Mountain Passes

A straight-forward climb up the foothills of the Mpate mountain to the north-west of Dundee. This mountain played a major role in the first big battle of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899 - The Battle of Dundee or more accurately the Battle of Talana. The pass climbs steeply at a maximum gradient of 1:10 towards the summit of 1361m ASL, where it splits, with the left hand fork continuing as the R68 towards Newcastle, whereas the right hand fork (the R621) heads north to Hattingspruit and Dannhauser.

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A straightforward rise up a natural neck with an altitude gain of 114m over 4.06 km, producing an average gradient of 1:36, but the section near the summit is quite steep at 1:7. The pass is one of two similar necks on the R33 between Dundee and Vryheid.

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Smith's Nek is a smallish climb through a natural gap between two hills just to the east of Dundee in KZN. Statistically there's not much to this little pass as it is only 2,37 km long and only clinbs 45 vertical metres, producing a gentle average gradient of just 1:53 with the steepest parts being at 1:14.  The real punch from Smith's Nek comes in the form of its battefields history as the hills through which the road pass were part of the Battle of Talana in 1899 - one of the first major battles between the British and the Boers.

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A tough Grade 5 4x4 route up the Nuweveld Mountains that is an old route connecting the rest camp at Karoo national Park with the summit area on the mountain plateau and joins the Klipspringer Pass as its termination point. This is for the more serious offroader with a robust 4x4 with low range and high ground clearance. The gradients get as steep as 1:3,3 so be prepared for some nail biting driving. In 4WD circles a Grade 5 is labelled as : "Probable damage to vehicle or possible injury to passengers and driver" Dont try this one alone or unless you have substantial offroad driving experience and understand advanced recovery techniques.

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During our pass filming expeditions, we sometimes cross enjoyable spaces in South Africa, which are not mountain passes perse, but simply enjoyable drives through unspoilt countryside, which we know our readers will enjoy. This is the third of the series which we've labelled Karoo Gravel Travel. It is located approximately midway between the Molteno and De Jager Passes to the north of Beaufort West and is just under 20 km long and mainly level, other than a short climb/descent in the middle. The farms are big and far & few between. You can enjoy this drive in complete isolation and you don't need a 4WD vehicle either.

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The Van Tonders Pass foms the major portion of a farm road that connects the R33 north of Helpmekaar with another bigger gravel road that runs almost parallel with the R300, but slightly further west. The gravel surfaced pass is 7,2 km in length and descends/ascends 302m in altitude producing an average gradient of 1:24, but dont be fooled by that figure, as some of the sections are as steep as 1:5. This one is decidedly slippery when wet!

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This decidely steep gravel pass connects the small settlement of Helpmekaar with Rorke's Drift and descends 353m over 6,38 km producing a fairly stiff average gradient of 1:18, with the steepest sections in the middle registering 1:5.  The pass provides access to a number of Anglo-Zulu battle sites including Rorke's Drift, Fugitive's Drift and Isandlwana. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except when heavy rain or snow is experienced, when a 4WD vehicle will be more appropriate (and safe).

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This steep pass forms part of the tarred R33 route between Dundee and Pomeroy. Translated it means "Help Each Other Pass" and dates back to the pioneering days when farmers needed to help each other to get their wagons up the steep inclines of this pass. The pass climbs 427 m over 9,8 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but there are some steep sections at 1:7. The tiny settlement of Helpmekaar is located on the left hand side of the road, about 2 km after the summit point.

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The Grobbelaarskloof Pass is named after a farm which is actually in the next kloof to the east. This pass is also commonly known as Colenso Heights. It climbs out of Colenso into the north-west and is part of the old tarred main road (R103) between Colenso and Ladysmith. The road climbs just under 200m in altitude over 5,7 km producing an easy average gradient of 1:29 with the steepest parts being at 1:10. It's a fairly minor pass in the greater scheme of things, but like many of the smaller neks and passes in this area, it's jam packed with battlefields history.

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An easy tarred traverse along the east/west axis just outside Ladysmith in KZN with a minor change in altitude of just 53m. The road routes between a series of peaks and hills which have great historical value and in this instance the peak called Lombardskop takes us back to the Battle of Lombardskop in 1899. We spend most of our research into the history of the Anglo-Boer war, rather than the technical side of this very easy drive.

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This insignificant little climb up a small hill with one slight change in direction is an officially recognized pass on government maps, despite the fact that it does not meet any of the defined requirements of a true mountain pass. This area is, of course, rich in battlefields history and most of the hills, ridges and mountains around the town of Ladysmith have a military connotation - in this case, we have Rifleman's Ridge forming the northern part of the neck, whilst a small peak called Lancer's Peak [1202m] is the highest point of a series of hills forming the southern part of the neck.

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This pass lies on the tarred R68 between Melmoth in the east and Babanango in the west and traverses large commercial lumber plantations mostly above 1000m ASL. The road is quite narrow and motorists should always be wary of large logging trucks on this road, which might encroach over the barrier lines on corners, due to their size. The pass has an average gradient of 1:14 which puts it firmly into the 'steep' category. The steepest sections are at 1:7. The pass is also subject to mountain mists which can severely reduce visibility.

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This is an interesting gravel pass of moderate length with some sharp corners and steep gradients. It conencts Candover in the north with Magudu in the south-west. The pass also functions to serve numerous farms in this mountainous region of KZN. The road is suitable for all vehicles, but things can get decidedly slippery here in wet weather. Adjust your speed accordingly.

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Murray's Neck Pass is a straightforward tarred pass rising 116m to a neck where fabulous views over the Pongola Nature Reserve can be enjoyed. The pass forms an integral part of the access road from the N2 to the SA/Swaziland border control point at Golela, where there is also a railway station. The road provides tourism access from the eastern end of the pass to some of KZN's finest game reserves. The pass has a steeper descent gradient, but in general this is an easy pass with a good safety record and comfortable gradients with gentle corners. It is suitable for all vehicles.

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This is a very minor pass in the far northern sector of KZN. The old pass, which runs higher up the hill, was much more of a pass than the modern version which has been cut out of the hill lower down the slope, closer to the Phongola River. The pass name has officially remained but this little pass is really fairly insignificant. The old pass can no longer be driven, unless permission is obtained from the landowner. We have shown the old road as a yellow line on our video animation clip.

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Welcome...

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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