Corner Pass / Judge Pass, Mafadi, Leslie's Pass Loop

18 Sep 2017 11:21 #72156 by Brueton
Hi All,

I'm heading up Mafadi this weekend with my father in law who was super keen to climb the highest point in South Africa.
We are both not very fit but have done a little training in between busy lifestyles.
He hasn't got much hiking experience so we are looking for the best way to the top.

Our plan was Corner pass up and Leslies down.
After reading on here about Corner Pass it seems to be a lot more scrambling etc.
Would it be worth going the extra few km's (does anyone know how many?) and rather do Judge Pass?
Thanks.

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18 Sep 2017 12:32 #72158 by ghaznavid
Define "not very fit" - on a scale of "park runs are very difficult" to "I've only ran three ultra-marathons so far this year"

Judge Pass is harder and further. I haven't done Northern High Approach, but I have done both summit variations on Corner Pass (I assume you are referring to the gully route, rather than Around the Corner Pass). The gully has two scrambles (I believe there is another one on the approach), the lower one is the highest, but the top one is the hardest - not that either is particularly difficult. You might want a rope to haul packs up the lower scramble. Once again - on a scale of finding staircases scary to being able to climb grade 30 trad routes, context of what you and your father are comfortable with is important here.

Personally I prefer Judge Pass, but mostly because I rate the approach from Giants Castle is quicker when bagging Mafadi. Seeing as you are coming from Injisuthi, provided you are comfortable with scrambling - Corner is the obvious choice for you.

On a side note - are you sure that your team is ready for this hike? It isn't exactly an easy route, and if you guys aren't fit enough and don't have the right gear for it, it could end badly. The views from the route are great (provided you head down to the escarpment edge below Upper Injiusthi Cave), but aside from that - Mafadi is relatively arbitrary, just a massive flat surface covered in cairns and puddles (I have been up it 6 times, the magic wears off quickly). If the borders were drawn differently, it would probably go unnoticed on many peak lists, not even being the highest point on that particular ridge. Something like Cathedral Peak has considerably better views for a lot less effort, and is still a 3000m peak that fits the definition of a mountain summit - unlike Mafadi that would need at least 100m more prominence.

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18 Sep 2017 15:05 #72161 by Riaang
Judges Pass is about 2 - 3km's South of Corner pass. Then between Corner and Judges you also have Around the Corner pass. Basically just before you get to the chimney section of Corner pass you turn left (South), you should see a bit of a path going South and upwards here.

The scrambles up Corner pass is not difficult but you could take a rope along to hoist backpacks if it is too hard to get up on all fours with the packs on. If the rocks are dry (i.e. no rain or snowfall) it is pretty easy. You didn't mention your specific route choice, but if coming from Centenary hut then you could also do the Northern High Approach. I much prefer this route to the traditional Corner pass ascent as it is substantially quicker and faster. When looking towards The escarpment from Centenary hut there is a pointy hill immediately in front of you. Go straight up it and at the top you will find a clear path going upwards. There is one scramble on this route that I found a bit risky but again, if dry nothing to worry about. One of the guys in our group dropped a water bottle and decided it was not worth the effort to go and retrieve it - with this gradient anything rolls down pretty far down the hill.

Leslies itself is also pretty steep in places, I prefer going up it than down. You don't mention the duration of your trip? If just for the long weekend then you are in for some proper hiking, 4 days would be a very comfortable hike. If you guys are not very fit then 3 days might be a bit tough. Don't underestimate the Trojan wall :-). Climbing that ridge after doing heartbreak hill and Corner/Around the Corner/Leslies could be cause for a sense of humor failure. Going from Camp to Leslies pass bottom in day 1 is very doable, then day 2 up the pass and to Upper Injasuthi cave (just pass Mafadi) on day 2 and then down Corner pass back to camp for day 3 is (in my opinion) the easier way to achieve your goal.

Enjoy

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19 Sep 2017 05:43 #72164 by HenkSeevinck

Brueton wrote: Hi All,

I'm heading up Mafadi this weekend with my father in law who was super keen to climb the highest point in South Africa.
We are both not very fit but have done a little training in between busy lifestyles.
He hasn't got much hiking experience so we are looking for the best way to the top.

Our plan was Corner pass up and Leslies down.
After reading on here about Corner Pass it seems to be a lot more scrambling etc.
Would it be worth going the extra few km's (does anyone know how many?) and rather do Judge Pass?
Thanks.


Hi Richard

Our original plan was also to accent via Corner Pass, I was however advised that it will be wiser to use Judge Pass due to the risk of getting Ice (Old Snow) on Corner Pass. We have therefore decided to walk the extra distance to get to Judge Pass.

When are you starting and from where? Would be nice to meet up with you guys on the route somewhere.

Regards

Henk

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05 Nov 2017 20:29 - 05 Nov 2017 20:30 #72326 by supertramp
Happy to report that we successfully managed to complete the grueling one day summit of Ship's Prow from Injisuthi Camp over the weekend of 21 - 22 October. Our party of 2 started out at 07:00 and reached the summit at 17:15. That bundu-bashing over one day is the purest test of mental toughness and I wouldn't wish it upon my greatest of enemies. Once reaching the riverbed, navigation is relatively easy providing that one follows the cairns and stay on the true left (right when ascending).

We descended Leslie's Pass on the Sunday and reached the car park at 15:30. Through some expert navigation, my girlfriend Trish managed to find the "holy grail" path on the northern side of the riverbed allowing us to skip the largest chunk of the dreaded bolder hopping. Having done Leslie's Pass myself twice before and failing to find the path on both occasions I can confirm that it saves one at least 30 minutes and heaps of frustration B)
Last edit: 05 Nov 2017 20:30 by supertramp. Reason: Edit
The following user(s) said Thank You: Stijn, JonWells, Biomech, WarrenM

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08 Aug 2018 04:34 #73799 by makeyser
Hi everyone.

We are headed out to summit Mafadi this weekend.

Looks like a good snow dump on the way for Thursday and Friday morning. This is my first time up to Mafadi and would appreciate some advice on the route.

Would going up Leslies and down Judges be better for the anticiapted snow or perhaps the reverse? My thought was to ascend the steeper Leslies pass in stead of having to try to navigate down it if it becomes slippery. 
I also thought that Judges is a better option that Corner. Again should it become slippery.

Thanks for the help

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09 Aug 2018 10:43 #73806 by Serious tribe
Not sure if you are going to get this b4 u leave.

Yes, go up leslies and down judges.  I would nt want to go down corner if there was a possibility of snow and ice.  Even going up it in those conditions is dodgy.  Judging from the snow cams though, there was little snow last night, and most of it has gone already in the south.

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15 Aug 2018 20:35 - 15 Aug 2018 21:07 #73835 by Smurfatefrog
On Thursday, for the long weekend six (Sean, Cora, Alta, Theo, Issy and myself) of us set off from Injisuthi just after 9am with the aim of summitting Mafadi. We knew it would be an adventure with a cold front forecast, especially with our route of choice being to go up Corner Pass
The temperature on arrival was 4°C, with sporadic light drizzle.
The office had kindly boiled us some water to have coffee while we waited for Theo to arrive from Pretoria.
We were expecting a miserable day, but luckily the rain held off apart from a few minutes here and there of light drizzle.
We had a lunch stop at Fergy's cave, and then made our way up Heartbreak Hill to Centenary Hut.

Fergy's Cave


We settled in and were soon joined by the other two VE led groups that had mentioned they were doing Mafadi. vivo101 and team decided to tent outside, while makeyser's team stayed with us in the hut. Shortly after we collected water the rain began, and continued the entire night. I heard sleet and a few snowflakes falling in the early hours of the next morning but it quickly turned back to rain to wash away any evidence. When it cleared slightly in the morning we could see the snowline at around 2600m.


The other groups, being of 4 and 2 teamed up and headed off just before 9am in the rain, while we left 30 mins later as the rain stopped.
The plan was to go via the Northern High Approach and then make a decision when we got to the gully on whether to head up the gully or use the Around The Corner route.


The first challenge was the scramble on the NHA to get up the rock band. We arrived just as the first team had got up, so they assisted by attaching their rope to my pack while I climbed up with it on. (thanks guys!) We then used our own rope to help some of the others and pull packs up. The route wouldn't be much of a problem in the dry, but the rocks were slippery in places.
 

As we rounded the corner and began the snowy traverse into the gully we realised we were in for an adventure!
We mostly followed the first team's footsteps through the snow which was very helpful.


We caught up to them again as we reached the first waterfall, again this would be comfortable in the dry but the rocks were completely iced up which got more slippery as more people scrambled up while having the rope wrapped around them.
Theo on the way up


The final scramble awaited, again team one assisted us in getting one person up and then we slowly pulled everyone and then packs up the icy rocks. Waiting for your turn was proving particularly cold, especially at this point as the wind was blowing snow down the pass!

Theo doing the tough job of getting everyone up the final scramble


Finally some sun, and... wind


The Judge and Popple


We eventually topped out at 15:45, and were now faced with the trek up the Trojan Wall ridge in snow that varied between 20cm and 50cm deep.
Team one had taken a different line so I was tasked with creating footsteps which got extremely tiring.
Half way up the ridge we were all feeling a bit dehydrated due to most of our water freezing, stopping was not an option in an estimated -8°C with wind blowing snow into our faces every few minutes.

Daylight fading on the way up the ridge

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Last edit: 15 Aug 2018 21:07 by Smurfatefrog.

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15 Aug 2018 20:43 - 15 Aug 2018 21:10 #73836 by Smurfatefrog
We eventually reached Upper Injisuthi Cave at 6PM, team one had already settled in and left us the entire front area.
Groundsheets down, every bit of clothing on and into sleeping bags to warm up!
We boiled all the water we had, thankfully it only took 2 cups of hot chocolate to stop me shivering.
Snow was collected for more hot drinks and dinner, and we went off to sleep at 9pm with the temperature hovering around -15°C, occasionally the wind would pick up a little which warms the actual temperature (not the wind chill!), to about -12°C.
 

The coldest I saw was -14.9°C
 

At approx 23:30 I heard the wind, occasionally felt it as it squeezed into my sleeping bag but was not concerned, I heard people rummaging around but didn't pay much attention and nodded off again. Then I was woken up by some prodding.. "Merv, we're covered in snow". I looked down to see my sleeping bag was now half white, dusted it off and was ready to go back to sleep.
Then I looked behind me to see my pillow was white, and so was most of the cave all the way to the back! I then felt more and more snow flying into the cave!
Issy and I initially tried to use the tent fly sheet to cover us, but this lasted about 30 seconds before the fly almost got blown out of the cave.
The only choice we had was to pitch the tent, I must admit this was not the most enjoyable part of the hike.... midnight, wind chill of below -20°C... getting out of my sleeping bag was extremely difficult!
I was wearing my only 2 dry pair of socks, and without thinking got these wet standing in snow while putting up the tent. I initially tried to put the tent up without my thick gloves, but this was impossible, gloves slowed us down but were essential!
After what felt like an hour the tent was up and 3 of us crammed into my 360° Cool Mountain, which is normally a 2 person max. The other 3 in our group did the same, while the other team got away using their fly sheets at the back of the cave.
We were at least warm in the tent with all the body "heat"
Someone mentioned the time was 12:10, which meant it was Cora's birthday, so she got some impromptu birthday singing, which helped lighten the mood.


We woke to calmer weather, with the temperature hovering around -11°C. Everything that could possibly freeze, was frozen. Melting snow and boiling water was a challenge, so I settled for a tiny cup of coffee, a cold breakfast and a bottle of ice to start the day.
Theo had thought ahead and put a shot of tequila in his water bottle which kept it mostly unfrozen, so we each had some.

We again set off rather late just after 9am on our way to Injisuthi Dome and Mafadi. 
While getting up these peaks does not require a lot of altitude gain, it was still slow going in thick snow. We were very relieved to be done with ascending snow slopes after Mafadi.

Injisuthi Dome summit


Mafadi summit


Injisuthi buttresses


From here it was a long trudge through some thick snow and large sections of ice that had formed on top of the ridgeline.


Water was still an issue, so we resorted to eating bits of ice and attempting to melt bits of snow while keeping water bottles warm.
We finally descended down into the valley behind Leslies Pass and broke through some very thick ice to get much needed water.


At 14:30 we started the descent of Leslies. We descending the top 200m altitude down the middle of the gully which was quite fun through thick snow, and then got onto the path as the snow thinned out. Theo had crampons so he used the gully for a bit longer.
Leslies Pass


The original plan of both teams was to get to Marble Baths but we all ended up camping at the base of Leslies.
We had an amazingly "warm" and calm night, we were able to sit outside and have a great evening which included the bottle of wine that had been carried for Cora's birthday. Our water bottles were only partially frozen in the morning so this was a win!


We set a record by leaving at 8:15 on day 4, expecting a frustrating trek to Marble Baths, however we were pleasantly surprised to follow a decent path the entire way, arriving at Marble Baths by 9:40am, where we met up again with the other group.
A few of the group tested the icy water before we did the final trek back to the car, and then off for a well deserved burger and beer!

oh, and apparently I have frostnip in a few of my toes, likely from snow turning into ice balls and getting trapped in the mesh of my boots. Nothing serious though

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Last edit: 15 Aug 2018 21:10 by Smurfatefrog.

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16 Aug 2018 07:55 #73838 by firephish
looks awesome! How was the road? OIC indicated they where hopefully going to try repair it this winter when i asked in May?

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