eNtubeni Pass

04 Dec 2016 19:55 #70321 by ghaznavid
eNtubeni Pass was created by ghaznavid
@Mods: can't find a thread for eNtubeni Pass, if I have missed one, please move this post.

Between a rock and a hard place - part 2

Our main goal on the trip was to bag Lithabeneng. Murch put it on the original khulu list, even though the summit is clearly not in SA. On the GT last year, myself and Hobbit bagged the SA summit - which has about 5m in prominence. Seeing as this may be a khulu bagged with a * next to it, the goal was to eliminate ambiguity.

Anyone who knows Lotheni will know that KaMasihlenga Pass is the obvious route to use, but we decided to head up Redi Pass instead. It is great to leave the easiest pass in an area for later - so we decided not to use it as a descent route either.

We sat for a while on top of Lithabeneng - with some dogs barking at us, and a large cliff between us and them.

As we dropped off the peak, he had to threaten the dogs with rocks, but they didn't get too close, so no worries there.

We dropped down towards the river in the valley - a massive drop.

It had been a hot day, so we sat with our feet in a river for a while.

We reached the top of eNtubeni Pass - a pass we knew very little about, but you can see straight up it from Lotheni Camp - so we knew there were no gremlins hiding there. A certain popular Berg guide book describes the pass as having technical climbing, but being easier than Lotheni Pass - one of the most inaccurate descriptions of this route! It is definitely steeper than Lotheni Pass, and neither has any scrambling at all, being grass the entire way.

We found a nice cave right at the top of the pass. No signs of use, and the roof is very high, but most certainly not the worst cave around. Further down the pass we saw a very good looking cave that required a bit of a scramble to reach.

The pass itself has some scree in the grass, but navigation is easy with grassy spurs on either side of the gully. We opted for true-left, but true-right or the main gully would go just as easily.

The pass must have the most consistent gradient I have ever encountered. It is steep, but very consistent.

The bottom of the pass has a lot of long grass and vegetation. Hobbit had picked up bad sunburn, and was struggling with the grass on his legs.

The map shows that you have to go over the obvious saddle at the bottom of the pass, rather than trying to follow the river the entire way down to the Lotheni River. We tried to follow the river on the pass, but after about 500m, we realised why the map shows the route it shows, and soon found ourselves slogging back up and over the ridge.

The descent to the Lotheni River is exceptionally steep - far steeper than either pass, and the time lost to sunburned legs had cost us a lot of time. It was about 6:30PM now. I knew that the only action for bad sunburn was to get Hobbit's legs into cold water - and you don't want to be cold when it gets dark, even if it is a nice warm summer day - perfect weather actually.

After 10 minutes of Hobbit keeping his legs in a rock pool, we continued down the river. We had come down Lotheni Pass earlier in the year, so we knew the trail was sporadic at best. We managed to push hard to reach Ash Cave by sunset. I walked up to the cave trying to find the marked trail on the map - no luck. 8km to the car park, no trail, new moon and having to follow a river by headlamp - this would be a long night!

Now we hit the part of the writeup that will have some of you thinking "Ghaz is an idiot" - but the nature of the hikes I do opens one to such occurrences. I can play the rest of this scenario out in my head, but baring using KaMas Pass (which was not listed as a bailing route in the register and you must consider that we had 5 hours to get from the top of eNtubeni Pass to the car park, about 13km) - you can understand how this happened.

We agreed that we needed to find the trail - when we walked down the river, we kept slipping and by now our shoes were soaked. When we followed the banks, the overgrowth was really bad.

When we crossed the river, the GPS said 900m to Yellowwood Cave and 5km to the campsite - we were ecstatic, we knew how to find the trail, and we would get back quickly from here. It was 9PM, so we knew we would be back around 10:30. We had both eaten our last food, but the weather was still great.

So we began to climb the ridge, but no trail came into view. We knew the trail went high around the corner, so we tried to get to the high corner, and soon found ourselves above the cliff. We saw another cliff above us, and at this point I was starting to question this.

The terrain was much easier up here, although we were both getting cut to pieces by thorns. Hobbit was taking strain, and I had blood dripping down my legs - not idea for late on a dark night!

Our average pace was equivalent to the average snail in peanut butter, and by 10:10PM, my GPS had said that we were only 4km from the camp now. When you take an hour to get 1km closer, you know the going is tough!

Around this time, our hearts sank as the rounded a corner and the world came to an end. I asked my GPS how far it was to Yellowwood Cave, and it was 1.1km away - and we were at the altitude of the cave. We guessed that we were above the cliff band of the cave, and knew we could take hours to reach it. After Hobbit took a nasty fall just above the cliff - we agreed it was not safe to continue. We couldn't see a way down the cliff band, so we decided that an unplanned bivy was the safest option. It was a nice warm evening and it was 10:40PM.

We didn't have much space, but our spot was flat enough and we had a large rock between us and the cliff. So caught between a rock and a hard place with very minimal gear, we stopped for the night.

Considering the hard, unflat, bushy ground, it was surprisingly comfortable and we both got a bit of sleep.

At 4:15 this morning, as it began to get light, we packed up and got the first view of the trail we had been looking for - it was a good 100m below us on the ridge on the other side of the valley.

We found a gap in the cliff about 5m from where we camped, and descended a very steep grass bank to hit the river below. From there we slogged up, found the trail we had been looking for the night before, and then made quick progress back to the camp, which we reached at 5:45AM.

Total distance: 37km of extreme epic-ness!

Funny enough, we both agreed it was a great hike.

All things considered, the hike went very well. Funny to say that about a hike with an unplanned bivy!


Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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04 Dec 2016 19:58 #70322 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic eNtubeni Pass

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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The following user(s) said Thank You: Stijn, JonWells, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, AdrianT, AndrewP, andrew r, saros, Andreas, GriffBaker

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05 Dec 2016 23:12 #70331 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic eNtubeni Pass
In July, I dropped down the pass and got to the obvious saddle. Here, I picked up a vague path heading along the ridge itself so I followed that. It goes fairly easily albeit steeply all the way until the ridge runs out. I think it is a better route than the one marked on the maps

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