Mt Amery to Rwanqa

Copyright: MCSA-KZN 1998 ©

MOUNT AMERY: Frontal Route

(Map #1 : K:26 : 3143m)

Opening Party: Martin Winter, Malcolm Moor and Robert Moor.

Date: September 1955.

Approach up the Singati River until it forks on either side of the ridge leading to Mount Amery. Continue up the right fork and then take the first gully to the left. This gully leads high up the slopes of Mount Amery to a position above the rotten section of the ridge (with a large hole), and finally to the base of the rock face.

A break in the smooth bottom section of the face is afforded by a grassy lead ( = chute?) in the centre, and this connects to a grass ledge above. Walk along this ledge to the left and then climb into a small steep gully running down from a nek between the main mass of the peak and a detached gendarme on its left side. Follow the gully, avoiding a chimney by climbing out to the right and scrambling up a broken face. Re-enter the gully above the chimney. Continue up the gully and then traverse out right on a grass ledge just before getting to the nek.

Climb diagonally right up a broken face of mixed rock and grass - only two short C/D pitches need roping. This leads up to the final tower which is climbed by doing a D pitch up a chimney on the left hand side.

Descent: Via the gully immediately to the north of Mount Amery. This is only a scramble but could prove difficult if wet.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1955, pg 41.



(Map #1 : K:26)

Opening Party: Gavin Peckham and Ivan van Cleef.

Date: 23 November 1996.

The Fang is situated on the south face of Mt Amery. It may be reached by an easy four hour walk from the Sentinel car park. Access to the Fang is down a gully on the south face. This gully is located just about where the 'back' (west slope) of Mt Amery starts to rise eastwards from the escarpment. Abseil down the first 5 m step in the gully and pull down the rope. Scramble down to the next step. Tie in a fixed rope and abseil 15 m down a wide chimney, behind a large chockstone. A steep scramble leads down to the nek. If the gully is wet, a second fixed rope may be desirable.

  1. 40 m C. From the nek walk left along a narrow grass ledge that runs across the north east face. Half way along this grass ledge peters out for a few metres and requires a couple of exposed moves across a steep slab and around a slight corner before the ledge continues. Just before the end of the ledge, scramble up a couple of metres to a belay block that is just left of a rock ramp.
  2. 45 m F3. This pitch follows a narrow ledge that leads back across the face in a series of steps. Climb the first rock step / ramp (F2) - a blade peg is useful. Walk along the narrow grass ledge and climb the next step (F3). Continue along the ledge and climb the third rock step (D). Continue (easy) to reach a belay on the north arete at a point about 30 m above the nek.
  3. 40 m F2. Climb straight up the north arete to the summit.

Descent: Abseil down the top pitch and then down to the nek.

Comments: The obvious line straight up the north arete from the nek is spoiled by bad rock low down. However, the rock on the route described above, is excellent. The summit is undoubtedly the smallest in the 'Berg - an absolute pin point. Ascending the chimney in the gully provides some classic foot-and-back chimneying when dry. The 5 m step near the top of the gully can be easily climbed on the right as you face it.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1996, pg 134.



(Map #1 : L:27 : 3048m)

Opening Party: Phyl Goodwin, Lorna Peirson, M Stobie and R Gruwer.

Date: July 1949.

The route is on the main wall of the escarpment at the head of the Singati Valley between Mt Amery and Mt Oompie. At a point where the broad grass ledges reach the highest level, and where the Singati wall itself dips to its lowest point, the rock face is broken and is only about 100m high. The route starts from a small bulge of rock almost in the middle of the highest grass ledge. From here the route consists of a series of traverses, moving in steps diagonally to the right and entailing mainly D standard climbing. The possibility of more direct routes exists.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1950, pg 48.


MOUNT OOMPIE: Original Route (C)

(Map #1 : M:28 : 2871m)

Opening Party: Herbert "Oompie" Liddle, Alan Bird (*) and Clifford Herron.

(*) This is given as 'Byrd' in some references.

Date: July 1930.

This free-stander rises prominently from the main east ridge of the Thaba Edanyazana Buttress - 'the mountain with a knob'. It is located at an excellent vantage point, looking out over the Singati valley to the north and the Ifidi valley to the south.

The peak is approached with some difficulty by various possible routes from the Singati valley. Several rock bands must be negotiated on the final approach. From the front (east?) of the peak, traverse west (right?) on steep grass ledges along the base of huge rock walls. Continue in this direction (~ 800 m?) to where a broken gully leads up through the lower outcrops to the massive ridge connecting the peak to the escarpment. From this point there are two sharp, parallel gullies cutting into the back (west) of the peak. Take the more chimney-like one on the right. Scramble up for about 50 m (C) until the gully peters out between two small pinnacles. Traverse around the base of the pinnacle on the right, to reach a small saddle. Traverse further right to an easy gully which leads to another saddle between a sharp ridge on the right and the summit ridge of the peak on the left. A short rock pitch followed by easy grassy pitches lead to the summit.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1934, pg 74.

Note: Page 152 of The Natal Drakensberg, by Doyle Liebenberg records that the peak has been climbed in 1949, both via the north face by Jannie Graaff and party, and via the north east gully by Brian and Joan Quail, D Williamson and M Vosper in 1949. No other details are available.



(Map #1 : L:28)

The routes on both pinnacles are popular, both due to the pleasant climbing and due to the easy access - about 4½ hours easy walking from the Sentinel car park. On both routes it is usually necessary to leave a fixed rope and abseil down to the start of the route. Make sure to bring prussik loops! There is a small, convenient cave just below the edge of the escarpment. It is located under a rock band, about 10 m below and 50 m south of the topmost extremity of Ifidi Pass.



(Map #1 : L:28 : 3033m)

Opening Party: Martin Winter and Malcolm Moor.

Date: September 1959.

Time: About 3 hours from the escarpment to the summit.

Leaving a fixed rope, abseil off the edge of the escarpment straight down to the nek. Alternatively, descend the gully immediately to the north of the pinnacle. One short abseil on a fixed rope is required. From the gully, scramble up to the nek between the pinnacle and the escarpment. Note that it is not possible to scramble up to this nek by using the gully leading up from the South Ifidi Pinnacle side.

  1. 10 m F2: Start just left of the nek and climb up diagonally right until directly above the nek. Continue straight up to a belay on a sloping shoulder. Well protected.
  2. 30 m F1: Traverse around the corner to the right on spaced footholds (exposed) and onto a narrow ledge on the south face. Continue along the ledge (exposed at one point) until the ledge broadens out and you can make a safe belay. Continue walking along the ledge to reach a large recess in the south face.
  3. 30 m F3: Leading up from the recess, two cracks present alternatives. Scramble up the lower rocks and belay near the base of the right hand crack. This crack itself has two possibilities. Take the right hand option. This involves easy climbing except for one well protected F3 move up past a crack. After this a simple scramble leads to the summit.

The original RD suggests climbing the left hand crack, which is open at the bottom and rather overhanging. This crack is claimed to be strenuous, but 'only of E grade' - believe that if you will - it looks more like a G!

Descent: A 40 m abseil off a good block reaches the top of the first pitch. Another short abseil reaches the nek. 50 m ropes may reduce this to a single ab - now where did I put those prussik loops?

Ref: MCSA Journal 1959, pg 101.



(Map #1 : L:28 : 3033m)

Opening Party: Martin Winter and Gillian Bettle.

Date: May 1952.

Time: About 4 hours including the return to the escarpment.

This popular route lies on the escarpment side of the pinnacle. Scramble down the obvious gully on the escarpment, facing the pinnacle. Where the gully steepens, tie in a fixed rope and abseil to the bottom. There is a good, fixed peg just to the right (facing down the gully) and a little below (about 10 m) the point where the gully steepens. This peg may be useful if you can find it. Alternatively, if you are feeling bold, you can move out past the peg onto the steep south side of the gully and scramble down with care. At the bottom of the gully, walk across to the nek between the prominent gendarme and the escarpment. Traverse to the right (anti-clockwise) around the base of the gendarme (C) and back through the gap between the gendarme and the pinnacle to reach the escarpment side of the pinnacle.

  1. 4 m E. Climb up through the short chimney to gain a sloping grass ledge at the base of two parallel chimneys.
  2. 20 m E. Climb the right-hand chimney to reach another grass ledge and then scramble up to the base of the next chimney. The first two pitches can easily be climbed as one.
  3. 15 m E. Climb the chimney formed by a large flake and exit through a wormhole onto the final grass ledge. A short clockwise scramble, leads to the serrated summit.

Descent: Ab down the top pitch from a good ab point on the outside edge of the wormhole. A second ab from a chockstone reaches the grass ledge at the bottom of the first pitch. Thereafter, simply reverse the approach.

The opening party slept in Tunnel Cave, climbed the Inner Tower Gully, walked across the escarpment, climbed the peak and got back to the RNNP hotel in one day - try that if you think you are fit!

Ref: MCSA Journal 1952, pg 39. Copyright: MCSA-KZN 1998 ©



(Map #1 : L:28)

Opening Party: Gavin Peckham and Richard Knott.

Date: 21 November 1999.

Use the same approach as for the South Ifidi Pinnacle (see above), to reach the nek between the gendarme and the escarpment.

  1. 25 m D. From the highest point on the nek, walk a few metres to the left and start up a right-tending recess. Follow the line of least resistance, tending left on mixed rock and grass, to reach a belay on a grassy shoulder at the base of the final rock pillar. The belay is at the base of a short, shallow chimney or recess with a chockstone about 3 m up.
  2. 30 m F3 / A1. Climb the chimney / recess to just above the chockstone. Traverse left for about 4 m and then climb diagonally up to the left for about 6 m to a tiny stance located about 3 m left of an old peg. Layback up a short recess to reach a position under a small roof / overlap. There is another old peg a couple of metres off to the right and just below the only tuft of grass on the pitch. Reach across and clip a sling into the peg. Step across into the sling to gain access to the recess above. Climb straight up to the recess to the top. Belay points are located in a crack just over the far (north) edge of the summit.

Descent: A 5 m loop of ab cord around the escarpment side of the summit is required. From this, a 45 m abseil reaches straight down to the nek.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1999, pg 165.


ICIDI PENCIL - Eastern Arete (F3)

(Map #1: K:30)

Opening Party: Gavin Peckham, Anthony van Tonder, Bruce and David Sobey.

Date: 11 August 2001.

Walk about 300 m down from the top of Icidi Pass until you reach the furthermost / lowest end of a prominent 'shark-fin' shaped pinnacle on the right-hand side of the pass. From here a second 'shark-fin' is visible about 50 m further to the right - this is the Icidi Pencil. Walk across and start climbing at the nek on the eastern arete.

  1. 40 m F2. Climb a small pillar of stacked blocks. Place a knife-blade peg for protection and step up awkwardly onto the arete (only one F2 move). Continue more easily up the arete and belay below a rock spike.
  2. 30 m D. Continue easily up the arete and belay at a flat rock about a metre in diameter. Belay from three short, separate cracks - one beyond the other.
  3. 30 m F1. Continue up to a steeper section. Surmount this by initially moving past it on the right (exposed) and then climbing a short face to regain the crest of the arete. The next steep section is passed by stepping out left onto a small but very exposed slab with good foot and hand-holds and then scrambling up to a large step in the arete.
  4. 30 m F3. Belay on the left, at the start of the steep rock - a knife-blade peg is useful. Climb the steep rock and grass starting towards the left. Move up tending right, past a fixed peg, to reach the base of a vertical, grassy recess. Climb this (horrible) until you can stand on a block at the base of some blank, vertical rock that is now home to a most welcome bolt. Step up onto a tiny sloping ledge and then move up diagonally right, past another bolt, towards the short arete on the right. Hand-swing around the corner to a secure position at the base of a short vertical face. Climb this past a bolt to reach another step in the arete. Belay in cracks at the back of the step. Use sufficiently long slings on the bolts to minimise rope drag.
  5. 40 m F2. At the next steep section, head up diagonally right towards a short, grassy recess on the right-hand side of the arete. Climb the recess and then start a superb15 m traverse across the north face of the peak. This traverse is extremely exposed, but is on excellent rock and follows a ledge that is narrow at first, but widens further on. Protection consists of a fixed peg and good cam placings. Step up some blocks at the end of the ledge and then climb the short face above to gain a broad ramp on the western side. Scramble up passed a fixed peg to the summit. Watch your rope-work to reduce drag.

Descent: The opening party had three ropes and abseiled 20 m down the western arete and then made a spectacular 45 m abseil down to the nek between the two 'shark-fins'. The second abseil was awkward to set up and it is probably safer to make four abseils back down the eastern arete. Most of these abseils will be from large blocks so a substantial amount of ab-cord is required. The final abseil goes down the north side of the arete to the base of the peak.

Ref: MCSA Journal 2002, pg - yet to be published.



(Map #1 : M:35 : 3089m)

Opening Party: Paul White, 'Ginger' Cairns, Donald McDonald, Anthony Jones, Jocelyn Adams and Betty Davis.

Date: July 1958.

Time: All day.

Walk up the Mbundini valley to the point where it forks (O:36) with Mbundini Pass leading up to the right and Fangs Pass leading up to the left. The ridge between the passes rises gently to a series of rock bands and provides a route to the summit of the Abbey by finishing up a gully immediately to the left of its final vertical sweep.

Walk up the grassy crest of the ridge, surmounting a few C and D pitches of steep rock and grass to reach the bottom of the gully. The gully provides no serious obstacle. Bands of rock separated by grass slopes provide pitches varying from C to E standard, including a strenuous chimney which would prove difficult when wet.

Note: See photo of ridge in MCSA journal 1958 opposite p. 95.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1958, pg 85.



(Map #1 : M:35 : 3089m)

Opening Party: Paul White, 'Ginger' Cairns and Donald McDonald.

Date: July 1958.

Time: 2 hours includes return.

The Mbundini Spire is a prominent free standing spire to the west of the Abbey ridge and south-west of the Abbey. From the escarpment to climb down 15 m on easy grass towards the Mbundini Abbey Spire nek. Abseil the remaining 25m leaving a fixed rope for a later ascent.

From the nek climb a 6m D pitch leading diagonally left to a cubbyhole at the base of a chimney. Loose chockstones make the chimney dangerous so, from the cubbyhole, climb diagonally up right (5m E) then traverse right (5m E) to a ledge. From the ledge 15m of scrambling leads to the summit.

Return: Abseil to the nek and then prussik up to the top.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1958, pg 86.



(Map #1 : L:36 : 3024m)

Opening Party: Archie Cockburn and T.C. Norcott on the Outer Fang, with Mike Allan on the Inner.

Date: October 1952 (Outer) and July 1953 (Inner).

The Molar and the Fangs are at top of the same ridge that drops precipitously from the escarpment. The square-topped, free-standing Molar is closest to the escarpment, followed by the Fangs with sundry lesser spires and pinnacles further down the ridge.

These routes are best climbed using Fangs Cave as a base. Descend Fangs Pass for about 2 or 3 hundred metres and then make a descending diagonal traverse to the right, on grass for several hundred metres. This crosses several side gullies and leads into the main gully that separates the Molar, Fangs and subsidiary peaks from the main escarpment. Ascend this gully until a breach appears in the formidable walls on the left, near some large boulders in the bed of the adjacent gully. A beacon will hopefully be found at this point. The first pitch goes up the base of the Molar. Thereafter the route works its way across onto the Fangs.

  1. 30 m C. Climb up diagonally to the left and continue by ascending the chimney.
  2. 10 m D. Climb up the nose on the left.
  3. 15 m C. Traverse left (exposed). Walk round into a steep gully and scramble up it for 60m.
  4. 20 m D. Traverse left to a good stance on a level of the knife-edge. Abseil 15m down the other side onto a broad ledge. Scramble up to the base of two chimneys 5m apart.
  5. 6 m C. Climb the left chimney.
  6. 15 m E. Continue strenuously up the chimney. The top of this pitch is a tunnel and takes one onto the Natal side.
  7. A 40 m D-E pitch now leads to the summit of the Outer Fang, working slightly to the right. The rock is poor toward the top.
  8. To climb the main (inner) Fang, first ascend the "pimple" between the two summits and then jump a 2m gap onto a grass ledge. Traverse to the right and descend to a large recess which is followed to the top (E).

Ref: MCSA Journal 1953, pg 69 + photo facing pg 40. Also photo 1961, facing pg 62.



(Map #1 : L:36 : 3024m)

Opening Party: Bill Lewington, Pam and Peter Angus-Leppan.

Date: July 1961.

The nek between the Molar and the escarpment is only about 25m below the level of the escarpment. The face and overhangs on the Molar above this nek seem impregnable. This necessitates an approach from below, along the same line by which the Fangs are approached. Please read the 'blurb' for that route.

  1. 30 m C. Climb up diagonally to the left and continue by ascending the chimney.
  2. 15 m E. Instead of climbing the nose on the left, proceed up the narrow chimney directly above and then pass a cairn on a ledge (hopefully) to the left to reach a perfect stance with chockstone belay.
  3. 30 m C. Continue up the sloping chimney above.
  4. C. Scramble a short distance up a heather covered slope beneath a semi-circle of rock faces and traverse onto the nose on the left. Climb the nose.
  5. 30 m D. The chimney continues as a broken, sloping face. Climb in the chimney to the left, keeping to the left face except for a short deviation to the right near the top.
  6. 15 m E. After a short scramble, climb the narrow chimney above.
  7. 30 m C. Scramble in the chimney to a deep recess below a narrow section of the chimney where there are two chockstones.
  8. 15 m F. Climb the chimney which has awkwardly narrow dimensions. It is strenuous.
  9. 25 m D. Avoid the wide chimney (topped by a chockstone) above, by traversing to the right across the left wall of the chimney. Step over a chockstone and traverse further right onto a ledge. A deep chimney will be seen above.
  10. 15 m F. Climb the chimney at the back; it is narrow and the rock is loose in parts.
  11. 20 m E. Proceed up a narrow chimney, fairly well supplied with holds, to a chockstone. Climb out to the ledge above and walk to the summit.

Descend via one abseil to the escarpment nek. From here it is an easy scramble up onto the escarpment.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1961, pg 64 and photo facing pg 62.



(Map #1 : N:37 : 3175m)

Opening Party: Brian Godbold, Elsie Esterhuysen and Colin Inglis.

Date: July 1953.

Time:All day.

Rwanqa Peak dominates the Mbundini Valley to the south of the Mbundini Buttress. It is part of the escarpment and is the highest point between Ifidi and Mponjwane. The peak was apparently approached up a ridge running to the south from a position (probably O:36) somewhere near the bottom of Fangs Pass - the original RD is no too clear, but will be paraphrased for what it is worth:

From the Mbundini valley climb a long grass spur to the east until it deteriorates into a sharp rocky ridge. Scramble down a steep bush covered slope on the south-east side and then abseil 20m into the gully. Scramble up this gully to a more difficult section (40m C) that leads up left to the base of a small buttress.

A walking traverse leads out left to a 3m chimney of D standard. Traverse on grass to the right to a long slope which runs across the face of Rwanqa and which can be seen clearly from the Mbundini valley below. Scramble up the slope, past a deep basalt cave to a grassy gully which, when ascended, terminates in 3 small basalt buttresses separated from the main peak, and from each other, by chimneys.

Climb the middle chimney (4m D), and then traverse delicately left to the left-hand chimney, D/E. Follow this chimney for several D grade pitches to an overhanging chimney with a chockstone. Climb past this and up to the top. A walk of about 200m leads to the summit..

Ref: MCSA Journal 1953, pg 67.