Selous wrote: Nice write up Ghaz and a super effort
Long time no hike! There have been so many people who have been involved in prior attempts - most notably you and Fitness. Would have been nice to have had you guys in the team, but not always the way things work out.
kliktrak wrote: nice one! glad to hear you finally cracked it
The strange thing in this we don't really remember how we connected the escarpment with the ridge leading to the Thumb. I clearly remember domsmooth expressing his concern how we would get down as we approached from the top. I also clearly remember us saying something like "Well that worked out ok" when we stood on the ridge. It may well be that we took the route that was described above.
Also good to have confirmation of the rest of the gully. We used the ridge coming down from the Thumb, after climbing the ancillary peaks below it, and only looked down into the gully. The ridge is not recommended. It involved down-climbing some cliff bands that we definitely do remember!
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
intrepid wrote: Well done for finally pulling it off! Just two weeks ago domsmooth and I were in the Berg together and were musing over the fact that after 17 years that route had not seen any repeats that we know of. Well done for persevering with it too.
Thanks. Some Popple deja vous was coming on here. But in Popple style - 4 attempts was enough...
intrepid wrote: The strange thing in this we don't really remember how we connected the escarpment with the ridge leading to the Thumb. I clearly remember domsmooth expressing his concern how we would get down as we approached from the top. I also clearly remember us saying something like "Well that worked out ok" when we stood on the ridge. It may well be that we took the route that was described above.
I can say with 99% certainty that there is no walking route to the north of Thumb Spur Peak. I have searched through photos, and actually stood and looked from the bottom and from the top for a gully - there is an uninterrupted cliff between Thumb Spur Peak and the non-khulu that Hobbit calls "Balcony" (the end of the Senqebethu Ridge - the peak on the corner of the cliffs of Bannerman Face, about 500m from the Bannerman Face Khulu). The only recess on the north side is a 20+m high chimney.
On the south side there are 4 "passages" between Langies and Thumb Spur that I have found. 2 are the Hlubi Passes, one was our summit gully and the one between our gully and North Hlubi pass looked even more rocky and exposed than the summit gully we used.
Only other spot I can see you guys might have used was down-climbing Thumb Spur Peak itself. It looks like there is an easy ledge about 5m above where we stood - it just looked around grade 12 to try and get to the ledge! I thought more detail was visible in my photo, but unfortunately not.
And in possible news to come
There may be a south Thumb Pass as well
I need a photo of the line of the bottom large cliff band, but if you can get through that - there is a grassy line that may connect to the summit gap we used. To be quite honest, at this moment in time I would be quite happy with there being no such route - I will be spending a while still looking on my other possible passes at Giants. But perhaps its time to give Giants a break and focus on somewhere else for a while...
To do list
Long outstanding missions recently crossed off my to-do list:
- Lots of khulus, most notably Walker, Mzimude and Bollard
- Gray's Pass
- Mzimude Pass
- Thumb Pass
The above, alongside Popple Peak, Mashai Peak and Gypaetus Pass have been objectives I have really wanted to do that just didn't happen for various reasons. Thumb Pass was my last long active list of goals - and to have finally completed it is actually quite something to me. So seeing as my first major Berg list is done (and it only took 1483 days ).
Next list of major goals:
- Cathedral Peak
- Sentinel standard route
- Cleft Peak
- Finish up the last 8 khulus and 2 passes of Giant's Castle
- Giant's Castle Peak (which is technically at Lotheni and not included in the 8 above)
You come up the other side and end up on this ledge, then following that line gets you to the top.
I have checked the north side of Thumb Spur and there are no gaps there, and I got a descent look from this angle and can't see any other links to the escarpment that don't require dropping much further.
Please login or register to view the image attached to this post.
After Ghaz posting that there was a cave towards the top, we aimed for that as the weather was threatening the whole afternoon, once we got there we made the call to keep going.
Once we got out the gully (basically the base of the cliff of Thumb Spur Peak, we decided not to take Ghaz line of heading down the south bank but opted to take the more precarious line along the base of the cliff, precarious it was as I couldn't get Ruth to do anymore unmarked passes after that, that was her full of exposure for the trip.
It is a great, pass and will definitely do it again someday.
Heading up the Gully towards to top of the pass
Looking down the gully
The view south of Giants once you get to the base of Thumb spur peak
Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.
The last time I did the pass, it was very misty, so it was great to do it in clear conditions.
A summary of the route - from where you leave the contour path, at the river below Thumb on the stretch of contour path between the Tarn and Bannerman Hut, there is a long slog up a reasonably easy grass slope. This makes up most of the pass, and is the reason I rate it as an easy pass.
At the top of this, the gully narrows. There is a very long and not great cave at the base of the cliff line. It would be great in an emergency, but would provide zero shelter in a wind. Rain may also run straight into it. It would be a solid 1* rating in terms of cave quality.
The route then starts up a steep narrow gully. This is the first time the pass shows any hint of not being a super-easy pass.
Midway up the gully, there is a small grassy ledge on the left. It is exposed, but if you go across it - you gain access to the land bridge between Thumb and the escarpment. It is one of the coolest spots I have walked on in the Drakensberg - the pass is worth doing for this alone:
The final bit of gully before the false top starts with an eroded spot. It is much worse than it was when I first did the pass.
The scramble that I referred to as fairly hard on my old writeup can actually be made simpler by taking a line on the right (true left), immediately next to the cliff.
This gains you access to the false summit, which you walk across, drop a bit and take an exposed traverse and scramble to access the escarpment. This is by far the hardest part of the pass. You can see Dave making his way up in this photo:
Once we got up, we had lunch on Sur The Thumb
Descent by Langalibalele Pass gave us enough time to be home before dark
Summary of the pass - the land bridge between Thumb and the escarpment is the highlight. Views are decent and most of the pass is easy. It is a bit of a different pass, but by no means the hardest pass around.
I'd say its an easy 4/10 (or a hard 3/10) difficulty on Stijn's pass scale, and a *** quality rating.
Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.
Two more photos:
Well worth a visit (if you can handle a fair bit of exposure).