Rooihoogte Pass, Montagu (R318)

Read 3775 times
Mr. Burger's bluegum trees at the viewsite Mr. Burger's bluegum trees at the viewsite - Photo: Gerhard Marx

Over a distance of 7.6 km, the tarred Rooihoogte Pass loses/gains 370m of altitiude, with a comfortable gradient of 1/20. The views out over the Koo Valley are refreshingly reminiscent of a patchwork in 'greens of fruit farms' -- a rejuvenating sight for the urban escapee! (Literally a stone's throw along the same road is Burgers Pass, formerly known as Koo Pass.) Both of these passes were designed by master road engineer, Thomas Bain in 1877. The Rooihoogte Pass was originally known as Thomspson's Pass and together with the Koo pass, both received name changes in the 1940's. The pass was completed in 1877.

Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

FULL-SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.



Digging into the details:

Getting there: Head west out of Montagu on the tarred R381 for 30 km and ascend the Burgers Pass. Continue for a further 20 km to arrive at the southern start of the Rooihoogte Pass.

This pass is inextricably linked to Burger's Pass (Koo Pass) as well as with Cogmanskloof to the south of Montagu. Thomas Bain designed and supervised the construction of all three during 1877. The two passes of Burger's and Rooihoogte climb out of the Koo Valley over the Waboomsberge to summit on the plateau of the Nouga Hills.

P.M.Burger's map of the pass and the old passesP.M.Burger's handdrawn map showing all four passes / Courtesy: T.MurrayHistory tells us that at least two earlier passes traversed these mountains before Thomas Bain cast his "theodolite eye" over the lndscape. The earliest pass may have been built as a co-operative venture by the first farmers that settled the Koo valley between 1730 and 1740. This pass was known as the Eselsgal Pass (for the steepness of its gradients and the displeasure it gave the mules) and existed as far back as 1800. Wagons had to be half unloaded and needed to return to the bottom to haul the second half of the cargo up. The gradients were steeper than 1:5!
Surprisingly, the 200 year old road is still in reasonable shape, despite being covered by Waboom bushes (Protea Nitida) with some neat stonework still evident.

Thomas Bain's road took a far easier line which was well to the west of the Eselsgal route.

Bain's meticulous dressed stone walls can still be seen below and to the south-west of the current road. The Bain pass was opened on 11th November, 1877 - a date which was commerorated for many years thereafter in the form of a Koo Picnic.

Snow at the summitSnow near the summit looking west at Matroosberg / Photo: Mauritzg In 1919 a Mr. P. Ravenscroft built a third route over the mountains on a route very close to the current pass. Eager to have his name remembered in posterity, he carved his famly crest into a rock.

This gravel road was used by farmers to transport apples and pears to Matroosberg station - the trip taking two full days.

The modern tarred road (R381) was completed in 1967. With a summit altitude of 1240m ASL, it makes this the highest of the Western Cape passes. It has a moderate gradient of 1:25. Similar to the Outeniqua Pass near George, this is one of only two passes in South Africa, where four passes can be seen simultaneously.

The pass was renamed Thomson's Pass after Mr. J. de W.Thomson, who was the MPC for Swellendam and the MEC for roads until 1968. He was remembered for his great endeavours towards improvements to the pass. The pass has now reverted to its old name of Rooihoogte, despite the fact that another Rooihoogte Pass exists between Villiersdorp and Worcester; not to mention a plethora of similarly named passes and poorts in South Africa. History has a way of repeating itself and the renaming of places for political reasons happened then and is doing so again right now. .

Rooihoogte PassGreat views and a safe pass, but no safety shoulders / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe pass starts at its southern end at a small river and heads west whilst steadily gaining altitude. After 2 kms it goes through a long, but persistent wide right hand horseshoe bend of almost 180 degrees, turning back on itself but at a higher altitude.

It then turns into the north east and commences a long and stiff climb. The total altitude gain over the 7,6km is 375 vertical meters, producing an average gradient of 1:25 which is very comfortable.

Soon you pass through the 1000m altitude mark and will climb even more to summit at 1240m ASL near an unattractive microwave tower,  unable to mar the serene beauty of this pass's surrounding vistas of rolling farmlands and rocky mountains. Some of the best rock-climbing is to be had in Montagu, with a diverse range of crags for both novices and experts alike.

[Credits and Sources: Dr. Graham Ross; Patricia Storrar; Patrick Coyne; Tony Murray]


Fact File:

GPS START 

S33.630389 E19.826707

GPS SUMMIT

S33.605934 E19.849288

GPS END 

S33.605934 E19.849288

AVE GRADIENT

1:20

MAX GRADIENT

1:10

ELEVATION START

865m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1240m

ELEVATION END

1240m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

375m

DISTANCE

7,6 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

West

TIME REQUIRED

10 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

80 - 100 kph

SURFACE

Tar R318

DATE FILMED

14.10.2012

TEMPERATURE

17C

NEAREST TOWN

Montagu (50km)


Route Map:

Use these powerful features to get the best use out of the map:

  • Choose either Map View or Satellite View (overlaid on the map detail.)
  • Zoom in and out; rotate in any direction.
  • Use the Get Route'feature (directly beneath the map): type in your address to get a personalised route straight from where you are to the pass, with time and distance included.
  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:


Route files:

Register and get access to route files. Simply download to your PC/Laptop/Mobile device and transfer the file directly to your GPS for 100% accurate navigation from start to end. This is a free service to registered users.

Please Register or Log in to access these files.

Route files are only available to Registered users. When you register you will also be subscribed to our News Updates.

  

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

We offer a totally free subscription. You will receive an email notification every time a new pass has been uploaded. You will also get access to registered content on our site.

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...