Ape Pass

30 Jul 2016 19:57 #69335 by AndrewP
Ape Pass was created by AndrewP
This is a question to the masses

Until now, numerous posts on this forum, including some by me have referred to Apes Pass as lying north of Ape. This pass is easily accessed via Gibisella ridge.

The government issued 1:50000 maps though, indicate Ape Pass as lying south of Ape and this would be approached via Marble baths. The hiking maps, in all their glory, do not know of an Ape Pass in any form.

I have now done both these passes and it makes sense to include both in the passes list.

I would like to suggest that The current "Ape" Pass be renamed "Old Woman" Pass and that "Ape" Pass is given to the pass to the south, as per the map below.


Please offer comments and or suggestions.

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30 Jul 2016 22:57 #69337 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ape Pass
@Andrew: a bit off topic, but I think a discussion on which gully is actually Hilton Pass also warrants discussion - seeing as Bill Barnes describes it as between the Injisuthi Buttresses in his book. You will need to knock off that gully before we can sign off your "all passes at Injisuthi" badge :P *

How did you find this route? I know you rated Old Woman Pass as dangerous - which probably means "suicidal" for us mere mortals.

* let's also overlook the fact that Injisuthi is the only area of the KZN Berg where I am yet to bag a High Berg Pass, where there actually are non-technical passes, that is - i.e. so not RNNP

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31 Jul 2016 19:18 #69342 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Ape Pass
This one is less scary but needs some interesting route finding. Proper write up will come, I promise

I had a look at the gully coming up between the Injasuti Buttresses in December. That will have a few tense moments. It is also not the only gully in the area that might go, so I still have some way to go for the "all passes" tick.
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04 Aug 2016 20:14 #69410 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Ape Pass
Myself and others on this website have previously referred to a pass that tops out north of The Ape and makes use of Gibzella Ridge as an approach as Ape Pass.

The Gov. Surveyor maps though mention Ape Pass as being south of The Ape at the top of a gully that drops down towards the stream flowing into Marble Baths.

This is a write up of that pass, and I suggest that the one further north be renamed Old Woman Pass.


I feel that the pass is harder than Old Woman Pass in terms of effort, but less scary.

About midway between Marble Baths and the ridge where Leslies Pass proper starts, is a large river / gully coming down from the north. Ape Pass starts up this valley. Looking up towards the pass from just after the split off the Leslies Pass river.


Initially, the going is easy, with a feint path on the flattish ground on the true right of the valley. It crosses over to the true left and later, you are forced into the river bed itself. Here, I got lazy and just boulder hopped to infinity.

At any major split in the river, I just kept tending right, aiming for the major V up ahead.




There are a lot of really large boulders to negotiate but the way around them is normally obvious and easy. This makes the route finding rather intricate and involved.

Higher up, the gully narrows. I moved out left into a side gully and then onto the ridge between it and the main gully. Really high up, I sneaked through a tricky rock band and then carried on up into the mist. Later, I looked down and saw to my despair that I had gone too high up the ridge and after a failed attempt at traversing into the gully up high, I had to drop a long way down to get into it. I think the correct thing to do is to follow the ridge through the obvious rock band, as I did and then to immediately start dropping into the main gully – but, it might be possible to traverse in just below the rock band on this ridge.

I got a bit too high above the main gully and had to scramble down various grass slopes.


At the point where I joined the gully I was surprised to see a cairn. This is obviously a clue for people descending the pass, and it also told me I would now be able to get up to the top from here.

I passed the next waterfall on the right and from there it was easy going to the top (lungs and legs provided of course)

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15 Aug 2020 15:15 #75936 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Ape Pass
In August 2017, Single Speed (Hylton) and tonymarshall did a circuit at Injisuthi, ascending Ships Prow Pass and descending Apes Pass. It was a five day hike, with the first two days taken up getting to the top of Ships Prow Pass via Van Heyningen’s Pass and Shada Ridge, the third day doing some summit exploration, the fourth day descending Apes Pass and the fifth day walking out back to Injisuthi.

On the previous day before descending Apes Pass, we had checked out the area around the top of Apes Pass, and observed that there are three gullies from the summit descending into Apes Pass, and joining into the main gully within about 300 m (horizontal) of the top of the Pass. All three were doable, but we chose the left (north) one to descend, simply because there was a cairn at the top of this gully and not at the other two.

Tony commencing the descent of Apes Pass. (photo courtesy of Hylton)



A view down Apes Pass. The other two gullies joined the one we were in at the patch of ice from the right.



A view back up to the top of Apes Pass.



At the patch of ice with the other two gullies joining in from the right. We descended into the gully to the right of the ice, but after about 50 m (horizontal) came to the top of a cliff which we could not get down. We could see a way down on the left, so ascended back up to the patch of ice and went down the grass slope to the left of the patch of ice, which got very steep lower down where it joined back into the gully.



We then followed the boulder bed for a while.



Lower down there were several minor obstacles, some of which could just be bypassed on steep grass slopes.



Others required some scrambling, and although I kept my pack on, Hylton had a short rope and chose to lower his pack down and do the scrambles without his pack.



We knew from AndrewP’s write up that he had ascended a section of the pass on a ridge on the true right (left as he ascended and right as we descended), but we didn’t see any clues to get onto the ridge and so far we were doing fine in the gully, so just continued following the gully boulder bed. We suddenly came to the top of quite a steep descent that was covered with ice and very damp, and realised that Andrew had bypassed this obstacle on the ridge he had been following. The photo below is looking down the steep slope from above, and shows the ice at the top of the obstacle.

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15 Aug 2020 15:20 #75937 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Ape Pass
We reckoned that with extreme care not to slip on the top of the obstacle and fall down, we would be able to lower our packs down and scramble down the damp icy slope, so we didn’t even look for a bypass route. Hylton descended first, lowering his pack down ahead of him with the rope. About half way down the pack and rope slipped down to the bottom. Hylton managed to get down to the bottom without slipping or falling, and I followed afterwards, sliding my pack down the ice slope and then carefully scrambling down. (photo courtesy of Hylton)



Near the bottom I slipped and slid down on the ice to the bottom, but it was not too far and a fairly comfortable and controlled descent. The photo below shows me at the bottom of the ice obstacle, and makes the obstacle look quite insignificant (which it wasn’t) compared to the previous two photos. (photo courtesy of Hylton)



Below the ice obstacle the gradient of the boulder bed got flatter, and it was quite easy boulder hopping for a few hours, with no more obstacles. We had a morning break somewhere in the boulder bed in the photo below.



Some views back up the boulder bed in the lower section of Apes Pass.




A view of the boulder bed downstream.



We had lunch somewhere towards the end of this long section of boulder bed, and then the terrain changed to alternating grass and scrub sections and boulder bed.



The bottom of Apes Pass joins into the Leslies Pass path about 1.6 km upstream of Marble Baths, as AndrewP indicated in his write up. The photo below shows the view up Apes Pass from close to where Apes Pass joins the Leslies Pass route.



After an early afternoon arrival at Marble Baths, we used the warm weather to good effect, doing the slide a few times. We tented that night at Marble Baths campsite – someone had booked the Cave but they never pitched up – and walked out down river back to Injisuthi the next morning.

I recall reading in Bill Barnes book, Giants Castle A Personal History, that in the early days of Giants Castle Reserve Apes Pass was the usual route taken to get to and from the summit in this area. It was known then as Mahlabatshaneng Pass, the local name for The Ape, and it was only later that Leslies Pass became the standard summit route. Unfortunately I don’t have the book with me to reference and provide more detail, but I am fairly sure I have remembered this information correctly.

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15 Aug 2020 19:12 #75938 by Papa Dragon
Replied by Papa Dragon on topic Ape Pass
Thanks for the interesting write-up Tony..
Just one question, from your clothes, looks like you went in summer, and Hylton in winter?
Is this so? :whistle: :laugh: :laugh:

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16 Aug 2020 10:12 #75941 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Ape Pass
Well that's just my clothes, it was winter. It was early August, and the temperature when we left that morning was 0 deg C.
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18 Aug 2020 11:07 #75953 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Ape Pass
Chuck Norris has nothing on Tony in respect of surviving with the minimum amount of clothing in as freezing temperatures as humanly possible ;-)

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18 Aug 2020 11:10 #75954 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Ape Pass
Tony, how difficult is that downclimb section? I would really like to do Apes pass, looks like a really cool pass.
If you had to compare that to the final obstacle in the Mlombonja South Buttress pass, how does it compare?

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