Destination reached. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum finally arrive at Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass into the land of Mordor.
To the west is the range of Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and to the north is the range of Ered Lithui.
Sauron has built ramparts across Cirith Gorgor, from cliff to cliff, and each cliff has a tower. They're called the Teeth of Mordor (gross), and they're filled with orcs (double gross).
It turns out these towers were actually built by the Men of Gondor, but they've long been used as watchtowers for Sauron.
There is only one gate through this mountain pass, Morannon, and it is patrolled by evil sentries. Of course.
Frodo and Sam are plumb out of ideas about how to get past them. They just sit there and stare, at a loss of what to do.
When the sun rises, they see the changing of the guards and hear drums and horns from Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower.
Now's their chance. Frodo books it for the Black Gate.
But Gollum stops him in his tracks.
He says that, if Frodo goes that way, the Ring will be found and taken straight to "the Black Hand" (4.3.19)—Sauron.
Lucky for them, Gollum knows another way, a secret way.
Worrying that Frodo is too softhearted to realize Gollum's treachery, Sam is understandably leery of this plan.
As Frodo watches the pass of Cirith Gorgor, he sees an enormous army of men marching through the gates, and realizes that they are all in cahoots with Sauron. These masses have come to Mordor to prepare for war.
Frodo turns to Gollum and says that they have to trust him.
But Frodo warns Gollum again that he swore an oath on the Ring, and the Ring will twist that oath to its own purposes.
But Gollum knows what he's doing. He explains the road he is talking about: if you travel towards the mountains of Ephel Dúath and turn west, there is a "crossing in a circle of dark trees" (4.3.29). Sounds… promising?
On the right, the road goes down to the ruined city of Osgiliath and the bridges of the River Anduin.
The middle road goes south for miles and miles, until it reaches the sea far to the south.
The third road to the left goes down into an old, dark fortress, which was once a fortress of Gondor: the Tower of the Moon, Minas Ithil, built by Isildur.
Now, it's swarming with orcs. Gee, Gollum, that sounds like a great plan.
But according to the creature, it is the most passable option for getting past the mountains and further into Mordor.
The mountains are lower there, see, and the Plains of Gorgoroth are just on the other side, so Gollum promises that, while this way is still crawling with enemies, Sauron will not expect anyone to come through there. Hmm. He's starting to make sense.
Sauron is only worried about big armies, and they will not appear from the west, from the lands Sauron has already conquered.
Plus, Gollum has gone this way before, up a long, narrow stairway to a dark tunnel and a path above the main pass of Cirith Gorgor.
Frodo asks if it is guarded, and if Gollum was allowed to escape Mordor for some evil purpose.
Gollum says he escaped fair and square. We're not so sure about that.
Sauron wanted Gollum to find the Ring, but Gollum has only been tracking the Ring for his own sake.
Once again, Gollum says, hey, there are enemies, sure, but it's still the best way to go.
Just at this moment, far away, Gandalf is confronting Saruman, and Wormtongue is throwing the palantír out of Orthanc.
Gandalf could have told Frodo and Sam that the fortress's name is now Cirith Ungol, "a name of dreadful rumour" (4.3.58). But Gandalf is far away, and Frodo has no guidance, so he's going to have to figure this one out for himself.
He sits brooding for a long time, until suddenly he feels a great fear, as though he is in the presence of the Black Riders.
They feel far away.
Frodo looks up and sees four dark, winged creatures hurrying back to Mordor in the distance.
And then there is a new surprise: singing and shouting, coming from a troop of soldiers moving nearby.
Time to hide.
Gollum sneaks off and then reports back: "They are fierce [...] Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger" (4.3.68).
Yep, it's just more soldiers on their way to join Sauron in Mordor.
Sam wants to know if there are Oliphaunts, and then he proceeds to recite a rhyme about them.
He has heard that men in the south use these giant creatures as beasts of burden.
Gollum hasn't seen any.
Frodo laughs to hear Sam reciting old Shire songs, and, his mood lifted, he decides that they will take Gollum's secret way.