In the heart of the Mnweni Cutback lies this awesome pass which has one of the most rewarding ascents of any Drakensberg pass. It has a very steep gradient but is relatively short compared to some of the other huge passes in the area. This pass has got the best view of the impressive Mnweni Pinnacles and the overall view of the rest of the Mnweni Cutback gets better and better as you climb higher.
✽ ✽ ✽ ✽ (6/10)
Difficulty is rated from 1-10 (10 being very difficult, only to be attempted by the fit and experienced). Quality is rated by the number of stars (5 being the best), which takes into account things such as scenic beauty and overall experience. Please note that these ratings are the opinion of the author - they can differ from person to person and depend on a range of circumstances. Use this as a rough guide only.
A full day (22 km) will be required to get to the base of Mnweni Pass from the Mnweni Cultural & Hiking Centre. Follow the path all the way up the Mnweni valley and this path eventually turns up Mnweni Pass itself.
The distance from the point where the path leaves the river to the top of Mnweni Pass is 1.5 km with an altitude gain of 900m.
The Mnweni valley path stays on the left-hand (eastern) banks of the river after passing the Rwanqua valley. At one point, the path suddenly turns left and zigzags up a steep slope into the Mnweni Pass itself. The path is very well defined as it is often used as a dagga-smuggling route between Lesotho and South Africa. The path stays high above the river on the left-hand (north) side close up to the cliffs. It zigzags higher and higher up these really steep inclines until finally contouring out to the right into the throat of Mnweni Pass. The path is very eroded from here on and many alternatives are possible. Just pick any path and follow it up to the top of the right-hand fork of the pass. This will eventually bring you to the top of the pass at 3000m.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
On the western end of the plains that give rise to the Orange River, you can get a good view of the Mnweni Pinnacles through a large saddle between two escarpment hills. This saddle is the top of Mnweni Pass and is marked with a large cairn and a clear path.
There is a very good campsite at fork of the Rwanqua and Mnweni rivers about 4 km before the base of Mnweni Pass. On the escarpment, the closest cave is Ledger’s cave, 20m below the escarpment edge about 1 km north of the top of Mnweni Pass. This is one of the most spectacular Drakensberg caves to sleep in and fits about 8 people. Good camping spaces are also really easy to find on the escarpment.
The last water is just before the base of Mnweni Pass when the path descends to the huge Mnweni River. The Orange River on the escarpment, about 200m from the top of Mnweni Pass, is the next reliable water source.
This information has been adapted from a systematic write-up on several Berg Passes written by Stijn Laenen. Originally published on a Geocities-based site called Super Traverse, these were later re-published with permission on Vertical Endeavour where the complete set is now available.