Brandon's Pass, KZN

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When the going gets tough! When the going gets tough! - Photo: LCCSA

This gravel pass traverses the Drakensberg and is strictly a 4x4 track, which connects surrounding farms to the east of Harrismith in the Free State with farms in the KZN Highlands near Dundee and Newcastle. The route traverses private land and requires the consent of the land owners. Together with Rogers Pass and Keays Pass the three passes ascend and descend the Drakensberg over some tough tracks making for a challenging 4x4 circuit. Not much information is known about Brandons pass and very few people have driven it.


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Our video cover shows a Toyota Land Cruiser on the pass demonstrating superior axle articulation / Photo - LCCSA

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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: Follow the directions to the Sondagsrivier Pass, as the access road to Brandons pass, is off this road, near the summit. We repeat them here for ease of use:

Travelling on the N11 between Ladysmith and Newcastle turn to the north at GPS S28.378705 E29.944881 (about 24 km NE of Ladysmith). Remain on this road for 16 km till you arrive at a Y-junction GPS S28.288886  E29.826969. Keep left and travel a further 12 km to the next Y-junction at GPS S28.238466 E29.736931 where you must keep right. The Slangdraai dam will be on your right. Continue for 5,5 km to the southern start of the Sondagsrivier Pass.

Stunning offroad driving in the BergA large group of enthusiasts tackle the offroad route in the safety of an organized club / Photo : LCCSA

The Sondagsrivier Pass starts just after passing the Lusitania settlement at the crossing of a small stream and bends to the right, climbing gently at a gradient of 1:25 as it skirts the eastern side of a small peak [1488m]. The first of several mini-summits is reached at the 4 km mark at an altitude of 1578m ASL. From here the views are glorious of rolling hills dotted with farms. The view back opens up over the Slangdraai dam, which you passed a few kilometres earlier.

The first summit is followed by a short descent for 1,5km, whereafter the second climb commences, which is slightly less steep at 1:8. The true summit is reached at the 7,3km mark at an altitude of 1624m ASL at a saddle just to the west of a dominant stand-alone peak, Swartkop [1704m].

From the summit the views to the east are impressive with the blue waters of the Chelmsford Dam (now called the Ntshingwayo Dam) taking centre stage, surrounded by the lush greenery of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve. The view to the left is dominated by the bulk of the mountain called Ndanyana [1707m]

Toyota Land Cruisers descending the passMembers of the Landcruiser Club of SA driving the pass in convoy / Photo - LCCSAJust before the summit, a gravel road leads off to the left (west) which leads to two farms - Breezie Brae and Warwick. Turn left here at GPS S28.144226 E29.735806. Remain on this road for 3,5 km till you arrive at a fork at GPS S28.152878 E29.706108. Keep right and drive for 2 km to the next fork at GPS S28.148638 E29.687887 and keep left. Drive for 1 km in a SW direction to the next fork, where Brandons pass starts. Turn left onto the track at this fork.

The scenery is out of this world with grassy plains and towering mountains, beautifully green in summer with mountain streams and waterfalls and mantled in snow in winter showing the stark greys of the cold season. The pass rises 129 vertical meters over 2,29 km to produce a comfortable average gradient of 1:17. Some of the sections through the two switchback sections are much steeper at 1:8. It's not so much the gradients that are the problem, but rather the difficulty of the terrain. This route is for the more serious offroader and a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range is mandatory. It is best driven with at least 2 back-up vehcles and recovery equipment. It is recommended to tackle this drive with a local who knows the area as once on top of the mountain, its very easy to get lost. Adanced GPS navigation is also a requirement.

Diagram to demonstrate axle articulation on 4WDHow 4WD axle articulation works / Drawing by UnimogNear the summit keep a look out for Spitskop to the 1,5 km to the South and Biggarsberg 3 km to the North. This is a high altitude pass and subject to severe weather conditions including severe electrical storms, snow and heavy rainfall. Our research did not reveal just who Brandon was and why the pass was named after him. If anyone can enlighten us, we would welcome this information (with credits to the supplier)

Beyond the summit the track disintegrates into a maze of jeep tracks and cattle paths, where you really will need local knowledge to prevent getting lost - even with a GPS! To the west tracks lead to the Klein Drakensberg as well as to the farms Missouri, Bronsbury and Hamilton. A little further to the north the tracks crosses the Biggarsberg and a second set of tracks head westwards to the farms Aubrey and Oude Hamelberg.

One more kilometre of northing reveals another fork. To the right the track descends back down towards the valley where the pass originally started and bottoms out at the farm Warwick, which will return you to the same farm access road that you arrived on. Along this descent there is yet another fork, which gives you the further option of descending down the next spur which is much steeper than the one to Warwick. It curls more into the north east and ends at the farm Deluge, which is on the southern side of Stellasiekop. Both of these descents are unnamed and for the purposes of indexing them, we are including them as being part of Brandons Pass as they serve to complete a circular route.

If you want to drive Rogers and Keays passes, please note that they are not accessible from Brandons Pass. Please read the access directions for both those passes carefully.

Fact File:


S28.153005 E29.678693


S28.157271 E29.664869


S28.159211 E29.663133














2,92 km


North West


60 minutes


None - Offroad


Jeep Track




19C max


Newcastle (70km)

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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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