On the way up some of us visited the cave shown on the hiking map, Giant’s Cave 1, which is on the true right of the pass at the base of the main rock band, not far above the path. In the photo below the cave is at the centre of the photo (in shadow) behind and above the two hikers.
There are two caves next to each other, separated by a rock pillar at the front, but connected at the back of the rock pillar.
The larger left hand side cave.
The smaller right hand side cave.
Tony at the left hand side cave. Both caves have quite low roofs.
Having reached the top of the pass early on Saturday afternoon we found the three GT guys, Roger, Mike and Daryl tenting close to the top of the pass on the Long Wall side. After greetings, handing over the guy’s resupplies and setting up our tents, I took the opportunity to summit Giant’s Pass Peak, 3229 m, the peak next to the pass on the eastern side. In the photo below Giant’s Pass Peak is the peak behind our tents, the top of Giant’s Castle Pass is in the rocks more or less on the line between the sun and shadow, and the peak on the left is the end of the ridge from Giant’s Castle towards the pass.
The next morning the GT guys were on their way bright and early, and I went exploring west to summit Long Wall and see if I could find a cave I had heard about to the west of the top of the pass. On the way to summit Long Wall I went around the top of the gully heading up from Giant’s Castle Pass, and once on the other side could look back and down on two caves. I summited Long Wall, 3260 m, shown in the photo below taken from the approach to Giant’s Castle Pass.
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The photo below shows the position of the caves in relation to Giant’s Castle Pass, and the grass ledge giving access to the caves with the path leading to the cave nearer the pass.
The cave nearer the pass, quite a shallow overhang and small floor area big enough for about three people.
Descending the pass later some of us visited Giant’s Cave 2, which is on the true left of the pass at the base of the main rock band, a bit higher than Giant’s Cave 1 and across the gully heading up west towards Long Wall.
Although the floor at the front of the cave is quite sloping, the floor along the back wall is flat and about four to five people could sleep here.
There is also another cave on the true left of the pass a bit lower down, opposite Giant’s Cave 1, but I haven’t visited this one and don’t know if it is useable. In the photo below, this cave is at the base of the lower rock band just to the right of the centre of the photo, and the rock dome above is the eastern end of the Long Wall.
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To find it from the top of Giant's Castle Pass is quite easy, head west towards Long Wall along the escarpment edge for about 120 m, slightly upward, and you will come to a grass ramp between the lower drop off and upper rock band, leading to the grassy ledge with the path. Follow the path for about 100 m along the ledge to the first cave, the second one is a bit further along and requires scrambling across a narrow rock ledge around the rock outcrop which can be seen in the upper photo of my earlier post.
This cave is indeed usable. The floor isn't that great, so it only sleeps about 3 people comfortably. You have to cross a short bit of very loose scree to get there too.
tonymarshall wrote: There is also another cave on the true left of the pass a bit lower down, opposite Giant’s Cave 1, but I haven’t visited this one and don’t know if it is useable. In the photo below, this cave is at the base of the lower rock band just to the right of the centre of the photo, and the rock dome above is the eastern end of the Long Wall.
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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intrepid wrote: Interesting how Giants Castle Pass offers so many caves.
I rate this fact is seriously underutilised. I highly recommend heading out from the car park and sleeping in one of these caves on night 1. Admittedly I haven't done it myself in that direction, but I have done that on Central Jarding Pass (which has no water at that altitude). There is something awesome about heading out from the car, getting just past half way up a pass and then spending the night there. Great views in the morning, and you are fresh and acclimatised when you wake up.
Ps. Giant's Castle region has plenty of these it would seem:
- 5 or so on Giants Pass
- I didn't check it out, but South Jarding seems to have 1
- Central Jarding has 2 great caves that I know of
- I haven't checked them out, but both Hlubi passes have a few possible caves
- Thumb Pass has a long skinny cave at the base of the main cliff line
- Spare Rib Cave on Bannerman Pass
- Uncheckedout Cave on Gypaetus Pass at about 2700m (hopefully it will get a proper name when it has been checked out)
That is quite a high percentage of decent caves half way up passes! By contrast, only Stealth Cave comes to mind for Garden Castle, and that is probably too close to the top to be considered as being half way up. I seem to recall Isicutula Pass having a cave around the base of the main cliff line, but that would be over 3000m.
The only person that I know has visited that cave is Tony Marshall - so he'll have to provide more info. I seem to remember him describing it as being quite small and not well sheltered. He has a writeup on most of the Giants Pass Caves (I believe there are 6 in total), I have personally only been to 2 of them.
Giants Cave is a logical one to use - Upper Injisuthi adds the Jarateng to day 3, Bannerman Cave is off route, Lotheni Cave is off route - and there is nothing I am aware of down the Mokhotlong. If you take the shorter (scenic) line from Mafadi, you could use Bannerman Cave - but it comes at the cost of some extra altitude for a bit less distance.
On my 5 day trip, our plan was:
Night 1: Sehonghong Shelter (a terrible little overhang that was too small for the 2 of us)
Night 2: Bannerman Cave (107km into the route)
Night 3: Easter Cave (we only reached Didima Cave - I was struggling, so we added an extra day)
Night 4: We used Ledgers Cave (although we had planned to be finished by then)
It is noteworthy that we did it in the opposite direction. Strictly speaking, our GT was the fastest group time on a south to north speed GT - but that record could very easily be beaten by practically anyone who puts in the training. Once the extra day was added, we opted for scenery over speed, so we did some funny lines and picked up a few "bonus" peaks.