Giants Castle hikes - 4 days or longer

22 Jul 2013 14:50 #57769 by hartmrol
We are planning our 2013 hike (in the mountains for 3 nights at the end of September)where we are going up Bannermans Pass and looking for a pass to come down.....

Can anyone comments on:
1. distance and probable walking distance between Bannermans Pass and Giants Castle Pass?
2. is one able to descend any of the Jarding passes without ropes (or are they climbing passes)

Thanks
Rolf

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22 Jul 2013 17:53 #57774 by ghaznavid
Hmmm, my that's my "nek" of the woods B)

So I guess day 1 up to the top of Bannerman Pass, day 2 to the bottom of Giant's Pass and day 3 back to the carpark? Durnford ridge is a real toughie - according to my notes that I wrote after GT last year I rated it the hardest ridge in the Berg (thought it was 3rd on my list, but any way :laugh: ) - the point being, its a big ridge with a relatively narrow gap (Durnford's Gap) to reach the other side. Senqebethu isn't a walk in the park either.

Distance wise it is doable in 3 days, but it isn't easy. Navigation wise I would recommend you save a GPS track from the GT route saved on this site just in case.

I haven't done any of the Jardings myself - although I have done the full approach that is common to all 3 and the first 100m of the middle pass before realising that we would never get up and down again in time. The bottom of the path is very overgrown, but had good water in Feb this year. As far as I know they are all walking passes, are relatively easy, the middle one being the easiest. None have paths. Just beware of security south of Durnford ridge.

Also make sure you have the correct top gully for Jarding Pass - there are 2 "false" gullies that I think may be home to unnamed passes or possibly impassable route (I hope to check these out soon).

You can have a look at this thread to see a layout of the passes.
The following user(s) said Thank You: hartmrol

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14 May 2015 13:23 #63784 by Riaang
I want to do a 4 day hike in the Giants Castle area soon, but don't know where to go (no, not being lost :dry: , I don't know what route to do)

Here's my plan:
Day 1: go up to Bannermans hut (a real easy day 1 - taking a newbie along and don't want to kill him with a same day ascent)
Day 2: Go up either Bannermans or Corner pass, maybe up to UIC.
Day 3: Traverse accross to Giants pass, or possibly south from here (or day 2 could be changed to do what I have here for day 3 and then carry on further south)
Day 4: Down Giants Pass or another pass further South (if I change my day 2 route).

Can you go down from the escarpment to the Lotheni area and then walk accross the lower Berg then back to Giants castle car park in two days and if yes, how far are we talking about?

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14 May 2015 13:42 #63785 by Viking
I did something similar about a year ago.
Read about it here: www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/drakensberg-trips/55534-giants-castle-traverse.html

Day 1 was a head start to Bannerman hut. (3hrs)
Day 2 was up Corner pass and to a campsite near Bannerman pass top.
Day 3 we continued along the escarpment to a campsite in a valley behind the long wall.
Day 4 was to Giants Castle peak and return via Giants Pass.

I hope I remembered that correctly!
Days 2-4 were fairly long days, but we did knock off a few khulus along the way.

Your proposed Day 3 might be quite a long one, especially if you start from UIC.

There are passes on the Lotheni side but is a long walk round to get back to GC carpark. I wouldn't aim for this in 4 days personally, but I guess it depends on your fitness. Perhaps someone with a better knowledge of Lotheni would like to comment but I suspect that even by using Elandshoek to descend, you will be adding a fairly substantial amount of time to your hike.

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

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18 May 2015 09:20 #63802 by Riaang
Ok, so our intended route is now finalised. Last questions in this regard:
- What is the water situation like in middle June on the escarpment between Corner pass and Giants pass?
- Where are good overnoght spots in the above area? We will be sleeping on the escarpment for two nights, taking tents along. I was thinking of overnighting in Bannermans cave one night, but have no idea of where to sleep near Giants pass.

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18 May 2015 10:27 #63803 by ghaznavid
@Viking: that was such an epic hike, we need to do a route like that at Didima or Monk's Cowl some time :thumbsup:

@Riaang: Just remember that Mount Durnford is probably the most difficult ridge on the entire Drakensberg escarpment, it is steep, very high above the deep valleys on either side, and make sure you know how to find Durnford Gap (that is quite easy, provided you know where to look or take a GPS co-ord along). On GT last December, we camped at 3000m near the river so that we split the ridge into 2 more manageable chunks - this worked well.

UIC will make for a tough day, don't underestimate the 2nd highest ridge in the Berg - it didn't get that status by being small! From Corner Pass it is quite a bit steeper than from Leslies. There is a good trail to the Mafadi/Injisuthi Dome saddle though. If you take UIC, reaching Giant's Pass as part of a 4 dayer could mean a late finish on day 4 - although you could always bail at one of the Jarding passes if required.

- What is the water situation like in middle June on the escarpment between Corner pass and Giants pass?

Usually ok, but the river above Corner Pass is quite a drop from the top of the pass and if you are lucky, you might get a bit of water at the base, but don't count on it.

Also note that I have had issues with the Martial Eagle Stream (down Bannerman Pass), make sure you only use water from above the hut (or preferably a different stream).

- Where are good overnoght spots in the above area? We will be sleeping on the escarpment for two nights, taking tents along. I was thinking of overnighting in Bannermans cave one night, but have no idea of where to sleep near Giants pass.

Bannerman Cave is a long way away from water, as in over 200m vertically (if the river is dry at that altitude you may even have to drop further). It also isn't the nicest cave around - Giants Castle has great caves on some of the passes, but generally lacks good small Berg and escarpment caves. Giants Cave is a good option - there are actually 4 of them (that I know of), a trail on the pass leads to 1 of them with a very low roof (I hit my head while sitting in it), it was snowing outside and it was nice and warm in the cave - usually there is a nearby stream, but I guess it will be dry right now.

I personally wouldn't camp above Corner or Giants Pass as both regions get quite heavy local traffic (not sure if that is true in winter). Above Bannerman Pass there are plenty of great spots near water. The same is true of Langalibalele Pass (and the side gullies behind the Thumb and Bond/Potterill/Erskine), the valley between Durnford and Long Wall (aka the Jarding/Jarateng valley). There are also spots above Corner and Giants, but they wouldn't be my first choice. Water above Giants Pass isn't always reliable either, although you could always head a bit of the way towards the Tent and the Hawk to find a massive flat grassy field with a big river - the shepherds will probably be inland at this time of year.

What is nice about Giants is that you have your pick of exit routes if things go pearshaped or you fall behind schedule. I would recommend reading up on Bannerman Pass, Langies Pass and South Jarding Pass as these would be the exit routes I would use for each valley in the area. All of these passes have a writeup with photos somewhere on the site.

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18 May 2015 11:47 #63804 by Riaang
@Ghaz, Do you have the coordiantes for the gap on Durnford ridge?
I know that these ridges can be quite tough, especially after ascending one of the passes earlier the same day. Had a very strong wind last year when we went up the Trojan wall on route to UIC, got blown off my feet more than once. That was tough but quite an experience. Hahaha, we actually went faster up Corner pass than up that ridge with the strong wind, and of course it blew from the front :evil: Now, if it was blowing from behind that would have been super :laugh:

I've looked at all the passes except the Jardine one, wil read up on it thanks.

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18 May 2015 12:01 #63805 by ghaznavid

@Ghaz, Do you have the coordiantes for the gap on Durnford ridge?

There is a discussion about it somewhere on VE, can't recall what thread it was on though. I will see if I can dig it out for you.

I've looked at all the passes except the Jardine one, wil read up on it thanks.


I have done a hike report on all 3 Jarding Passes, north tops out north of Durnford, so Langies would be a more practical escape route (although north is easily the best of the 3 passes, and the easiest - although it is also the only one I have done with a day pack :laugh: ). Central has some big eroded sections (similar to Mbundini Pass, but much easier to avoid), the south pass has some ugly thorny bushes at the top and looks non-existent from the escarpment (look for the summit cairn to confirm you have the correct gully). The south pass is just easier to navigate on the way down, on central you spend quite a bit of time weaving through the cliff bands in the middle to avoid the big eroded spot.

Thread on the passes (with photos):
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55389-jarateng-passes.html?start=20

Ps. seeing as you have already done Corner, why not shoot for Judge Pass instead? It is a bit harder (although it has no scrambling), has a clear trail the entire way and is a rather scenic pass.

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18 May 2015 12:53 #63806 by Smurfatefrog
Durnford Gap -29.303883° 29.435067°

There is also this cave at the top of Giants Pass that Tony mentioned
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55369-giant-s-castle-pass.html?start=10

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20 May 2015 19:25 #63877 by intrepid
Discussion on "Getting over Durnford" has been moved to a dedicated thread for the peak as it was a handy bit of information.
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/10-drakensberg-peaks/55806-mount-durnford.html

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

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