Minaret Pass

26 Mar 2015 15:27 - 26 Mar 2015 16:26 #63206 by JonWells
Replied by JonWells on topic Minaret Pass
Hi Balthazar1

Not sure if you came across this thread, if you didn't, you can check out:

www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/4731-minaret-pass.html


Edit: Threads have now been merged
Last edit: 26 Mar 2015 16:26 by JonWells.
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26 Mar 2015 16:00 #63208 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Minaret Pass
Conversation from 2013 between myself and Dave G (who probably knows the Southern Berg better than anyone else):
Me: in your opinion, what is the hardest pass in the Berg?
Dave: Minaret Pass. I don't like using it though as the loose scree makes it dangerous

I haven't done this pass though, so I can't confirm or deny this opinion.
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26 Mar 2015 17:49 #63209 by Balthazar1
Replied by Balthazar1 on topic Minaret Pass
Found the tread thanks- photos help a great deal- thanks Karl- weather permitting I think we will give it a bash....that is if we do plan B... I took some school mates- we were all 16/17 - to lakes in 1986 and did a scramble up Sakeng from Polela.

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09 Aug 2016 20:49 #69430 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Minaret Pass
Ghaz, Hobbit and myself did Minaret Pass on Sunday.

We did it in what in hindsight was perfect conditions - lots of snow and ice meant that the scree was frozen in place, making what would normally be a very dangerous pass, merely a dangerous pass. The top gully above the crux boulder problem might be impassable when no ice / snow is about (you might be able to escape right into another gully high up, but we are not sure) due to an erosion gully at least 2m deep. I did not get any pics of that stretch for the simple reason I was too scared to stop for long enough to get my camera out.

Here though is a pic of Ghaz above the crux.

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09 Aug 2016 21:20 #69431 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Minaret Pass
I have been asked to split my hike report into sections specific to each pass - so here's part 1 of my hike report.

When life gives you snow - part 1

For the long weekend, AndrewP, Hobbit and I had planned to head out to Monks Cowl and climb Cathkin with a few other khulus. But with the snow not clearing, we decided to switch our plans to a Cobham super-traverse.

The goal was 8 passes in 72 hours - not an easy goal, but probably possible.

Driving into Cobham on Saturday morning, we were surprised at how much snow was present in Masubasuba Pass. Immediately I was starting to doubt my plans.

We set off from the car park around 8:30, with the goal of Lakes Cave. Not exactly the hardest day out.

We decided to take the Siphongweni approach.

Andrew and Mike had some fun on a massive boulder crack, before we continued along - bagging Titty along the way (you kind of have to, with a name like that).

After Policeman, we found a side trail that lead to the cave. We didn't have a GPS co-ord or any knowledge aside from the map, and yet we walked straight into the cave with no complications or backtracking.

On Sunday morning, we got an early start. After being treated to an amazing sunrise, and a long slow walk up the valley, we found ourselves in a very windy saddle - where ST describes a valley being there that shouldn't be there. Fortunately we knew his was coming, and the trail had ceased to exist a few kms ago, so no stress.

Dave G had recommended dropping into the valley rather than traversing into the pass. We did this, but in retrospect, there is not much on the traverse that could have been more exposed or difficult than this approach - so the traverse line would make more sense anyway.

Before I describe the pass - allow me to make my warning very clear:
MINARET PASS IS NOT SAFE AND SHOULD NOT BE ATTEMPTED BY ANYONE FOR ANY REASON

Ok, subtle comments about the pass aside, the story continues.

The lower section of the pass included some ice and plenty of snow - nothing serious though. Similar kind of terrain to what you find at the bottom of Cockade or Fangs.

Once you hit the gully split, you take the right (true left) line to avoid finding yourself in the Minaret/escarpment saddle. The lower section of the pass is nothing serious, it is only once it starts turning the corner above this split that it becomes a death-trap.

The pass had plenty of ice and snow, which held the scree together nicely. We had to kick in steps, and Andrew used his ice axe to assist in this process. Occasionally we would have difficulty finding a line, especially on a very short bit where the ice abated for long enough to force us to traverse on frozen sand.

When we did find gaps in the snow, we saw how bad and loose the scree was. I can easily see a team taking serious injuries as this scree comes crashing down on them. We were fortunate in that we had just enough hard snow to be able to kick solid steps - this pass probably has conditions like this once every few years, and your odds of hitting these perfect conditions aren't very high. You definitely don't want to be there when there is no snow or ice.

We eventually hit the crux. Mike took Andrew's ice axe and made his way up, taking quite some time to get up. I then followed, using a rope tied to the ice axe to pull my way up (the section above the crux was solid ice, making it difficult to climb). We then hauled my pack up before Andrew called for the rope.

Andrew is very competent and skilled climber, so when he gets nervous on a crux, you know there is something up with it. Mike tried to anchor the rope in the rock that he had used for me, but came to an abrupt stop when I yelled "loose rock". When I climbed up, I had put most of my bodyweight on a crack that was about to drop a massive boulder straight on Andrew - fortunately it had stayed in place for me, seeing as if it came loose, I would have fallen back down the crux and most likely take the full force of the rock as it hurtled down the narrow gully of the crux. A scary thought indeed. We eventually found a solid spot and Andrew was up soon enough.

We knew we were close to the top, but another obstacle appeared. Having just looked at ST's photos of the pass before writing this, it wasn't there when he did it. The top of the pass has been partially washed away, leaving a 2+m sand crux near the top. Mike climbed the true right side, with a good amount of the ledge he was climbing having fallen away as he climbed it. The ledge was literally crumbling under his feet. Andrew found a line up the middle where the sand had frozen. Usually bomber Drakensberg grass above the sand crux was pulling out as if it was Drakensberg rock - but fortunately the frozen sand got us close enough to the top and we soon found ourselves on a very windy escarpment.

It took over 6 hours to get the team up, and, thinking back on it now, I don't think I appreciated the genuine danger at the time.

I would rate this pass as a 6/10 XD - as opposed to the r/R/RT rating one would normally use to designate a pass as rock/Rock/ROCK - this is a rock pass, but it is also eXtremely Dangerous and I recommend that it does not make its way onto your to-do list. Overall it is not a great quality pass, and its views are average by Berg standards - really not a pass worth risking your life on.

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09 Aug 2016 21:26 #69432 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Minaret Pass

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09 Aug 2016 21:29 #69433 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Minaret Pass

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10 Aug 2016 02:32 #69435 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Minaret Pass
Interesting pass hey!:unsure:

The crux section looks actually easier when there is snow as you can climb the snow cone to get some height.

Not sure about the 'unphtographability' of the area, I got some good images from the two trips i did into that part of the world.

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10 Aug 2016 06:53 #69436 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Minaret Pass
The snow cone did help, but we had to get much higher than you guys did before the stance due to the ice higher up. The photos of Andrew are already above the main moves. The volume of snow and ice did make this pass considerably easier, and in places it was only passable because of it.

Regarding views - yes, they are great, and the approach especially has some nice spots. My point is that the views are no better than numerous other passes, but the risk is considerably higher than normal. Every account I have read of the pass notes it as dangerous, and I have to agree - hence my warning.

I wish I had a proper photo of the sand crux at the top, but I have no clue how one would get up it if it wasn't frozen. The odds of the bank coming down on you are high, and the top is slightly overhanging where we went up. Mike's line was not on frozen ground, but he struggled to get up and a lot of the bank came down as he went up.

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10 Aug 2016 07:49 #69438 by Serious tribe
Replied by Serious tribe on topic Minaret Pass
Not sure how far from the top of the pass your sand crux is, however i do recall perhaps 100m from the top a large area of very unstable gravel and sand that was very sketchy to cross. I recall having to tetter-totter across it, it was just like crossing a 45 degree slope of ball-bearings.

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