The Gifberg (Poison Mountain) Pass is a challenging gravel pass (with two short tarred sections over the steepest parts) that ascends the Matsikamma mountain and connects the mountain top farms of the Gifberg with Vanrhynsdorp about 20 km to the north. The pass offers outstanding views, hiking trails, San rock-art, wildflowers, rockpools and waterfalls. It is the source of the Troe-Troe river which flows northwards through Vanrhynsdorp. The pass was originally built in 1917 and improved, widened and partially hard-surfaced over the years in an effort to improve safety.
This official pass is located on the tarred 60 route just west of Robertson. The pass has a single S-curve with a deep cutting near the summit. The average gradient of 1:46 is watered down by the classic profile with some sections being fairly steep at 1:12.
It has recently (2019) undergone reconstruction and resurfacing and has overtaking lanes on both sides of the pass for vehicles ascending. The road carries heavy traffic and a lot of slow moving trucks frequent the route. There are no apparent dangers on the pass and drivers travelling in either direction can enjoy sweeping views of the Robertson Winelands. At the western end of the pass is the well known wine farm - Graham Beck wines, which you can't miss as it has a huge South African flag at the entrance.
The pass is named after the original farm over which it traverses - one of several old Dutch farms dating back to the 1700's.
This rough and overgrown jeep track connects the bridge over the Klein Berg River in the Nuwekloof Pass (R46) with the lower canal area to the east of Gouda. This track is not recommended for novices or for soft-roader type 4x4's. To complete this route successfully you will require a high clearance 4x4 with low range. There is also a high probability of some body or tyre damage as the route is badly overgrown, strewn with rocks and in many places the track disappears in the bush, requiring a scout ahead on foot. We suggest that only experienced offroad drivers attempt this one.
The Goukamma Pass traverses the lovely green valley fed by the perennial Goukamma River with the Ganzvlei farm taking centre stage in this fertile valley. The railway line overpasses the road at the river and this is followed by a long, steep ascent up the eastern side of the valley with gradients up to 1:11. The scenery is fabulous as this is in the very heart of the Garden Route with forest and heather clad green hills topped off with tall pine forests and onyx coloured rivers.
This 6,8 km long pass descends from Riversdale Heights adjacent to the Werner Frehse Nature Reserve, at a fairly steep gradient to cross the Goukou River at the 3 km point, having descended 143 vertical metres. It rises back up the eastern side to end at an altitude of 157m ASL. This pass and the one following it immediately where this one ends - the Soetmelksrivier Pass have been the scene of several serious and fatal accidents over the years. The road has been widened and the corners improved to assist with the safety of the road. Speed monitoring regularly takes place, so it's best to comply strictly with the speed limits.
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.
This is a long pass on the N2 at 13,3 km which connects Albertinia in the west with Mossel Bay in the east. The western side is fairly straight with few bends and more gentle gradients, but the eastern side is much steeper and includes a set of double S-bends. The road straddles the Gouritz River - one of the major rivers in the area via a high bridge which spans the gorge adjacent to two old steel latticed bridges, which until 2005 were used as a bungee jumping and bridge swing site for the adrenaline junkies.
Grey's Pass in Cape Town's city centre is comfortably the shortest official pass in South Africa with a length of 97m. It also walks off with the winner in the category "Lowest Altitude Gain" of just 1 metre. This "pass" in no way conforms to our definitions of a mountain pass in any respect, but it is an officially listed pass, so we are documenting and indexing it. It takes another statistical record, in that it is the first pass that we show in its full length with no editing necessary (and that includes filming it in both directions).
Grey's Pass is approximately 157 years old and was designed and built by Thomas Bain in 1857 using between 100 and 220 convict labourers. The road has been fully deproclaimed, which means ownership (and maintenance) has reverted to the land owners. This lovely old pass is unfortunately not publicly accessible. There are certain exceptions, which will be explained later.
On the northern end it can be accessed via the gravel road close to the entrance to the historic Modderfontein farm off the N7. The middle section is shared commonly with the Piekenierskloof Pass, whilst the southern section lies to the west of the N7 and descends down to the valley floor over private farm land. Today the pass traverses the property of 3 private land owners as well as state land on the plateau, where the old pass has been obliterated by the N7.
It's something of a mission to drive this pass and having to comply with all the permission requirements and backtracking. Based on this, we suggest that this pass should only be attempted by the more serious pass hunter.
This short pass descends along the Groenkloof along the north-south axis and offers good views over the coastal plain in the Pearly Beach area. The road is generally in a good condition, but like all gravel roads things can change quickly in wet weather.
The pass is 3,6 km long and displays an altitude variance of 164m producing an average gradient of 1:22 with the steepest section measuring in at 1:14. It connects Pearly Beach in the south with the Baardskeerdersbos and Elim settlements and also provides an access route to the Salmonsdam Nature Reserve as well as Sandy's Glen Pass.
Editors note: Subsequent to us filming this pass, it has now been tarred.
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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