Mountain Passes

This steep gravel pass descends/ascends the northern end of the Nardousberg mountain - a north/south oriented range to the east of the Olifants River, approximately 40 km north of Clanwilliam. It is the final section of the road that connects the main gravel road to the Bushmans Cave Amphitheatre to the gravel (R363) road on the east side of the Olifants River. The road is maintained to a good standard and providing speed limits are adhered to, all traffic should manage this pass comfortably.

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Its claim to fame is that it is the final pass after the Nardouwskloof Pass that delivers motorists to the Cederberg's beautitul Bushmans Cave Amphitheatre. It's named after a nearby peak Kraaibosberg (Crow Bush Mountain) [633,7m] which can be seen to your right at the start of the pass. At 3,6 km this pass is fairly short and it descends a substantial 250m producing an average gradient of 1:14 which places it fairly high up on the national rankings in terms of steepness.

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Many references to this kloof and pass have dropped the "w" from the original Dutch name and simply use the more local (Afrikaans) version of Nardouskloof. The pass heads in a north easterly direction away from the Olifants River and Bulshoek dam up a natural cleft in the Nardouwsberg to summit at the farm of the same name at the top of the mountain plateau. This is also the pass one takes to get to the well known Bushman's Cave Amphitheatre. It is suitable for all vehicles and the steepest part in the middle is tarred, which solves traction issues in wet weather.

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This little known pass is just off the N7 route between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam and offers a tarred road in good condition that rises up the attractive Haarwegskloof with mainly easy curves and fairly comfortable gradients. It's a fairly short pass at 3,2 km and rises 165m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:19. The road is suitable for all vehicles.

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This 7,8 km attractive gravel pass has a substantial altitude drop of 494m as it descends from the Elandsfontein farm through the Kransvleikloof following the course of a small river amongst high crags through a cool and shady kloof. It terminates at a T-junction with the N7 highway. There is some confusion about the name of the kloof with some references calling it the Jakkalsvleikloof. The official government maps show the higher section of the kloof to be Kransvleikloof, followed by the lower section, which is named Jakkalsvleikloof. Then to add fuel to the fire, the next section after the gravel road joins the N7, is again called Kransvleikloof. The last farm along the descent on the right hand side of the road is also called Kransvleikloof. So, for the puposes of this website and having to give this pass an indexed name, we are going with Kransvleikloof.

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The Thyshoogte Pass is named after the Thyskraal farm, through which it passes. This pass follows the Jukhoogte pass to it's south-west in fairly quick succession on the gravel R356 route between Ceres and Sutherland. Like the Jukhoogte Pass, this pass similarly has a few nasty surprises with negative banking, and some sharp dips and corners. There is one hairpin bend which also hosts the steepest gradient. This pass gets extremely slippery after rain or snow.

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Most travellers are not even aware of this pass, as they travel the long and generally straight gravelled R356 across the flat plains of the Tankwa Karoo between Ceres and Sutherland. This is the first meaningful change in terrain since having passed through the Karoo Poort, about 70km further to the south west. This tricky little pass, whilst not boasting any extreme statistics, has been the undoing of many an unsuspecting driver, as things can get decidedly slippery when the rains do eventually arrive.

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If you didn't know it had a name, this little poort (wisely listed in the Afrikaans diminutive, so as not to be taken seriously) would be gone in the blink of an eye and you would be none the wiser. Some maps and references also call this poort "Die Poort se Nek" This is about as obscure as any pass can get. It lies on a remote gravel road (the P2259) about 40 km due east of Sutherland. It is of some significance in that together with its sister poort (Bloupoort) a few kilometers to the west, these two little poorts are important landmarks on your journey to the fabulous Karelskraal Pass a little further on.

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Ceres has an abundance of passes connecting it to the outside world. One of the oldest is the Hottentots Kloof Pass, which was the original wagon route between Cape Town and the Karoo through Ceres, long before the N1 was thought about. Together with the Karoo Poort these two passes carried considerable wagon traffic to the northern areas. The  modern pass we drive on today does not follow the original wagon route, which is slightly further south, a little lower down the slope.

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This gem of a pass is a well hidden secret, which lies in an isolated valley to the north of the Klipbokkrans and Baviaansberg mountains [1946m] and follows the natural kloof formed to the south of the Grasberg mountain [1638m]. It lies on the east/west axis and at 16,1 km is quite a long pass. It's not only long in terms of distance, but in time too. You will need at least 1,5 hours to complete the kloof itself and that excludes the southern return leg over many kilomters of farm roads. Multiple farm gates added to a fairly dodgy road, which can be in various states of disrepair, all add to the remote and rugged allure. It's best done in a 4x4 or at least a "bakkie" with good ground clearance and diff-lock. Despite the average gradient being an easy 1:30, there are some very steep parts, especially near the summit which reach 1:6. During winter and after rain, there are multiple river crossings to negotiate, none of which are crossed over any bridges. The rewards however, are magnificent.

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The Buffelshoek Pass should be viewed in conjunction with the Middelberg Pass as it is to all intents and purposes the southern half of the Middelberg Pass. The pass takes its name from the nearby Buffelshoek farming area. The pass is gravel and generally maintained to a good standard. It offers easy gradients over the first half, then things change quite dramatically near the summit in the form of a double switchback, where fabulous views open up over the valley - views that stretch back to the south as far as the eye can see in a blend of greenery and rugged mountains in winter. It does sometimes snow on the pass. During the summer months, it is hot and dry.

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The Elandskloof Pass is a comfortable tarred pass, designated route R303 and is the sequel to the much more dramatic Middelberg Pass when travelling from south to north between the Koue Bokkeveld and Citrusdal. A substantial plateau lies between these two passes and the farm Elandskloof lies at the southern end of the pass and is where the pass took its name from. Despite the easy gradients and shallow corners, it is a very old pass dating back to the 18th Century. It should be noted that there are 3 passes with this name in the Western Cape - the other two being near Villiersdorp and Gamkaskloof respectively.

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This pass is in reality just the initial climb leading from the Dwyka river to the start of the Rammelkop Pass. There are many references to the two passes being one pass, but the initial part of the climb traverses the farm Allemanshoek, thus causing plenty of confusion. To keep things simple, we have treated these as two separate passes.

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The Karoo Poort is a very old route followed by the first settlers, and together with the Hottentot Kloof, formed the only route to the north (and the Karoo) from Cape Town through Ceres. The road is a typical poort, with easy gradients, following the course of a (mainly dry) river-bed through a natural gap in the mountains. The pass is gravel, except for a small section of just over a kilometer and a half, where the tarring was no doubt done to protect the Karoopoort farm orchards from dust. The original old farmstead is on the left hand side of the road (west) and looking its age these days. It is the only farm in the poort.

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This little known tarred pass is located on the R703 between Excelsior and Clocolan. It offers mountainous scenery and summits at 1684m ASL having climbed 160 meters over 8,3 km. Although it is a fairly mild pass with an average gradient of an easy 1:28, there one or two sections where the gradient gets to 1:8. The Korannaberg mountain range runs on the north-south axis and there is a 4x4 route available to offroad enthusiasts which can be accessed from the northern side of the range via a gravel road. (Google Korannaberg Adventures for contact details).

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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.
 

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