Roland's Cave assistance

Hi Folks
I am interested in taking a small party (8 people) up to Roland’s cave in March 2020.
I have reviewed various articles on the net but am still unsure as to how to proceed in lieu of the constraints below.

Group Details:

  1. Mixed fitness group (however, if the situation demands, then the lesser fit
    folks would be prepared to hang back, i.e. not go all the way!)
  2. The hike should be two days with an overnight at the top (Roland’s cave)
  3. Suggested Self-catering accommodation
  4. Where to park
    a) Leave vehicle at the accommodation and hike from there?
    b) Drive to some other place and start hike from there?
    I would appreciate a response from a person that knows the area.
    Kind Regards,
    Tel: 074 153 0842

Hello @TheMartian

  • I suggest using Amphitheater Backpackers for accommodation, situated just before Bergville and the turn-off to Cathedral peak. They offer self-catering rooms/dorm-rooms at a reasonable price.

  • It’s about an hours drive from Aphi Backpackers to Cathedral Peak Hotel. You can either leave your vehicles at the hikers parking or for a small fee leave them at Cathedral Peak Hotel secure parking (This is what we normally do). The parking is situated very close to the trail head of the hiking trails.

  • It takes a fairly fit group to reach Rolands Cave in a day. There are limited(Almost none) sleeping spots, for large groups, on the passes themselves. So once you commit to the pass you need to reach the escarpment or face a very “fun” night.

  • I presume you will either use Camel or Organs Pipes Pass, the former being the most direct route. There are no sleeping spots on Camel (as already mentioned).

  • Also be aware that once you reach the escarpment it’s still a distance to Rolands cave, so that makes the day even longer. If you have not been there before I will allow a fair bit of time to find the entrance ledge, as it’s tricky to find (Even with GPS coordinates)

  • The entrance ledge to Roland’s is not as daunting as it looks on photos, however I would not attempt to guide someone over with a fear of heights (Been there, Done That). There are two bolts at both ends of the ledge traverse to fix a rope. I would suggest fixing one for peace of mind.

Have a look at Vertical Endeavors for more information regarding:

Shout should you need more information.

I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but taking a group on a hike you’re not familiar with, is not advisable. You’ve got lots of time before March to do a lekker recce hike. It will be much less stressful if you know exactly where to go and how tough it will be for everyone. Just my 2c’s :wink::+1:

Thank you so much for your informed reply. It shall help with my decision-making. Much appreciated, MB.

Hi Arno No worries. I agree :slight_smile: I am still in the planning stage and simply gauging the feasibility of the setup before committing to any plans in that respect. Hence, I am just happy to obtain information of the area from parties who know the area before finalizing any decision in that respect. I nevertheless plan to first do it myself with just one other person or find an experienced hiker (wrt that area) to join me before engaging the larger party. Fortunately I am not overly concerned about most of them because 4 of the ladies have completed the Kilimanjaro hike as have some of the men. Some have also done the Drakensberg Rhino Horn hike not too long ago! Thanks

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As Vivo101 has mentioned, getting to the top of Rolands in a day is quite taxing - especially the last bit from the top of Organs to the cave itself. There are 5 caves around Ndumeni dome itself. At the bottom you have the 2 lower Ndumeni caves (offering virtualy no protection from the rain), then you have Rolands cave in the middle and the 2 upper Ndumeni caves above Rolands. So, enough space for 8 people. If you have to split the group due to circumstances (fitness levels, injury etc.) then there are a number of spots where you can pitch a tent after you top out on Organ Pipes pass. The first is a couple of spots a bit to your left when you are standing at the large cairn facing into Lesotho. Just search around in this area for a relatively flat spot. A bit higher up from where you are is a decent spot. Else, you can camp between Castle Buttress and Cleft Peak, next to the upper reaches of the stream is a couple of nice flat spots.

Finding Rolands cave is actually fairly easy if you know what to look for. Firstly, starting from the cairn at the top of Organs Pipe pass, head left and pass just below the little rocky outcrop you will see on your left. There is a stream flowing (mostly in summer) where you will find the last bit of water before you ascend towards Rolands. Now, once you pass below this outcrop, turn further left, so that you walk up basically in the lowest spot between Ndumeni dome on your right, and the escarpment edge on your left. If you continue up this valley all the way you will fall off the escarpment edge. Before you get to the drop-off, you will notice a smooth section of rock band on your right. You just need to get above this rock band. Keep your eyes peeled, there are numerous cairns all around this area, and they lead you up this same way. Once above the rock band, simply keep walking forward and to your left, you will find a footpath leading to the cave.

The drop-off is substantial. If you fall here, you will most likely be dead. It’s about a 90m vertical drop into smugglers pass. It’s mostly easy walking, but there is this one section about 5m or so from the cave that is the problematic bit for people who find the approach terrifying. If anyone in your group has a fear of heights, stay away from Rolands or rope up. I took my 13 year old daughter into Rolands last year and she was fine, but said that it was the scariest thing she had ever done (I’ve been taking my kids to the berg since they were 5 years old - she’s done Xeni pass and didn’t find that scary). My son, on the other hand, flatly refused to get into Rolands. When he saw the footpath leading what looked like into thin air, he sat down and refused to move. So we had to climb another 50m up to the rightmost upper Ndumeni cave.

So, you have options, see what works best for you. However, don’t underestimate the amount of effort required to get to Rolands in a day. Especially if you carry a heavy backpack and even more so if it is hot. If it is dry then you will need to carry additional water up as the top of Ribbon falls or the stream just before Mushroom rock is typically the only reliable water source before you top out on the escarpment.



Thank you, Riaang. What awesome detail - just what I required! I think both you and Vivo101 have answered all my questions. Now I shall go forth and finish my planning :smile:

Is it possible to do Organ Pipes or Camel Pass in one day, please?

hi Leona
do you mean up and down again in one day?

Hi Willem

Hello Leona

You will not be able to ascend and descend Organ Pipes in a single day. Unless you are extremely fit and have done the pass before, in my opinion. It has a fairly long approach,unlike Camel.

Ascend and Descend of Camel Pass is more possible in a day, although I would not advise it, unless you are very fit, know the route and go superlight.

I have done camel before, bagged Cleft, and descended all in the same day. But that was with a running pack and pushing hard.

Technically a “day” has 24hours, so anything is possible. So I’m referring to a reasonable hiking day (12hours or less).

Dear Vivo101
Thank you for your very useful reply. Would we be able to do Tseketseke Pass up and down within a day?

Hello Leona.

Glad I could help. The same applies for Tseketseke pass, small packs and fit group. The approach is long to the head of the pass, the path is also eroded in many places on the pass, therefore making it slow going.

You could always make use of the hut at the bottom of the pass as a basecamp. You could hike in, stay there overnight and do Tseketseke pass up/down while someone holds down the fort.

Any specific reason you prefer not to spend a night on-top of the escarpment? The sunrises alone are so worth it.