Gray’s Pass

11 Oct 2010 10:30 #74439 by Stijn
Gray’s Pass was created by Stijn
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If you’re looking for great views without too much strenuous hiking involved, Gray’s Pass is a must. This is probably the best pass to use for a weekend hike in the Drakensberg and it takes the hiker deep into the throat of the Mhlawazini Valley at the base of Cathkin, Champagne Castle and Monk’s Cowl. The pass itself is relatively short which allows for a lot of time to explore the many great escarpment features in the wide valley at the top of Gray’s Pass.

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21 May 2013 06:11 #56982 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Gray’s Pass
So next weekend I should finally get to do Gray's Pass :woohoo:

I have downloaded a GPS track, checked the route on my photos from the top of Sterkhorn (you can see the path for at least half of the route on my one photo) and have read Stijn's RD of the pass (very informative, thanks :thumbsup: )

Anything important I need to know?

We are heading up from Monk's Cowl offices in the morning and pushing right through to Nkosazana Cave. The next morning we will be up bright and early and try to get the sunrise from Cowl View Peak (I think it's also known as Champagne Castle Ridge Peak), and reversing the route to get back.

My time guidelines are roughly:
- Aim to leave car park by 7:30
- After leaving car park at 8, be at Blind Man's Corner by 10
- Be at Keith Bush by 1
- Be on the escarpment by 4
- Find Nkosazana before its too dark (although we are carrying a tent and I have the GPS co-ord)

I will be carrying a gas stove for the first time this year - have to be prepared for having to melt ice etc, plus soup is always a pick-me-up in winter...

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21 May 2013 07:24 #56985 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Gray’s Pass
Since it takes a ridge/slope line, Gray's is a dry pass. The snow may have helped but I'd still be drinking lots at every opportunity after Blind Man's corner noting that Keith Bush can sometimes be dry too. Nkosa cave is not hard to find if there is no mist.
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21 May 2013 08:16 #56986 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Gray’s Pass
There is now a minor variation of trails in the middle section of the pass. I suspect it has formed due to heavy use by the smugglers. Going up the pass, the split is at S29 04.435 E29 19.975, 2745m. The left fork is the original trail.

Nkosazana Stream at the top has always been reliable in my experience, even in the dry months.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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21 May 2013 13:12 #56995 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic Gray’s Pass
Hi Intrepid

For those of us who enjoy the non-technical aspects of VE for photos, mountain portrayals, trip reports and occasional intelligent discussions on Berg issues, the use of descriptors that are also non GPS related such as the above Gray's Pass alert is much appreciated. Some readers may share my avoidance of GPS tools and data while relishing the more literary depictions of the reasons we go to the Berg in the first place. I certainly dont go to share GPS points(!) I'd prefer to relish the "taste and smell" of what the mountains are about. For each his own but thanks for accommodating all likes.
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21 May 2013 14:10 #57000 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Gray’s Pass
Hi Thomas,
I'm writing as one who found all the Berg caves I know without GPS, so I share some of your views. But why, exactly, do you not like GPS? Does objecting to having a map not amount to the same principle?

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21 May 2013 14:27 #57001 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Gray’s Pass
I'm kind of replying to questions not directed my way, but anyway :laugh:

Personally I like GPS devices for statistical reasons (e.g. average speed and how long your breaks have been), they also help with pacing. Otherwise I will always trust my eye and Berg knowledge over a device that works out where I am based on random man-made objects floating around in space. That being said, I don't expect I could find a pass summit or cave in thick mist unless I get really lucky - so its a good backup to have.

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21 May 2013 14:28 - 21 May 2013 14:34 #57002 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Gray’s Pass
:laugh: I would have thought you would want to "taste and smell" your own way up Grays without any info whatsoever, Thomas!

From what I remember in my limited grey matter, if you are going up the pass, initially the trail is on a ridge. Then it starts angling across (at an incline) towards the traverse that takes you below the cliffs of the 3300m buttress above, towards the throat of the pass. This is very roughly where the split is, and the variation covers approximately 400m of terrain. If I remember correctly it rejoins roughly where there there is the first scrambly section in the trail, after which the gradient eases up somewhat, ie at the start of the contour.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 21 May 2013 14:34 by intrepid.

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22 May 2013 06:54 #57020 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Gray’s Pass
I've been looking at my photos from Sterkhorn and spotting the pass line (you can clearly see at least the first km of the pass). If I am correct, the topo of the pass is roughly this:


The blue line would be the lower path is very exposed if I have this right?

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22 May 2013 08:42 - 22 May 2013 08:43 #57022 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Gray’s Pass

ghaznavid wrote: The blue line would be the lower path is very exposed if I have this right?


The photo captures a scene which has x,y and z dimensions. If x is width (left to right), y is depth (in and out of the screen) and z is height, then the y dimension is collapsed in the photo and this has the effect of everything looking steeper and more exposed than it is.....
Last edit: 22 May 2013 08:43 by tiska.

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