Pins Pass

11 Oct 2013 18:12 - 11 Oct 2013 18:32 #58775 by tonymarshall
Pins Pass was created by tonymarshall
On the September long weekend, intrepid, ClimbyKel, Sabine, Lorinda, elinda, Richard Hunt, Thora and tonymarshall ascended Pins Pass. We had overnighted in Shepherds Cave the previous night to allow several other groups to occupy ChiChi Bush Camp (nearer the bases of Mnweni, Pins and Manxome Passes, the goals of the various groups), a clever plan which kept us dry during the rainy night, and departed in misty weather up valley along the path to ChiChi Bush Camp, passing the one group’s campsite along the way and finding ccjoubert’s group still at ChiChi Bush Camp. The mist cleared briefly and we could see that it had snowed lightly the previous night on the summit of the Mnweni Cutback, although our route up Pins Pass remained invisible. After chatting a while we headed up the left (true right) grass slope of Pins, managing to avoid the bush in the valley and not being able to see much ahead at all.



At times the mist would lift a bit and we could see a bit further ahead, but still not very far, and we were keeping on the grass slopes and starting to pass through some rock bands.



In places the grass slope was quite steep, but we kept heading upwards, crossing several side gullies along the way. It was difficult navigating with the low visibility, as we couldn’t see ahead to select an optimum line.



Soon we could hear the Pins Falls ahead, and rounding a small spur towards yet another side valley caught sight of the falls as the mist lifted again.



We had to head quite steeply up the grass slope past the waterfall, and the mist closed in again. We then followed a pattern of traversing on the grass slopes, ascending side gullies and seeing the misty emptiness of the main gully on our right, not really knowing if we were on the correct route or not.



This pattern continued for a while until we reached a boulder slope, which we headed up, passing a cairn which was encouraging and lifted our spirits that we were still on the route.



Consulting the gps and photo of the pass which I had brought along during our lunch break on the boulder slope, we concluded that we were somewhere near the base of the western Mnweni Pinnacle on the boulder slope near the top of the red line on the photo below. (Photo courtesy of intrepid.) The broad grassy gully to the left of the photo, topping out at the middle of the photo, is Manxome Pass.



After lunch we continued up the boulder slope onto the grass slope above, and had the most amazing experience as we looked up to see the sun breaking through the mist and the silhouette of the Pinnacles right above us. Everyone was scrambling for their cameras to capture what was to prove to be the defining moment of the hike.

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Last edit: 11 Oct 2013 18:32 by tonymarshall.
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11 Oct 2013 18:15 - 12 Oct 2013 06:10 #58776 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Pins Pass
Now that we were above the cloud and mist, we could see the grassy slope up to the top of the pass, and realized that our navigation had been spot on in the poor visibility. Intrepid admires our first view of the Pinnacles.



In high spirits, we headed up the grass slope, with Kelly posing for photos on a rock outcrop.



With the top of the pass in sight, it was onwards up the grass slope.



We soon found Pins Cave on the left (true right) of the grass slope and some of us went to have a closer look.



Tony and Sabine in Pins Cave.



Towards the top of the pass we could admire the views to the Mnweni Needles, Ncedamabutho and Mponjwane, which opened and disappeared among the moving cloud and mist below.



Then we were up, at the top of the pass, with congratulations all around, and intrepid and tony experiencing a special moment of each having completed all of the official named Mnweni area Passes. The group had also proven conclusively that Pins Pass is not a rock pass, and that with the correct route selection there are no difficult obstacles on Pins Pass.



The group headed up onto the ridge to join the Mnweni Highway path heading northwest, before detouring off towards the escarpment to admire the view of the Mnweni Pinnacles, with the Mnweni Needles, Mponjwane, the Cathedral Range and Saddle in the background. The top of Pins Pass is out of the photo to the right.



That night we tented next to the stream near the top of Rwanqa Pass, before the next day’s challenge of descending the gully at Madonna and Her Worshippers, an unmarked pass which we hoped to achieve the first recorded use of.

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Last edit: 12 Oct 2013 06:10 by tonymarshall.

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12 Oct 2013 15:04 #58779 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Pins Pass

tonymarshall wrote: Then we were up, at the top of the pass, with congratulations all around, and intrepid and tony experiencing a special moment of each having completed all of the official named Mnweni area Passes.


Congrats guys :thumbsup:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
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14 Oct 2013 01:24 - 14 Oct 2013 01:30 #58783 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Pins Pass
Well done guys. That looks epic. I have always wondered about that pass, but the fact that it was designated as a rock pass, and knowing the steepness of the area thought that it would not be a good idea. Got to do it in the not to distant future! Do you have a gps track for it?
Last edit: 14 Oct 2013 01:30 by Serious tribe.

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14 Oct 2013 05:09 #58784 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Pins Pass
I think it's a similar case to Nguza Pass, if you follow the valley boulder bed and come to the waterfall, you are effectively in a dead end blocked by the waterfall in front and the steep valley sides; the only way up is with ropes, hence the rock pass designation. The key is to find an alternative route past the waterfall, which we did by following the grass slopes based on advise we had gathered from others who had done the pass.

I do have a gps track and can post it for you.

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14 Oct 2013 06:16 #58786 by elandman
Replied by elandman on topic Pins Pass
Wow, awesome route that! Well done!

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14 Oct 2013 06:19 #58787 by Frosty Ice
Replied by Frosty Ice on topic Pins Pass
Awesome post, really enjoying these trip reports... Will def be posting some in the near future.

Please add the GPS tracks file to the passes tracks.

This particular pass has definately slips up a few notches on my to do list... :-)

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14 Oct 2013 16:17 #58791 by Richard Hunt
Replied by Richard Hunt on topic Pins Pass
Well done Tony, an excellent write-up :thumbsup:

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14 Oct 2013 19:59 #58796 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Pins Pass
Pins Pass gps data is available in the Drakensberg Passes downloads, from ChiChi Bush Camp to the top of the pass.

Just a word of caution, for some reason all of our gps' were a bit erratic at places, so please don't try to follow the track metre by metre, but rather use it as a general route guide. The specific places where the track 'lost signal' are quite evident when viewing the track.

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14 Oct 2013 20:09 #58798 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Pins Pass

tonymarshall wrote:


Those big pointy things would be the Mnweni Needles, right? So the right hand gully would be unlikely to gain access to the escarpment?

The status of may-require-ropes rock passes such as Nguza and Pins is making me wonder if Hilton Pass is also not a pass where you can bypass the climbing if you use the correct route.

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

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