Things To Do in Champagne ValleyGray's Pass Hike
Where? Start and finish at Cathkin Peak, Champagne Valley, Drakenberg.
When? Daylight Hours
How much? Free
Start: Cathkin Peak, Champagne Valley
Finish: Cathkin Peak, Champagne Valley
Duration: overnight hike
Our tip: fantastic views without too much of a slog
Any hike in the 'berg that boasts the lack of a strenuous climb needs to be considered relative to other hikes in the Drakensberg. What it actually means is that you will still climb, it just won't feel as strenuous as some of the other peaks in the area.
That said, Gray's Pass is one of the better weekend hikes in the area, do-able and easily described as great gain for little pain. It takes hikers right into the heart of the Mhlawazini Valley with views of Cathkin Peak, Champane Castle and Monk's Cowl. And the trail up the path is relatively short.
Take the path via the Sphinx and on to the contour path (this is the path used for all hikes that begin on the contour path), where you take a right in the direction of Hlatikulu Nek for about 2.5 km. You then climb for about 4 km, and then take a left to reach Keith Bush Camp at the head of the Mhlawazini River, surrounded by cliffs (lovely place to spend the night).
It is only a further 2.5 km to reach the top of Gray's Pass from Keith Bush Campsite but you gain 800 metres in altitude and parts of it are steep, eroded and exposed. The path is initially made easier by a virtual 'staircase' of log steps up the zigzag trail.
Part way up are good uninterrupted views of Monk's Cowl. When almost at the top, the path heads under the escarpment above you towards the right and it is around here that you can seem to lose the path, it is not as clear as when you started the climb, and you may need to scramble up the rocky grass slopes to find the path again. A cairn marks the left path at the fork, which heads below the cliffs to Gray's gully. You are now virtually at the top, with only a quick short climb to the top of Gray's Pass.
Take time to explore the valley at the top of the pass as it is particularly beautiful. You can overnight in the Nkosazana Cave at the top of Gray's Pass.
Head back down the way you came up and overnight at Keith Bush Campsite. Or head to Champagne Castle – only 3km – and head down the south fork of Ship's Prow Pass (this is difficult and not for the unseasoned hiker); do not take the northern fork.