Wilson's Pass

13 Jun 2013 18:34 - 13 Jun 2013 18:35 #57293 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Wilson's Pass
Wilsons doesn't have a trail except for a weird bit of track at the top that lasts maybe 50m. Its a fairly broad, grassy gully that can be tackled in different ways. Personally I descended it first on the true right, but then flipped over onto the Northern slopes (true left) and found this to be pretty easy. Near the top there are some rocky sections where you have to carefully look for steep grassy patches worming their way through it. Once on the Northern slopes, there is a very long contour along the slope, where you dont loose much altitude. I also know that some have followed the actual gully.

On the approach, its quite do-able to first locate Engagement Cave and from there to gain the ridge above the cave. Follow this ridge up the pass will become evident on your right (its the same ridge ghaz was referring to, which separates Wilsons from Bollard Pass). At which point you choose to leave the ridge to start engaging the pass is really up to you. There is a GPS data download of my route available in the downloads.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 13 Jun 2013 18:35 by intrepid.

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16 Dec 2013 12:35 - 16 Dec 2013 14:23 #59221 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Re: Wilson's Pass
Ok - reading this thread now makes more sense than it did when I last read it.

Myself and Fitness came down this pass yesterday - we tried to find the side ledge (after having found the faint trail and 2 cairns), but couldn't find a gully down, so we did 3100-2900 via an easy grass slope, 2900 - 2750 by very slow progress in that horrible (and very wet) river bed, then traversed out true left (north) and slowly lost altitude on this way. At about 2600 we crossed the river and traversed to the Sleeping Beauty Cave valley.

I will do a full writeup with photos soon - haven't found a fitting name yet...

My ratings of the pass via the route we did:
Pass status: Rock
Beauty of the pass: incredible, possibly the most beautiful top section I have ever seen - *****
Stability of the rock on the route: appalling (and wet due to the river flowing over it)
Quality of the grass bank: exposed but holds firm
Difficulty rating (R standing for rock pass, RX would be a ROCK pass): 6R/10
Would I recommend it to others or give it a 2nd shot myself: no, but I don't regret having done it

Edit: writeup to be called Mzimude/Wilson: a lesson in context
Last edit: 16 Dec 2013 14:23 by ghaznavid.

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28 Nov 2017 21:00 #72416 by Gerald
Replied by Gerald on topic Wilson’s Pass
Is there any info on Ascending Wilson’s Pass?

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26 Sep 2018 20:21 #74041 by TheRealDave
Replied by TheRealDave on topic Wilson’s Pass
This past weekend my sister and I ascended Wilson’s Pass and descended Mashai, sleeping in Sleeping Beauty Cave on our first night and Pillar Cave on our second. The possible routes via the gully or the slopes have been well described, but I thought I’d add a few photos for reference. I found Wilson’s probably the most enjoyable and - aside from doddles like Langies - the easiest pass I’ve done, partly owing to the short approach and, for us at least, the straightforward riverbed. The gully might not be so easy in high summer or snow, as there are a few scrambles and the bush and wetness might get frustrating, but at this time of year the watercourse is remarkably pretty and affords swift progress.
The approach from the ridge above Sleeping Beauty is obvious. We contoured round just below the rock bands into the gully (the gully is the natural route when approaching from the left). The route up the slopes on the right looks easier than those on the left, which are steeper. Incidentally, there is a very distinct path leading to Bollard Pass over the collar of the ridge, but it peters out on the Wilson’s side.

The slopes gradually force you into the gully, and from there it’s mostly boulder-hopping up the stream with occasional detours on the right-hand slopes to bypass waterfalls.

The first waterfall:

The second waterfall:

Higher up,the gully narrows and there is a little scramble (which was much less bothersome than my mug suggests). One could exit the gully on a narrow grass slope on the left (true right) to avoid this, but I should think this would only be necessary in snow or perhaps strong river flow.

Looking back down the scramble, with a cairn marking the spot for the descent:

The rest of the way is a simple grassy slope with a faint trail near the top:

The view back down the pass, showing the possible line down the true left-hand slopes:

It may be worth noting that, in the event of poor weather, there is an overhang at the top of the pass, though it is not very deep:

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11 Dec 2019 15:49 #75540 by petroengel
Replied by petroengel on topic Wilson's Pass
I am planning a Mashai - Wilson's loop. What will be best: going up or down Wilson's?
Thank you!

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31 Jan 2021 12:20 - 01 Feb 2021 07:34 #76476 by MountainAbandon
Replied by MountainAbandon on topic Wilson's Pass
We recently descended Wilson's Pass - an unplanned route encouraged by the presence of some very persistent locals on the escarpment. We slept at the top of the pass in an uncomfortable but protected semblance of a cave. Despite the area being very wet from good seasonal rains as well as heavy rainfall about 4 days previously, the stream in Wilson's Pass was small enough that we were able to descend comfortably in the river bed most of the way. Only one or two larger boulders forced us out onto the slope for a maximum of 100m. As with most Drakensberg river passes it was a rock hopping descent, but there was very little thick bush to navigate and we were able to move relatively easily and consistently. We saw no signs of people or livestock after dropping off the escarpment.

From the pass top we descended to an altitude of approximately 2250m where the river takes a near-90 degree bend to the right (SSE). Instead of exiting the valley to the south, over the ridge towards Sleeping Beauty, we decided to exit over the ridge to the north, back towards Hermit's Wood. At the river bend towards the gorge we stayed straight on a fairly decent game trail, crossing two or three spurs. Where the game trail curves away to the right/south, we steered left and climbed out adjacent to the rock wall. From the top of the ridge we realised we would probably need to back track towards the escarpment before we'd be able to descend into the "Mashai Pass valley". We were able to drop below the top rock band in the first gully (a large, round, rock walled basin - very distinct). At the bottom of this gully we contoured back towards the escarpment for approximately 600m on only slightly sloped ground until we found a tributary which we knew would spit us out into the lower valley safely. It was a bit of a scramble but nothing risky. We reached the river (the southern tributary of the Mlambonja River) and found beautiful pools a few minutes downstream, where we stopped for a swim and snacks. The water level was too high to rock hop so we moved in the river rather than through thick bush on the banks. There were two places where the water was deeper - the one we waded, packs above our heads; the other required us to wade chest-deep through a small rock passage under a massive boulder that appeared to block almost the entire river. We went one at a time, passing our packs though a convenient "window" up to the right of the boulder. One could have jumped out this window into the water, but it didn't seem necessary.
This last section would have made for a cold mission in winter (I doubt even low water levels would allow passage without wet feet) and definitely difficult or even dangerous after very heavy recent rainfall. But the good weather and absence of any trail meant we had this short but beautiful section of river to ourselves.

Shortly thereafter we converged with the main river and jumped onto the groomed trail back to Hermit's Wood.

Photo: Disa oreophila, ssp oreophila, Wilson's Pass.

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Last edit: 01 Feb 2021 07:34 by JonWells. Reason: Inserted image
The following user(s) said Thank You: Stijn, GetaPix, PJordaan, wildingo

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31 Jan 2021 14:50 #76478 by Smurfatefrog
Replied by Smurfatefrog on topic Wilson's Pass
Have you got a track for the route you used?
I've often wanted to traverse between Sleeping Beauty and Pillar caves

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01 Feb 2021 10:25 #76481 by MountainAbandon
Replied by MountainAbandon on topic Wilson's Pass
Will see if I can download and send to you.

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03 Feb 2021 18:33 #76487 by karlrottcher
Replied by karlrottcher on topic Wilson's Pass
We are planning to go up Mashai Pass (first night in Pillar Cave), sleep on the escarpment (second night) and head down WIlsons.Pass.

Any advice will be appreciated.

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04 Feb 2021 09:24 #76489 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Wilson's Pass

karlrottcher wrote: We are planning to go up Mashai Pass (first night in Pillar Cave), sleep on the escarpment (second night) and head down WIlsons.Pass.

Any advice will be appreciated.

Welcome to VE!

With this being your first post, I am not sure how experienced you are. Just be aware of the following:
1) Finding a good line down Wilson's Pass can be tricky, especially if it is very wet, like it will be right now.
2) If you stay in the gully, the pass has a long sequence of waterfalls to scramble down. Personally I didn't find them intimidating, but if anyone on your team isn't very experienced with this, it could be a problem.
3) From the bottom of the pass, the easiest line is to drop south over the ridge into the Mashai River Valley above Sleeping Beauty Cave. The ridge you have to cross is very steep with no trail, which once again isn't an easy task unless everyone in your team is used to this. If you stay in the valley, and try to go past Cod's Eye Cave, you have a maze of cliffs and overgrowth to navigate - which also has no trail. I've tried that line from both sides more than once and always end up giving up in thick overgrowth.

Wilson's Pass is a decent pass, but by no means the best or easiest in the area. I wouldn't recommend it unless your team is reasonably experienced and comfortable on steep ground without a trail.

Mzimude Pass is probably the easiest pass south of there, although that adds a big ridge and a long walkout. Also - getting from the bottom of the pass to the Hidden Valley Trail isn't entirely obvious if you don't know where to go.

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