Christmas Pass

31 Jul 2013 22:46 - 02 Aug 2013 00:51 #57879 by intrepid
Christmas Pass was created by intrepid
In December 2011 a group of us did a trip to the Mnweni in which we explored an unmarked pass at Easter Cave. The group was ClimbyKel, diverian, Witchiwoo, Karen and myself.

Tony has been bugging me ever since to post more information about this pass. I've finally given in to get him off my back, and hope to post just the right amount of info that he goes and does it and then does a more detailed write-up himself ;)

The pass is the obvious grassy col directly below Easter Cave and can be very distinctly recognised from the Bell Traverse trail.

We descended the pass. It is not technically difficult but our route did involve some steep grassy slopes that needed to be slowly negotiated, with lots of ankle-twisting moments. We did not stick to the main gully because of blockages and found the smooth grassy slopes to the North to be more appealing. Our route is indicated in red below:



You could use the main gully. It does have one major obstacle which can be circumnavigated as indicated above.

It is bundu-bashy along the river at the bottom. There are boulders, thick bush, hidden trenches and a significant waterfall which have to be negotiated, all making for some good fun in a rugged African mountain setting. These magical and seldom-visited smaller valleys below the Cathedral Range are spectacular...but be warned, they are rugged.

To access the pass from the bottom, the diversion from the Ntonjelana Pass route is after Waterfall Cave, where the trail crosses the last major river before ascending directly up the ridge. There are trails in these lower regions that will help you initially, which of course vanish in due course, leaving you in easy grassy terrain which will become more rugged as you move up the valley.

View from summit of Bell, showing relation of the pass to Ntonjelana Pass:



Associated camping options include Easter Cave, Waterfall Cave, and the campsite right by the smuggling route which diverges from the Notnjelana Pass trail at the river mentioned earlier.

As for the naming of the pass, our group never did agree on a suitable name, and we were not too worried about it. It could easily be referred to as "Easter Pass" to follow the associated named feature of significance, ie Easter Cave. This is certainly an option. It seems a bit bland though. We did the hike a week before Christmas and some thought that Christmas Pass sounded more interesting and would be a playful twist to the name Easter Cave.

Perhaps an appropriate way to establish a name such as this would be to make a suggestion, open it up to the community and let is stand the test of time. If it sticks, great, if not, then let a more suitable name be found. I for one am not offended if the majority don't like the name. Bear in mind too that these names are largely "colloquial" ie for our own use and reference, rather than "official" ie will be included on survey maps. There is also no recorded history or reference to this pass. It is difficult to say if its ever been used before, and if the locals have any knowledge of it. Either way, its there and can be used. If you are a Mnweni-ite definitely go try it sometime.

GPS data to follow in the Downloads.

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

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Last edit: 02 Aug 2013 00:51 by intrepid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Stijn, Selous, ghaznavid, brio, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall

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01 Aug 2013 06:45 #57884 by Selous
Replied by Selous on topic Christmas Pass
I like Christmas Pass.

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01 Aug 2013 06:47 #57885 by BobbyStanton
Replied by BobbyStanton on topic Christmas Pass
Would it be possible to continue on the grassy traverse and join the Ntonjelane Pass path for the descent. ie. are there any obstructions. Google Earth is not too helpful about getting around that prominent buttress just north of your descent route.

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01 Aug 2013 15:26 - 01 Aug 2013 15:28 #57894 by diverian
Replied by diverian on topic Christmas Pass
The waterfall down in the valley mentioned by intrepid

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Last edit: 01 Aug 2013 15:28 by diverian.
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01 Aug 2013 19:59 #57896 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Christmas Pass
Thanks intrepid, my bugging has finally paid off.

We are planning on doing Christmas Pass over the August long weekend and I will certainly post a write up with photos if we succeed.

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02 Aug 2013 01:18 - 02 Aug 2013 01:21 #57897 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Christmas Pass

BobbyStanton wrote: Would it be possible to continue on the grassy traverse and join the Ntonjelane Pass path for the descent. ie. are there any obstructions. Google Earth is not too helpful about getting around that prominent buttress just north of your descent route.

Not totally sure, but gut-feel I'd try it, would be an interesting variation, though lots of ankle-strain. This is an angle from the Ntonjelana side, looks like the buttress in this shot may be the one in question.


Incidentally, you can link up Easter Cave and Twins Cave in a similar manner.

While I was at it I pulled out this shot too, this was probably the trickiest bit on the traverse section of the pass:


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

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Last edit: 02 Aug 2013 01:21 by intrepid.
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20 Aug 2013 19:22 - 21 Aug 2013 19:31 #58138 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Christmas Pass
We descended Ntonjelane Pass on the long weekend and got a good look at that grassy traverse. From the Ntonjelane route there is quite a trail along the grass ledge below the cliffs, getting fainter the further it goes.





Having had a look at the upper section of Christmas Pass too, I think it could definitely be possible to link the two routes on the grassy traverse.

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Last edit: 21 Aug 2013 19:31 by tonymarshall.
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21 Aug 2013 19:20 - 21 Aug 2013 19:27 #58169 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Christmas Pass
On the August long weekend, elinda, Richard Hunt, Thora and tonymarshall descended the upper section of Christmas Pass. We had overnighted in Easter Cave, and departed in a freezing wind down the slope to the top of Christmas Pass, a few hundred metres away. As we entered the pass we were grateful to be sheltered from the wind.



There is a short grass slope at the top of the pass, then the gully becomes scree and boulders. The prominent background peaks in the photo below are Bell, Cathedral Peak (partially obscured by Bell) and Outer Horn. intrepid’s group would have left the gully to the grass slope to the left at about this point, as indicated on the diagram in intrepid’s post.



We had decided to try and descend the pass in the gully, and use the detour around the obstacle (two waterfalls) lower down on the true right grass slope. The first low (and dry) waterfall in the photos below was easily downclimbed, but we were becoming concerned at the steepness of the gully sides and the burnt grass on the right slope, which would not afford any handholds.







It became apparent that we would not be able to descend Christmas Pass by this route, as we approached the waterfalls, with the left side slopes too vertical, and the right side slope being burnt. The second waterfall is about 8 m high with vertical rock all around, and just downstream the third waterfall was visible, at the bushes near the top of the photo below. There was a destroyed blue gaper pad mattress beneath the second waterfall.



Just above the waterfalls, Richard and I scouted for a way around on the left side grass slope, but were not confident of the sustained steep grass slopes. I went quite far around the grass slope and could see the grass slopes in intrepid’s diagram ahead across a dodgy traverse through the next side gully. (Photo courtesy of elinda)



So we headed back up the pass to intrepid’s exit around to the left, scouted a bit on this route to see the sustained grass slopes and bushy valleys below, and pondered that we may not have sufficient time left to complete the entire route down to the Ntonjelane valley and out to the MCC. We headed back up to the top of Christmas Pass, traversed around the Lesotho side of Easter Cave Peak and descended Ntonjelane Pass, arriving back at the MCC at 18h00.

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Last edit: 21 Aug 2013 19:27 by tonymarshall.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, diverian, JonWells, Selous, ghaznavid, Smurfatefrog

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21 Aug 2013 19:28 #58170 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Christmas Pass
Thanks for sharing :thumbsup:

tonymarshall wrote: we were becoming concerned at the steepness of the gully sides and the burnt grass on the right slope, which would not afford any handholds.


Gotta love the Berg :laugh:

"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." Douglas Adams

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23 Aug 2013 04:34 #58210 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Christmas Pass
Would not have anticipated the severity of that gully further down...and thats looking at it from the buttresses above Twins Cave and from the Bell Traverse. When we did the pass it was not totally clear in our own minds if our route was better than the gully or not, even afterwards. Sorry for even suggesting that and sorry it didn't work out for you guys!

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

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