At first I thought you might be talking about "Cowl Pass" (the neck between Monk's Cowl and Cathkin), also sometimes described as "Cathkin Gully" or "Cowl Fork Gully". This is certainly hikable and is done periodically. See this thread:
However specifically mentioning the neck between Cathkin and Sterkhorn rules out Cowl Pass. That route is seldom done. I believe it is technically possible, though the challenge is the Keith Bush Camp side - you will have to find your way through a few rock bands. On the Blind Man's Corner side, you should not descend/ascend the gully. Rather, you traverse along the base of the main summit of Serkhorn (South Summit) to the hiker's summit (North Summit) and then simply follow a well established trail down to Blind Man's Corner (depending on which way round you do this obviously). I would not recommend you try this if you have novice hikers. The route may not be considered pleasant and it could well land up being very arduous. Route finding is going to be a challenge.
In April this year I was part of a trip in which all three summits of Sterkhorn were climbed. We did talk about the possibility of dropping straight down to Keith Bush Camp from Sterkhorn (it is visible from there). Nobody was up for this. Two of us did land up doing a high traverse from Turret across to a viewpoint looking down at KBC and across to Gray's Pass, from where we eventually found a route down to KBC. This is a lot more do-able, though again, route finding is a challenge.
Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Riaang wrote: neither is it mentioned in David Bristow's book on Drakensberg walks.
Some advice regarding that book - while it does have lots of info on various routes, it is also full of errors. I was once caught out by the "24km return" distance quoted on the RNNP-Tugela Falls route. Turns out this was actually one way and resulting in me pitching a tent at 7:30PM after a very long day. Unfortunately I only bought the map for the area on the morning of the hike and therefore only realised this about an hour into the route. Could have turned out a lot worse though.
The list of passes at the end of the book can be interesting at times, but it is definitely not complete. For example, Judge Pass (which probably has the strongest trail I have ever hiked on when using a pass) isn't even on the list.
The 2 best lists of Berg passes are found at:
- www.berg.co.za/passesindex.htm (refer to the 3 subpages)
But even those lists aren't 100% complete with recent additions such as Bond Pass missing from both lists.
Best writeups you will find on Berg passes is found in the blogs section of this pass - Stijn has written up detailed descriptions of various passes (including almost every pass at Mnweni).
Thanks for all the replies. I attached a picture of what I was talking about, doesn't seem to have been added though. I've marked the spot in question with a couple of red arrow, will try and upload the pic again. As you ascend Grays and look to your left (true right) you can see the section I am referring to on your left. Lots of scree and boulders on this pass. Intrepid, I might have the names of the peaks in question wrong though.
Photo from one of ST's old posts:
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In your opinion, which is the better option from Keith Bush camp? Up Grays and down Ships prow in one day with not very experienced hikers, or rather up Cowl pass and down it's South Eastern side to where it meets up lower down with the path from Ships prow pass? Shucks, there was definitely something wrong with my browser today, looks like I can now add pictures again, even the submit, preview and cancel buttons are back on screen again
I've done the walk from Keith Bush up Gray's and then down Ship's Prow to near the contour path in a day. Its a longish day with a sting in the tail but not a hard day if you are all fit. We did the hike mostly on memories rather than fitness.
We set off from KB at about 6:30am in December, topped out about 9:30 and roamed around Vultures Retreat (off route) on the escarpment itself for a bit. We had a sly dos in Nkosazana cave over lunch and then made for the top of Ship's Prow, reaching it by about 3pm. We descended Ships in a thunderstorm without stopping much and camped near the contour path at about 7 or 7:15pm.
The sting in the tail is the bundu bashing near the bottom of Ship's Prow. We'd both done a lot of Berg passes with no paths (Icidi, Ifidi, Mbundini and so on) so the lack of a path didn't bother us unduly. But I'm sure first-timers will have something to say about getting down Ships. A plan B could be to have a scout around on top having ascended from KB via Gray's and then head back down Gray's again if there's a hint of mutiny in the ranks for another 4 or 5 hours of hard work. I wouldn't start down Ships as late as we did, especially not in shorter day length Sept. If you aren't ready to descend Ships by 12, have a careful think.
I wouldn't go for that other pass you've spotted. Save that for a dedicated trip with a mate who has done a lot of Berg stuff and is up for some suffering.
I've also done the ascent from KB up to Cowl Cave and then the descent down the other side though not in a day because we climbed Cowl to break up the trip. The descent from Cowl towards the Injisuthi side is said to be more troublesome than the ascent from KB though I don't recall any issues myself. I have probably just forgotten them.
Riaang wrote: In your opinion, which is the better option from Keith Bush camp? Up Grays and down Ships prow in one day with not very experienced hikers, or rather up Cowl pass and down it's South Eastern side to where it meets up lower down with the path from Ships prow pass?
For a not-very-experienced group, I would say neither. Tiska has given you a pretty detailed answer already, I have done Gray's pass twice (up and down - the writeup and photos are somewhere on this site). I have never done Ships Prow. With a day pack I would back a team of the guys I usually hike with to do KBC to Cowl Fork Camp in a day, but it would be a tough day - not to mention the fact that we would get from one camp to another without tents, sleeping bag or cooking gear. I know I would really struggle to do this with an overnight pack.
Cowl Pass doesn't look too difficult from the KBC side, but I know its much worse on the south side. It has no trail and route finding can be difficult. You shouldn't get mist at this time of the year, but if you are on the pass and get stuck in mist - you could end up in real trouble. I would say this isn't a route for a less experienced group.
With Ships - be careful of which gully you end up in, the north gully can be dangerous and is definitely not a pass you would want to end up going down.
If you are set on going up and down in a day, consider going up and down Gray's - you can take a walk from the top of the pass to the top of Nkosozana Falls - one of my favourite lookout points, plenty of big peaks to climb in the area as well.