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Mountain Passes

This smallish pass forms part of a great gravel drive along some farm roads under the towering backdrop of the Outeniqua mountains not far from the R328 and the Robinson Pass. It traverses two deep valleys and offers tranquil pastoral scenery in this dairy farming region with its steep hills and many rivers. As a bonus it provides a lovely drive through the countryside, with access to the Robinson Pass and several other passes in the area, including Cloetes Pass, Du Plessis Pass, Attakwaskloof Pass and Jan Muller Pass.

The Gouna Pass is a gravel road connecting the Gouna Forestry village in the north with the Old Cape Road close to the Simola Golf Estate. It is a spectacular drive through dense indigenous forests and amber, tumbling rivers. It is also sometimes confusingly listed as the  Kom se Pad pass as this is the access road from the west to the magnificent forest drive of the same name. Despite the easy numbers of the average gradient at 1;30, many parts of this pass, especially on the eastern side of the Gouna river valley, range between 1:5 and 1:8. Some of these steeper sections have been concreted to aid traction. The Gouna Pass leads to the Gouna Forestry Station and also joins Kom se Pad traverse at that point, allowing a complete circular drive starting and ending in Knysna.

The Elands Pass is the final descent down into the long, low altitude valley called Gamkaskloof, but more commonly known as "Die Hel". This page is repeated in its entirety on the main Gamkaskloof page. If you intend driving this pass, we recommend rather switching to the main Gamkaskloof entry which covers all ten sections, including the Elands Pass. The videos on this page are more detailed than the videos on the gamkaskloof page, so if your interest is is the Elands Pass perse, then remain on this page.

This pass descends a total of 477m over a distance of 4,7 km producing a very stiff average gradeint of just under 1:10. You will have to deal with five very tight hairpin bends, and 49 other bends, corners and curves of varying degrees, but it is the very steep, unguarded drop-offs that tend be unnerving for many drivers and passengers. The design of the pass is actually very good and there is no point where the gradient exceeds 1:7.

This pass, although fairly short ranks right up with the biggest and best passes in South Africa, attracting in excess of 10,000 page views each year. This is a bucket list pass and one that every adventurous traveller should do.

This has to be one of the most iconic gravel roads in South Africa, holding almost pilgrimage status to gravel-road devotees. It winds through 37km of rugged mountain scenery, culminating in the vertigo-rush, single-width Elands Pass, and terminates in the Gamkaskloof - reminiscent of a lush oasis and paradoxically nicknamed Die Hel (The Hell).

Due to it’s length, we have produced  a multiple video set to help orienteer first time drivers. We discourage anyone from trying to complete this as an out and back drive in a single day, due to the slow average speed of around 25 kph. Besides the time issue, it would be a shame to have to rush through this magnificent part of South Africa and not have the time to allow the Gamkaskloof to work its magic on you.

This easy, tarred pass lies on the R327 between Mossel Bay and Herbertsdale, and finds its end amongst green fields on the banks of the Gouritz River. The pass dates back as far as 1850. It's above the national average at 8,5 km and descends a substantial 253m producing an average gradient of 1:34 via 13 bends, corners and curves.

The main geographical feature of this pass, is its proximity to the Gouritz River which has a huge drainage area of 45,715 sq.km. The Gourits River flows from the confluence of the Gamka River and Olifants River and is joined by the Groot River, before flowing through the Langeberg Mountains and coastal plain. It eventually drains into the sea through the Gourits Estuary near Gouritsmond. At the point where the pass kisses the banks of the river, is one of the few places where the river can be accessed in tranquil mood over a wide floodplain.

This is a tough, high-altitude gravel pass that connects the Wartrail farming valley with the well-known Tiffindell Ski Resort, close to the RSA/Lesotho border. Relatively long at 9,6 km, it rises from 1916m ASL to 2567m. With its 1:14 average climb gradient, this pass can be called nothing but 'steep'! The first 4 km offers gradients of up to 1:5! This is strictly a 4x4 only route and high ground clearance, as well as low range, are mandatory. The pass is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Bidstone Pass.

Most of the climbing is done in the first 3,8 km, whereafter the gradient eases right off to around 1:20 until the 7,7 km point after which the road steepens again to 1:7 till the summit. The road levels off near a small solitary cottage, which marks the end of the pass at the 9,6 km point, but there is still a fairly long pull of 8,2 km before you will arrive at Tiffindell. Allow at least 2 hours to complete both sections, excluding stops.

Expect rapidly changing weather conditions including severe electrical storms, heavy rain, hail, snow and very strong katabatic and anabatic winds. It you break down on this pass, assistance will be either from Tiffindell or from the nearest farm in the Wartrail Valley. Either way, it will be a long walk. Go well prepared with recovery equipment, as well as appropriate clothing and emergency food rations. We recommend carrying a satphone.

 

The Bastervoetpad Pass is one of the most challenging true mountain passes in South Africa and it's rated high amongst the Top 8 high altitude passes of the Eastern Cape.  Officially named the Dr. Lapa Munnik Pass, (although no-one uses this name), this rough gravel pass is located between the summit of the Barkly Pass and Ugie and traverses a southern arm of the Drakensberg along the east-west axis. The rugged mountains and deep, green valleys of the southern Drakensberg are strongly reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, with icy winters and mild summers. This is the only pass in South Africa named after a minister of Public Health. The route was first discovered in 1862 by Adam Kok lll, when he led an armed group down the footpath as a possible route for his historic trek, but found the locals too hostile. He subsequently led the Griquas in their historic trek from Phillipolis in the Free State to their new home, called of course - Kokstad, over another route further to the east, named Ongeluksnek.

The pass boasts a summit height of 2240m, a length of 20 km and it loses 830m of altitude down the Drakensberg escarpment on the eastern side. Add to those rather impressive statistics, this pass can be treacherous in bad weather and is subject to electrical storms, violent winds, heavy rain, hail and snow. It also offers some of the finest scenery in South Africa, when the weather is good. If you intend driving this pass, watch all six videos first and then make your decision.

Please note that you need a 4x4 vehicle with low range & high ground clearance to complete this pass.

Travelling south, the Hex River Poort follows the Hex River Pass about 8 km towards the southern exit of the Hex River Valley and is a distinctly separate pass to it's northern cousin, with both providing entry and exit routes from then valley.  Many noteworthy and well respected travellers from the 17th and 18th centuries, incorrectly recorded in their travel journals that this was the Hex River Pass. Not that the poort is unworthy of being called an official pass, with its wild and rugged terrain! Twenty years ago, rockfalls and flooding caused endless problems for the roads authorities. Nowadays, the excellently engineered renovation makes for safe and wonderfully scenic, comfortable driving. 
 

Ranking closely alongside the notorious Kaaimans River Pass as one of the Western Cape's most dangerous passes for trucking accidents, it is not so much the gradient that is problematic, but the long, straight, momentum-gathering descent which leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp, left-hand bend. Thankfully, a substantial crash-barrier prevents out-of-control vehicles from crossing over into the oncoming traffic. A strategically place arrestor bed halfway down the pass has also helped to reduce the dangers of trucks experiencing brake failure. There are so many scars on that crash barrier that it leaves one wondering what story each scar has to tell!

Over a distance of 7.6 km, the tarred Rooihoogte Pass displays 370m of altitude variance, with a comfortable average gradient of 1/20. Literally a stone's throw along the same road is Burgers Pass, formerly known as Koo Pass. Both of these passes were first designed by master road engineer, Thomas Bain in 1877.

The Rooihoogte Pass was originally known as Thomson's Pass and together with the Koo pass, both received name changes in the 1940's. This is reputed to be the pass with the highest summit altitude in the Western Cape. The pass is more enjoyable driving it in the descending mode with huge views over the rugged Langeberg mountains.

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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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