Ledgers Pass, a New Pass in the Mweni

27 Aug 2018 17:21 - 27 Aug 2018 20:59 #73880 by Serious tribe
Story contributed by ST2, images ST and ST2.

HERE BE DRAGONS“I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighbourhood.  But the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Without a doubt, the Mweni valley is one of the mostspectacular in the Drakensberg, and viewed as it lies from the vantage of Ledgers Cave – the eyeball of the dragon – the view north from there is monumental.

On one trip there, having lazed around the cave long enough to grow bored, I wandered out towards the Mweni Valley side and looking down a large gully below a prominent nose I thought “well that should go!” Which it did. Rapidly and steeply down towards the narrowing of the Mnweni below ending, pretty much as abruptly as it has started, at the top of an overhanging waterfall with a dizzy drop below. The end. Or so I thought…

Climbing back up the gully I traversed out to the left hand side and ended up on a platform overlooking the valley viewed north. From this vantage I could see clear below me a gently undulating ridge that ran down and away to a point on the river almost opposite Shepherds Cave. From where I was it looked pretty accessible, and with exception of the very end of this ‘tail’ looked passable. A dragon to be slayed! – Some frantic shouts from above got me moving back up again however, having effectively ‘gone missing’ with my map, binoculars and  other standard issue carry lying on the floor of the cave, which was apparently the cause for some alarm. But the dragon had challenged, and on a subsequent trip into the valley I accessed the ridge from the valley end. Climbing through the steep grass and dirt ridge-end on entry, but finding the correct route only on the return journey down, I was not able to reach the ridge line point above the gully however, as one of those massive Berg storms swept in up the valley, breathing fire and forcing me to descend. But I knew it would link.

Recently Serioustribe and myself returned to finish it. Starting at the Cultural Centre we took one of the local ‘transporters’ as far up the spawning road as possible and then on foot the path North of the Mweni river. This is the first time I have done this route and it is a pleasure. Pretty much a single level contour through protea grassland down to the Mweni Pools and from there up the valley to Sheperd’s Cave. At this point one needs to cross the river to the side valley directly opposite Sheperd’s.  Entering the valley on the terraced left bank of the river there is a tenting spot (and now a small stove shelter) amongst the protea.    


The next morning the wind had picked up strongly from the NW. We dropped down into the river itself from the terraces and then followed the scanty animal track on the right of the river.   At a point where the valley narrows quickly there is a hoof scarred rock step-up below a small protea.

From here the valley is wider and walking directly up towards a small spur cutting down you can use this to easily access the ridge proper. A small ramp cuts between some rocky protrusions leading to the ridge which follows on up pleasantly easy.

Nearing the lower cliff bands the ridge seems to suddenly ‘end’ with a wide gap dropping away below. But moving left on a spine leads on up to the base of the first of the cliff bands proper. From here you can traverse easily right into the gully. We chose however to push on up the rocky ridge, climbing through a few easy little bands until coming to a ‘portal’ at the top of this ridge. Climbing through and down a short steep grass bank leads into the gully. We disturbed three little mountain rhebuck as we dropped in, and they moved off effortlessly on seriously steep ground in the direction of Mponjwane – always a wonder.

From here you can’t go wrong, as the gully is narrow and obvious in its direction. Very close to the top one reaches a rock band with a narrow crack closing to the cliff on the left. Walking up the rock band one reaches a blocky ledge that needs a left hand traverse, step around a block, and off onto grass.

It is exposed so for those who are nervous some rope mayhelp. This would be recommended for icy conditions, however in deeper snow the crack against the cliff would likely fill sufficiently to act as a natural ramp. No more than 30 meters further up finds the exit onto the grass ledge that runs the length of the base of the cliff above. Enjoy the spectacular view before moving east along the ledge to the cave. Ledgers cave is a nicely sheltered spot, but pretty far from water in the winter months. We had to walk a Km+ down the valley towards fangs to locate but, despite the bitter wind, it was a pleasure to see about 30 Cape Griffon sitting off on the summit who lumbered muttering off into flight as we approached. We left the following morning to an uneventful descent ofRockeries pass, one of my favourites, unlike its sister Mweni Pass! But another dragon was done – and so we present LedgersPass. F`afnir to the Manxome - Enjoy!

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Last edit: 27 Aug 2018 20:59 by Serious tribe.

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27 Aug 2018 18:11 #73881 by Stijn
Brilliant! That ridgeline looks glorious... Don't think I'll ever run out of reasons to go back to Mnweni :-)

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27 Aug 2018 18:44 #73882 by elinda
 I must confess when you first spoke about this route when Richard and I did that  Mnweni hike with you guys a few years ago, I wondered whether it was feasible............you proved otherwise so very well done to the both of you!  
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27 Aug 2018 19:13 #73883 by ghaznavid
Well done guys!

I actually asked Clem (who was a very active pass bagger in 70's) about this route a few months ago - he rates it was done from time to time in those days. The topic came up when he mentioned a rescue that happened in this gully many years ago.

I have been trying to make some time to visit Clem and try to find as many passes as possible that he has done, or knows others who have done that are missing from my pass list. I have added Ledgers Pass to my pass list, which brings the total to 150 documented High Berg passes. 14 are in the Free State and 3 in Eastern Cape, so 133 of those are in KZN.

So many of the older generation are passing on, and taking their hard-earned knowledge with them to the grave. I think it would be well worth the effort to make sure as much of this is recorded as possible. On the bright side - with sites like VE, hopefully the information accumulated by this generation should be readily available for the next generation.

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27 Aug 2018 19:21 - 27 Aug 2018 19:26 #73884 by Serious tribe
Brad saw this as an option in 2013, and we both have been dying to get get it done, so finally we have cracked it.

It was also a revelation carrying very light packs, about 10-11kg.  We dumped all the luxuries, including tripod and big cameras and lenses.  All i took with me was my G1Xiii (first time it went hiking) with its fixed 24-70mm lens it was more than adequate and the quality of the files is amazing.

Just a few additional images that would not fit into the previous post.


Last water in the gully near the tent site 

Brad points out the route

Rhebuck gully



Scree slope over

Starting the pass proper

Final rock slope before the vert bit

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Last edit: 27 Aug 2018 19:26 by Serious tribe.
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28 Aug 2018 07:34 #73885 by tonymarshall
Well done guys, I've been meaning to check this out for a few years too. Now I have a route guide to follow.

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28 Aug 2018 07:53 #73887 by SeriousTribe2
Hi Ghaz

Interesting. Somehow I had a feeling that this had been done before - not just by locals - by 'pioneers' to this area.
Have not heard of Clem (MCSA member?) but would be interested to hear more about the rescue in this gully, and the reason for it. The gully itself is not difficult at all, and in comparison to the traverse out of the cave (and one or two other spots) in Bollard, the objective exposures of Minaret, Xeni Pass and the South Gully off giant, it is a bit of a doddle.
I must add however, that when I first went down the full length of the gully in 2013 there had been a massive collapse of a section of the rockface above that had left craters the size of large cars in the slopes below. One of them at least 3m deep.
One or two other ideas in that area, but I'm pretty certain that Mweni Pass wont see me on it again before this one does.

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28 Aug 2018 08:04 - 28 Aug 2018 08:06 #73888 by SeriousTribe2
Thanks SeriousTribe for posting, and the pics, and the journey !

Fire with flint no problem! But this tech thing is still an issue. I'm going to try post an image here of the route (Karl's photo) which in dotted line shows the sections out of sight.
But as Elinda says - 'a glorious ridge'.

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Last edit: 28 Aug 2018 08:06 by SeriousTribe2.
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28 Aug 2018 08:05 #73889 by ghaznavid
I will see him next Thursday, I'll ask for more details on the history of the route and post it then. I seem to recall that the rescue had something to do with someone taking the wrong route, or getting lost in the mist. I should really keep notes from my conversations with him - he has done some fascinating trips in the past. I don't think he kept stats, but he must have completed at least 50 different passes (including dodgy ones like Injisuthi Pass) and has climbed many of the more obscure routes such as Ngaqamadolo Cleft.

He is part of the MCSA KZN management team.
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28 Aug 2018 12:18 #73894 by Viking
As a matter of interest and concerning rescues, I (along with the SAAF) rescued two Belgian Hikers at somewhere around 2600m asl in one of the gullys between Mnweni Pass and the ridge you speak of in this write-up . They were aiming for Mnweni pass! So getting lost does happen up there.

Also, is the cave named after a ledge or a ledger? ;p

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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