Organ Pipes Pass - Thuthumi Ridge Route

29 Dec 2007 10:36 #17 by Jerome
Does anyone know what the current state of Organ Pipes is? I am thinking of doing a day climb and was wondering how much time it takes using the Mikes Pass and Camel routes respectively? Are there any areas where it is possible to go off course? Also, is there any water on these routes this time of year?

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29 Dec 2007 13:36 #18 by intrepid
Haven't been up there recently though the biggest factor affecting Organ Pipes are the Basuthos, as many will know already. There is heavy traffic on both routes and many new trails have been formed which can make it a little confusing at times. Basuthos on social and shopping visits are very frequently encountered on the Camel route during the day and the smugglers are generally encountered in the late afternoon and at night. Generally the smugglers are not threatening when encountered on the trail, though be on your guard.

Assuming you are not carrying heavy, take about 5-6 hours to ascend either route and about half to two thirds of the time to descend, though this is very subjective.

For the Thuthumi route, take the route up the grassy spur after the old forestry station (around junction C10) - if KZN Wildlife are driving you to the top of Mikes Pass, you may be able to persuade them to take you all the way to C10 since this section is a restricted jeep track (which extends beyond The Neck). This route has become more prominent in recent years and saves a significant amount of time than going via The Neck. There are many confusing trails around here, generally aimed at avoiding the lookout hut (the smugglers trying to avoid the army camping there). There are also paths connecting to the Thuthumi Pass trail since the smugglers combine different sections of the routes depending on where they are coming from and going to, and if the army is at the lookout hut. Spot the lookout hut from the forestry station and take the most direct and clearest trail to it. From the hut it's a little less confusing, following the ridge to the base of the Organ Pipes, contour around to the final rocky gulley to the top. Don't be confused by trails branching off and crossing over the ridge...the most prominent is near the base of the Organ Pipes at S29 00.635 E29 11.824 (WGS84).

Water should not be much of a problem at this time of year and there have been good rains. There will be water between Mikes Pass and the beginning of the ascent to the hut. Last time I was at the hut the rain water tank had collapsed so don't rely on there being water here (the army may have fixed it). The ridge section is likely to be dry, though with heavy rains water could be oozing out everywhere. From the base of the Organ Pipes onwards you are likely to encounter water again. I've even found water in the dry season near the final gulley.

The Camel route has less confusing trail variations. It's pretty straightforward from the hotel, passed Doreen Falls and on to the contour path at Junction C8 - water also being available. The trail is pretty good climbing up to the Camel, the only significant junction being at S28 59.604 E29 11.539 (WGS84), which is a shortcut to junction C9 and only important if you are going/coming from Mikes Pass or Tryme Hill. Water will be less plentiful on this section. There will be small streams again along the section that is marked with the thick pink line on the map, above the Camel. The trail does also get washed away on this section and there are tricky bits (2-3 meters at a time) where the trail ceases to exist on very exposed slopes. These are extra tricky when it's wet! :lol:

The Camel route joins the Thuthumi route just below the top in the rocky gulley section at S29 00.623 E29 11.089 (WGS84). Don't miss this one!

Enjoy and let us know how it went.

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

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02 Jan 2008 17:27 #21 by Jerome
Thanks for the excellent info. FYI, a landslide has apparently blocked off access to Arendsig up Mike's Pass, but it is possible to drive up about half way. It is also possible to get a lift with Wildlife from Didima Hotel, at about R30 pp (for the half trip). I take it that the Camel route is not recommended for newbies with exposure issues?!

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03 Jan 2008 08:42 #23 by intrepid
If there have been landslides on Mikes Pass it could be very interesting on the Camel Route!

It can be tricky for people that have exposure issues, I've been with people that have struggled with it. It's not insurmountable though, considering that Basutho families make use of it too (some very young and some very old)!

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

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07 Jan 2008 09:56 #36 by fatshark
I will be heading up the Camel route on Thursday so will let you know what the condition of the path is like :-(

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08 Jan 2008 08:34 #38 by intrepid
Thanks fatshark, let us know and enjoy it! I'll probably be coming down that way at the end of the month. It doesn't sound like Jerome and his party had any major difficulties.

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

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14 Jan 2008 12:26 #45 by fatshark
After all the rains, Camel Pass is still in reasonable shape.

Its wet...water flowing down the path especially on sections of the Camel, and many of the scrambles are wet, but thats as expected this time of year.

There has been a washaway/slide which is threatening the path, but as yet the path is still intact. Its on borrowed time though in my opinion. This bit is almost immediately after the steep ascent as you leave the Camel and start climbing the main Berg.

The only really hairy bit remains that slither/scramble where the path got washed away years ago, about 5 mins from the top of the same steep ascent from the Camel. And its wet. But it makes for some priceless photos of your mate's faces while they cross :laugh:

There is more litter on the pass than I remember from previous hikes: plastic bags, bread packets, plastic bottles, sweet wrappers. From the look of it I'd guess most of it is from Basuthos.

Security-wise we had no issues. We camped around the corner between Cleft and Castle Buttress. Weather was rainy and misty so that also helped.

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14 Jan 2008 20:34 #46 by intrepid
Thanks for letting us know.

I guess with increased numbers of rubber boots tramping on the path above the Camel, carrying heavy loads - and now even Chinese weapons! - the impact on erosion will be felt. The litter is unsightly but can be remedied fairly quickly...the erosion is another story. :(

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

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24 Jan 2008 13:36 #47 by fatshark
The bit of path that is threatened won't pose a major problem when it does go. Another path will just be made around it, prob along the grassy slope just above. (Unlike the hairy bit where the path washed away long ago, and there is no other option but to trust the tread on your bootsoles...)

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30 Jan 2008 08:35 - 31 Jan 2008 08:19 #53 by intrepid
I've just come down the Thuthumi Ridge route, starting from what I refer to as "Smuggler's Pass" which begins at the southern base of the Ndumeni Dome. It crosses the Thuthumi Pass trail for 100m then climbs over the ridge to join the Organ Pipes trail.

The Thuthumi Ridge trail is as magnificent as it's always been - an absolute must see!

The eroded bits are slowly getting worse. Though there are currently very few fresh signs of the Basuthos. This will change quickly though with the Dagga harvest coming up.

The army has not occupied the lookout hut for some time and part of the roof at the back is missing. One can still sleep in the front room. One of the buildings of the forestry station further down got burned and the roof has collapsed.

The trail connecting the two buildings is looking unsightly due to eroding multiple tracks (mainly due to Basuthos).

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Note too that it has become too dangerous to leave vehicles at the top of Mike's Pass - they get broken into. If you intend hiking from there, get the Didima centre to drop you off for R40.

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

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Last edit: 31 Jan 2008 08:19 by intrepid.

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