To kick start the thread I am adding some content posted by ghaznavid in his Mohlesi/Ngaqamadolo South Pass: a tale of fire and ice write-up.
ghaznavid wrote: Mohlesi Pass has been a bit of a mystery pass to me. David Bristow’s book claims that it is not actually a pass, but rather a technical route – the map calls it a rock pass and says it may require ropes. On GT last year, Mike and I had traversed into the top of the gully as a variation route, and I had had a look up it when I did Nglangeni Pass earlier this year. Visually it seemed to lack the gremlins that the map and Best Walks of the Drakensberg suggested.
By this point, I was thinking that the goal of Giants Castle had already begun to slip – 43km days are always tough, especially when you chose a pass like Mohlesi Pass! The lower section of the pass is just a standard rocky riverbed, or wide grassy sides – nothing difficult. When you actually hit the gully, there is a waterfall that looks easy to scramble, but seeing as it was frozen solid – we opted to skip it by the steep grassy ledge to the right (true left).
Above the lower waterfall we resumed our use of the gully. This was cut short when we hit a large chock-stone in the gully. We took a steep climb out of the gully from here – taking the true right slopes this time, this had always been the plan to bypass the upper waterfalls (the true left side is almost entirely cliffs above this point).
We found a variation gully that looks pretty simple – I have assigned it a project name of “You Shall Not” Pass (don’t worry, if I head up it and it goes, I will come up with a better name).
We continued up the grassy slope, my GPS confirmed that the gradient was pretty consistent at just steeper than 1m vertical for 2m flat. There was a side gully with sheer cliffs that cut through our grass slopes – this was the only significant obstacle on the pass. We had to climb above the cliffs to get past, Mike took a very exposed steep grass ledge, and I opted to climb a small cliff to get above it, resulting in a much safer traverse. My route required 2 easy technical moves on solid holds (maybe D grade at most) – not exposed and I didn’t even need to take my pack off. I guess one could argue that it should get rock status for this bit, but seeing as it was probably possible to get above this by climbing higher on the bank earlier on, and Mike’s route require no technical moves – I don’t rate this enough to classify it as a rock pass.
From there to 3000m it remained pretty universal. When the gully narrows, there is a very easy to walk straight into the gully. The last 150m vertical is a simple grassy gully – although it had quite a bit of snow in it.
We only got to the top around 12:30 – we had drastically underestimated how slow the pass would be. Mike rated it a 7/10 and I had it as a hard 6/10 – nonetheless we agreed that it is not a rock pass. There was no summit cairn, and no signs of use. I have no difficulty in believing that this pass gets no more than a use or two every decade. It is actually quite a fun pass, but 22km from the car park, with over 1.8km in altitude gain from the car park, and in an area that few people venture to visit – I am not surprised that a pass classified as rock and “may require ropes” gets very little attention.
We had lunch at the top of the pass, with no shortage of snow in sight. It had been a slog fro Birds Nest Cave, but I was happy to find that my judgement had been correct – pretty much stay on the left (true right) and the pass would be a standard grassy ledge route.
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.