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Lekhalo La Thabo Putsoa (A3) [Blue Mountain Pass]

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Summit sign Summit sign - Photo: Rohit Robinson

This is one of the longest passes on the tarred A3 route between Maseru and Mohale at 18.3 km. Although the average gradient is a mild 1:40, those numbers are diluted by the long plateau section in the middle. The reality is that the gradients get steep at either end - as steep as 1:6.This is another high altitude pass reaching a maximum of 2642m ASL. The pass is also commonly called the Blue Mountain Pass. This is one of the coldest parts of Lesotho in winter and summer.

There are plenty of bends, corners and curves to keep you busy - a total of 95 of them and of those 12 are greater than 90 degrees, which include two hairpin bends.

The road is in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but the usual Lesotho cautionaries apply of ice and snow on the road in winter, free roaming livestock, slow moving trucks and the ubiquitous herdsmen. The area can be subject to severe electrical storms in the summer months.

Scroll down to view the map & video. This is a provisional video consisting entirely of Google Earth animations. The pass will be filmed in real time as soon as time permits, after which this video will be upgraded. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 1080HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: Google Images] 

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.


Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the west (in the direction we have produced it) head south-east from Maseru (border post) for 20 km and turn left at the fork at GPS S29.404374 E27.561634. Now drive east for 11.5 km to arrive at another fork at GPS S29.424105 E27.673373 where you must keep left and continue heading east for 22 km to arrive at the western start of the Lekhalo La Molimo Nthuse (God Help Me Pass). Continue over this pass for 8.2 km to arrive at the western start of the Lekhalo La Thabo Putsoa. The two passes run back to back.

To approach from the east, head east along the A3 from Mohale for 10 km to arrive at the eastern start of the pass.

Steep gradientsThe steep climb leading up the 1st hairpin / Photo: Google Maps

Pass Description: Starting in the west at a stream crossing at an altitude of 2295m ASL the road works its way up a long ravine into the east, remaining on the southern flank of the river. At the 1.4 km mark the road swings through 80 degree to the right and forms a wide loop to clear a side ravine. As this side U bend is cleared, the gradient kicks up significantly and for the next 3 km things get steep (at 1:6).

At the 2.9 km mark, the road bends away to the left to follow a side ravine. Although the road is fairly straight here, the climb rate is significant and you will be treated to magnificent views if the weather is clear. At the end of this long straight climb into the NNE, at the 3.4 km the first hairpin has to be negotiated. This turn has a tight radius and a reduction in speed is required to get around it safely.

Summit sceneryScenery along the summit plateau / Photo: Pieter Rinkel

The climb rate remains very steep for another 200m, then suddenly levels off as a short undulating section follows, which leads up to the true summit of 2642m at the 4.9 km mark. From the summit, the direction ranges between south and south-east for the next 8 km as the long and undulating plateau section follows. Drivers can relax a bit here and enjoy the grand vistas in every direction.

Be aware of the second hairpin bend which occurs at the 10.7 km mark, where the road skirts the headwaters of the next river, which flows towards the east and which the road follows all the way to the end of the pass. At the 13.3 km point, the gradient gets steep once more, as the main descent into the east commences. This is a long descent of almost 5 km and it remains steep all the way to the village at the foot of the pass.

Hairpin bendBe careful of the 2nd hairpin at the 10.7 km mark

It's best to gear down and run against engine compression to save on the overuse of the footbrake. It's important to know that brake fluid's boiling point decreases as altitude is gained. Therefore on high altitude passes with long and steep descents, brake failure is a substantial risk. It's best to get into the habit of running against engine compression. Rather know that your brakes will be effective when you really need them. This is even more important if you are towing a heavy trailer or caravan.


Fact File:

GPS START

S29.427707 E27.939654

GPS SUMMIT

S29.436609 E27.972672

GPS END

S29.471480 E28.036243

AVE GRADIENT

1:40

MAX GRADIENT

1:6

ELEVATION START

2295m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

2642m

ELEVATION END

2182m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

460m

DISTANCE

18.3 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

ESE

TIME REQUIRED

22 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

80 kph

SURFACE

Tar (A3)

DATE FILMED

14.07.2019

TEMPERATURE

5C

NEAREST TOWN

Maseru (61 km)


Route Map:

Use these powerful features to get the best use out of the map:

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  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:


Route files:

||Click to download: Lakhalo La Thabo Putsoa (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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