Smugglers Pass

03 Jul 2013 18:57 - 03 Jul 2013 19:09 #57542 by tonymarshall
Smugglers Pass was created by tonymarshall
Smuggler’s Pass is a route so named by intrepid as it was pioneered by smugglers, and uses parts of the Organ Pipes Thuthumi Ridge route and Thuthumi Pass. Typically Smuggler’s Pass would be approached from Mike’s Pass along the same route as the Organ Pipes Thuthumi Ridge route, which I have already described in my write up of Organ Pipes Pass.

Quite high up on the Thuthumi Ridge route, the path up to Organ Pipes Pass has two paths leading off it, one above and one below the rock outcrops in the photo below, both are very well used trails. I have used the lower split, and intrepid the upper split, and there isn’t much difference between the two paths as they join together behind the left side rock outcrop before carrying on towards Thuthumi Pass. In the photo below the path contours to the left in front of the right side rock outcrop and then climbs steeply up the gully between the two rock outcrops.



The photo below shows a close up of the start of the Smuggler’s Pass path where it splits from the Organ Pipes path.



The path contours below the rock outcrop on a steep sideslope before ascending the gully between the two rock outcrops.



Looking down the gully, the path below the rock outcrop can be seen to the left.



At the top of the gully the path flattens out and contours behind the other rock outcrop.



Soon after the route flattens out, you can look down on the Organ Pipes path below (going into the background), with the upper split to Smuggler’s Pass visible; this path can be seen in the foreground of the photo below, contouring away to the left from the Organ Pipes path. Note the Camel, Column and Pyramid and Cathedral Range in the background.



The two Smuggler’s Pass paths soon join, and the path ascends to pass around the front of another rock outcrop overlooking Thuthumi Pass, before starting to descend into Thuthumi Pass.



Looking down, the Thuthumi Pass path is apparent at the bottom left of the photo below, with the Smuggler’s Pass path descending into Thuthumi Pass on the right. The route only follows Thuthumi Pass for a short distance, before going out of Thuthumi Pass to the upper left at about the position of the divide between the sunlight and shade on the left hand slope.

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Last edit: 03 Jul 2013 19:09 by tonymarshall.
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03 Jul 2013 19:01 #57543 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Smugglers Pass
The descent of the path into Thuthumi Pass is steep in places.



At these rocks the Smuggler’s Pass and Thuthumi Pass paths join. The gully down to the right is Thuthumi Pass, and the Smuggler’s Pass path with the steep section of descent can be seen in the background.



After ascending the Thuthumi Pass route for a short distance, the Smuggler’s Pass path splits off to the left, and is visible in the foreground of the photo below, which unfortunately isn’t very clear with the light contrasts from the sunlight to shadow.



Looking back along the Smuggler’s Pass path, the split from Thuthumi Pass can be seen in the background, with the Thuthumi Pass path continuing to zig zag up to the top of the gully. This isn’t the top of Thuthumi Pass, however, as this pass has a nasty sting in it’s tail, and descends a bit below the top of the gully on the other side, before ascending steeply up past the Lower Ndumeni Caves to top out near Roland’s Cave.



The exit out of Thuthumi Pass is quite flat along the lower slope of Ndumeni Dome.



Near the top of Smuggler’s Pass you get a good view of the path down below on the other side of Thuthumi Pass, where it comes around between the two rock outcrops in the photo below before joining the Thuthumi Pass path.



Smuggler’s Pass tops out quite suddenly and unspectacularly at the head of the Makhapung valley into Lesotho, with Windsor Castle in the background in the photo below.



It could be technically argued that Organ Pipes and Thuthumi Pass can simply be connected by the Smuggler’s Pass trail, and that Smugglers Pass is just the short split off Thuthumi Pass to the summit - and that you can work out any combination of these trails you like. There are many other possible routes lower down between the Organ Pipes Thuthumi Ridge route and Thuthumi Pass, and the lowest splits off from the Thuthumi Ridge route just after the old fire lookout and is shown on the Hiking Map No 2 Cathedral Peak. But there is much merit in defining the split from the Organ Pipes Thuthumi Ridge route all the way to the top as Smuggler’s Pass because I think this is arguably the route with the heaviest use, and the connections between Organ Pipes and Thuthumi were developed by smugglers for this intention. I would tend to still describe the rest of the route (from Arendsig gate to the split from the Organ Pipes Thuthumi Ridge route) as part as "the Organ Pipes route" though, because this existed for much longer and is entrenched in people’s minds.

Smuggler’s Pass is a very useful route to access the summit area south of Ndumeni Dome, as it cuts off a lot of distance and altitude compared to using Organ Pipes Pass and passing over or around the front of Ndumeni Dome.

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04 Jul 2013 10:12 #57547 by Grandeur
Replied by Grandeur on topic Smugglers Pass
Thanks for the write up and pics. Nice to see what it actually looks like.
I went that route last year but remember little of the scenery as our ascent was in mist and rain:





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16 Jul 2013 17:07 - 16 Jul 2013 17:07 #57707 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Smugglers Pass
Thanks for the pics Tony. This route is really quite unique in the way it links two traditional pass routes and yet still has it's own summit. I believe it easily qualifies as among the most significant smuggling routes in that area.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 16 Jul 2013 17:07 by intrepid.

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17 Jul 2013 07:12 #57711 by Selous
Replied by Selous on topic Smugglers Pass
Hi All
Thanks for the very interesting write up Tony. I was wondering on the GT, Ndumeni Dome is a huge obstacle would it not be an idea to leave the high berg for a bit come down Thuthumi Pass link into the smugglers Pass route and rejoin the GT south of Ndumeni Dome. I know that it might break the rules a little but it is an option for the odd group wanting to do it that way. Just a thought.
Regards
Selous

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17 Jul 2013 07:40 #57712 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Smugglers Pass

Selous wrote: Hi All
Thanks for the very interesting write up Tony. I was wondering on the GT, Ndumeni Dome is a huge obstacle would it not be an idea to leave the high berg for a bit come down Thuthumi Pass link into the smugglers Pass route and rejoin the GT south of Ndumeni Dome. I know that it might break the rules a little but it is an option for the odd group wanting to do it that way. Just a thought.
Regards
Selous


Hmmm.. I'd also like some others' views on this. From the top of Thuthumi Pass, there is only about 50m of climbing left to skirt around the front of Ndumeni Dome. Descending down Thuthumi Pass to link up with Smuggler's Pass involves a steep descent and short, steep climb before descending Thuthumi Pass proper and contouring around to the top of Smuggler's Pass.

I suspect the Ndumeni Dome route is faster, but the Thuthumi/Smuggler's route would likely be more spectacular :thumbsup:
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17 Jul 2013 07:50 #57713 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Smugglers Pass
We did this shortcut on GT last year. I have also climbed Ndumeni Dome, so I have done this bit both ways. Ndumeni Dome is much easier. Mostly because the summit gully of Thuthumi Pass is rather steep :laugh:

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
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17 Jul 2013 08:36 - 17 Jul 2013 09:02 #57714 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Smugglers Pass
Yes, the Thuthumi - Smuggler's route is an alternative option on the GT, and on two of the GTs I've done we used this route. Although the Ndumeni Dome route (it's also possible to go around on the Lesotho side of Ndumeni Dome) is certainly quicker and easier, the Thuthumi-Smuggler's route is an interesting variation and change for those familiar with the Ndumeni Dome route. Very little of the Smuggler's Pass route is used when doing this, only the short flattish approach into/out of Thuthumi Pass from/to the summit south of Ndumeni Dome, and a different section/direction of Thuthumi Pass. The scenery is certainly more spectacular, you pass the two Lower Ndumeni Caves and get to do the business part of Thuthumi Pass, these steeper sections of the upper section of Thuthumi Pass make it more difficult, using this alternative route.

Another similar situation on the GT is the Elephant Gully, which can be used to avoid going over the ridge near the khulu Mahout behind the Elephant.

I agree with Selous that GT groups can do the route their own way, and I have been fortunate to have this opportunity several times. The GTs I've done have always been long duration hikes with an emphasis on the experience of seeing and exploring as much of the berg summit as practically possible, so I have never considered a fixed or set route as may be the case with the GT record attempts. Nor was taking the easiest route particularly important, although we obviously didn't go out of our way to intentionally make the route as difficult as possible. All four GTs I've done have had route variations, and these were planned and agreed to by the participants (some more willingly than others), and we had no intention of slavishly following a standard route, and thus no concern that we were breaking the rules, as our chosen route and variations was our rules. Many times some of the group or an individual would split off to look at something or climb a ridge or peak that appealed. Three of these GTs were done by several common members, and we intentionally varied the route for variety, including several of the overnight places. In my mind there is no set GT route, although most people who have done several GTs would have a preferred route.
Last edit: 17 Jul 2013 09:02 by tonymarshall. Reason: minor corrections
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17 Jul 2013 09:56 #57718 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Smugglers Pass
I fully agree that there is no set GT route - I'd say the only thing most parties would agree on is the endpoints, the passes used (Chain Ladders/Beacon Buttress and Thamathu) and that the idea is to follow the escarpment along the way. The first time I did a GT was over 19 days, including a descent and ascent of Leslies Pass to resupply ourselves at Injasuti. We followed a significantly different (and more scenic) route than the route we took when breaking the GT record, but then the goals in both of those trips were very different...

For the purposes of the GT record, there are checkpoints (Sentinel Car Park, Chain Ladders, Mont-aux-Sources, Cleft Peak, Champagne Castle, Mafadi, Giant's Castle, Thabana Ntelnyana, Thamathu Pass and the Bushman's Nek Police Post), but the route to be followed between these checkpoints is entirely at the discretion of each party. Hence variations such as the Elephant gully and Smuggler's Pass are definitely allowed (as would descending Ifidi and ascending Icidi mid route!), but not necessarily the fastest way of doing things ;)
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