Braamhoek Pass (4x4)

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The Drakensberg beckons The Drakensberg beckons - Photo: Photo - Saman Jaywardene

This is a serious off-road pass that ascends/descends the Drakensberg from the Ingula lower dam site in the south, with the tarred access road in the north, on the lip of the Drakensberg escarpment. It's for serious offroaders only and permits are required. Avoid it completely in heavy rain or snow conditions. The pass climbs 432m over 6,8 km to summit at 1743m, producing an average gradient of 1:16. There is a flat section in the middle and then the climbing gets more serious with gradients of 1:4!  

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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: In this text and our video, we describe this pass in the ascending mode (south to north).
1. From Van Reenen on the N3, take the S61 tarred road heading east and descend down the Drakensberg via the De Beers Pass.
2. Near the bottom of De Beers Pass, turn left (NE) at the Ingula Pumped Water Scheme at GPS S28.329590 E29.538160.
3. Continue for 4 km to a T-junction at the western side of the Ingula lower storage dam.
4. Continue in a northerly direction for 2km, where the road turns 90 degrees into the east.
5. At the end of this right hand bend, turn left onto the road that leads to the Ingula construction site village at GPS S28.286622 E29.561783
6. Drive up this road (north) for 350 metres and turn left again at GPS S28.283524 E29.561725 to the starting point of the pass.

This old pass traverses state and private land. Permission and permits will need to be obtained from the relevant authorities. This route is for serious off-roaders only with 4x4 vehicles with low range and high ground clearance. We recommend a minimum of three vehicles tackle the route. Take adequate recovery equipment with. Should it start snowing, it would be best to retreat to base. There are several places where the track disappears, which will require scouting ahead on foot and finding the track again. Many sections have been completely washed away. Be prepared to get dirty.

The track heads due west for 250 metres and crosses the Braamhoekspruit. The direction changes into the north-west and for the next 2,5 km the road climbs steeply (1:5) as it sticks to the western bank of the stream. A major change in direction takes place at the 2,6 km mark as the track swings completely around into the WSW. This is also the first summit of 1578m. The pass has an unsual profile with two summits and a flat section between them.

The next 2,2 km are more or less flat as the track ducks in and out of two ravines with their associated streams. At the 4,6 km mark, the next part of the ascent begins, where the direction changes into the north-west and the track follows the spine of a spur. The gradient gets perpetually steeper closer to the summit, where the steepest parts are at 1:4. In wet weather, there will be a lot of slipping and sliding in muddy conditions.

The summit is reached at 1743m ASL exactly 6,46 km from the start. Continue down a slight downhill for 400m to reach a T-junction with a tarred road. A right turn will take you to the upper station of the Ingula project and a left turn will return you to the summit of De Beers Pass (7 km) and Van Reenen (20 km)
Heavy snow on access road at the summitAbove : Heavy snow in August 2012 near the summit area access road / Saman Jaywardene

Fact File:

GPS START  S28.283492 E29.561668
GPS SUMMIT S28.265769 E29.518489
GPS END  S28.262913 E29.517911
TIME REQUIRED 4 to 5 hours
SPEED LIMIT None - Offroad
SURFACE Jeep track
DATE FILMED 20.04.2015
NEAREST TOWN Van Reenen (20 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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