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. The spelling of this pass is baffling and we are convinced that it's a spelling mistake which has been carried forward over the years and has now become fact. The correct name is no doubt Amandelhoogte, which makes a lot more sense. In a bizarre way, the odd spelling is probably a good thing, as 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.
This is a remote and 'off the beaten track' poort 40 km to the east of Kamieskroon. There is a small tricky section near the summit, but for most of the rest of this poort it's fairly easy going with very few sharp corners. There is a fair amount of soft sand and in the summer months, vehicles without 4WD might well experience traction issues here. The poort is 5,7 km long and displays an altitude variance of 138m, which converts into an easy average gradient of 1:41. The steeper parts near the summit are at 1:7. The big attraction to drive this remote poort is the substantial quiver tree forest that it traverses.
Many respected resources on the internet list Baillie's Pass (Bailey's Pass sic) with Pypmaker se Poort in brackets as the alternative name. This is completely incorrect, as Pypmaker se Poort, although fairly close to Baillie's Pass, is on a different road altogether. The only site that got this one right, is Tracks4Africa. Also note the correct spelling of Baillie.
This attractive and well-known little pass is situated in the heart of the leafy northern suburbs of Pretoria, appearing as a welcome surprise to those not familiar with the area. The pass is very steep at an average gradient of 1:8, causing some vehicles to labour heavily as they make their way up the pass in the rarefied Highveld air. This is also true for the runners which take part in the Tom Jenkins Challenge, an annual event which features the pass and which finishes at the nearby Union Buildings.
This rough poort of just over 1 km in length traverses a natural gap in the mountains about 24 km east of Klaarstroom. Some of the ascending up the northern side has gradients of 1:10, but once the middle point is reached at the 0,6 km point, it's fairly level from there onwards. There are wonderful views of the Groot Swartberg mountains to the south as you crest the summit. The road leads to the Hagas farm, about 1,5 km beyond the southern end of the poort.
This is a basic farm road and is sometimes little more than a jeep track. We recommend being in a 4WD vehicle or at least in a high clearance bakkie. This is a dead-end road, so you will need to retrace your route back to the R407.
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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