Mountain Passes

Red Hill Road is 7.6 km in length, packing a fantastic scenic punch into that distance, with most of it in the final 3.4 kms of descent. The road starts at the intersection of the M65 (the coastal road from Cape Point to Kommetjie) and the M66 (Redhill's official route designation.) It plays host to one of Cape Town's favourite long distance road running races - the 36 km Redhill Race. The road contains over 30 corners, bends and curves, which include no less than 6 hairpin bends - four of which occur on the eastern side of the mountain. Allow space on the hairpins for bigger vehicles, which will require the entire width of the road to negotiate the bends. Despite the extreme bends, the gradients are actually quite reasonable at 1:14 at the steepest point.

The Hoek-se-Berg Pass (translated as 'Corner's Mountain') is a short, but steep pass on a minor gravel road which takes vehicles down to the Biedouw Valley in the central Cederberg area - a well-known site for wild flowers in spring.  On some maps - including the official government 1:50,000 maps, this pass is listed as Uitkyk Pass. There is another Uitkyk Pass near Algeria Forestry Station in the Southern Cederberg and so plenty of confusion has been caused. As a consequence this pass had a name change to Hoek se Berg Pass. To add even more confusion, the southern Uitkyk Pass is also known as the Cederberg Pass.

The Pakhuis Pass (meaning 'packing shed' in Afrikaans) begins just outside Clanwilliam, connecting it with the Karoo town of Calvinia and beyond. The pass's surveyor and builder, Thomas Bain, was an incredibly energetic man of many talents, which included art, rock paintings, geology, cartography and engineering. This is a major pass which has recently been fully tarred over its entire length and offers a wide variety of scenery, grave sites, weathered rock formations, picnic sites and some of the Cederberg's finest hiking trails.

The pass is suitable for all vehicles but do comply with the speed limits, especially along the northern switchback section, where the gradients are quite steep and the corners (although nicely radiused by the road builders), are quite sharp. The pass is in the Top 20 passes nationally in terms of its length (26,4 km)  and has a big altitude gain of 824m. Most of the new road follows Thomas Bain's original lines.

The Kromrivier Pass is a short, steep pass incorporating 15 bends, corners and curves - two of which are in excess of 100 degrees. The pass connects the Cederberg Tourist Park or more originally, the Kromrivier farm with the main gravel road between Clanwilliam and Ceres in the Southern Cederberg. It also forms part of an escape route via the Truitjieskraal Road, when the main road via Matjiesrivier is in flood

The road is single width for some of its length, which makes overtaking impossible and oncoming traffic a problem. Should this happen, one of the vehicles will need to reverse back to a wider, safer place to allow the other vehicle to pass. Etiquette is that the ascending vehicle has right of way, but this is sometimes neither practical or safe. Use common sense and be courteous. The road can get quite busy on long weekends, but is otherwise very quiet.

The Winkelhaak Road is a 37 km gravel farm road which meanders through the Koue Bokkeveld north of Ceres between the many rivers, dams and lakes of this farming area, specialising in onions and potatoes. The scenery is richly diverse with the dominance of the rugged mountain-scape being omnipresent.

The Grootrivierhoogte Pass forms part of the exceptionally beautiful route through the Southern Cederberg, connecting farms like Kromrivier, Matjiesrivier, Nuwerus and Mount Ceder, with the plateau of the Koue Bokkeveld. The road is made up of two major passes - the other being the Blinkberg Pass. Both offer stunning mountain scenery in crisp mountain air. The passes are seriously steep in some places - as steep as 1:5 !!!

The Grootrivierhoogte Pass is one of the steepest along this route and light front wheel cars will struggle on the final section near the summit in wet conditions, but for the vast majority of the year, this pass is doable in any vehicle. Take time to stop at the summit and allow the mesmerising mountain views to captivate your soul. From the summit one can look to the south and see part of the Blinkberg Pass, whilst the northern view includes Nuwerus, and Cederberg Oasis.

The Gydo Pass was built at the same time as Michells Pass by Andrew Geddes Bain and his team of convict labourers circa 1848. This important pass connected the Warm Bokkeveld with the higher altitude Koue Bokkeveld, as well as the remote, but fertile (and therefore lucrative) Witzenberg Valley a few kilometers west of the head of the pass.

Michell's Pass (frequently misspelt as Mitchell's Pass) was named after Charles Michell who planned the original route through the Skurweberg & Witzenberg Mountains from Tulbagh and Wolseley through to Ceres. He was a talented military engineer, who perhaps gained more fame for his exploits by eloping with the 15 year old daughter of a French colonel. This might explain why he was "transferred" to the Cape of Good Hope! Michell went on to become the Surveyor-General for the Colony and designed and built several prominent Cape passes and bridges and was a major influence in road construction in the Cape, together with the popular Colonial Secretary, John Montagu, had the vision to plan a network of roads through the Cape Colony that would pave the way to a successful growth in the region's economy.

Chapman's Peak Drive dates back to the early 1900's and is without question one of Cape Town's Top 10 tourist destinations. It's popularity is due to the incredible scnery on offer viewed from a road which has been been lietrally hewn out of the almost vertical cliff faces on the Cape Peninsula's western side.

The 10 km long pass connects Hout Bay in the north with Noordhoek in the south and was converted into a toll road in 2003 to cover the high costs of maintaining the road to a safe standard. Along it's length you will drive through more than 80 bends, corners and curves and see some impressive modern engineering, including massive steel catch nets and two semi-tunnels. Many sections of unstable rock-face have been been reinforced with shotcrete.

This pass is loaded with drama and history dating back to 1910 and is best appreciated driven slowly. It must have seemed an impossible task building a road on such an inhospitable and dangerous cliff face, but the road building pioneers did the job!

The more observant viewers will notice that we have not included our standard vertical profile nor simulated fly-past clips in the first video. The reason for this is that Google Earth simply cannot 'read' the road correctly and the results are too distorted to provide an accurate simulation. This is the only pass in South Africa, where this has occurred.

This little known, but none the less spectacular, 4x4 route in the Breede River Valley is found just outside the major Boland town of Worcester. (At the time of filming the owner indicated the farm was for sale, so the continued existence of this route might be in jeopardy.)

Note: This is a strictly 4x4 route.

Ed note: This trail has been officially closed: 1st December, 2015

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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.
 

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