The Free State

Like so many of the poorts in South Africa, Kommissiepoort is fairly flat and has no significant corners. It is situated on the tarred R26 in the eastern Free State, more or less equidistant between Ladybrand and Hobhouse. This road, the western part of the Maloti Mountain Route, also hosts three other passes, Retiefsnek near Bethlehem, Kommandonek near Ficksburg, and Tienfontein Se Hoogte near Zastron. The name is sometimes spelled as “Commissie Poort” or “Commissiepoort”.

This little known tarred pass is located on the R703 between Excelsior and Clocolan. It offers mountainous scenery and summits at 1684m ASL having climbed 160 meters over 8,3 km. Although it is a fairly mild pass with an average gradient of an easy 1:28, there one or two sections where the gradient gets to 1:8. The Korannaberg mountain range runs on the north-south axis and there is a 4x4 route available to offroad enthusiasts which can be accessed from the northern side of the range via a gravel road. (Google Korannaberg Adventures for contact details).

This is a short, steep, but minor climb over a hill on the gravel road linking Newcastle in KZN with Memel in the Free State. The pass has an average gradient of 1:16, but the climb up the steeper eastern side is as steep as 1:7. The  road is important for gravel pass fans as it gives access to both the Normandien and Mullers Passes.

This pass will enthral with it's magnificent scenery. Named after the lichens which grow proliferously on the mountains, the tarred pass of 3,4 km winds its way around the prominent St. Pierre Mountain. The pass is also sometimes called the 'Golden Gate Pass' due to its proximity to the Golden Gate National Park. The pass has 134 vertical metres of altitude variance, producing an average gradient of 1:21 with the steeper sections getting to 1:15. The road has lovely banked corners but some of them are sharp. The speed limit ranges between 60 and 80 kph.

Gravel passes hold a strange and fascinating attraction to a certain group of adventure travellers and this pass will become one of those that the glitterati will want to add to their bucket list. The reason is that it is absurdly out of the way and is a dead-end for anyone except those travelling to Lesotho. For the enthusiasts, you will be rewarded with glorious mountain scenery, fresh air aplenty and some challenging driving/riding. The pass has steep gradients of under 1:5 and is very stony, which adds to the drama with frequent loss of traction for non 4WD vehicles. It's a long, dusty, high altitude drive with a high probability of experiencing bad weather at any time of year.

This poort lies immediately to the North of the Free State town of Clarens. It is on the tarred R712 route between Clarens and Bethlehem. Other than snow from time to time, the pass presents few dangers, but offers lovely scenery of towering sandstone cliffs and tall poplar trees that line the road as you descend into Clarens.

This 28.6km long offroad route is located between Fouriesburg and Clarens in the Free State and follows the northern bank of the Caledon River in an easterly direction, before changing direction to ascend the mountain. This route is only suitable for the more serious and experienced offroad enthusiast and will require a 4WD vehicle with low range and good ground clearance. Some of the gradients are as steep as 1:4. This route was driven recently (Dec 2014) by one of our readers in a Suzuki Jimny and although he says it was rough, slow and tough, he completed the route successfully.
STOP PRESS: June, 2016: The big rock that had blocked the pass has now been removed and the pass is open!

Located about midway between Bethlehem and Fouriesburg on the R26 tarred road in the southern Free State, this easy 3 km long pass offers sweeping views of mountains and plains when travelling southwards. It has a mild average gradient of 1:30, but the southern descent offers much steeper gradients of 1:12. The road is safe and suitable for all vehicles.

Approximately 11 km to the west of Memel a ridge of mountains runs on the north/south axis, effectively separating the towns of Memel and Vrede. The tallest on this range is called Rooikop, with a summit height of 2045,2m ASL. Between the Rooikop peak and the next ridge to the south is a natural neck, through which the R34 traverses - this the Rooinek Pass.

Sand River Heights (Sandrivierhoogte)  is located on the national N1 highway between the small towns of Ventersburg and Winburg, and is one of only three passes on this highway north of Bloemfontein. The road is wide, with two lanes in either direction, and is extremely well designed and built, so it presents few dangers, except for the “surprise” factor. After travelling on long straight roads for many kilometres, especially if approaching from the south, the pass seems to appear out of nowhere, and can catch an unsuspecting driver unawares.

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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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