Mountain Passes

Mount Paul stands as a lonely sentinel, surrounded on all sides by flat plains in the Eastern Free State highlands. Being the only high point in the area, it was an obvious site to erect telecommunication towers, and to do this an access road needed to be built. Originally a rough-and-ready offroad track, the road has been upgraded in a number of phases to now include concrete paving and strips on the steeper sections, vastly improving traction for maintenance vehicles. With maximum gradients of around 1:3, this pass is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can summon up the courage to tackle this daunting traverse, the fantastic views from the summit are well worth the effort.

This lovely poort offers rugged scenery as it crosses and recrosses a river bed multiples of times along the length of the poort over basic stony drifts. The poort lies close to the Floriskraal Dam, which is the main water supply to the Karoo town of Laingsburg, perhaps most famous for the devastating 1981 flood. In the event of a flash flood, this poort would be a death trap, as can be seen in the video footage. The poort can be accessed off the R323 tar road from Laingsburg to Seweweekspoort and it ends in a dead-end, being mainly a farm service road. The most scenic sections lie on the western side of the poort.

This is a complex contour road offering four small passes along its 27 km length. The road generally remains at the 2600m contour level and the vast majority of the route comprises contour road driving as it follows the shapes of the hills and buttresses. The route is doable in a high clearance 4x2 with diff-lock, but when things get muddy or snowy, it is definitely a 4x4 route. Although the road gets quite rough in places, these don't last long and most of this route is Grade 1 to 2. The road connects the Tiffindell Ski Resort in the west with the Tenahead Mountain Lodge in the east, and provides a shorter, but slower alternative to the Naudes Nek Pass. Beyond Tenahead Lodge, the road connects at the Naudes Nek lookout point at 2500m ASL.

Although we have named this route the TTT  (Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse) which aptly describes the purpose of the road, this is a more modern take on its routing. It's also referred to by the locals by three other names: The Cairntoul Road (named after a farm on the eastern side of the traverse); Die Patrollie Pad (The Patrol Road) and Die Grenspad (the Border Road). The road has been used for many years to patrol stock theft into Lesotho. There are several small patrol huts, linked with radio sets, which can be seen along the route. These are occupied by 'young local herdsmen' who keep an eye on the hillsides and relay any suspicious activity to the main SAPS base at Cairntoul, from where the heavyweights are dispatched on horseback or by 4x4.

The Ben MacDhui Pass is the new record holder of the highest altitude summit in South Africa at 3001m. It replaces the previous record holder, the Sani Pass [2876m]. This is a new road which has recently been opened. The pass comprises three distinct sections:
1. The access toad to the Tiffindell Ski Resort.
2.The maintenance track for the ski-lift.
3. A two spoor jeep track from the highest ski-lift pylon to the summit point

This is an out and back route and a high clearance 4x4 with low range is needed to complete this drive. We have rated the pass as a Grade 3 in 4x4 parlance and would not recommend driving the route in severe weather and especially not when there is heavy snow. Allow approximately an hour and a half to complete it both ways and add for additional time at the summit. It is often windy and cold (even in summer) so take appropriate clothing with you. The pass traverses private property and it is necessary to sign in at the Tiffindell office before you proceed up the pass. 

This very short and fairly minor 'pass' is nothing more than a slight bump in the flat Karoo topography and is located about midway between Fraserburg and Loxton in the Northern Cape, just off the R356 on a minor gravel road that connects the R356 with the R361.  About the most exciting feature of this pass, is the tricky navigation trying to find it. This tiny little pass is not really worth seeking out and you will be disappointed with what it has to offer. It is strictly for the commited pass hunter.

Somewhere along the line, a lazy cartographer spelt the name as Amandeihoogte, which has subsequently been repeated on many maps in a typical copy/paste syndrome. This incorrect spelling makes no sense at all and we have officially confirmed on the 1:50,000 government map, that the name is Amandelhoogte. This is also the name of the farm at the northern end of the pass.

To add to the confusion, there is an Amandelnek Pass in the Tankwa Karoo, which would be bound to cause confusion.

This poort is the for more serious pass hunter. It's is a rough, two-spoor jeep track suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles only. The 7,7 km long poort sweeps in and around several low mountains in the far north-eastern segment of Namaqualand. This is a quintesessential 'road to nowhere'. Carry two spare wheels and be prepared for any emergency on this desolate and lonely road. The poort descends a total of 94m producing typically easy poort type gradients of 1:82 with even the steepest parts being a fairly mild 1:20.

This is the longest of the trio of passes in the higher sections of Namaqualand, east of Garies and Kamieskroon along the north-south axis on the P2943. The aptly named Groenkloof Pass traverses a narrow valley compressed between tall granite mountains. This valley is surprisingly well watered and green and becomes a flower wonderland in spring. The 5,9 km long pass gets quite steep on its southern side with gradients around 1:7 and there are one or two very sharp corners to contend with. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except in very wet weather when a 4WD would be a better option. Keep a look out in thevideo clip at 1.32 for the pair of 'meerkatte' playing chicken in the road.

 

This decidedly steep, gravel pass offers excellent scenery of the granite clad mountain plateaus of Namaqualand. it's located at the small settlement of Leliefontein, where the huge Sentech tower dominates the summit point of the pass, about 20 km ESE of Kamieskroon and 34 km NNE of Garies.

The pass is 3,9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 182m, producing an average gradient of 1:21, with the steepest parts on the northern side of the summit presenting as steep as 1:7. During the rainy season, things can get slippery and muddy at this high altitude plateau and lightweight front wheel drive cars might experience  a loss of traction. At all other times of the year, the pass is perfectly suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for corrugations as well as a couple of blind rises and corners.

This short, steep pass is located 7 km north-west of Leliefontein and 14 km ESE of Kamieskroon on a minor gravel road - the P2943 in the mountainous part of Namaqualand and is a prime wild-flower spotting zone. At just 1,4 km the pass is fairly short, but it climbs 96 vertical metres, producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14, with the steepest parts being just before the summit, where things get as steep as 1:5. During wet weather, light front wheel drive cars will experience traction issues here, but at all other times of the year, the pass is suitable for all vehicles. The pass is named after the Draaiklip (or Turning Stone) which can be seen on the right hand side (west) of the road, just after the sharp left hand bend.

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.

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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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