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Mountain Passes

This interesting pass was built by the military in the 1980's and provides a safe all-weather pass for technicians to service the microwave and other towers at the summit point, where seven distinct peaks are known as the Seven Sisters. The quality of the road, although narrow, is very good with cuttings, good drainage and camber included in the construction. The views are spectacular for want of a better superlative and as there is to all intents and purposes no traffic, the area is wild and remote, despite its proximity to nearby Wellington and Paarl. Wildlife abounds with antelope and leopards being seen fairly often.

Statistically it's impressive too gaining 500m of altitude over 6 km, which produces an average gradient of 1:12, but the steeper sections ramp up to 1:5. Traction is good, except when there is snow around, in which case a 4WD vehicle is mandatory. The road is controlled by Cape Nature, Telkom, SA Government and private land owners and is restricted. We have added it to our database so the public can get a feel of what it's like via our video.

This pass should not be confused with the Skurweberg Pass in Mpumalanga. This is a more sedate pass, almost a country road really, that climbs up to the summit and descends down the other side and runs along the east-west axis. At 12.5 km it's on the long side and sports 22 bends, corners and curves of which only two are sharp at 90 degrees. Its mild gradients hide the considerable altitude gain of 341m where the steepest sections measure out at 1:7.

The pass is located 33 km to the north-west of Vryheid in KZN and is easily accessible via the tarred R33 route. It forms a connecting farm road with Utrecht some 35 km to the west. The pass is doable in any vehicle in fair weather.

The Nqutu Pass is named after the village at its summit point. This short, tarred pass is fairly steep with average gradient of 1:18 over a distance of 3,3 km. Being close to a busy town, you can expect pedestrians and livestock on the road, minibus taxis and other slow moving vehicles.

The name is of Zulu origin, and is derived from 'isquthu', ‘flat-topped vessel’, descriptive of a nearby hill from which the village takes its name.

Note that the entire pass has double barrier lines, so there is no overtaking allowed.

This short pass of 3,2 km connects Hlobane/Vaalbank in the north with the village of Bloemendal in the south. It has a classic low-high-low profile with a summit height of 1350m. What sets this pass apart from it's peers is the number of potholes (at the time of filming in September, 2021) that have to be avoided. It's probably one of the worst in South Africa and results in drivers weaving onto the wrong side of the road.

The good news is that the average speed is relatively low, so avoiding collisions is quite easy. The probable cause of the poor road condition is the constant presence of coal mining trucks which service several mines in the immediate area. Other dangers include heavy mountain mists and livestock on the road.

This hidden gem of a gravel pass connects Vryheid, Hlobane and Vaalbank with a number of game farms, forestry reserves and nature reserves in northern KZN. The pass has 34 bends corners and curves and displays a respectable altitude variance of 292m over a length of 8,2 km. You will be treated to attractive scenery throughout the traverse. The road provides access to the Loziba Wilderness Conservancy, Mawana Game Reserve and Thangami Game Reserve.

In fair weather this pass is suitable for all vehicles. Cautionaries include 'slippery when wet', livestock on the road and slow moving vehicles. Mountain mists are common in the area which can drastically reduce visibility.

Dassieshoogte is a moderate pass located on the tarred R34 route just south of Vryheid. It's of above average length at 6.1 km and has very easy curves with gentle gradients. It parallels the railway line for much of its length, under-passing it just after the northern start. The pass has its summit point close to the northern end followed by a long undulating plateau in the middle and a lower false summit towards the southern end.

The road is generally in a good condition and has safety shoulders throughout. It is suitable for all vehicles.

Sandwiched between the Krugersdorp Game Reserve in the west and the Blougat Municipal Nature Reserve in the east,  is a well known road commonly referred to as the Krugersdorp Hill Climb for its use as a hill climb race track, but officially it's called the Thomas Jackson Road.

It consists of several very tight hairpin bends and decends from the northern end of the Delporton industrial business park down to the Percy Stewart waste water treatment works, losing 76m of altitude in just 1,2 km, resulting in a stiff average gradient of 1:16.

The Krugersdorp Aerodrome is located close to the summit of the road. It's also called the Jack Taylor Airfield and Delportonia Airfield.

 

Steepways Lane is a short suburban pass on "The Ridge" in Johannesburg. Despite a miniscule elevation variance of  just 16m and just over one minute to drive it, the little pass resembles the real thing with tight hairpins and steep gradients that reach 1:6. It connects The Ridge Road in the south with Kallenbach Drive in the north.

On the southerly side and over the ridge are the areas of Cyrildene, Observatory and Morninghill, but these suburbs are not visible to Linksfield as they are hidden behind the Linksfield Ridge. The suburb is located on part of an old Witwatersrand farm called Doornfontein.

In 1910, the area was known as Muller's Plantation and it was many years later and after several attempts, before the land was successfully surveyed. It would be proclaimed as suburb on 8 March 1922 and its name is derived from the word Links and its closeness to the nearby Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club. The suburb was developed by Mr. A.M. Kennedy and Hermann Kallenbach. Kallenbach would build a house on Linksfield Ridge in 1929. The Huddlepark Golf Course and Driving Range borders with Linksfield and Linksfield North.

The Naauwkloof Pass on the R62 close to Ladismith  is much more of a poort than a true mountain pass. The 8,3 km long poort offers attractive scenery with 12 gentle bends and easy gradients to make this an enjoyable break along the R62, itself touted as the longest wine route in the world.

Towards the northern end of the poort, the Naauwkloof farm entrance can be seen on the right-hand side when travelling south. There's a valley about a quarter of the way through the poort, followed by an ascent to a false summit (516m) at the 4.5 km mark. From this midway summit the road descends continuously till the end of the poort marked by the crossing of the Stassensleegte River.

The Lotheni Pass is the biggest of the four passes clustered around the Lotheni and Mkhomazi Nature Reserves. The other passes are the Bucklands Pass, the Nzinga Pass and the oddly named Ping Pong Cuttings. The Lower Lotheni Road offers wonderful scenery as it follows the foothills of the Drakensberg, offering tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural life as several villages are traversed.

Being a gravel road, the surface condition is subject to weather conditions and maintenance schedules. Always expect rough sections with ruts, washaways and loose gravel. Other dangers include erratic local driver behaviour, livestock on the road, minibus taxis and pedestrians.

Stick to the speed limit and be particularly careful at blind rises and sharp corners, where some drivers tend to drift onto the wrong side of the road.

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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.

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