Ship’s Prow Pass

11 Feb 2018 15:42 - 12 Feb 2018 07:54 #72787 by Gardi
Replied by Gardi on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
We plan to go to Champagne Castle going up Ship's Prow and down Gray's pass.

Day 1: sleep at blind man's corner.
Day 2: sleep top of Ship's Prow.
Day 3: sleep top of Grays pass or KBC depending on the weather and time.
Day 4: back to monks cowl camp

I"m however not sure of the vegetation and other difficulties Ship's Prow pass may have in stall for us.

Any advice or alternative options?

Mod Note- Moved to existing thread
Last edit: 12 Feb 2018 07:54 by JonWells.

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12 Feb 2018 06:37 #72788 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
Hello Gardi

There is a forum thread for Ships Prow Pass:
www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/11-drakensberg-passes/55800-ship%E2%80%99s-prow-pass-south-fork.html

I really suggest coming down Ships Prow - it should be a lot easier to find the vague path through the vegetation that way

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12 Feb 2018 10:33 #72791 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Ship’s Prow Pass

Gardi wrote: We plan to go to Champagne Castle going up Ship's Prow and down Gray's pass.

Day 1: sleep at blind man's corner.
Day 2: sleep top of Ship's Prow.
Day 3: sleep top of Grays pass or KBC depending on the weather and time.
Day 4: back to monks cowl camp

I"m however not sure of the vegetation and other difficulties Ship's Prow pass may have in stall for us.

Any advice or alternative options?

Mod Note- Moved to existing thread


AndrewP offers good advice. Better to descend Ship's. That's what I did too.

But if you do stick with going up Ship's Prow, then better to get beyond Blind Man's corner on day one so as to make as much progress as possible towards the base of the pass. The troublesome part, as numerous posts will bear testimony to, entails threading your way through the bundu at and upstream of the contour path junction. It's not technically difficult anywhere, but it is tiring because it involves bending over, jumping, hassling, back tracking and so on. Not what you really want to be doing at the start of one of the longest Berg passes.
You will find places to camp upstream of the contour path and towards the base of Ship's Prow.
Good luck.

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12 Feb 2018 10:35 #72792 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
Meant to add - your Day 3 is only about 3 hrs worth, even if you go to KBC.

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12 Feb 2018 11:51 #72793 by tonymarshall
Replied by tonymarshall on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
This post from Gardi is now in the Ships Prow Pass thread, and you can read all of the information in the preceding pages.

I agree with the advice from AndrewP and tiska, having myself done Ships Prow Pass up and down.

If you have a specific reason to want to go up Ships Prow Pass, I would suggest on your day 1 you get into the Ships Prow Stream and camp there. It is a long, tiring pass to go up, and last year took me and SingleSpeed 7 to 8 hours from tenting in the stream near the contour path to the top of the pass.

Otherwise I would suggest rather go up Grays Pass and descend Ships Prow Pass.

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20 Jan 2020 10:24 #75613 by HikerParsons
Replied by HikerParsons on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
Good day. I intend to do a ship prow and Leslie’s pass loop in March this year. The plan is to head up Leslie’s Pass and down Ship’s Prow Pass.

My main concern is the fitness of one of the hikers in the group. He has done one hike in the Drakensberg during which he has managed to ascend organ pipes pass, via the camel back, and descend Tseketseke Pass at more or less the same level of fitness.

Can anyone give a comparison or comments, specifically referring to the level of difficulty, on descending Tseketseke Pass and Ship’s Prow Pass. Ps. I have looked at their ratings but would appreciate more information.

I have noticed that the introduction on the page for Ship’s Prow Pass mention that it is notorious for rockfalls which have killed hikers previously. I have not seen any incidents being reported on the site in this regard. Have I missed a report or can I assume that no incidents have been reported for quite some time?

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20 Jan 2020 12:05 #75614 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
I did that loop from Injisuthi (but using north fork) a few years ago. The writeup is at  https://www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/drakensberg-trips/55941-mini-hike-reports.html?start=130

Both of these passes are much harder than Camel.

Leslies is one of my favourites - I last did it about a month ago. From Marble Baths to the start of the pass, if you can find the valley trail (and manage to follow it), it isn't too bad. The pass itself is big and never ends. I rate its difficulty is generally underrated in writeups - it is definitely harder than, say, Mnweni Pass.

Crossing the ridge on top between the passes also isn't trivial - you have to put on more than 300m to get across that. The valley on top between the passes is also longer than you might be anticipating. On a GT, that stretch between Champagne Castle and Mafadi feels like it will never end!

Ships Prow isn't as much hard as it is very long. If you get onto the trail near the top, it is generally fine. It just takes forever to get down. And once the trail drops you in the riverbed - I hope you enjoy boulder hopping and overgrowth. Also make sure you have a GPS track, the turnoff for the contour path is very easy to miss. Also the contour path is basically impossible to follow through the badly overgrown bits.
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21 Jan 2020 13:16 - 21 Jan 2020 13:18 #75618 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
Hi HikerParsons,

If you've done a Berg pass before you at least know how much suffering is involved in getting to the escarpment. The approach to Leslies is usually the hard part for me. That section of rock hopping in the riverbed after marble baths cave to the foot of the ridge where Leslies starts takes forever. Make sure you top up with water here, there is no water on the ridge. You might get water higher up when you cross the stream that comes off the escarpment, but in winter there is usually nothing (not when I've done it, in any event).

The Camel is generally easy underfoot, but it is pretty steep. Leslies is also steep, but with more loose stuff to contend with. It's steep and long so you guys are in for some suffering :-). As Ghaz mentioned, the ridges south of leslies tend to be high, so after the pass you are in for more climbing. 

You didn't mention how much time you have to do the hike in, so difficult to comment on your route selection. If you want to go from injasuthi camp all the way up Leslies and to the top of Mafadi, and then down to Upper Injasuthi cave for night 1, you are in for (in my opinion) a properly tough day. Then, towards Ships Prow pass, where do you plan to overnight? To answer your question regarding incidents at Ships Prow, there hasn't been any in many years. Take the southern fork to be safe, the north fork contains a scree field that could potentially be dangerous, especially after rainfall.

What makes Ship Prow difficult is 2 things: It is high, you start at around 3350m ASL, which is nearly 300m higher that the average Berg pass in the Northern berg. Add that to an already steep and long descent and your legs will feel like jelly when you get to the bottom of the pass. This is where the fun begins. The next 2,5km stretch of riverine bushwacking will stay in your memory for quite some time. I am usually slower in this section than ascending the pass itself. About 500-600m before you exit the riverbed on the left (or you could go straight down still for more vegetation torture if you like) you will find a campsite in the riverbed (further away from the exit point, towards the (as you descend) right side wall. I built a large cairn at the head of this spot, hopefully you can see the 1m high tower over the riverine bushes. The sunrises from this camping spot is, for me, one of the best in the berg. If it wasn't for the bushwacking section I would visit Ships more often, as i really like the pass.

Tseke, by comparison, is an easy pass to ascend or descend. From a navigation point it is also easy, there is only one spot where you have to make sure you don't miss the path. Lower down the pass (after first the grassy section, the the scree fields, and then the sidebanks on the left of the river) you will get to a spot where the sidewalls terminate in a section of the riverbed. In summer there is usually a nice waterfall (maybe 3m high?) at this spot. From here onwards, rock hop all the way down in the riverbed.

Whichever passes you guys use, all of them are awesome and more rugged that the Camel. 

Enjoy!!!
Last edit: 21 Jan 2020 13:18 by Riaang.

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22 Jan 2020 13:43 #75623 by HikerParsons
Replied by HikerParsons on topic Ship’s Prow Pass
Hi Riaang//Ghaznavid
 
Thank you for your input and advise. The plan is to spend the first night in Marble Baths Cave. The second night on top of the escarpment
and the third night somewhere between Ships Prow Pass and Injisuthi Camp. I will definitely keep the campsite in mind.
 
Regards

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22 Jan 2020 22:06 - 23 Jan 2020 08:08 #75625 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Ship’s Prow Pass

HikerParsons wrote: I have noticed that the introduction on the page for Ship’s Prow Pass mention that it is notorious for rockfalls which have killed hikers previously. I have not seen any incidents being reported on the site in this regard. Have I missed a report or can I assume that no incidents have been reported for quite some time?

Three hikers were killed in a flood somewhere in the boulder beds of the valley at the base of the pass. This happened in the 70s and it became quite a notorious incident. It has also been immortalised in Berg literature such as Dragon's Wrath. The theory is either that they tried to cross a flooded stream, or that they were washed away in their camp at night. Evidently there was a lot of boulder debris in the valley from the strong flood at the time.

I believe that incident gave Ship's Prow Pass the reputation and legend it has even to this day, but it is often not accurately portrayed, or understood. The boulder bed approach to either of the two forks is arduous and bushy - yes. But this is not the only pass that presents this challenge. Also, flash floods such as the one that killed the three hikers could happen in many of the approaches of other passes.

Ship's Prow South Fork (these days generally referred to simply as "Ship's Prow Pass") itself is not overly difficult or dangerous once you leave the boulder beds and start the proper, steep ascent on the grassy slopes. It is simply long and steep. It used to be somewhat harder than it is these days because there is something of a trail developing on these grassy slopes which wasn't always there. There is no danger of rockfall on the steep part of the pass (at least, not any greater than other passes), and even in the approach, the danger is flash flooding (which can also move boulders), but not actual rock fall.

Ship's Prow North Fork (these days also referred to as Cathkin Mountain Pass), it the one that is more fitting to the legend, but it is not the route of choice - the South Fork is the one that is commonly done. The approach is the same for both forks, but the North Fork does have sections of big loose boulders on steeper slopes, that you have to pick your way though. These rocks can roll and slide. I have seen this happen first hand, and the hazard is greater on this pass than it is for many other passes. Note that the party that was killed in the 70s would have descended the South Fork.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 23 Jan 2020 08:08 by intrepid.
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