Mountain Passes

Pluto’s Vale is quite unique, in that it consists of a combination of a genuine poort and a steep pass. These follow one another along the gravel DR02039 road that extends eastwards from the R67 near Grahamstown to Committees Drift and Breakfast Vlei. Like the adjacent Queen’s Road to Fort Beaufort and the nearby Ecca Pass, the route was constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain during the Frontier Wars in the mid-19th century. Despite diligent research, no clue as to the origins of the unusual name of this pass has come to light.

Kingo Hills Pass is situated just off the R67, about halfway between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. Also known as Douglas Heights and (incorrectly) King Hills Pass, it is named after Kingo Hill, the summit (581 metres ASL) of which is located just north of the pass summit coordinates. The road is badly maintained, with major ruts and corrugations, and it is not recommended that you drive this pass in a normal car, although a four-wheel drive vehicle would not be required except in wet weather.

Unlike most other poorts in South Africa which are generally quite flat, Debruinspoort does have a significant altitude gain of 225 metres. It is located on the gravelled R344 road between Adelaide and Grahamstown, just south of the crossing of the Great Fish River at Piggott’s Bridge and to the west of the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Other than some wash-board corrugations, the pass is well maintained and in a good condition, and should present no problems for any type of vehicle.

This beautiful and fairly steep gravel pass on the P3320 link road between Rhodes and Wartrail, offers wonderful high altitude scenery of mountains, valleys and winding rivers in the Eastern Cape highlands about 14 km south-west of Rhodes. Nestled in the midst of the well known Big 8 passes, this little known pass provides a scenic shortcut for those wanting to get to the Bastervoetpad Pass and the Barkly Pass. The pass has a simple high-low vertical profile and is 3,2 km long producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest parts being at 1:8. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.

This very small poort is located in an east-west running mountain range 22 km north-east of Willowmore (as the crow flies). The poort lies on private farm land, but a polite request to drive the little poort will be granted by the farm owner. Please close any farm gates. At 1,2 km, this poort is very short but nontheless displays typical poort characteristics as it crosses the small stream once near the northern end, then follows the western bank till the turn-around point, where you have to retrace your route back to the farmstead. The road is rough and very basic and not suitable for cars lacking ground clearance. This poort will typically only be driven by the more serious pass hunter. For the rest, cyber drive it here and forget about it.

Mount Paul stands as a lonely sentinel, surrounded on all sides by flat plains in the Eastern Free State highlands. Being the only high point in the area, it was an obvious site to erect telecommunication towers, and to do this an access road needed to be built. Originally a rough-and-ready offroad track, the road has been upgraded in a number of phases to now include concrete paving and strips on the steeper sections, vastly improving traction for maintenance vehicles. With maximum gradients of around 1:3, this pass is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can summon up the courage to tackle this daunting traverse, the fantastic views from the summit are well worth the effort.

This lovely poort offers rugged scenery as it crosses and recrosses a river bed multiples of times along the length of the poort over basic stony drifts. The poort lies close to the Floriskraal Dam, which is the main water supply to the Karoo town of Laingsburg, perhaps most famous for the devastating 1981 flood. In the event of a flash flood, this poort would be a death trap, as can be seen in the video footage. The poort can be accessed off the R323 tar road from Laingsburg to Seweweekspoort and it ends in a dead-end, being mainly a farm service road. The most scenic sections lie on the western side of the poort.

This is a complex contour road offering four small passes along its 27 km length. The road generally remains at the 2600m contour level and the vast majority of the route comprises contour road driving as it follows the shapes of the hills and buttresses. The route is doable in a high clearance 4x2 with diff-lock, but when things get muddy or snowy, it is definitely a 4x4 route. Although the road gets quite rough in places, these don't last long and most of this route is Grade 1 to 2. The road connects the Tiffindell Ski Resort in the west with the Tenahead Mountain Lodge in the east, and provides a shorter, but slower alternative to the Naudes Nek Pass. Beyond Tenahead Lodge, the road connects at the Naudes Nek lookout point at 2500m ASL.

Although we have named this route the TTT  (Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse) which aptly describes the purpose of the road, this is a more modern take on its routing. It's also referred to by the locals by three other names: The Cairntoul Road (named after a farm on the eastern side of the traverse); Die Patrollie Pad (The Patrol Road) and Die Grenspad (the Border Road). The road has been used for many years to patrol stock theft into Lesotho. There are several small patrol huts, linked with radio sets, which can be seen along the route. These are occupied by 'young local herdsmen' who keep an eye on the hillsides and relay any suspicious activity to the main SAPS base at Cairntoul, from where the heavyweights are dispatched on horseback or by 4x4.

The Ben MacDhui Pass is the new record holder of the highest altitude summit in South Africa at 3001m. It replaces the previous record holder, the Sani Pass [2876m]. This is a new road which has recently been opened. The pass comprises three distinct sections:
1. The access toad to the Tiffindell Ski Resort.
2.The maintenance track for the ski-lift.
3. A two spoor jeep track from the highest ski-lift pylon to the summit point

This is an out and back route and a high clearance 4x4 with low range is needed to complete this drive. We have rated the pass as a Grade 3 in 4x4 parlance and would not recommend driving the route in severe weather and especially not when there is heavy snow. Allow approximately an hour and a half to complete it both ways and add for additional time at the summit. It is often windy and cold (even in summer) so take appropriate clothing with you. The pass traverses private property and it is necessary to sign in at the Tiffindell office before you proceed up the pass. 

This very short and fairly minor 'pass' is nothing more than a slight bump in the flat Karoo topography and is located about midway between Fraserburg and Loxton in the Northern Cape, just off the R356 on a minor gravel road that connects the R356 with the R361. The spelling of this pass is baffling and we are convinced that it's a spelling mistake which has been carried forward over the years and has now become fact. The correct name is no doubt Amandelhoogte, which makes a lot more sense. In a bizarre way, the odd spelling is probably a good thing, as there is an Amandelnek Pass in the Tankwa Karoo, which would be bound to cause confusion.

Mountain Passes South Africa

Our website is dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R200 a year, get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.

Register

 

Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.

View Master Orientation Map...