Ship’s Prow Pass
Riaang wrote: There is a contour path going out of the Ships Prow valley and over towards Shada Ridge.
That's the good news. The bad news is two fold:
Firstly, finding the exit out of the riverbed. I always look for a large pine tree on the left, the path follows just a couple of meters below it. Not sure if said tree is still there though, else I can send you my track for this route. This section is where the worst of the crawling and bundu bashing will occur. This section is so bad that every time I go through here (either up or down this "path", it pulls gear and clothes out of my backpack!
A little late here, but please note that there is no reason to tackle this bush, which is heavily overgrown and incredibly frustrating. As mentioned in this post , simply carry on to the end of the Ship's Prow valley, round the corner, and take a left back up the little valley on the other side of the spur. There are cairns to the contour path. Much easier and quicker than the "short cut."
After much deliberation (and having had enough of the riverbed), we decided to go for the "shortcut" with the pine tree as reference. Even though badly burnt, it remains standing as the point of reference. As we approached it from the riverbed, I was a bit skeptical as I could not see anything but "forest and dense bush" between the exit point and the visible contour path higher up. The exit point has a large cairn and is easy to identify as it enters the overgrowth (it is not advised to enter this section without finding this cairn) . Once in it, after about 10-20 meters, you will reach a split where the "path" appears to go straight and / or left. Go left here (do not go straight!!!) and it is relatively easy going until joining the contour path. Even though overgrown and looking bad from afar, the path was easy to follow did not give us any problems.
The section at Cowl Fork was also easy to navigate with a good amount of cairns leading the way. The path was easy to follow with only a small amount of overgrowth. The rest of the contour path all the way to Blind Man's Corner is in good condition and made for easy walking.
@Riaang, after a long day of struggling through the Ship's overgrowth (the path on the true left has become significantly more overgrown since the previous 2 times I did the pass), we opted to camp at your suggested site next to the eroded wall (your large cairn is still there). What an amazing campsite, thanks ! It took us about 4 hours to reach BMC and we were back at Monk's Cowl office just after 11am.
@theRealDave - thanks for the heads-up. I read your post before we went and your suggested route (as indicated on the map) was a strong option and had we struggled with the shortcut we would not have thought twice about it.
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Did you make it to the top in one day as planned? It was an insanely hot day!!
Regrettably it was not us on Saturday, would have been great to have met you though . We started hiking on Friday. Yes, we did manage to get to the top in one day - started at 7:30 from the carpark and summited just before 3pm. It really was scorchingly hot the entire weekend. On driving home on Sunday it was 38'C at Bergville.
Did you also hike the weekend?
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Going this way _might_ be possible, but would be seriously hard going and, I believe, much slower that the "contour path" via cataract valley or shada ridge.
A word of....caution perhaps. In this area of the Berg, don't expect much in terms of paths. You are in for a LOT of bundu bashing. Any trip involving Ships Prow pass will involve endless hours of bundu bashing, and you will eventually get really gatvol with it. However, that's the terrain you are entering, and I've found that making peace with the situation beforehand helps keep my frustration levels low. That being said, the Ships Prow valley is still one of my favorite areas in the entire Berg. It is remote, rugged, overgrown, and hence not often visited. The campsites in the riverbed has (for me) one of the most spectacular sunrises in the entire berg (on a sunny day).
Planning on ascending Ships prow pass? Make sure you allocate enough time as this thing is on average a good 300m ASL higher than your average berg pass. Once you're out of the overgrown riverbed, walking up the steep grassy slopes feels like heaven. The only problem is that the top is in the heavens, so it takes longer to get to the top of the escarpment. But, still, an epic adventure awaits you whenever you tackle Ships Prow Pass. It never fails to deliver, and yes, I honestly can't say I've ever had a trip that wasn't tough up or down Ships. It's an epic pass and I love it!