Things To Do in UnderbergMashai Pass and Rhino Peak
Where? Garden Castle, Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal
When? Best during daylight hours.
How much? Free
Start: Garden Castle
Finish: Garden Castle
Duration: 18 km, 10 hours
Fitness: difficult as the climb is extreme
Our tip: start early and always sign the mountain register before heading up the mountain; should you get lost, at least you know a search party will head out to find you if they have record of your hike
Rhino Peak is regarded by some as the icon of the southern Drakensberg. Shaped like a rhino horn, the peak is free-standing, dramatic looking, and often climbed.
The hike heads up the Mlambonja River valley, following along the river, which you reach after around 1.3 km, and then up the Mashai pass. The Rhino Peak is on one side whilst on the other is the Mashai Fangs Peak. In front of you, the Mashai pass.
The pass does not look long initially, but this is misleading as much of it is hidden in the curve to the left.
The initial river crossing (there are many) occurs about a kilometre before you pass Pillar Cave. This part of the hike is not too difficult, although the ascent is obvious. From the river crossing above Pillar Cave things start getting difficult.
Most of the climb up the pass is east of the river and the path is difficult to follow at times. Jeff Williams warns in his book Walking in the Drakensberg not to walk along the riverbed, particularly on the descent, by promising looking cairns. Look out for Mashai Fangs on your left - tall rock pillars.
Once you reach the Mashai Shelter you are at the top of the pass. You can experience altitude sickness way before you near the top though. Signs are dizziness, feeling tired and nausea. Some hikers may not make it all the way to the top as a result.
From the top the path takes off across the saddle between the escarpment and the peak. To reach the Rhinos Horn is a further 2 km and another 150 metres in altitude. Hikers are very exposed on the edge of the horn. If the weather is not good, be cautious about doing it.
Head back down the same way that you came up.