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Lesotho

This is a major pass covering 19 km and includes a huge number of bends, corners and curves - 122 of them in total. The altitude variance is a whopping 728 metres which produces and average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest parts reaching 1:7. The pass is tarred which reduces traction issues in wet weather, but when ice forms on the road things can quickly become dangerous. The pass has a classic profile with a central summit point, but the steeper section is on the western side.

With a summit altitude of 2553m ASL this pass is regularly under snow for many months of the year. It connects Maseru with Thaba-Tseka on the A3 route together with a string of other passes.

The Marakabeis Lodge lies at the western end of the pass at a river crossing. This little river flows northwards to form one of the many streams that feed into the Mohale Dam.

This lovely gravel pass with its alluring name connects Thabaneng in the west with Malealea in the east and offers beautiful rural scenery in the western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. At 3.7 km it's a fairly short pass by Lesotho standards and only displays an altitude variance of 120m, and all the corners are gentle as are the gradients, which reach 1:5 near the summit and immediately after it.

As the summit is crested a beautiful view is presented and where the pass got its name from. The pass is popular more by its name than any sort of driving challenge, so if you want to drive this pass, don't expect the usual Lesotho type statistics - just enjoy the easy drive and beautiful scenery.

The main destination on the eastern end of the pass is the lovely Malealea Lodge, where accommodation is available in individual thatched rondavels set in immaculate gardens.

This is an extremely high altitude pass. It's lowest point is higher than the highest pass in South Africa. You will start at 3012m ASL and climb streadily to summit at 3246m ASL. Despite the extreme altitudes, the pass itself only contains 16 bends corners and curves and only two have an arc greater than 90 degrees.

Assuming fine weather, the pass should present no problems other than a lack of power in your vehicle due to the oxygen starved air and the very real possibility of experiencing headaches and nose bleeds. Many visitors to Lesotho experience altitude sickness and especially those that have travelled up from the coast. If you normally suffer from AS, please vsit your pharmacist for advice before setting off on your journey.

In the colder months, this pass will have snow and ice on it. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle it's best to choose an alternative route or wait a day or two for conditions to improve. Snow is less of a problem than ice. Ice creates extremely dangerous conditions on tar (much worse than gravel) which can quickly cause a total loss of control.

The pass connects Mokhotlong in the east with the northern villages, as well as the Afriski Resort via the main route - the A1.

This is a mega pass by any standards. It's very long at 32 km and displays an altitude variance of 1066m. With a summit height of 3244m ASL, headaches and nose bleeds might be experienced by travelers from the coast who have not had time to acclimatise. It is the second highest pass in Lesotho and is also commonly referred to as the Black Mountain Pass.

Packed into that length is a total of 139 bends, corners and curves of which 8 have angles in excess of 90 degrees and of those, 6 are hairpin bends, all of which occur on the south-eastern side of the pass. The pass is subject to lots of snow in winter and ice on the roadway will make things highly dangerous, even for 4WD vehicles.

The pass is virtually and extension of the Sani Pass, separated only by a short 6 km plateau. It connects South Africa (KZN specifically) with the main southern town of Mokhotlong. It was recently tarred which makes this a relatively comfortable drive compared to the rough two spoor track prior to 2004.

Cautionaries: Snow, Ice, Livestock, Herdsmen, Altitude sickness.

The A25 route is home to a number of spectacular passes. Although the Laitsoka Pass is not the highest, if offers magnificent scenery and includes the crossing of the high level bridge over the upper reaches of the Katse Dam. The pass is long at 14.7 km and contains 75 bends, corners and curves, of which 16 exceed 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.

The average gradient of 1:25 is moderated by a central summit point of 2649m ASL but the gradients do reach 1:5 on several sections of the pass, so it's steep by any standards. The pass is tarred and forms one of the main routes through the central part of Lesotho and has become busier since the completion of the Katse Dam and the ongoing Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

There are at least two good lodges in the Lejone area for travellers to overnight at.

Lancer's Gap is a short, steep tarred pass on the eastern outskirts of Maseru. At 1.9 km it's the shortest of the official passes documented in Lesotho. Other than the chicane section of a set of very tight double hairpin bends, the drive is straight-forward and is suitable for all vehicles.

The average gradient on this pass is a stiff 1:12 but there are several sections that get as steep as 1:5. For vehicles approaching from the east in the descending mode, it is best to run against engine compression.

You will be treated to some gnarled and spectacular sandstone formations in the middle section of the pass.

This is another major pass in Lesotho located on the A4 main route in the south-western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. It's long at 13.4 km and climbs 576 vertical metres producing some stiff gradients of 1:6. It connects Mount Moorosi with Qacha's Nek and a string of smaller villages along the way.

The pass has 61 bends, corners and curves to contend with of which only 2 are greater than 90 degrees and one of those is a 160 degree hairpin at the 4.3 km mark (measured from the western start). With a summit height of 2464m you can expect snow and ice on this pass on a regular basis.

The pass is tarred and under normal conditions is quite safe for any vehicle.

This big pass is located on the A3 main route between Maseru in the west and the much smaller village of Fosi in the east. It displays an altitude variance of 487m over a distance of 11.9 km producing an average gradient of 1:27, but there are several very steep sections at 1:5.

The pass is also commonly known as Bushman's Pass or Bushmen's Pass. Most maps use the spelling Bushman's, but the official sign at the summit is spelled as Bushmen's Pass.

The pass has 65 bends, corners and curves compressed within its length and with a summit height of 2277m ASL it receives regular snowfalls. During very cold conditions ice might be present on the roadway, which is extremely dangerous - even for 4WD vehicles. Being one of the main routes in Lesotho the road carries a steady flow of traffic. Be wary of large trucks and buses that need the whole roadway to negotiate the sharper bends.

This lovely pass has two unusual features. Firstly its indigenous name is very long at 21 letters and secondly it has the English name of God Help Me Pass, which conjures up instant images of fear and alarm. The reality is that today's version of the pass is actually quite easy to traverse along the tarred A3 main route.

The pass is one of several big passes on the A3 between Maseru and Mohale. It has a summit height of 2332m and like most passes in Lesotho is subject to winter snowfalls and ice on the road. It has 31 bends, corners and curves of which 8 are greater than 90 degrees and of those 8 there are 4 bends of 180 degrees.

 

This major pass is located between the town of Kala in the west and the Afriski Resort in the north in the northern quartile of Lesotho. It has a huge altitude gain of 896m that stretches over a distance of 15.3 km which converts into an average gradient of 1:17, but don't be fooled by that figure as it includes the descent. Most of the ascent from the western approach is between 1:5 and 1:8.

The 91 bends, corners and curves will require your full concentration. Amongst those there are 4 extreme hairpin bends and one full horseshoe. The A1 road is the major route across the northern sector of Lesotho and as such carries a fair volume of traffic including some very large trucks. These need the full width of the road to negotiate the hairpin bends, so be fully aware of this as you proceed along this pass.

The pass has been the scene of numerous accidents, mostly involving trucks and buses. All the passes in Lesotho are above the snow line, so driving here in winter invariably means having to deal with snow and ice, which is to be avoided if possible - and especially so if you are not in a 4WD vehicle.

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