This pass is one of two relatively easy ways to access the escarpment in the Mnweni area. The other pass is Ntonjelana Pass and both passes are used as dagga-smuggling routes from Lesotho to South Africa. Rockeries Pass makes it possible to see the breathtaking Mnweni Cutback in a short weekend hike. It is a good pass to use as an introduction to the Mnweni area as the path is clear and therefore navigation won't be a problem.
✽ ✽ ✽ (5/10)
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.
The access walk from the Mnweni Cultural Centre is relatively short (14 km). Instead of heading up the Mnweni valley as usual, follow the path to Hlongwane’s Kraal up the Ntonjelana valley. Follow the right-hand (western) fork of the valley along the Ntonjelana Eshonalanga River to the base of Rockeries Pass about 5 km further on.
The distance from the base of the pass (the fork of the Rockeries and Nguza paths) to the top of Rockeries Pass is 3 km with an altitude gain of 800m.
The path leaves the river at some rapids and heads straight up the slopes under the escarpment cliffs. It then heads into Rockeries Pass itself by climbing up to the right, crossing many small tributaries on the way. Staying on the left-hand (south) side of the main river, the path completes many zigzags higher up, before finally contouring into the short final gully of Rockeries Pass. As is the norm with dagga-smuggling routes, the path is very eroded and many alternatives exist. All the paths, however, converge at the top of Rockeries Pass at 2900m. There is a rock-slide in the pass at about 2700m (2004) but the smugglers have worn a stable path through it and the whole thing has settled.
Finding the pass from the escarpment:
There is a big saddle just right (south) of the Rockeries pinnacles with a set of well-trodden paths heading down it. This is Rockeries Pass.
There are 3 large caves just off the path near the base of Rockeries Pass itself. The most accessible of these is probably Scaly Cave which sleeps 8 people. Mponjwane cave ranks along with Ledger’s cave (see Mnweni Pass above) as one of the most spectacular caves in the Drakensberg. It is situated about 1 km north of the top of Rockeries Pass around the cliff-side of the escarpment hill. As usual, there are many good camping places on the escarpment itself.
There are a couple of small trickles on the escarpment slopes when heading up the pass but the rapids at the base of Rockeries pass and the Orange River on the escarpment (about 100m from the top of the pass) are the only reliable water sources.
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.