South Saddle Pass

17 Nov 2018 19:25 - 17 Nov 2018 19:31 #74210 by tonymarshall
After ascending Ntonjelane North Pass and tenting next to the stream near the top of South Saddle Pass the day before, I descended South Saddle Pass. There are trip write ups featuring South Saddle Pass by Sabineand ghaznavid on the threads “Nguza-pass-trip-report” and Pins-pass-south-saddle-pass-tis-but-a-scratch”respectively , and a brief pass write up by AndrewP on the latter thread. South Saddle Pass is immediately south of South Saddle peak, andis named due to this. The top of the pass is quite narrow, and is mostly grass slopes with some boulders, as shown in the photo below. A vague trail comes and goes, and was not very distinct, as I remembered seeing when looking down the pass a few years ago, possibly because the grass was recently burnt now. 

 

Once through the narrow section at the top, the wider section is a boulder bed, and the upper section gives good views of the entire Cathedral Range. 

 

Heading lower, I stayed on a grassy slope on the true right of the gully, which would narrow again further down and have the bushes referred to in all the write ups. 

 

At the section where the bushes begin. 

 

A view back up South Saddle Pass, with the upper section of bushes. The photo below also shows that it was possible to descend this section on the true right (left looking back up) and avoid the worst of the bushes. 

 

Another photo showing the bushes being avoided on the true right, and the view further down the pass. Again a vague trail could be made out in places. 

 

Nearing the end of this section of bushes, and in the thick of the bushes. Here it was easiest to walk in the river bed, as the bushes were thinner here. Although avoiding the thickest areas of bushes was the uppermost factor in navigating this section of South Saddle Pass, I really didn’t find that the bushes restricted me much. I had no problem moving between and through them, and the only real influence the bushes had was to slow down progress. There were places with flowing water in the stream bed from about 1600 m altitude. 

 

A view back up the pass, from below the section of the strange bushes. This section now had the more usual sparse trees and bushes, and was easier to move through, as seen in the photo below. 

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Last edit: 17 Nov 2018 19:31 by tonymarshall.

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17 Nov 2018 19:37 - 17 Nov 2018 19:43 #74211 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic South Saddle Pass
In this section nearing the bottom of the pass, there were several obstacles, like the low rock band in the photo below. At this obstacle there was a clear trail bypassing it on the gentler slope on the true left (right of the photo looking upstream). 

 

The stream had a fair bit of water lower down, and although moving through the trees was easy, it now became necessary to find ways around the rock pools. 

 

A view downstream, on the true right of the stream, avoiding the water and trees in the stream bed. It was around here that I encountered the thorny plants mentioned in other write ups, but there were sufficient gaps between them to avoid them, and they really didn’t affect me at all. 

 

The stream had a few low waterfalls, and went into a deep gorge. I was forced onto a narrow ledge on the true right, which can be seen in the photo below, the first bit on the rock at the bottom right of the photo, then onto the grass slope ahead. 

 

A view upstream of the same area, showing the height above the river and the drop off at the edge of the narrow ledge. 

 

I followed this narrow ledge quite a distance, high above the river, until a side stream joined the river from the right, as seen in the photo below, which also shows some of the light green thorny plants. At the sidestream crossing, I took a mid morning break, then angled up the ridge to the right away from the river after crossing the sidestream. This is the ridge with the main Ntonjelane Pass path, which I considered would be a lot easier to walk on than continuing in the river until the path crossed the stream. 

 

The photo below shows the view up South Saddle Pass from the ridge on the true right at the bottom of the pass. 

 

Angling up the ridge on the right of the river, with the Ntonjelane Pass path visible on the ridge in the distance. 

 

After joining the path, I followed the path downstream past Waterfall Cave, and all the way back to Mnweni Cultural Centre, with the last 5 km along the road which was deserted and offered no chance of getting a lift.

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Last edit: 17 Nov 2018 19:43 by tonymarshall.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, elinda, ghaznavid, hikingle, Smurfatefrog, Riaang, Dave, WarrenM

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18 Nov 2018 09:41 #74213 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic South Saddle Pass
An excellent detailed write up as usual Tony! - Thanks so much, I have really enjoyed reading about all the Passes you did on this recent trip of yours.  I would be interested to know the name of the 'thorny' plants you encountered - is this the first time you have come across them?

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19 Nov 2018 10:45 #74218 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic South Saddle Pass
Thanks for the writeup Tony :thumbsup:

Was looking at this pass yesterday and remembering how horrible the overgrowth was when I did it!

The views may have been spectacular, but it is by far the least pleasant pass I have ever done.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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25 Nov 2018 12:14 #74270 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic South Saddle Pass
I don't know the name of these thorny plants, but they are often encountered in the thickets in the little berg, usually among a variety of other shrubs, but these are often the only ones that have thorns. Of course, bramble is the other thorny plant, but these are different.

The photo below shows some of these thorny plants, the one circled in red, and a concentration of others behind at the left. As mentioned, they are usually among other low shrubs, as can also be seen.



Another photo showing the view up after crossing the stream before I angled up the ridge to get onto the Ntonjelane Pass path. South Saddle Pass is on the right, with the sidestream and it's waterfall where I took the break on the left, with a concentration of the thorny plants in the foreground.



This is probably the same sidestream ghaznavid crossed (although probably higher upstream) and also encountered these thorny plants, which led to his unpleasant memories of the pass.

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26 Nov 2018 11:59 #74274 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic South Saddle Pass
It sounds like wild asparagus - asparagus africans.   Does it look like this up close?

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01 Dec 2018 07:18 - 01 Dec 2018 07:21 #74298 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic South Saddle Pass
Yes, it does look quite a lot like that, but I am not sure that the bushes are wild asparagus. The wild asparagus plant doesn't appear to have the vicious thorns that those plants have. Unless that short branch at the bottom right of the photo that appears to be dead and doesn't have 'leaves' but the short protrusions where the 'leaves' were is the thorny bit. I'm really not knowledgeable on plants, and perhaps need to be a bit more observant.
Last edit: 01 Dec 2018 07:21 by tonymarshall.

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01 Dec 2018 18:44 #74302 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic South Saddle Pass
Me neither.  Next time perhaps get a close up of the leaves.  ST2 will likely then be able to id it for you.

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