Organ Pipes Pass - Thuthumi Ridge Route

20 Feb 2008 13:15 #60 by mike
Does anyone know the condition of the bell traverse? Iv never done it before an Im planning to ascend that pass and head down the Organ pipes at the end of March?

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21 Feb 2008 08:54 - 21 Feb 2008 08:58 #61 by intrepid
Can't vouch for how it is right now since I haven't done it in recent months, but can describe how it generally is from the times I've been there.

The trail up to Cathedral Peak is generally good because it's well used. You might find Orange Peel Gap to be bushy and slippery. :)

When at the base of Cathedral, the trail continues up between Cathedral itself and a small gendarme to the left. This is steep (but short) and eroded gully. The other side is also a steep gully down, filled with loose scree/boulders. Be careful not to roll stones onto your buddies below you. Watch for the turn-off to the right a short way down. The trail will take you passed Bell Cave and on to the Sisters. There is one short section that got washed away (much like the sections on the Camel) - not sure how it is right now.

When coming from the opposite direction the trail is sometimes hard to find just above the Sisters (there is a critical switch back), but generally it is good and easy to follow and shouldn't be a problem from the direction you will be taking.

Below the Horns and the Chessmen there are a few, short, tricky bits where you'll have to be sure footed and be OK with the exposure. But generally the path is good - just that it traverses very steep slopes - but this makes the Bell Traverse so spectacular. You generally don't need any rope but it can get rather tricky in icy winter conditions.

After the Chessmen the contouring is disrupted by a sharp climb up towards the Mitre, after which is contours on to Twins Cave. Just after the cave the trail crosses over a neck and soon after joins the main Mlambonja Pass trail. The top of the pass actually isn't the top of the obvious grass gully (though one can go this route), the path will take you more to the left of it.

That's it in a nutshell I think. The heavy rains this year may have washed away more of the trail, but I think you'll be fine.

Remember that the Basuthos also use the Bell Traverse as well as Twins Cave and the annexe cave nearby, so take all precautions possible, especially at night. Check out the articles on this site for some practical tips.

Enjoy!

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 21 Feb 2008 08:58 by intrepid.

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16 Apr 2008 00:54 #79 by domsmooth
Hey Mike. How was the traverse. Would love to hear how it went. I have fond memories of it. I will always remember the haunting shadow of the imposing Bell Peak from just around the corner of Bell cave, especially at night. Great memories of the traverse actually. Would especially like to know which way you did it, since the bugger gulch is an interesting one on the way up, and a little tricky to get down. Although I would rather go down \"the gulch\" and up Mhlambonja, as much as Mhlambonja is a real dog!

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site

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12 Aug 2010 08:24 #74756 by Stijn
Rating:* * * (4/10)Difficulty of the pass...

This is the easiest pass in the Cathedral Peak area and is very convenient to access the escarpment in a short weekend hike. The climb along the ridge gives great views of both the Cathedral and Cathkin ridges and the Old Fire Lookout must be one of the best settings for a hut in the entire Drakensberg. This pass is great to use during your first trip to the escarpment due to its relative ease and easy navigation.

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02 Jul 2013 18:15 - 14 May 2015 19:23 #57503 by tonymarshall
Edit: Trip report www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/drakensberg-trips/55791-organ-pipes-pass-mlambonja-pass-loop-trip-report.html

Full Pass Writeup
The traditional route to Organ Pipes Pass, known as the Thuthumi Ridge route, starts at Arendsig gate at the top of Mike’s Pass, along the road giving access to the old forest research area. Below is a view of the road looking back towards Arendsig near the met station.



Just past the met station, a path runs off the road to the left (up slope) side of the road, which is usually used by hikers as it has a constant flattish uphill gradient, compared to the road which is more undulating.



Either can be used, as they come together near the base of the ridge up to the old fire lookout. I have done this route several times recently, and have combined photos from different trips in this write up, hence the differing appearances of the vegetation.



In the photo above, the path up the ridge to the old fire lookout can be seen to the left of the photo. The old fire lookout can be seen at the top of the left hand portion of the ridge (in front of Little Saddle in the background), with Organ Pipes Pass being the low point on the horizon. To the right of the pass are the peaks Castle Buttress and Cleft Peak. The route follows the Thuthumi ridge from the old fire lookout towards the pass, which is more visible in the photo below.



The photo below shows the view down the ridge below the old fire lookout, which is probably the most difficult section of the route due to the lengthy steep gradient, and is not to be underestimated.



The old fire lookout, also referred to as the Thuthumi Hut or Organ Pipes Ridge Hut, was very comfortable hikers accommodation in the late 1980s and 1990s, complete with a water tank, but has fallen into a poor state of repair due to ongoing vandalism, which also rules out any future repair efforts.



Above the old fire lookout the path follows the Thuthumi ridge, in places on the knife edge. In the photo below, Organ Pipes Pass is again the low point on the horizon, and the gully to the left of the ridge is Thuthumi Pass. The pointed peak in the centre (to the right of Thuthumi Pass) is unnamed, Ndumeni Dome is the high point just to the left of Thuthumi Pass, with Windsor Castle to the far left.

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Last edit: 14 May 2015 19:23 by Smurfatefrog.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Selous, pfoj, ruthtbl, Spykid

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02 Jul 2013 18:20 - 02 Jul 2013 19:36 #57504 by tonymarshall
Just less than an hours hike from the old fire lookout there is a spring which has water most of the year and is a convenient lunch spot where hikers can replenish their water. The spring feeds a tributary of the Thuthumi River.



At several places along the route where the path is close to the edge of the ridge, the Thuthumi Pass path can be seen below you in the Thuthumi valley to the left. In the photo below, the Organ Pipes route passes below to the right of the rock outcrops in the centre of the photo, whilst Thuthumi Pass is to the left. At this point a path has developed between the two routes, which intrepid has appropriately named Smuggler’s Pass, and which will be the subject of my next write up, our group having used Smuggler's Pass on our recent long weekend trip to Didima Cave.



Below, the route to Thuthumi Pass to the left is obscured by the mist, while the hikers are on the path to Organ Pipes at the position of the split of the paths.



Some of the Organ Pipes, after which Organ Pipes Pass is named, and photographed from the path which passes just below these interesting rock formations.



There is a steep but relatively short gully leading to the top of the pass.



Near the top of the pass, a path branches off to Windy Gap, leading to the Camel route which is the other route using Organ Pipes Pass. Below, the path up Organ Pipes Pass goes out of the photo to the left, while the path along the middle of the photo goes to Windy Gap, at the rock spire in the centre of the photo.



An enormous cairn marks the top of Organ Pipes Pass.

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Last edit: 02 Jul 2013 19:36 by tonymarshall.

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02 Jul 2013 19:02 #57505 by Smurfatefrog
Very helpful, thanks Tony!

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03 Jul 2013 05:54 #57506 by ghaznavid
Thanks for the writeup! Looking forward to the one on Smugglers Pass.

I looked at those photos and thought some of them looked very familiar - then I noticed myself filling up my hydration bladder :laugh:

Its a great pass - definitely one of my favourites, possibly only beaten for view by Grays and Gypaetus Pass. Highly recommended for those who haven't done it before :thumbsup:

@moderators: maybe it should get moved to the blog section or linked to Stijn's pass summary?

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03 Jul 2013 05:55 #57507 by JonWells
Thanks Tony, very informative write up :thumbsup:

Is the spring you mentioned the only point on the route that has water? Are you able to give the approximate gps co-ords for it?

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03 Jul 2013 05:58 #57508 by ghaznavid

Is the spring you mentioned the only point on the route that has water?


Yes - you follow the ridge for almost the entire route, hence no water. There isn't much water above the pass either.

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