Judges and Leslies pass- 24 to 26 February 2006
Look up “Judge pass” or “Judges pass” on good old Google and you don’t get very much information for your buck. Check it out on Map 3 of the Drakensberg series and there it is, right next to Corner pass, with not even a path leading up to it, and that eerie description, “Rock” thrown in for good measure. Well, in my book, those are very good reasons for doing it and I made dam sure that I got myself onto Monica’s team.
Let’s push the rewind, shall we. The plan was to get to the top of Judges pass on day one, walk along the escarpment and down Leslies pass to Marble bathes on day 2 and back to camp (Injisuthi) and home on day 3.
Monica had been planning this hike for a while, and the weather gave us a 60% chance of no rain so the hike was on. Well, the weather, she did lie, and the rain, she did come. It rained all of the Friday night, but we had managed to get into the permanent tents and slept high and dry. Day 1 of the hike was perfect, cool and overcast, hiking weather, but the swollen rivers slowed things down, as we had to constantly take our boots off to cross. A slog up to Centenary hut and a quick contour around the mountain saw us at the base of Judges by about 14H30 and about 2 more hours to get to the top.
All that we can say about the pass is that it’s a little more difficult compared to your standard issue Drakensberg pass, but certainly not “Rock” in that climbing gear and ropes are not necessary. As you approach the top, the main gulley splits into 3 smaller one’s. All 3 are passable (ha ha) but the river flows through the right most gulley making it dangerous in the wet and after heavy rain, and the middle gulley has a strange resemblance to Ships Prow. The correct approach is to keep high and keep left if you are going up, there is actually a path if you look carefully.
Once up, we made camp at a quaint little river, running parallel to the escarpment, about 500 m over the rim into Lesotho. I have yet to climb a pass in the Drakensberg where there is not a quaint little river running parallel to the .... da di da di daaaa. Anyway, it rained down again that evening and for most of the night but mercifully stopped for us to pack up camp. Monica then made the very tough but sensible call to return to Injisuthi by the same route as we had come the day before. After all the rain, we had no idea of the conditions on Leslies pass, and we dreaded the thought of having to cross the Njesuthi River, having observed the heavy flow on the way up.
We made it back to Injisuthi camp uneventfully, abused their hot water supply and headed for the relative comfort of chalets of the Bergville caravan park and a good meal at the Bingalela restaurant (highly recommended), a few kays out of town towards Harrysmith.
You can’t win them all, Monica, we each got our “top of the escarpment” fix, we never really got wet, surprisingly no one drowned at the river crossings, the company was excellent, and the BS spoken was of the highest quality. The decisions which you took as leader of the group were sound and saw us all back safely with the blessings of the mountain gods.
Congrats to Cathy, no stranger to hiking, but her first time to the top of the Berg. The rest of the crew comprised of Monica, Angelo, Brian, Neil, Sue and myself.
Do it again??? You betcha- George Christian