Nguza Pass Trip Report

30 Sep 2012 10:53 - 30 Sep 2012 12:19 #55359 by Sabine
This past long weekend five of us, Chris (Intrepid), Kelly (climbykel), Peter, Gert-Jan and I (Sabine) set out to explore Nguza Pass and another Unnamed Pass nearby in the Mnweni area. Agripa (spelling?) from the Mnweni Cultural Centre, told us that Nguza pass was not possible because of a steep waterfall in the way near the top. Chris had found out about a side-gully that we could take to bypass this problem.
We got a lift with a bakkie to the starting point and started hiking like we were going to do Rockeries. However, where Rockeries turns right, we turned to the left and we could see all the way up the pass, and in the distance the waterfall was looming.




It was a very rocky path and boulder hopping ensued. As we were looking for a lunch spot it started to rain and we found shelter under a huge rock. After lunch we filled up our water bottles for the last time and climbed further, the path getting steeper and steeper. We saw several side-gullies on the way up, but assumed the one we were looking for was just before the waterfall. However, there was no side-gully to be found, just vertical rock impossible to climb! Chris checked this out and decided our gully was way back down the mountain. We had to retrace our steps and loose altitude. It started raining again and we found shelter in a little cave just opposite the side gully. It was just a little thunderstorm which was over in no time. The side gully had a huge choke stone in the way but to the right we could scramble up, passing packs up. On and on we scrambled up this rocky path until we found the “ledge” that we were supposed to walk across.



We took a break to replenish and get psyched up for this daunting ledge that was about 300m long winding around the mountain. To make matters worse, the wind was howling down the mountain trying to push us off the ledge. One by one we got onto this ledge and carefully put one step in front of the other. I held onto grass tufts as I was going along because the wind was frightening. Turning a corner was scary as we didn’t know what lay ahead. However, the going was good and we all made it across and got to the top of the waterfall, from where it was another 50m up a steep grassy slope. We congratulated each other for conquering a pass so well. It was 4pm.

We walked down to the river and found a level spot to pitch our tents.



We didn’t know what lay ahead of us going down the Unnamed Pass the next morning. This pass is just south of the South Peak of The Saddle. From the top we had a spectacular view. Kelly walked to the edge to give us this pic:

It started off as a steep grassy slope, then some boulders and finally we got into the river bed and serious boulders and bundu bashing. At some point we turned out of this valley and moved to the right to link up with the Ntonjelana Path. This is the view back up the pass:

However, there was another valley in between us and the path, which made for a very steep descent and another ascent on the other side. It was all do-able and we got onto the path with no problem. Then it was a short walk to Waterfall cave where we camped that night.

Monday morning it was a two and a half hour walk to the road, and luckily the bakkie came to pick us up.

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Last edit: 30 Sep 2012 12:19 by intrepid.

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30 Sep 2012 14:17 #55360 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report
Nice! Some great exploration of late guys - inspiring stuff!

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01 Oct 2012 11:32 #55361 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report
A memorable trip, thanks for the write-up Sabine.

On the "mystery" of Nguza Pass and its infamous waterfall problem, years ago we checked out the pass from the northern edge looking down into it. We didn't see an obvious route up through the waterfall but did spot a steep side gully further down leading to an exposed grassy ledge which would take you round back into the main gully above the waterfall. My friends at the time did not like the look of it due to the apparent exposure. We walked down to the waterfall too from the top - it doesnt look great (inspite of the fact that I have seen references to a climbing route on the true right). Then RobD, who had done the pass, sent me some very helpful notes on the pass which seemed to confirm that the side-gully we had spotted was indeed the key. So the moral of the story is that behind a successful attempt at any pass lies your own explorations and instincts, info from fellow hikers, and a great and eager team to go and pull it off!

Undoubtedly the pass could be climbed through the waterfall but this is totally unnecessary. We did see a rope in the waterfall which was left behind and which probably is stuck.

As for the unnamed pass, this was simply based on observations from previous trips both below and above the pass, that paid off in the end. It is difficult to say with certainty that ours was the first use of the pass, but it possibly is the first documented use. I suggest the name of "South Saddle Pass" due to its close association with the South Peak of the Saddle. Maybe there are better names, but for now it seems suitable.

A fun route we did, all centred around the great Saddle, very do-able in 3 days. Did have a go at climbing the North Peak, but the short C/D scramble across the thin neck separating it from the main escarpment was covered with hard, soapy ice. Next time!

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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02 Oct 2012 12:31 #55363 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report
great effort - thanks for the report. Pleased to see its not just smugglers who can forge new passes......

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03 Oct 2012 14:09 #55369 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report
Nice! Don't you love that feeling when you walk onto the escarpment after not being sure whether or not a route will work :thumbsup:

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

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09 Oct 2012 05:31 #55401 by Serious tribe
Nice work guys. Nothing worse than loosing hard won altitude, especially in a pass. Well that is another 'unpassable' pass that has been done, at least via a sneaky alternative. That rocky bit in the first images sure looks nuts.

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04 Mar 2013 15:21 #56161 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report

intrepid wrote: A fun route we did, all centred around the great Saddle, very do-able in 3 days. Did have a go at climbing the North Peak, but the short C/D scramble across the thin neck separating it from the main escarpment was covered with hard, soapy ice. Next time!


All this talk of Mnweni on the Easter Weekend thread has caused me to look at my maps and pics of the area again. Aside from me realising that on GT we were about 100m from the Ntonjelana Knife (a khulu) and I didn't know it was a khulu so I didn't bag it :( :pinch: I have been looking at North Saddle again.

MCSA just says that from the escarpment its a C-grade, no proper RD or anything. Does anyone have a pic of the traverse bit, or more info for that matter?

All I have in my records is this:




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

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09 Mar 2013 14:56 #56206 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Nguza Pass Trip Report

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

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