Cockade Pass

04 Apr 2016 21:04 #67634 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Cockade Pass

Mattyk wrote: I would recommend steering clear of this pass just for the sole reason of how frustratingly thick that bush is (3kms took over 2 hrs).

I did this route the other way round last year (day hike up Cockade down Bell Traverse) - the trick with the lower section is to ignore the cairns. If the river is low, simply follow the water course.

I have done Cockade Pass 3 times, the first time we also struggled with the overgrowth - but the second and third time, we knew better and stayed in the river. I rate it as comfortably the most scenic pass in the Berg (well, out of the 59 I have done anyway) - definitely not a pass to miss out on.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins
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20 Jul 2016 00:28 - 22 Jul 2016 19:11 #69208 by Dave
Replied by Dave on topic Cockade Pass
On the Youth Day weekend my sister and I did the three-day loop up Cockade and down Mlambonja.

For all the frustration that’s been expressed about the bushy approach to Cockade, I have to say that we experienced little difficulty with this section - and my sister is not a fit hiker. We took Ghaznavid’s tip and started off by keeping to the watercourse, but we soon found a well-marked path heading up the riverbed on the right, which was easy to follow and required almost no bush-whacking at all. The vegetation is naturally thinner in winter, but this section certainly didn't seem as hard as it's been made out to be.

We followed this path up to the terrace section, which turned out to be harder going than the riverbed because of all the weedy shrubs; so it is probably easier (at least in winter) to simply stay in the riverbed and follow the path. One could stay on the terrace all the way up to the woody gully just before the waterfalls, but the lack of a path slows you down.

One has to second Ghaz’s rating of Cockade: the views are indescribably magnificent, as even photos cannot really convey:

There is a continuous path all the way up the right side (true left) of Cockade Pass until one moves into the bouldery gully:

Thereafter one comes to a rocky bowl, and it is not obvious to the first-timer that the pass continues up to the left. In fact, there is a narrow gully heading out of this bowl to the right, which may allow for a shortcut to the Elephant traverse. Being unfamiliar with the pass, we decided to just keep to the path:

It's a stunning pass, with amazing vistas. The only difficult aspect of Cockade, in my view, at least in winter, is the steepness.

We were lucky with the weather and hiked in t-shirts during the day. Standing outside at night was never unpleasant, though we were well-attired. But as we summited we were cut through by a bone-chilling wind. Patches of icy snow had been clinging to the south-facing mountain-sides for days, and they made the path pretty slippery in places.

Then on the way to Mlambonja Pass we came across a pile of large white sacks lying by the Kwakwatsi River - apparently unattended. As we rounded a knoll, however, we startled two smugglers enjoying the last rays of afternoon sun, and, after exchanging friendly waves, continued on our way. But then the smugglers promptly jumped up and loaded their donkeys and started following us, which wasn’t the most comfortable feeling (they probably just feared we might report their position). So we picked up the pace, and from the top of Mlambonja watched them cross the river and carry on along the contour path, probably towards Ntonjelana Pass (it was full moon or very near it) or perhaps to Easter Cave. I really feel for these guys: life up there must be hard enough as it is, and this is a hard way to make a living.

Sunrise from Twins Cave:

And a look back at the exquisitely beautiful Mlambonja Valley:


It's a very beautiful route, certainly the most beautiful route I've done in the Berg so far.

But would someone please explain to me where on earth Twins Annex is? I walked all the way round Twins Peak until I came to a large cairn, after which the path seemed to descend a small buttress and then perhaps shortcut into Mlambonja. But I simply could not find the cave.

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Last edit: 22 Jul 2016 19:11 by Dave. Reason: Repetition

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20 Jul 2016 06:59 - 20 Jul 2016 07:03 #69210 by Papa Dragon
Replied by Papa Dragon on topic Cockade Pass
Great article and nice pics..

"But would someone please explain to me where on earth Twins Annex is? I walked all the way round Twins Peak until I came to a large cairn, after which the path seemed to descend a small buttress and then perhaps shortcut into Mlambonja. But I simply could not find the cave."

It's the other way Dave.
As you come over the col between Twins and the escarpment, where the path to Twins cave veers off to thright, there is a path to the left as well.
The Annexe is a couple of hundred metres along this path...
Last edit: 20 Jul 2016 07:03 by Papa Dragon.

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20 Jul 2016 07:36 #69213 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic Cockade Pass
This is the view from Twins Annex

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20 Jul 2016 19:56 #69225 by Dave
Replied by Dave on topic Cockade Pass
Thanks. I figured it might be that side, and I walked along the path for a bit, but evidently not far enough.

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21 Jul 2016 16:35 - 21 Jul 2016 16:36 #69236 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Cockade Pass
If you continue on the path past Twins Cave Annex, there is a second Annex Cave a little further on too.
Last edit: 21 Jul 2016 16:36 by tonymarshall. Reason: spelling
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23 Apr 2019 22:08 - 23 Apr 2019 22:21 #74921 by Nicolaas
Replied by Nicolaas on topic Cockade Pass
I am also amazed at the views doing Cockade pass and Elephant gully. Went up the pass, in good weather, which made the hike enjoyable. From the campsite, after about 200 m the path exits the boulder bed to the right heading upward. The path is always faint, but from my experience there were quite a few small cairns which keep you on track if you lose the path. From what I remember, the path only crosses the river once in the subsequent lower section. About 50m, and then you go back to the right hand side. The path then stays on the right (a few terraces following each other, the path rarely deviates more than 30 m from the river) all the way to the final section where you get forced down to the river. The river bed is now much steeper, and you see a few waterfalls. You cross the river to the left, and after about 100m you turn left into Cockade. The path then continues on the right, before it starts crisscrossing the river as you enter the narrow river/boulder bed with towering walls around you. There seems to be two final gullies linking to the escarpment, in the last 100m of vertical. The right hand gully has a large cairn at the top and tops out slightly lower, although I went up the left gully. On the escarpment, they are about 20m apart.

The pass itself is properly steep, but the views make up for the toughness. I can see how in wet weather or mist it can cause suffering. I also think descending the pass will be tougher on the legs, and the path could be lost more easily. Minimal bush whacking when following the path on the right upward, and long pants help with the short shrubs on the terraces.

Ultimately when looping Cockade with Mlambonja, you really get great views of the Cathedral range and the Xeni cutback. The most scenic loop I have done.

A few photos:
Early start near the Cockade campsite

One of the terrases on the true left of the Xeni river

Final section leading up to the Cockade/Xeni split. You cross the river from right to left, roughly in the middle of the photo where the waterfall is visible.
After about 100m turn left into Cockade pass proper

The steepness of Cockade is not to be underestimated.

Final (left) gully, with light from the escarpment shining through

A magnificent view from the top

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Last edit: 23 Apr 2019 22:21 by Nicolaas.
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24 Apr 2019 07:57 #74922 by Dave
Replied by Dave on topic Cockade Pass
Thanks, Nicolaas - a good description of the path in the notorious lower valley, which I also found not so bushy and fairly easy to follow.
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25 Apr 2019 13:11 #74930 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Cockade Pass
Nicolaas,

That whole area around Cockade is really super spectacular. Next time, try one of the Xeni legs or Mlambonja Buttress south pass. I'm sure you won't be disappointed with these options.

I've done Cockade down both in good weather and rainy weather, and in the rain it was very dodgy. Lots of loose rocks on this pass in general, but the wet made them very slippery. According to my wife, to date, one of her toughest down passes (in the wet).
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25 Apr 2019 15:33 #74936 by AndrewH
Replied by AndrewH on topic Cockade Pass
We came down the pass in the Wet on Saturday and it was super slippery on the wet rocks as well as the grass as we kept losing the path. All in all I think it took us 3h30 to do the 5km from the top of the pass to the contour path. 

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