Klipnek Pass (N5)

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Sunflowers make for a colourful spectacle Sunflowers make for a colourful spectacle - Photo: Rafapalli

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.

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[On-motorcycle video material supplied by Mike Liecester / Video cover photo by Panoramio]

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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
: Head west out of Harrismith towards Kestell and Bethlehem on the tarred N5 for 70 km to arrive at the eastern starting point of Klipnek. If you're travelling in the opposite direction, the pass is 11 km from Bethlehem. The pass starts at its eastern end adjacent tothe unusually named farm Nil Desperandum.

The road starts ascending from the eastern side at a steady gradient of 1:20 and heads directly for a low rocky ridge between two small peaks and quickly reaches the summit of 1733m ASL at the 1 km point. Along most of the ascent the farm Drakenstein is traversed. From here you will enjoy brief elevated views of the scenery of well cultivated fields, rocky sandstone outcrops and sparkling farm dams.

You might also get a glimpse of the large Saulspoort Dam which lies just east of Bethlehem. This dam, which provides water to Bethlehem for municipal and domestic use, was built in 1968 and receives water from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project via the Asrivier. The dam was renamed the Sol Plaatje Dam, recalling the bus disaster which took place there in the early hours of 1 May 2003, when 51 passengers, en route to a Workers Day rally, were drowned. 41 of the workers were employees of the Sol Plaatje Municipality

The descent towards the west is equally short at 1,1 km and follows a similar gradient to the ascent. It ends at 1683m ASL. The farms Merwestein, Stirling and Octavus are located on either side of the road. This is an interesting phenomenon finding farms in the Free State with Latin names.

Bethlehem is located on the Liebenbergs river (also called Liebenbergs Vlei) along a fertile valley just north of the Rooiberg Mountains on the N5 road. It is a wheat growing area and named after the biblical Bethlehem (from "Beit Lechem", Hebrew for "house of bread"). The town lies at an altitude of 1,700 metres and this contributes to its cool climate with frosty winters and mild summers. The average annual temperature is around 24 °C

The town is strategically situated in the heart of the picturesque north-eastern Free State and originally developed as a service centre. It was founded in 1864 on the farm Pretorius Kloof by Daniël van Dyk.

Scenery near the Klipnek PassEnjoy gorgeous scenery like this / Photo: Graham Hobbs

Fact File:

GPS START  S28.291275 E28.419471
GPS SUMMIT S28.288643 E28.409918
GPS END  S28.284903 E28.398835
DATE FILMED 09.08.2015
NEAREST TOWN Bethlehem (14 km)

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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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