Ifidi and Icidi passes are infamous for being two of the most difficult passes that the Berg has to offer. Don't let this put you off though. With enough experience and fitness, Ifidi is one of the most satisfying Berg passes to tackle with 400 vertical metres of a narrow rock gully to negotiate before topping out on the slopes of Thaba Ndanyazana.
I've done all the passes from Cathedral Peak to Fangs Pass in the Mweni Cutback area, but what remains are the Icidi and Ifidi passes. My climbing partner did a hike up Icidi two years ago and he said it was definitely the toughest pass in the Drakensberg he has ever done due to the length of it and some surreal bundu bashing along the way.
Can anyone please supply me with first hand experience and information regarding Ifidi Pass. We want to attempt it in October but are concerned about the rock section. Two years ago we attempted Nguza Pass downwards but were stopped dead in our tracks a 150m from the top due to the huge vertical rock section. None of us are rock climbers. Is it possible to ascend Ifidi without rope? Thanks!
Ja we did Ifidi about 8 years ago. It's a really spectacular pass and well worth the long day required to get up it! There are 3 short (5m) rock scrambles in the final narrow gully near the top of the pass - most of them chimneys, if I recall correctly. These scrambles should not pose problems for most people as they are not exposed or difficult. I would maybe take a short rope along just in case packs need to be hoisted up after you (will make the scrambling easier).
I would say that Ifidi is easier than Icidi as the bundu-bashing on the approach is significantly less unpleasant. You pretty much boulder-hop all the way up the river from Cycad cave until you get into the final narrow gully for the last few hundred metres to the top.
Ifidi is an easier walk in than Icidi- the flood plain is wider and the bush not such an issue. In Ifidi pass itself, reasonably low down, I remember working round and threading through some enormous mega-house sized boulders with some interesting exits at the top. Perhaps there are other ways through these, but at those moments ifidi involved some scrambling moves. Higher up the pass the chimney moves were not harder than Corner pass and were, as Stijn says, well contained in the pass with no exposure (dropoff).
The problem with Icidi for me was the walk in from the cave (Jubilee?) up the valley. Its best as Stijn says to stay in the river, tempting as it might be to get onto the banks a couple of hundred meters above the river. The problem with these banks are that they are deeply incised by rivers joining the main river and, at least when we went up, there were nasty sharp sticks at shin height. We settled back into the river after a trying hour. In places when working up the river we had to get out onto the right hand bank which was steep and tricky. This was on a wet, wet December day though and in October you might be able to go directly upstream. The pass itself I recall as a lot of very steep grass banks, especially where you leave the river. It was a bit of a misty day and passes always seem easier when you can't see the top looming several hours above you. So I don't recall the pass itself being an issue.
Ifidi is much more civilised. In fact its a lovely valley that - separate from the main valleys feeding Mnweni and with nice views of the Tooth early on. I recall a lot of the kraals higher up the Ifidi valley being abandoned. Nice fruit trees in front of them though.
And one more thing, look out the thread/article on the real Ifidi Cave (rather than the false Ifidi Cave). I'm yet to make it to the former.
The Ifidi vs Icidi comparison is an interesting one cause it highlights the fact that the difficulty of a pass cannot simply be measured by how technical or rocky it is. As a side note, ice build-up can be a challenge in Ifidi, especially on the second step. And the icicles hanging over the gully come crashing down during the day.
I've also been at that point on Nguza and it is a real problem. There is one spot where one could climb up, but its a little dodge. Then there is a system of grassy gullies and exposed ledges on the slopes below the North Peak that could work and will get back to this sometime.
Be sure to read Stijn's write-up on Ifidi Pass in the Blogs if you haven't done so already, and get the GPS data download in Downloads section too.
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.