Grade: Difficult to Severe
Duration: 3 days
Total height gain: 1882m
Total distance: 27.3km
(All distances should only be used as a guide line and a detailed route description will be supplied on confirmation of booking.)
What makes this special: Experience sleeping in a mountain hut, summiting the escarpment and waking up to one of the best sunrises ever.
The Bannerman’s Loop starts and finishes at Giants Castle main camp and follows a relatively easy route to reach the top of the escarpment, with easy being a relative term because one person’s easy might be another’s difficult.
Route: This walk is doable for most people who has a moderate to high fitness level but we have done it with a group with no hiking experience, just remember the going on day two will be slow up Bannerman Pass. Take care when going up Bannerman Pass in summer as thunderstorms can cause flash flood conditions in the pass as you have to walk up the stream bed for the last bit before topping out. In winter this pass can be choked with snow after a heavy snowfall and iced up for most of winter due to it not getting much sun in winter. So be prepared for all seasons.
The walk starts from the Giants Castle Main Camp and after completing the mountain register, make your way to the start of the walk at the overnight car park situated at the picnic area. After crossing the Bushman’s River you want to keep left and follow the Bannerman Hut trail that you would have seen from the start going up a ridge. This is the steepest part of the walk as it goes up the side of the spur until you reach the contour path. Take your time going up and remember to take water with you as there is not always a reliable stream till you get to the contour path. So fill up regularly when you find water.
At the contour path you will have a 4,5km easier walk to the hut that is built in the shadow of Bannerman Face and Pass. The last bit of uphill to the hut is not steep but does feel like it never ends. The hut itself is basically only a shelter to sleep in. It used to have running water and even flushing toilets but due to vandalism and neglect it in fact is only a shelter from the elements. However it still has bunk beds and is warm and dry. The streams around the hut supply fresh water and a refreshing swim after a long days walk.
Day 2 starts with an easy approach to the pass and after crossing the stream and going over to the left hand side of the bank you start to climb steadily up and up into the pass. Spare Rib Cave is situated about half way up the pass, and is wet in summer with a number of drips making dry sleeping areas scares. In winter most of the drips have dried up and the rest usually freezes. From cave level the path starts to cross over onto a rocky scree area where you can follow the cairns or pick your way through the rocks. Taking care not to twist an ankle here as the rocks are loose and very easy to roll into your leg.
From here you will enter the river and slowly start to make your way up the river. The rocks are convenient steps and you might have to use your hands and feet to scramble up certain section. Once over the steepest sections, the pass opens up and it tops out at a big cairn. Look back and appreciate the view. From the cairn consult your map and find the route that will lead you to the left of the pass. Your climbing for the day is not finished yet as you have to climb out over the ridge and then pick your way over and then down to a suitable camp site close to water. On your map there is a small neck and you want to aim for this area so your compass and map are crucial instruments for this section especially in misty conditions. The camp site we usually use is about 500m from the top of Langalibalele Pass and close to the escarpment edge.
Our last day is downhill, a killer on the knees for some people. Langalibalele Pass is steeped in history and Chief Langalibalele, who after his capture and trial, became the first political prisoner on Robben Island. There is a cross erected at the top by the Natal Carbineers in remembrance of the battle that took place here between them and the amaHlubi people.
The path down the pass is not as steep as others but badly eroded making going down difficult. You will have spectacular views over the Giants Castle valley below you as well as close up views of the peaks around you. The path crosses the stream and once you are on the other side of the valley you have done the pass and are now on the Langalibalele ridge, and considered by some the longest part of the hike as it feels like it’s never going to end. You will cross the contour path that runs from Bannerman Hut to Giants Hut, keep following the path down and on reaching the bottom there is a small stream crossing where you can swim and take a well-deserved rest. The path will take you down to Rock 75 and then back to Giants Castle camp where you can sign out from the mountain register and enjoy an ice cold coke or brew of your choice.
Included: Park & overnight fees, rescue levy and first aid kit.
Excluded: All meals and snacks, stove & pots, sleeping bag, backpack, personal gear and equipment, personal medication and footwear.
Gear Hire is available.
Porters can be included at an additional cost.