Old Woman Pass
We camped just below the Old woman on her southern leg (ridge) and I found a path (I marked it with a cairn) contouring into the valley between the Ape and the Old Woman. It is not shown on the Ezemvelo map or my old Bosbou map. I thought it would be a great idea to try going up that pass. Who has gone up that pass? It looks quite do-able...
I also thought a great weekend trip would be to start at Monk cowl campsite, sleep in Cowl cave and then down the other side the next day. I'm sure this trip would get your blood pumping? Who has tried this route?
This is one of the variations of Ape's Pass, which I finally managed to do in March this year after being snowed out on a previous attempt. It is not a particularly difficult pass. It does however have one section where the gully gets very narrow, and the rocks were very slippery and wet due to a small waterfall - which was not passable. I managed to climb out and around to the left but others in the group where not happy with that. Eventually I found a grassy ramp lower down the gully and much higher up on the side, which allowed you to escape the gully and contour the slopes a bit to avoid the wet section. There may be yet another pass which could also qualify as "Ape's Pass", but I will have to go back and assess that one another time.
dirktalma wrote: We camped just below the Old woman on her southern leg (ridge) and I found a path (I marked it with a cairn) contouring into the valley between the Ape and the Old Woman. It is not shown on the Ezemvelo map or my old Bosbou map. I thought it would be a great idea to try going up that pass. Who has gone up that pass? It looks quite do-able..
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
I first used Ape Pass in April 2015 as the shortest route between the Injasuti car park and the escarpment. On that occasion I got stuck in mist and made life more difficult than it deserved.
My return in December 2015 had perfect weather. No clouds on sight. Enough water in streams to have water to drink but no treacherous wet rock crossings.
There are 2 approaches to Apes Pass. You can come up via Marble Baths and get slaughtered (I assume, but am too scared to try) in the vegetation.
The Gibisila Ridge
Or you can head past Grindstone Caves and then get onto the Gibisila Ridge. The ridge has a vague path running along its crest and there are no rock bands or bumps to cross. Head up to about 2200m where you will find a feint path that contours off to you left. Follow this. Just before the main gully it peters out. It is best to drop into the gully here rather than to try contour further to avoid steep banks later on.
Boulder hop easily up the valley with relatively little vegetation and the occasional small waterfall to dodge.
At about 2600m you hit a few waterfalls. They look hard to climb even when dry.
A bit downstream of them is a very steep grass slope on your left, looking up. Head up this until you are about 20m above stream bed to a level you can start traversing on near vertical grass. Move across and up until you reach a small but awkward side stream. I crossed this then went almost straight up through the small rockband. It would be difficult to use a rope here to aid safety.
The route I used through the steep grass. You could leave the gully lower down, but the traverse back right still needs to be negotiated.
The grass is steep!
You are now on more comfortable 45 degree slopes! From here aim up and further left aiming for a separate side gully. Go up this and the next one as well to eventually rejoin the main gully very close to the summit.
The final gully has some lose scree but is easy to get up.
I give it an effort rating of 7.
You can stick to grass every step so it could be considered a grass pass. However this pass is potentially deadly if things go wrong on the steep grass slopes. It is not for everyone.