Mponjwane to The Saddle

Copyright: MCSA-KZN 1998 ©


MPONJWANE

What's in a name? This Zulu name means something along the lines of, 'the small horn of a young beast". It was originally applied by the Zulus to what is now known as Cathedral Peak. A view of Cathedral Peak, side-on, from the north or south shows the summit cone rising as a slight bulge from the bulk of the peak, and hence the name. At the same time (about 1900) the Rockeries and Mponjwane were collectively known by colonials as the Cathedral, with Rockeries being the 'body' of the church and Mponjwane the spire. The Zulus referred to Rockeries and Mponjwane as Ntabamabutho - the mountains of the warriors. Due to a cartographic error, the names Cathedral and Mponjwane were transposed. The error remained unchallenged and was well entrenched by 1916. This most inappropriate nomenclature remains with us to this day. To confuse things still further, Mponjwane was, and occasionally still is, referred to as the Rockeries Tower! Ref: Reg Pearse, "Barrier of Spears", 2nd ed, pg 176.

 

MPONJWANE: North Face (F3)

(Map #1 : U:39 : 3177m)

Opening Party: Mike Scott and Hans Graafland.

Date: July 1967.

The face is approached from below by walking up the ridge that runs parallel with the north side of the Rockeries. Follow this ridge to the first bare, steep rock outcrop, and then traverse for some distance across grass slopes on the right side of the ridge to a small campsite below a B/C ridge and next to a small stream - about 20m up from the main stream bed. Walk up the B/C ridge to the start of the gully that runs up along the north face from left to right (about two hours from the campsite).

  1. 20m E. Walk up the gully to the first obstacle. Climb up short cracks to a cavern. Climb out of the cavern on the left (facing out), and then climb diagonally up to the left (facing in) to a stance.
  2. 13m F1 Sup. Walk about 80m up the gully to a point roughly 15m below a huge chockstone in the gully. Scramble up to the left to a small stance below a scooped out wall. Climb a short face on the left. Continue up and around the corner to a solitary, thick-stemmed chichi bush stem at the base of a steep gully.
  3. 30m D. Ascend the gully, moving out to the left near the top. Walk a few metres to the left and then climb a short face to a ledge.
  4. Traverse to the left for 70m C and then scramble up to a heather terrace.
  5. 30m D/E. Walk up and to the right to the base of a prominent gully. Climb the gully for 15m and then move out right onto the buttress. Climb to a small stance.
  6. 15m F1. Move to the right and climb up to a stance via a prominent chimney / crack.
  7. 40m D. Climb up bearing diagonally to the right to reach a nek between a prominent thumb and the main face.
  8. 25m D. From the nek move to the right round a block. Climb the crack and then continue up slabs, bearing slightly to the left.
  9. 30m D. Climb the slabs to a broad, grassy shoulder. The standard route traverses in on this shoulder. From here three alternatives lead to the summit. Option (c) was followed on the opening ascent.
    1. Follow the two top pitches of the Standard Route (F1) - see below.
    2. Climb the first prominent chimney to the right of the standard route (35m F3), followed by a 20m D/E pitch - not recommended.
    3. (i) 20m D/E. Move to the right hand extremity of the ledge, climb up, and then move to the right around the corner. Continue up to the base of a smooth looking recess.

(ii) 15m F3. Climb the recess, moving out to the left near the top.

(iii) 20m C/D. Climb to the summit.

Descent: The original RD says, "Ten long abseils . . . took us off the route." These were presumably back down the same route. "Rock Climbs of the Drakensberg" suggests abseiling down the standard route but I doubt that you can get back to the campsite if you do this.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1968, pg 84.

 

MPONJWANE: Thomson's (Standard) Route (F1)

(Map #1 : U:39 : 3117m)

Opening Party: George Thomson and Ken Snelson.

Date: 10 April 1946.

Time: The return trip starting from the cave can be done in 7 hours if you climb fast and things go well. Most teams take much longer.

This very popular route is long but easy. Various routes can be used to descend to the start, all aiming for the nek between Mponj and the escarpment. The easiest is to descend near the Rockeries and then follow a series of narrow gullies up and down, along an almost straight line, to the nek. At the nek, climb down through a "worm hole" and descend for about 100m until the start is reached in the form of some water-worn gullies.

  1. 40m E. Find the easiest route up the water-worn grooves in the rockface. Generally, it is easiest to move left initially and then right towards the top to reach a small stance. This pitch is often wet, but still climbable.
  2. 60m C with the odd D move. Scramble up on easy rock to a large, grassy basin. Walk across the basin and scramble up about 30m of easy, gently sloping rock. From here tend right towards three small, parallel chimneys. Climb the right hand chimney easily (5m D), passing either behind (dirty) or in front (exposed) of a large chockstone and exiting onto a flat patch of grass. Walk 10m left (a bit thin at one point) to another, larger flat patch of grass which gives access to the gully leading to the summit.
  3. 50m D. Scramble about 5m up the rock on the left to reach a narrow grass ledge that leads up towards the main gully. Belay and start climbing where the grass ledge peters out. About 35m of D grade climbing leads to a secure belay at the base of a short chimney.
  4. 15m F1. Climb the very awkward chimney and scramble up a short way to a belay on a comfortable grass step in the gully. If wet, the chimney is extremely difficult. In this case it is possible to climb the rock on the left, using a layaway flake - thin and balancy - about F2.
  5. 35m E. Walk about 5m around to the right and then scramble up easy rock to reach a sloping rock ledge that runs out to the right. A horizontal crack, along the line where the ledge abuts onto the main face, provides a series of undercut holds at knee-level. Traverse to the right hand end of the ledge and make an exposed move around the corner onto a grass ledge that broadens as it runs across the east face. Belay on this grass ledge.
  6. 60m C. Stay roped up because of the exposure and walk about 30m along the ledge to a belay under some overhangs. Walk about 30m further along the ledge and round a corner to reach a huge, grassy shoulder on the north east side.
  7. 40m F1. Just around the corner an obvious gully leads up to the summit. This starts with about 15m of sloping rock. A good, clean, vertical crack (F2) on the left of this rock leads to a steep, grassy section of the gully above. Alternatively wander up further to the right (D). Either way, walk up the gully to the base of the final, short chimney.
  8. 10m F1. Climb the chimney. It is awkwardly narrow at the bottom and capped by a chockstone at the top. Scramble to the top passing over a small archway formed above the meeting point between the top of the gully leading up from the start of the route and the gully of the final pitch which is on the opposite side of the peak.

Descent. Abseil down the gully facing the escarpment. The first ab point is under the arch mentioned above. Six full abs are required. There are good ab points near the end of each rope length - mostly off chockstones. There are numerous other stray ab points scattered along the way. Watch your ropes carefully - the potential for snagging is great and has led to several major epics.

Variations:

  1. After pitch 4, continue up the gully. This requires three pitches of about F1 or F2.
  2. After pitch 5, climb up and then back left to the original gully which is followed to the top.
  3. After pitch 4, climb one full rope length up the chimney and belay above a chockstone. Exit left to a ledge which is followed to the base of an 'S-shaped' crack that may be clearly seen from Mponj Cave. Climb this crack which provides sustained F1 climbing with a very airy layback exit. Highly recommended.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1946, pg 37.

 

MPONJWANE: West Face (F3)

(Map #1 : U:39 : 3117m)

Opening Party: Tony Dick and Rusty Rowsell.

Date: May 1969.

Time: 3 hours climbing.

Scramble up the initial slabs of the original (standard) route, then move to the left out of the gully to a grassy stance from which the standard route goes to the right. This route goes diagonally to the left.

  1. 30m F1. Move over slabs and into a crack which provides straight forward climbing.
  2. An F grade pitch up the crack leads to a grassy hollow below two chimneys. The left hand one appears unclimbable.
  3. 25m F3. Climb the right hand chimney (this is tricky halfway up, but is well protected). At the top move left out of the chimney, up a vertical band, to a stance below twin cracks about half a metre apart.
  4. F2. Handjam up these cracks to a comfortable grass ledge which breaks the face. It is possible to traverse left around a corner at this point, but this would spoil the line.
  5. 25m F3. Climb the obvious chimney through the red overhangs that nay be clearly seen from Mponj cave. This requires horizontal chimneying to get out onto the face again. The left hand face is followed to the summit.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1969, pg 82.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLES (A-H)

(Map #1 : U:40 : 2880m - 3027m)

Rockeries consists of a ridge serrated by pinnacles. The individual pinnacles are identified by the letters A to H with H being closest to the escarpment. Photos taken of the south side, face pages 94 of the 1958 Journal and 48 of the 1939 Journal. A good photo of the northern aspect faces page 60 of the 1953 Journal. The best bases are Mponjwane Cave or high up in Rockeries Pass. The first route to be opened was the gully between pinnacles D and E on the north side of the Rockeries. Since then most of the routes have been approached from the south via "Key" gully. This is the gully that descends from the escarpment, skirting the south west face of the Rockeries, and entering the pass just above the last water. Access from the escarpment end is obtained either via abseil from the escarpment, or via the Inner Route. Access to Pinnacle A, and the easiest descent, is via the Shoulder route, which is easier and quicker than the Direct route. Descent at the escarpment end is easiest via the Inner route.

All the pinnacles have been climbed in one long day by Richard Smithers and Paul Anderson from Mponjwane Cave, after the first ascent of Pinnacle H. This traverse can be considered classic. Anyone thinking of doing the route (H-A) should leave early from the cave and carry a good torch. A fair amount of abseil cord will also be required. The traverse in reverse would be an even longer day. The routes on the next few pages are as described in the various journals, and it is left to the individual to decide what variation (up, sideways, or down) to use.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE A: From Pinnacle B (F2)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Bob Davies and Jannie Graaff.

Date: 8 April 1955.

Time: 12 hours.

From the top of Pinnacle B abseil down to the gap between A and B. (A rope should be left in position if you intend to return.) Climb round to the right and up a little to a roomy stance at the base of a large recessed corner leading to the top. The left wall is climbed for about 8m (F2) to a ledge from where an easy pitch leads to the summit.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1955, pg 37.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE A: Direct (G)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Bob Davies and Gavin Carter.

Date: July 1956.

Time:

This route starts in Key gully and is best followed by referring to the photo facing page 94 in the 1958 Journal. To reach the main heather terrace below the main rock bands, leave Key Gully by another gully coming in on the right. Ascend this gully and at a dry waterfall move out to the right and ascend some short rock bands to the terrace at the base of Pin A. The route to Pinnacle A starts from this terrace. (This 'terrace' is a large, sloping patch of grass and scrub.)

Start up an easy, sloping buttress towards the left of the terrace. Towards the top of the buttress, move to the right into a grassy 'pocket'.

From here scramble out to the left and around a corner onto a large, sloping grass ledge. This ledge is at the base of a huge recess that leads up to the nek between Pins A and B.

From the right side of the ledge, scramble up to the right and back onto a continuation of the initial, easy buttress. Belay and start climbing when the going gets tough.

The route become progressively more difficult from here up. Follow a line heading straight up to the top of Pin A, but tending left and right where necessary to minimise the difficulty. The final crack is blocked by two chockstones. The first is avoided by climbing a delicate face on the left (F) and the second is climbed direct (G). It is easier to aid this obstruction using etriers.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1958, pg 93.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE A: Shoulder Route (E)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Bob Davies, Jannie Graaff and Dennis Mitchell.

Date: May 1958.

Time:

This line is a less direct version of the "Direct" route but is quicker and easier. It is the usual line of descent. Again, it is best to consult the photo in the 1958 journal.

From the grassy 'pocket' at the top of the easy sloping buttress used by the Direct Route (see above), traverse out right on easy rock to a heather slope where ropes can be coiled. Cross a gully separating the 'shoulder' from the main pinnacle. Scramble easily up to the top of the shoulder and around to the bottom of a crack on the north side of the Pinnacle. This crack is just before the wide crack that can easily be seen from below. Climb the crack making a short deviation on the face to the left about halfway up. The crack and face are of E standard.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1958, pg 94.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE D: North Face (F)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: June Slinger, Jannie Graaff, Dennys Williamson and Bob Davies.

Date: 01 July 1953.

Time: Approach, 3h; climb, 6h; ab, 3h; walk out 2h. = 14 hours if things go well. The opening party took 21 hours - a very long day !

This route was climbed from a base camp on the true right hand side of the Ntonjelane stream, about 300m beyond Scaly Cave (X:40). Approach the route by climbing a steep slope immediately opposite the campsite. From here, traverse up and right, around to the north side of the Rockeries. Continue around until it is possible to scramble up to the base of the recess running down from the gap between Pinnacles D and E. This takes about 3 hours and the opening party suggest that, "It is advisable to work out the approach before the day of the climb."

The route starts high up in the recess, in a chimney distinguished by two large chockstones. There is a chimney on either side of this chimney; the left one is very narrow and steep and the right one ends in an unsavoury looking grassy overhang.

  1. 35m F. Ascend the chimney, which gets wider higher up, to a stance deep in the chimney where a piton may be found. The difficulty is passing the large chockstone about 20m up. A piton 3m below protected these moves.
  2. 30m F. Ascend to the next chockstone and leave the chimney by climbing out to the right and up to a wide, heather and grass covered ledge. This is the crux of the climb and the difficulty is climbing out of the chimney at the chockstone. It is, however, well protected.
  3. 25m E. Climb the crack behind a small gendarme. This crack starts at the top left hand corner of the ledge.
  4. 25m F. This "zig-zag" pitch ascends an interesting face to a small ledge below another chimney. The start is at a large block to the left and the line then alternates between two narrow vertical cracks about 2m apart.
  5. 15m D. Ascend the chimney.
  6. 30m E. This is an unpleasant pitch owing to superficial grass. However, rock grips can be found most of the way. Climb a short crack near the top. The stance is at a large bollard below a crack.
  7. 20m D. Start up the crack and then ascend diagonally to the left to another crack where there is a chockstone belay.
  8. 15m E. Traverse left around a corner into the main recess (or gully) which descends from between Pinnacles D and E.
  9. 30m E. Ascend the left hand wall of the recess up a series of cracks to a stance where an abseil piton may be found.
  10. 25m E. Climb up a pleasant face on Pinnacle D and traverse left to a shoulder above the start of the pitch.
  11. 30m E. Ascend from the shoulder on the north face of Pinnacle D for about 5m, then traverse left into an easy recess and ascend this to a convenient stance.
  12. 10m C. Scramble to the summit.

Descent: For the sake of speed it is advisable to climb down pitches 12, 11, 8, 7 and 5 and abseil down the rest. With the 50m ropes used nowadays, this descent may prove less of a problem.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1953, pg 60.

NOTE: To climb Pin B from the top of Pin D: Abseil down to the nek and scramble over a minor pinnacle to a rock bridge that connects with Pinnacle B. Cross the bridge and ascend a 12m D pitch to the summit of Pinnacle B. Leave a rope if a return is intended.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE F: Inner Route and Traverse (E)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Bob Davies and Martin Winter.

Date: October 1958.

Time: 12 hours.

To reach the start of the Inner Route to Pinnacle F, scramble up Key Gully until directly below the gap separating the Rockeries from the escarpment, just after the first difficult section in the gully. Alternatively, from the top, descend the left rocky gully of Rockeries Pass until an obvious traverse at the level of the main heather terrace on the Rockeries. A short abseil gains Key gully. The route is clearly marked on the photo facing page 94 of the 1958 Journal.

A climbing section of about 30m E leads from the Key Gully up to the heather terrace. The route finding on this lower section is tricky. The next portion starts in a crack sloping diagonally up left and finishes at a point from which one can walk into the gully which descends from the gap. The way to Pinnacle F is then both easy and obvious.

The Traverse: After completing the Inner Route to Pinnacle F, the route to Pinnacle D is straightforward and there are various alternatives. (The route from Pinnacle D to A was described in the above routes).

Ref: MCSA Journal 1958, pg 94. Copyright: MCSA-KZN 1998 ©

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE G (F3/A1)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Tony Dick and Carl Fatti.

Date: July 1969.

The route can be seen from the top of Rockeries Pass. Pinnacle G is nearest the escarpment, and the line followed is more or less up the arete, beginning in Key Gully.

  1. 30m F and A1. Climb an open book just to the left of the arete (loose rock). Move to the right to a small grass stance on the arete.
  2. 40m F. Take off from a wobbly block to the right, and climb a chock-filled crack (F sup = F3?). Continue from a big ledge up a chimney.
  3. 150m. Take the easiest line to the right of a gendarme on the arete. Continue slightly to the right of the arete over several bands, one of which involves hand jamming up an open book with two cracks in it (F sup). A point is then reached from where it is possible to traverse into the gully on the right. (The inner route crosses here??)
  4. Continue up the arete onto the final free-stander. A short rock band (F sup) leads to a short traverse to the left.
  5. 15m F. Move to the left onto the west corner to climb an open book (good rock) to an overhang. Traverse to the left and up to the summit cairn.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1969, pg 81.

 

ROCKERIES PINNACLE H (F2)

(Map #1 : U:40)

Opening Party: Paul Anderson and Richard Smithers.

Date: June 1975.

Time: 14 hours.

Abseil off the escarpment at a point opposite and slightly south of Pinnacle H. (Three 50m abseils). One is now in a deep cleft between the escarpment and the common base of Pinnacles G and H.

  1. 38m E3. Climb diagonally right from the nek and up a chimney.
  2. Traverse 13m to the right and climb a short rock band (8m) to a ledge.
  3. Walk left to a stance on a boulder jammed between a small pinnacle and Pinnacle G. (30m E). Climb diagonally up to the left following an obvious break.
  4. Walk left around the corner. One short E move is required to reach the nek between Pinnacles G and H. Continue in an anti-clockwise direction around Pinnacle H until a large platform between Pinnacles H and F is reached.
  5. 22m F1. Climb a series of cracks (excellent rock) on the north east side of Pinnacle H heading slightly left to reach a small stance facing directly east.
  6. 25m F2. Traverse left around the corner. Continue along a delicate level traverse for 10m before climbing a jam-crack to the summit.

Note: A full traverse of all the Rockeries Pinnacles provides some of the best climbing (and certainly some of the best rock) in the Berg. Be warned - it is a long day!

Ref: Richard Smithers.

 

ROCKERIES OFF KEY (E)

(Map #1 : U:40)

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

Date: 1961.

This route was originally opened accidentally by the above party trying to find the Inner route. Reputedly pleasant climbing.

Proceed up Key gully and climb the first boulders (E) then proceed up to another boulder problem (D). (Between these two pitches is the correct gully for the Inner route). Above these pitches, Key Gully turns slightly to the left, but a minor gully continues straight ahead for a short distance, until it is abruptly blocked by a vertical face. The route runs up to the right of this face. Apparently this point may also be reached in less than 30 minutes from Mponj Cave.

  1. 10m D. Climb diagonally to the right into a side gully. Follow this with a short scramble.
  2. 25m E. Continue by climbing the chimney above; it has a strenuous middle section which is likely to be wet in summer. Scramble 5m diagonally up to the right.
  3. 15m D. Traverse to the left back into the gully and then continue up the sloping watercourse. After scrambling diagonally up to the right, follow a heather-covered ledge to a chimney with a large chockstone near the bottom.
  4. 25m E. From a stance on the chockstone, climb the face on the right, At the top of the face, traverse to the right around a block onto a comfortable stance.
  5. 25m C. Clamber up the heather-covered slope above, traverse to the left over a gap, and then scramble up diagonally to the right.
  6. 10m E. Climb a narrow, bottomless chimney, traverse to the right over a block and continue along the top edge of a smooth rock chute cunningly designed to precipitate careless climbers into the gully. The pitch ends in a small recess.
  7. 10m E. Climb the chimney.
  8. D. The chimney leading upwards from the next ledge looks impossible owing to overhanging chockstones at the top of each of the two branches. Instead, traverse to the left and climb down a broken pillar to reach a continuation of the ledge.
  9. 15m D. There is now a choice of 4 chimneys. Ascend the third from the right, which is ideal for pleasant chimneying. Continue up the boulders on the right. There is only one further rock band, about 100m up the grass and heather covered slope.
  10. The second chimney from the right (of another 4 chimneys) is D. From this point it is possible to walk onto the escarpment. Mponj Cave is less than 5 minutes walk away.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1961, pg 62.

 

ESPERANZA CRAG (E)

(Map #1 : V:41)

Opening Party: Andrew Gruft, Brian Godbold and Tony v.d. Spuy.

Date: July 1957.

The route goes up the centre of the escarpment face at the head of the Ntonjelana eShonalanga Valley, between the North Peak of the Saddle peak and the Rockeries Pass. The route can be approached from Scaly Cave or a camp in this area. Viewed from below, three or four small ridges seem to form an obvious break through the last band of rock near the centre of the face. We started up the second ridge from the right, flanked on both sides by deep gullies.

  1. 20m C. Scramble up to a stance behind a large bush.
  2. 40m E. Move left and up around the corner over a large block wedged in a short chimney and up to a heather ledge.
  3. 40m D. On to the crest of the arete and up on clean rock. Walk along the top to a grassy recess and scramble up this to the next grass ledge at the base of a small face blocking the gully.
  4. 30m E. Up the chimney at the right hand side of the small face and out to the left at a point where poised chockstones block further progress.
  5. 30m E. Up the centre of the ridge above, to the top.

Descent: Abseil the 5th and 4th pitches and then do the remaining 3 pitches in one by abseiling into the gully on the right of the climb. Walking down Rockeries Pass is probably much quicker.

Note: This climb receives plenty of sun and was opened during winter after fairly heavy snow, when the surrounding peaks were unclimbable.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1957, pg 29.

 

THE SADDLE: Some Minor Climbs

(Map #1 : X:42 and Y:42)

The Saddle consists of a kilometre long, sheer wall flanked by two imposing peaks. Apart from the minor routes mentioned below, only two routes of significance have been opened on the Saddle. Both of these are on the North Peak. The South Peak still awaits a frontal ascent.

The North Peak was first climbed from the escarpment side in 1924 by O K Williamson and D W Bassett-Smith (MCSA Journal 1930, pg 33). This requires a short C grade scramble through the small gully separating the peak from the escarpment and then a walk up a slope through long, tufty grass to the summit.

The South Peak was first ascended from the escarpment side in 1947 by Jannie Graaff (MCSA Journal 1947, pg 33). The gully separating this peak from the escarpment is much larger. Graaff abseiled from the escarpment down to the nek in the gully, leaving a fixed rope for his return. From the nek a thin grass ledge leads left to an obvious break which is followed to the summit.

The central wall was first scaled in 1934 by Brian Godbold and F E (Tom) Ellis (MCSA Journal 1934, pg 71). This party climbed, "diagonally up the face (somewhere near its centre?) to a position under the final section, where a knob of rock is clearly seen from below. Here a straight face of C grade was climbed and after negotiating a fifty foot (15m) chimney we reached the top."

The wall was climbed by a different route in 1944 by Tony Hooper, Jackie Botha and Howard Fish (MCSA Journal, 1944, pg 31). They approached via one of the spurs of the south ridge and then worked their way up and around to the central part of the main wall. They started at the highest point on the grass ledge where the 250m rock wall is reduced to a mere 100m. From here several routes seem possible. The easiest is up a very slight gully. Two D grade pitches lead into the gully itself, and thence to the top.

 

SADDLE, NORTH PEAK: North West Spur (E)

(Map #1 : X:42 : 3153m)

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

Date: 1961.

The original approach started 200m before the Rockeries path turns to the right and begins to climb steeply from the river junction, turn up the ridge to the left. Ascend to where the ridge is joined to the main North Peak ridge by a knife-edge. Traverse to the right, working up through rock bands, until a point is reached directly below the nek at the foot of the northern corner of the peak. Traverse to the right along a broad grass ledge to the spur. The route starts 25m short of where grass ledge turns a corner around the spur. This approach takes about 3 hours of hard work.

The grass ledge is accessed much more easily from the escarpment by descending about 50m down the top of Nquza Pass (W:42) then turning right (facing down the pass) onto a broad grass ledge. This ledge runs horizontally for almost a kilometre across the west side of the peak. Within about 50m of starting out along this ledge there is a small, well sheltered cave with a good drip nearby in all but the driest times. It is quick to reach the cave up Nquza Pass, but this requires some very severe and unprotected scrambling to bypass the waterfall near the top on its left. The alternative approach to the cave is via Rockeries Pass and across the escarpment. An easy 30 minute walk along the grass ledge leads to the start of the route. This is located about 25m beyond the point where the ledge turns a corner around the spur.

  1. 20m E. There are two parallel recesses, ascending in large steps, to a comfortable scoop. Climb the right hand grassy recess that ends in a long sloping ledge below a steeply sloping rock face.
  2. 25m E. Traverse to the right on the ledge, which leads around a corner, to the crest of a spur, and ends at a chimney. Step across to the far side of the chimney and then move up into the narrow section. Continue up the chimney which becomes strenuous and overhanging near the top.
  3. 120m C/D. Scramble up to the left of the crest of the spur to the nek beyond the larger of the two gendarmes.
  4. 20m E. From the nek the spur becomes vertical again. The pitch climbs a slight recess that starts about 3m right of centre. There are a couple of tricky moves about halfway up. There is a stance to the left of the recess.
  5. 30m E. After 5m of E grade, the climbing eases off until a heather-covered ledge enables one avoid the forbidding upper sections, by a traverse into the amphitheatre on the right. On the far side of the amphitheatre a gully leads to the top. Access to this gully is blocked by a tongue of rock resembling a (blocked) archway. Bypass this obstruction by descending to a lower ledge and climbing back up to the other side of the blockage.
  6. 10m E. Continue up a up a diagonal grass ledge and step up over an overhang. Slightly further to the right there is a gully which, with further C/D grade climbing, leads to the summit.

Descent: Walk off the 'back' of the peak and scramble across a gully to reach the escarpment.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1961, pg 60 with photo showing the route facing pg 62.

 

THE SADDLE: North Peak Frontal (F3)

(Map #1 : X:42 : 3153m)

Opening Party: Tony Dick, Roger Fuggle, Carl Fatti and Barry Manicom.

Date: September 1968.

Time: About 7 hours climbing.

This superb but under-rated route is on excellent rock and is spoiled only by a couple of vegetated gullies. The route starts from the nek between a gendarme and the imposing north buttress of the peak. This nek is clearly seen in the photo facing page 62 of the 1961 Journal. The nek is reach by walking to the northern extremity of the kilometre long grass ledge that runs across the west face of the peak. Please see the details given at the start of the previous route. It is an easy 40 minute walk from the cave (mentioned under the previous RD) to the start of the climb.

The nek between the gendarme and the main peak is reached, from the far end of the main grass ledge, by descending about 20 m to enter the main gully and then by a steep scramble on mixed rock and grass. This is not well protected and is about 20m of D grade with one or two E grade moves and grass pull-ups. Despite the reputation of this scramble, the consequences of a slip are not serious - an ignominious slide back to the grass ledge and a few grazes are the likely result.

  1. 40m F3. From the nek, climb the arete past an old peg for about 5m to reach vertical rock. Traverse delicately to the right across a slab and then step down onto a ledge and move around a slight corner to reach the base of a recess. This traverse is about 15m long. Climb (tricky) to a small grass ledge at the top of the recess. Climb a face (with a couple of F3 moves) for 10 m to reach another small grass ledge. Watch your rope work because of drag caused by the indirect line.
  2. 40m F3. Walk left for 10 m. Climb easily up a blocky face for 10m to where it steepens. Traverse delicately to the right across the face to a fixed peg and then continue up easily to a grassy stance.
  3. 40m F1. Walk left around a corner to a short grassy recess in the rock band. Climb the recess to reach a large grass ledge.
  4. 40m C. Walk left and then clamber up a grassy gully to a belay just below a small, rock turret (or big block) with a huge drop-away on the far side.
  5. 40m F2. Climb onto the turret and from here step off to the right onto an exposed face. Climb the face, initially heading diagonally right, and then straight up when possible to reach a stance.
  6. 45m F1. Walk diagonally left to the start of a scrubby gully with steep rock blocking the top. Thrutch up the gully and make an uncomfortable belay in the steep gully about 10m below the steep rock.
  7. 20m F1. Climb out of the gully by moving up diagonally right on onto exposed rock. Continue straight up this rock onto a sloping grass ledge above the top of the gully.
  8. 20m F3. Start below a good flake / crack about 3m up the face. Note: A shoulder start is required to reach this flake - see photo on page 100 of the 1987 MCSA Journal. From the shoulder start climb a move or two up and then right (tricky) to reach a good peg which is not visible from the stance. From the peg climb up to a stance on either of two small rock ledges, one 5m above the other. The last person off the ledge will obviously need to get started by prussiking. Alternatively, the leader can leave a long sling on the first bit of gear to facilitate the starting moves of the remaining climbers.
  9. 30m F1. Continue straight up to a large, grassy ledge.
  10. 40 m E3. Walk left to a major recess / chimney. Climb halfway up this. As it becomes difficult there is a good crack running up diagonally on the left side of the chimney. Follow this crack for a couple of metres, after which easy climbing leads to the summit.

Descent: Walk off the 'back' of the peak and scramble across a gully (C) to reach the escarpment.

Ref: MCSA Journal 1969, pg 80 and 1987, pg 99.

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