Mountain Passes

A short, steep hill on the tarred R34 between Newcastle and Memel, named after the Brink family over whose land the pass traverses. At only 1,45 km it ranks right near the bottom of our pass distance table but it does descend 85 vertical metres over that distance to produce a stiff average gradient of 1:17 with the steepest bits being at 1:10

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A serious off-road route up (or down) the Drakensberg escarpment between the Vulintaba Country Estate in KZN and the farming area in the Free State near Memel. This one is for very experienced 4x4 drivers and MTB riders only - and is challenging, technical and steep. The pass is 3,23 km long and ascends 378m over that distance producing an average gradient of 1:8,5 with the steepest parts being at 1:3, making this the second steepest pass in South Africa. Vehicles will need to be full 4x4 with high ground clearance, low range and be equipped with recovery gear. The route traverses private property, so permission is required from both land owners.

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This is a serious off-road jeep track over the Drakensberg starting in KZN and ending just over the border in the Free State. It lies on private land and permission has to be obtained from the landowners to complete the route. The pass is 4,91 km long and climbs 465m producing an average gradient of 1:10,55 with the steepest parts being at 1:3,2!  This one is not for sissies!

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An easy drive with gentle gradients of only 1:60 through the Koffiekloof which runs along the banks of the Mhlonyane stream amongst big mountains and great Drakensberg scenery just to the south of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. Although this is a gravel road it is suitable for all vehicles in dry weather.

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This steep little pass climbs 105 vertical metres over just under 3 km and has some steep gradients on offer of 1:6. The road was recently tarred and connects Newcastle with the Vulintaba Country Estate. The name of the pass translates into Gunsight Notch Neck and it's easy to see why it was named so, when looking at the aerial footage.

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An easy traverse along the tarred N11 route just south of Newcastle. The short pass climbs 90 vertical metres over 2,59 km producing an average gradient of 1:29 but the road steepens to 1:14 near the summit. From the pass there are good views of the old Newcastle power station and the Kilbarchan Colliery. The pass is suitable for all vehicles and holds no apparent dangers.

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This is a straight-forward climb up a steep hill about midway between Newcastle and Normandien on a tarred road and has only one slight bend in the road. It is suitable for all traffic and is named for its proximity to the well known iNcandu Waterfall, which is very close to the summit of the hill.

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This is a beautiful gravel pass that ascends the eastern side of the Watervalsberg near Wolseley and connects the town with the Suurvlak plantation on top of the mountain. The pass falls under the jurisdiction of Cape Nature as well as the state's forestry arm in the Western Cape (Cape Pine). The road is open to permit holders only - we explain the process of getting the permit lower down on this page. The pass zig-zags its way up the mountain via three extreme switchbacks, at a fairly reasonable gradient and is well designed, offering exceptionally good views over the Tulbagh Valley and the Witzenberg mountains to the east. 

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This one is not for the feint-hearted. It is essentially a very rough 4x4 track, often not even visible - involving scouting ahead on foot at times. There are 15 stream crossings and a climb through a neck towards the northern side involving gradients of 1:3! The pass is basically a northern extension of Rogers Pass and is used by local farmers to manage their fire-breaks. It is also a dead end at its northern side and the only way to head east or west from the end of the pass is on foot. For those willing to take the risks of driving this very remote pass, you will be rewarded with absolute isolation and some of the best scenery the Drakensberg has on offer.

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This is a very steep and rough 4x4 only jeep track route in the Drakensberg to the west of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. It traverses private land and permission to use the route must first be obtained. Together with Brandons pass and Keays Pass, the three form a complex integrated route extending over a large area and can form a challenging circuit for 4x4 groups or club outings. You will need a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range and recovery equipment for this one and a minimum of three vehicles in the interests of safety.

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The Sondagsrivier (Sundays River) Pass is a long gravel pass of 14 km with two summit points followed by a big descent on the eastern side, offering grand views of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve and Ntshingwayo Dam. There are some very sharp corners (including one hairpin bend) and steep gradients on this pass, which might well cause traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in very wet conditions. This pass gives access to Brandons Pass, Rogers Pass and Keays Pass (all of which are 4x4 only passes) as well as the Normandien Pass.

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This is a serious off-road pass that ascends/descends the Drakensberg from the Ingula lower dam site in the south, with the tarred access road in the north, on the lip of the Drakensberg escarpment. It's for serious offroaders only and permits are required. Avoid it completely in heavy rain or snow conditions. The pass climbs 432m over 6,8 km to summit at 1743m, producing an average gradient of 1:16. There is a flat section in the middle and then the climbing gets more serious with gradients of 1:4!  

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This is a straightforward forward climb up a long hill, which was the scene of a fierce battle during the First Boer War in 1881. The road climbs continuously to rise 262m over 5,5 km producing an average gradient of 1:21, but things get steeper near the summit at 1:10. There are no sharp corners or other apaprent dangers. This is a busy road, so the dangers fall into the category of "the other driver". The pass is subject to frequent mountain mists, when reduced visibility can cause fatal accidents. 

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This is a short, but fairly steep gravel pass between between Newcastle in the south and Volksrust in the north and provides an alternative to the tarred main road - the N11. The pass is just over 1 km long, but it climbs steeply at an average gradient of 1:14 over that distance with the steepest sections presenting at 1:10. This one will be very slippery when wet.

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This scenic, high-altitude, gravel pass connects local farms north of Utrecht with the area to the north at Groenvlei. The pass ascends 304 m over 6,16 km producing an average gradient of 1:20, with the steepest section near the summit getting as steep as 1:11. It snows here in winter, in which case this pass would best be avoided unless in a suitable 4x4 with the appropriate equipment to deal with snow. The pass is also subject to violent electrical storms and even tornadoes on the odd occassion.

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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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