Ntshintshini Pass

05 Apr 2019 21:21 #74875 by intrepid
Ntshintshini Pass was created by intrepid
This is the official thread for Ntshintshini Pass, Vergelegen.

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Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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19 Nov 2019 18:38 #75465 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass
The question of what the most obscure marked pass in the KZN Drakensberg is can probably be reduced to two options: Mohlesi Pass or Ntshintshini Pass. Naturally Mohlesi Pass can't get that classification for me, seeing as I have actually done it :P

Has anyone on VE done this pass? If so, what line did you take, and please share photos. I know Dave Gay attempted it a few years back and got stuck where we got stuck. I don't know of anyone else who has attempted it. Also, and photos from the bottom looking up would be helpful. Naturally I will have to go back and try again.

Full story of my attempt at it is at this link

Long story short - sometimes the Dragon needs to show you who is actually the boss.

It was misty and wet, which didn't help. But, for the most part, I had enough visibility in key locations to identify what I was looking for - and I could not see a viable option. We were descending it. We used the gully till we hit a large cliff at 2840m.

The following is my cleaned up GPS track of the section of the gully where we got stuck. The jumping up and down was the fact that I did actually go up and down the gully to find the best option to escape onto the north slope. The south slope was very rock and steep, and wasn't safe in wet conditions - and when it briefly cleared, I am not sure it would have gone in dry conditions either.


Based on the info at hand, the only viable option is to get up to about 2800m on the north slope well above the river, and then find a gap in the cliff to get onto the ledge I was on. The spot in the above photo where it looks like there is a gap is a spot I stood on top of, and nothing was visible from above, but maybe it is easier to spot a way up from below.

Here are some photos of our attempt. I have also included some photos of the cave at the top of the pass. The cave looks small and useless till you get inside and realise that it is very deep, and the back area has such a high roof that you can stand up (this isn't apparent till you actually crawl to the back). By far one of the best caves I have ever seen, definitely one of the top 5 basalt caves I have been to.

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19 Nov 2019 18:40 #75466 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass

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19 Nov 2019 18:41 #75467 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass

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19 Nov 2019 18:44 - 19 Nov 2019 18:44 #75468 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass


We set up my tent inner inside the cave to keep our gear clean. This photo was taken from about 2m into the cave, this is not from the entrance. Also note that Michael is standing up in this photo!




You can see the entrance to the cave in this photo. Michael R is coming out of the cave - notice how small the entrance is. I cannot overstate how sheltered this cave is.

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Last edit: 19 Nov 2019 18:44 by ghaznavid.
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, elinda, MarkT, tonymarshall, Dave, GriffBaker

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24 Nov 2019 20:30 #75470 by MarkT
Replied by MarkT on topic Ntshintshini Pass
Thanks Ghaz, looks awesome... do you have the GPS coords for the cave and pass please? 

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25 Nov 2019 08:54 #75473 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass
I didn't GPS mark the cave as it was very obvious from the top of the pass. I guess less so in thick mist or the dark. The top of the gully is on the VE Pass GPS download, so you can get it there. The cave is up a short scramble on the south side of the gully, right near the top. Maybe 5m vertical down the gully. It looks like a small hole in the rock, but is much bigger once you get in.
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26 Nov 2019 10:02 - 26 Nov 2019 10:03 #75481 by MarkT
Replied by MarkT on topic Ntshintshini Pass
I couldn't find it in the downloads section. But I assume it's correctly located on the KZN maps? See screenshot

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Last edit: 26 Nov 2019 10:03 by MarkT.

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27 Nov 2019 10:34 - 27 Nov 2019 10:41 #75493 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass
That's the gully with the cave. Whether or not that gully actually goes is yet to be proved :lol:

Interesting to see where Mqatsheni Pass is marked on that map. The Slingsby Maps, berg.co.za and VE all have it as the gully next to Thaba Phinong.
Last edit: 27 Nov 2019 10:41 by ghaznavid.

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10 Mar 2020 09:41 #75762 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ntshintshini Pass
Dave van der Veen and myself had a go at this pass over the weekend. This time from the bottom. Dave had been stuck at the same spot as me a few years earlier, and also in wet conditions.

We did a Saturday warmup [sarcasm] by hiking up Mqatsheni Pass and down Manguan Pass. Spent the night in Kaula Cave, which gave us a nice early start on this one. Perfect weather on Sunday.

We got to the split in the gullies and took the north grass bank to try and find a gap in the cliff above which I had stood last November. There were a few possible lines through this cliff, but none that I would consider doing without a rope. All come with potential severe consequences to a fall. Dave tried a few, before I eventually told him that wasn't safe and therefore not an option. They didn't look too bad from below, but a lot of the key holds were loose. Standing at the top of a cliff in November and the bottom in March is a bit sad - but at least I knew I had done most of the pass now - not that narrowly missing it would count for anything.

But then I came across a better option. There was a really dodgy ledge above a 20+m drop that put us back into the gully below the waterfall we had both been stuck at the top of on our prior attempts. Dave did it easily enough, but I wasn't comfortable without a rope, so we rigged a top rope off a boulder above it and he belayed me across. From the gully, we took a steep exposed grassy line on the south slope that rejoined the gully just above the waterfall. The final move to get into the gully was also sketchy, but with only 5m exposure, far less severe if it goes wrong.

This is the waterfall as seen from the traverse in. You can see the grassy bypass on the left.


When we were both safely in the gully, we knew we had this. We had both done the section between the waterfall and the top. It was great to finally tick this pass off.

The south gully of it actually looks easier, you would leave the gully around where we left the north gully and would stay on the south slopes till just below the top. Obviously one would have to actually go and do it before confirming if it does in fact go.

Ntshintshini Spire can also be approached from the top via the north gully - it would be on grass ledges, although the climb looks reasonably insane. I believe it is still due a first ascent.

I don't think this pass is safe, and definitely not without ropes. Not as bad as Injisuthi or Hilton, but coming up to that league. The views are good, but the risk to reward ratio isn't great - by contrast to a route like Hilton Pass.

The cave at the top was very wet this time, although luckily we didn't need it. We also went a bit further out around the ledge looking for phone signal and found a second cave - which you could probably squash 6 people into. Most of the ground in the second cave was dry.

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The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, elinda, Stijn, tonymarshall, Dave

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