Xeni Pass - South Fork

19 Sep 2016 07:40 #69810 by tonymarshall
Xeni Pass Southern Variation

On the first weekend of September I ascended Xeni Pass Southern variation. The day before the ascent I had walked in from Cathedral Peak Hotel, and reached the campsite near the base of Xeni Pass above the lower waterfall early. On the walk in I was quite surprised to see how much snow and ice were in both Xeni Passes from the previous snowfall, and decided to use the rest of the afternoon to have a look at the snow and ice in the passes. Leaving my pack at the campsite I ascended the ridge and went up Xeni Pass variation first. The snow was quite soft at the bottom of the gully and easy to walk on the crust or kick footholds into. I traversed across to Xeni Pass where the snow extended much lower down, and discovered it was much more iced and harder to kick footholds into. My original plan to ascend Xeni Pass Southern Variation was thus confirmed, and I returned down to the campsite, setting my tent up early and chilling the rest of the afternoon.

The next morning I headed up the ridge, and upstream in the first sidestream coming into the main valley from the left, which is the Xeni Pass Southern Variation stream.

A view back down the Xeni Pass variation stream to the junction with the main Xeni valley. The boulder bed of the stream had quite a gentle gradient and was easy to negotiate.

Higher up the valley Xeni Peak towers above on the left and Leopard on the right.

A view back down the valley from just below where the snow started.

The soft snow in the boulder bed before being confined into the final gully.

Soon I was into the continuous snow, but it was relatively easy to walk on the crust or make footholds on steeper slopes.

This rock ledge would have been about the worst obstacle in Xeni Pass variation but was quite easy to ascend.

The snow was about a metre thick in places.

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19 Sep 2016 07:43 - 19 Sep 2016 07:47 #69811 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Xeni Pass - South Fork
A view back down the snow filled gully, and the snow was becoming more iced the higher I went and becoming harder to make footholds.

It was apparent that the pass would be similar to Xeni Pass without the snow, a jumble of various size boulders.

A view back down the ice gully from near the top. I was very relieved to be nearing the top of the pass, and not to have slipped and taken a ride down this supertube.

Just a few more metres to the top of the pass. At this stage I was walking on the right hand edge of the ice, holding onto the rock sides.

Fortunately the gradient had got a little bit flatter near the top.

The snow at the top was softer and I was able to cross the other side and was out of the snow and ice.

At the top of Xeni Pass Southern Variation.


I had hoped to descend Xeni Pass, to see if anything had changed since I had previously ascended the pass with Andrew and Neil to make the pass so difficult for Elinda and Richard Hunt, but realized it would be quite dangerous to descend in the ice, and besides I wouldn’t be able to see anything under the snow and ice anyway. From the summit I had seen that Cockade Pass was clear, so decided to descend this pass the next morning, as I had in any case planned to go to look at the top of what I thought was a new pass towards Tseketseke Pass….

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Last edit: 19 Sep 2016 07:47 by tonymarshall.

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20 Sep 2016 20:28 #69829 by elinda
Replied by elinda on topic Xeni Pass - South Fork
Well done Tony and thanks for your write up...I am pretty intrigued and would like to give the Xeni variation a try - but not in the snow! This will be added to the 'to do' list!

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27 Sep 2016 07:44 #69890 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Xeni Pass - South Fork

elinda wrote: I am pretty intrigued and would like to give the Xeni variation a try - but not in the snow! This will be added to the 'to do' list!

Same here! That cutback is such a spectacular spot, hard to resist shooting for all the passes in it!

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28 Sep 2016 17:53 #69907 by SeriousTribe2
Thanks Tony!

Nice images, the memories come rolling back! Sans the snow.
That is definitely the safer/easier version.
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27 Apr 2019 22:34 #74948 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Xeni Pass - South Fork
This thread has been set up specifically for the Southern gully of Xeni Pass which is the one marked on Slingsby's map. Please see the  Xeni Pass - North Fork thread for info on the Northern gully (the one with the wormhole) which is marked on the Geomaps.

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

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