The Free State

A 5 km long long climb through a nek with fairly easy gradients along the tarred R76 road between Steynsrus and Lindley in the Eastern Free State - Lindley was a significant historical Anglo-Boer war battle site where the British 47th Imperial Yeomanry were routed and captured by the Boer forces. Lindley was once the seat of power of the Free State. It was also the birthplace of South-Africa's most famous rugby player - Dr. Danie Craven.

This short, easy pass is located close to the junction of the N1 and the R70, near Winburg in the Free State. The official route designation is the R70. This tarred road was in poor condition at the time of filming in February, 2016. It presents moderate gradients and only four very gentle curves. It lies to the east of the large irrigation dam - the Erfenis Dam, which is a popular weekend destination for locals offering fresh water angling, camping as well as a nature reserve at its north-western end near the dam wall.

 

This is a short, steep climb over a big hill, about 6km to the north-west of the summit of Mullers Pass on the Free State side of the  Drakensberg. The pass is only 1,5km long but has steep gradients with a maximum of 1:5. In wet weather, this will cause some traction issues for non 4WD vehicles. The pass gives access to several 4x4 routes as well as to the Kranskop area and is a prequel to the Lafrashoogte Pass on the way north to Memel in the Free State.

Whoever was naming passes in this area obviously ran out of ideas, as this pass is simply known as Die Nek (The Neck). It skirts a prominent mountain on the north-eastern side of the tiny town of Excelsior in the central Free State, and essentially consists of just one long gravel road curve from the north-east into the south-west. The road, although fairly rough in places, is in a reasonable condition, and can be driven in any vehicle except possibly in wet weather. The area has great scenic beauty if you take the time to look beyond the seemingly endless flat plains which dominate the region.

East of Harrismith a tall sandstone mountain called Platberg, blocks the view to the east, which plays host to the fabled Donkey Pass. This pass should not be confused with Donkies Pass not too far away in KZN.  In the middle of this mountain is a deep cleft and it is up this gorge that the Donkey Pass climbs very steeply to the summit, making it the 6th highest and second steepest pass in South Africa. The road traverses a nature reserve and permits need to be obtained. Whilst the entire route with sections as steep as 1:3 are concrete stripped to aid traction, this route is not suitable for normal cars. Low range is essential. For those that do get to drive this amazing pass, you will be one of a select few to have done so.

A fairly steep gravel pass on a minor farm road between Verkykerskop in the south and Vrede in the north. The pass has an altitude variance of 175 vertical metres over 2,4 km to summit at 1949m, producing an average gradient of a stiff 1:13. This one will be slippery when wet and lethal when it snows.

This is straightforward pass over a low point in the mountains known as Grootnek - about midway between Rosendal and Ficksburg in the Free State. There is only one minor bend in the road and a small altitude gain of 85m producing a very easy average gradient of only 1:73. The steeper sections are on the southern descent which present at 1:14. The only danger on this pass is when snow occurs, when it should be avoided altogether unless you are in a 4WD vehicle equipped with appropriate equipment. The pass offers grand scenery over the mountains of the southern Free State.

Jagpoort is an obscure gravel road pass, situated close to the small central Free State town of Winburg. The name, which translates as “Hunting Passage”, probably stems from the hunts which would have taken place to feed the Voortrekkers as they settled in and around this area. Vast herds of game used to roam these huge open grassland plains; sadly, this is no longer the case, and wild animals in the present day are restricted to the public and private game reserves scattered around the region. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any vehicle, weather permitting.

This is a minor pass located 11 km south-east of Bethlehem in the Free State on the N5 route to Harrismith. The pass is short and only gains 50m in altitude with a single S-curve near the summit. The steepest gradients are at 1:14 and this one is suitable for all vehicles, except when it snows, which it does from time to time at these high altitudes on the rim of the Drakensberg escarpment. All along the N5 one can can enjoy fabulous scenery of unusual sandstone outcrops. This is also the Gateway to the Golden Gate National Park.

Kommandonek is located on the tarred R26 road between the small Eastern Free State towns of Fouriesburg and Ficksburg. Although it traverses an area that is sprinkled with spectacular sandstone mountains, the pass itself is not particularly impressive, being only 4 kilometres long and with a height gain of only 77 metres. The R26 has a notoriously bad reputation for the numerous potholes which plague sections of this road, but the pass can be driven in any vehicle. The name of the pass is no doubt derived from the frenetic military activity in this region during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War.

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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.
 

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