status]. From here up the zigzags are clear and exposure limited until you pop out at the top.
If you have real vertigo suffferers, then rather take Stones Passes 1or2, no fear there.
Some rope and strong arms can always help those who just don't need to look down.
Nice pass and quick.
Faster route down is to burn the ridge all the way to the end and down to the lower path going to spectacle at the Polela / Nhlabeni river junction.
We have not done the path up from Spectacle, but have been told it is bushy and not well defined.

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10 Jun 2010 19:43 #1372 by intrepid
Now there's an interesting exercise in comparisons :laugh:

SeriouTribe2's details have already given you much to chew on I think, but IMSO (In My Subjective Opinion),..and subjective memory probably...

1. Fairly comparable.
2. Not as exposed. This scramble is much steeper - the exposed bit on Amakehla is more on level terrain.
3. Not as exposed, and much less technical.
4. Roughly comparable, but maybe not as exposed, again simply cause on Amakehla the exposure isn't on steep terrain. Broadly speaking the Gray's Pass trail could be comparable in that its a trail on a steep slope - as with the Camel as ST2 mentioned.

I think the described approach from Lake's Cave is probably better. I've only done it from Pholela Cave - no trails or cairns until you gain the ridge and join the smugglers path. I studied the trail from Spectacle Cave crossing over the ridge towards Lakes Cave and concur that it doesn't look very clear (haven't done it myself).

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11 Jun 2010 10:04 #1376 by Sterkhorn
Thanks SeriouTribe2 and Intrepid for all the input. It gives me a far clearer picture of what to possibly expect. Sounds interesting.

I will possibly have to make my final decision when I get there. Planning on overnighting in Pholela Cave and doing day excursion to the top. I will possibly scout the 2 approaches to the pass the afternoon before.

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11 Jun 2010 10:45 #1377 by SeriousTribe2

If you are able to contact SERIOUSTRIBE [aka Karl] I recall he has some pics of the grass gully as well as the 'exposed' section on the pass when we came down in winter after Minaret. I am not sure how to direct a message to him from here.

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12 Aug 2010 12:51 - 23 Jun 2015 06:59 #1579 by Sterkhorn
Tried Amakehle pass this weekend - unfortunately did not make it as some in party were reluctant to tackle the first rock exposures on the slopes of the Amakehle.

In respect of the path from Spectacle cave, I cannot comment on a route from Spectacle, but a scramble up the ridge directly opposite Pholela cave joins up below the rock band with a well-defined contouring path towards Lakes cave (see photo). From the saddle between the two valleys, the route up the Amakehle ridge has an ill-defined path till the smugglers path below the Amakehle Amabili.

We noticed a well-defined path coming up from the Lakes cave/Minaret route and continuing across the ridge path,contouring towards a large iced-up waterfall in the next valley - does anyone know where this path goes and why it is so well-defined?

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Last Edit: 23 Jun 2015 06:59 by Smurfatefrog. Reason: embedded pics

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12 Aug 2010 22:32 #1581 by SeriousTribe2
Hi Sterkhorn

Sorry to hear you didn't make it. A nice little pass

The ref. to the path up from Spectacle is the same for Polela [Spectacle being the best cave]
Where the path up meets the ridgeline and one turns west to ascend, you can also turn east to descend. Following the ridgeline down brings you to a cluster of awesome tarns with structured rocks around. This is a fantastic camp spot. Completing the descent you will drop off the ridge [steep here] onto junction C53. Awesome pool at this spot.

Re the well-defined path coming from Lakes cave. Not sure if you are saying that the path heads North or West, but the path NW of lakes winds up the valley [splits in the valley] but both paths merge again and climbs to the ridge above Minaret valley. There are two waterfalls [frozen now]. One on the slope below Ama-Ambili, and one in the gully below the entrance to Minaret proper. The ill-defined path into Minaret crosses the former waterfall and leads in above the latter.
One can also continue N to NNE from the ridge and contour around onto the North slope of Ama-A and so into the Pass.
Or are you talking of a waterfall North of Ama-Amabili Pass??


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