Traversing below the Black and Tan wall

03 Dec 2018 10:40 #74317 by Riaang
Is it possible to traverse below the black and tan wall guys?

The images below are from Rwanqua pass in the north, to the gully immediately adjacent (north) of Pins pass.
On a recent descent of Ledges pass I looked at this area, couldn't quite see everything as a ridge in front of the Black and Tan wall obscured my view.

My proposed route follows the solid pink line, which looks doable. In theory :-). I think the gully of the dotted pink line might be too steep for hikers, will go check it out soon.

Anyone done it before? Is there a higher route that would be better perhaps?


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06 Dec 2018 11:08 #74333 by Riaang
Nobody done it yet? Or know of anybody that has done it?

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07 Dec 2018 03:44 - 07 Dec 2018 03:50 #74334 by intrepid
On our way up to climb the Pinnacles in May this year, AndrewP and I had first intended to ascend one of the two gullies you have marked since we were already carrying climbing gear with us (which may or may not be needed for the gullies). We landed up carrying extra gear for the bolting of the abseil route on the Inner Pinnacle, which made the walk in quite arduous and we thus opted to simply ascend Rwanqa Pass in the end. I haven't managed to get a clear view into either of the two gullies. I think Andrew has a better feel for how do-able they are than I do.

Technically the actual Black And Tan Wall is more to the North of those gullies, kind of where that square shape is, and further North. You can traverse right along the base of that big wall, at various heights - this is the Rwanqa Pass route if you stay clear of following the river bed. You can also do a Pins Pass approach variation whereby you connect Pins Pass with the Rwanqa Valley either through the neck between the two Pinnacles, or via the neck between the Inner Pinnacle and the buttress on the escarpment side (the latter is definitely the preferred route).

View northwards form the neck between the two Pinnacles, showing some impressive but seldom talked about smaller pinnacles, the Umkhulunkulu and Inkhulu among them. I think your solid pink line cuts up leftwards in front of the these pinnacles in this view, and the dotted pink line goes up behind them.


Looking up at the Pinnacles from along the route up Rwanqa Pass. You can make out the Umkhulunkulu and the Inkhulu, camouflaged against the escarpment cliffs to the right of the Pinnacles.


Enjoy and let us know how it goes.

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

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Last edit: 07 Dec 2018 03:50 by intrepid.

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07 Dec 2018 09:56 #74335 by Riaang
Thanks Intrepid,

Your images partly confirms the route I am planning in my mind. That section of rock coming down on the left side (south) of the B&T wall is going to force us to take a lower approach line. Would have been nice if we could stay just below the cliff face but our line will more than likely be at the 2500m ASL level. 

Now there is just one more thing left to do: to go check out those 2 gullies :-)

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19 Dec 2018 05:44 - 19 Dec 2018 05:54 #74398 by tonymarshall
Hi Riaang, 

Although I have not done the traverse below the Black and Tan Wall you propose, it is quite possible to do it. Your pink line follows the ridge route down Rwanqa Pass into the river valley, follows the river upstream, and ascends one of the Black and Tan Wall Passes. I have done Rwanqa Pass, and both of the Black and Tan Wall Passes on separate occasions, so have basically done your route, although I went up Rwanqa Pass instead of down it. 

Going down the ridge route of Rwanqa Pass to the valley below means that you will descend to about 2200 or 2300 m, lower than your estimate of 2500 m. It is probably possible to do the traverse without dropping below 2500 m, which is the height where you would have to enter the north Black and Tan Pass gully below the cliffs (just above and to the right of the waterfall in intrepid’s photo), although it is very rough terrain and would probably be best to follow the route of your line, avoiding the lengthy sideslopes below the Black and Tan Wall. 

The north Black and Tan Pass (your dotted line) is actually easier than the south black and Tan Pass (your solid pink line). Unfortunately I had a disaster with my camera when I did the two Black and Tan Wall Passes, on my own, and haven’t got any photos, so can’t help you with photos or do pass write ups.

Here is a brief description of what I did. 

On the first day I walked in from MCC, and overnighted in the small cave south of the Rwanqa River on the approach to Rwanqa Pass. On the second day I went up the valley, ascended the north Black and Tan Wall Pass, and descended the south one, heading down river again to overnight in the small cave in the ridge north of the Rwanqa River. On day three I walked out back to MCC. 

The north Pass was pretty standard, with no difficult obstacles (the high waterfalls near the junction of the two passes streams in intrepid’s photo was quite easy to bypass on the grass slope on the true right) and I was at the top at about 11h00. As can be seen on your satellite image, and the contour maps, this pass has two variations at the top, and I did the southern variation as per the dotted pink line on your image. From below I could look up
the northern variation, and I went to look down it from above, and it certainly looks doable too.  

I headed along the highway path to the top of the south Pass, and had lunch at the top before descending. About half way down there is a significant obstacle, a chockstone about 5 m high. My first instinct was to turn around and go back up, it was really scary, but when I had a good look down the pass, I could see that there were no other significant obstacles or cliffs lower down that couldn’t be bypassed on adjacent grass slopes, and could see the lower slopes that I had seen when ascending along the river in the morning. I didn’t have any climbing gear, but had a nylon rope in case I had to
haul my pack, so I lowered my pack down, and then downclimbed the rock, quite a tough and scary experience, after a few seconds of hanging on your hands feeling around with your feet for a foothold you start to doubt your strength and grip. The rest of the way down was fine, with a few detours on grass slopes to bypass waterfalls. I walked out the same way I had come in, down the river to the Rwanqa River, and then along the path to the main Mnweni path.  

It was quite a hard day (I took my pack up and down, as I wasn’t sure if I would get up or down, or would get up and have to come down Rwanqa or Pins, or some other alternative plan), but very worthwhile. It really was awesome to be among the spires in intrepid’s photo. 

You should be able to do the traverse you propose in a day, although I would suggest to rather use the north Black and Tan Wall Pass than the south one.
Last edit: 19 Dec 2018 05:54 by tonymarshall.
The following user(s) said Thank You: elinda, Stijn, Richard Hunt, AndrewP

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19 Dec 2018 10:50 #74399 by Richard Hunt
Well done Tony, you have made history again. Those 2 passes/gullies have been eyed out for a while now....congrats!!!!
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21 Dec 2018 08:35 #74408 by AndrewP
Well done Tony

I admit I am surprised the 2nd gully goes. I had a good look at the area while doing Inner Mnweni Pinnacle earlier this year, so knew that the first gully would go. The second gully looks very steep from the pinnacles.

@Riaang. Possible ways to finish off your traverse. You can easily pass through the gully between escarpment and Inner Pinnacle. Go up to get to Pins Cave and the escarpment or go down. Alternatively, aim for the point where the gullies from the 2 saddles either side of Inner Pinnacle intersect. From here,traverse under the Outer Pinnacle and Neffie onto a ridge leading into the Mnweni valley.

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