Ngwangwane Pass / Bushman's Pass

28 Apr 2019 21:17 - 28 Apr 2019 21:18 #74954 by intrepid
This is the official thread for Ngwangwane Pass / Bushman's Pass in the Bushman's Neck area.

It is labelled as Ngwangwane Pass on Slingsby's map and as "Bushman's Pass (Ngwangwane Pass)" on the Geomaps. I am not sure on the history of the names but the pass may have been renamed after the Bushman's River which defines the route.

The summit of the pass is broad, grassy, and not clearly defined, which is the case with a few other passes at Bushman's Neck too. The walk up the Bushman's River valley is straightforward and is trailed up until Bushman's Cave, where there is also a good water supply. The summit is quickly and easily gained beyond the cave, but there is no clearly defined trail.

Relatively easy terrain and route-finding beyond the cave:


GPS track available for download .

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

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Last edit: 28 Apr 2019 21:18 by intrepid. Reason: typo

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24 May 2021 09:46 - 25 May 2021 07:35 #76894 by tonymarshall
In mid May, I did a three day hike at Bushman's Nek, ascending Bushman's Pass (Ngwangwane Pass) on the first day and overnighting in Ngwangwe Cave, summitting khulus and doing some exploration on the second day, overnighting in Mzimude Cave Annex, before descending Mzimude Pass North and walking back to Bushman's Nek on the third day. 

Since the ascent of the pass itself is quite short, only some 250 m vertical, and it tops out very low at around 2540 m, I will include some detail of the walk in to the pass. From Bushman's Nek EKZNW office, you go through the Bushman's Nek border post towards Lesotho, and follow the path along the Bushman's River. The photo below shows a view upstream from the path near one of the river crossings, with the high peaks Thaba Ngwangwe and Andre's Knob in the background, left and right respectively.  

 

Halfway Cave (also known as Slab Cave) is reached after about 5 km - so roughly halfway to the pass - and is on the true left of the river. The cave has a narrow sleeping area behind a fallen slab of rock, and can sleep about three people end to end.  

 
 

The path crosses the river several times, and in places gets quite high above the river.  

 

About 10 km from the start, another well known cave, Bushman's Cave, is situated on the true right of the river.  

 

This cave has several walled sleeping areas and can sleep about ten people comfortably, in good shelter, and at a push could sleep twelve people as indicated on the hiking map.  

 

There is also some rock art in Bushman's Cave, not in spectacular condition and mostly quite faded, and Bushman's Cave is one of the few caves with rock art in the berg that hikers are allowed to use.  

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Last edit: 25 May 2021 07:35 by Smurfatefrog. Reason: Corrected side of river of Bushmans cave

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24 May 2021 09:53 - 24 May 2021 10:00 #76895 by tonymarshall
Up to Bushman's Cave the trail is quite good, and it continues to be good for a few hundred metres upstream of the cave into the base of Bushman's Pass (Ngwangwane Pass), which is on a southern tributary of the Bushman's River. The photo below shows the trail at the left (true right) of the gully of the pass at the base of the pass. 



Some views of the lower reaches of the pass with the trail on the left (true right) of the stream as I ascended. 

 


Higher up, I lost the trail, or there isn't one, but it was easy just to continue ascending to the left of the stream, just out of the bushy plants at the stream, after I had had lunch at about 2400 m where the last water could be collected. 

 
 
 

There were lots of animal paths at different heights contouring across the pass, and some horses grazing near the top of the pass. 

My summit photo at the top of Bushman's Pass (Ngwangwane Pass).  



From the top of the pass, I went up the slopes of Thaba Ngwangwe to overnight in Ngwangwe Cave at about 3000 m, after collecting water about 200 m vertical below the cave, and ascending the summit of Thaba Ngwangwe peak. I had previously done the pass, the summit of Thaba Ngwangwe, and overnighted in Ngwangwe Cave about ten years ago, before I knew about VE, so it was not my first time doing this, and good to repeat it again.

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Last edit: 24 May 2021 10:00 by tonymarshall. Reason: Correct formatting
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, Stijn, JonWells, firephish, ghaznavid, hikingle, supertramp, TheRealDave, WarrenM

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25 May 2021 07:30 - 25 May 2021 07:33 #76899 by wildingo
Hi Tony,

Did you do this hike on your own; what is the security situation like in this part of the Berg?  

It looks quite an appealing path to the top--not likely to fall off anything :-)

Thank you for the write-up and the great photographic record.

Chris

 
Last edit: 25 May 2021 07:33 by wildingo. Reason: saw the GPX file for download
The following user(s) said Thank You: tonymarshall

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25 May 2021 07:36 #76900 by Smurfatefrog
About 10 km from the start, another well known cave, Bushman's Cave, is situated on the true left of the river.  
I fixed this to true right
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26 May 2021 09:59 - 26 May 2021 10:03 #76902 by tonymarshall
Hi Chris,

Yes, I did this hike on my own (as I often do), and did not have any security issues or concerns at all. I did see some local shepherds in Lesotho in the area inland of the tops of Thamathu Pass and Ngwangwane Pass, where there are numerous kraals, but they were far away and not likely to make the distance and ascent to where I was, and even if they did it would most likely have been a friendly encounter in this area.

Bushman's Pass / Ngwangwane Pass is an interesting alternative to the more commonly used Thamathu Pass, and it is a pity that it appears to be less used and popular. Very easy gradients and no exposure at all. As with the other passes of the area, this pass tops out low, so if you are moving north (or doing Devil's Knuckles) there is quite an ascent to contend with to get to the top of the summit proper at around 3000 - 3100 m.

Thanks for the correction Merv, perhaps a symptom of old age creeping up on my part!
Last edit: 26 May 2021 10:03 by tonymarshall.

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