Mnweni Valley, Drakensberg

About Icidi Pass hike

Start: Mnweni Cultural Centre, Mnweni Valley
Finish: Mnweni Cultural Centre, Mnweni Valley
Duration: at least 3 days
Fitness: extremely difficult; for experienced mountaineers
Our tip: The Icidi Pass is regarded as the most difficult non-rock pass in the entire Drakensberg; not attempted lightly.

The Mnweni Valley, named such after the Mnweni River, is full of passes for hikers to choose from, all of them strenuous.

It lies bounded by Cathedral Peak. Bell, Mitre and Chessmen peaks to the south and the Eastern-Buttress, Devil's Tooth and Inner Tower to the north.

The area is particularly beautiful and is seldom frequented and safe as a result.

To get to the upper reaches of the pass involves an initial long haul up-river trawl that has hikers hopping boulders and generally bundu bashing. Close on its heels is a taxing and sheer ascent up grassy slopes to the top of the pass.

Not surprisingly the hike is not often attempted. Hikers do not feel that the views make up for the arduous river section.

To crown it all the trail is faint, with many detours and forks. It is almost imperative to have a guide take one on the trail. If going it alone, take up-to-date maps of the area with you.

The initial path follows the left-hand bank of the Icidi River all the way up to Grasscutter's Cave. The path is easy to lose, which means a continuous up-river battle along the slopes (to avoid waterfalls) or in the river bed itself. This is the best route until the steep grassy slopes begin.

Straight in takes roughly 18 km. And usually two days. Once at Grasscutter's Cave it is 4 km up the Icidi Pass, but an altitude gain of 1200 metres.

You will know you've reached the top for the little cairn that marks the spot. Icidi Pass is the northern-most and smaller gully north of the Icidi buttress.

Hikers overnight in Grasscutter's cave, which sleeps 12 people. But there are good camping spots on the escarpment.

Need to Know

WhereStart and finish at the Mnweni Cultural Centre in the Mweni Valley, Drakensberg

WhenDaylight hours.

How muchPrices on request.

Telephone+27 (0)72 275-0579

OvernightStay nearby in Bergville, in KwaZulu Natal


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