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Mountain Passes

Rankins Pass lies in the heart of the Waterberg Conservancy and is rich in game reserves. It lies approximately 180 km North of Pretoria. The road links Thabazimbi in the West with Modimolle (previously Nylstroom) in the south east. The small settlement of Alma lies near the start of the pass. Rankins Pass is not actually a true mountain pass but more of an outpost or toll point as there is no sign of any proper climbing or bends. It is nothing more than a small police station close to the Rhenosterfontein farm. This "pass" will make our unusual and bizarre stats page in that it is the only official pass in South Africa, that is not actually a pass. We have decided to include it on our website for sake of clarification.

This true offroad pass covers almost 30 km of rough dirt road and jeep tracks as it traverses the Drakensberg through the Lekgamaleetse Provincial Nature Reserve. Due to the technical nature of this pass, we have broken it up into two sections - Part 1 West and Part 2 East. This road is only suitable for high clearance 4x4 vehicles and adventure motor cyclists.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: April, 2021

Driving from west to east it now takes 6 hours to reach the summit.
From the start to the reserve gate: 2.5 hours as the road is in extremely poor condition and very rocky and overgrown. Take a panga or bush cutter with you. The scenery is magnificent, but you will need to be in 1st and 2nd gear Low Range the entire distance.

From the reserve gate to the summit things are sketchy. The duty ranger reprts that no vehicle had passed his control point in the last 4 months. Inside the reserve there is almost no road left. The recent heavy rain took away the road and you had to drive and push the bush out of the way till you reach the switchbacks. The grass is very tall and you will need a seed-net.

The last 2 km before the summit you will cross some very deep ruts between 1.0 and 1.5m deep. These require some road building, so make sure you have a spade or two handy.

(This notice information was submitted by Jacques Booyse who drove the route over the Easter Weekend 2021.)

 

 

This short poort of only 1.48 km climbs just 50 meters as it dives through a natural cleft in the Soutpansberg. There is very little information available on who Maskekwa is (or was) and why the poort was so named.

This is one of the great classic passes of Limpopo province. It has less than 20 passes in total, but amongst those  are some of the finest scenic passes in the land. This pass climbs 446 vertical meters to summit at 1400m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:17 with the steepest parts being at 1:9. The pass is tarred and is suitable for all vehicles.

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.

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is very unusual, in that it has a public road (the R712) which runs right through the middle of it. Starting from the western entrance gate, there is an official pass called Lichens Pass (also sometimes referred to as the Golden Gate Pass) which winds through some of the most spectacular scenery that South Africa has to offer.

Located just 3½ hours from Johannesburg and Pretoria, it is within reach even as a day trip destination, but most people prefer to spend more time taking in the many additional attractions whilst they are in the area. There are a host of excellent and varied accommodation options, ranging from hotels and chalets to guest farms and mountain retreats, as well as activities such as golf, horse riding, hiking, 4x4 trails and white-water rafting.

We have produced the video in two formats. The first video is the unedited full version of the entire pass in real time. The narration corresponds exactly to the points of interests described below. There are another two videos, which are the same format as all our other videos (ie. with Google Earth animations and shortened/edited for quicker viewing. These are displayed at the bottom of the page above the Fact File.

Many of the historical documents relating to the Utrecht area in KwaZulu-Natal make mention of a Knight’s Hill located to the east of the town, with a property called Knight’s Farm situated on its summit. Although the appropriate links have been difficult to establish, it is very likely that this farm belonged to either Humphrey Evans Knight or his son, Marthinus Mortimer Knight, and that this is the origin of the name of the pass. The gravelled road, like many of the backroads in KZN, is well maintained and is in a fairly good condition. It can be driven in any vehicle in good weather, although a 4x4 might be required after heavy rain.

This pass, located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith, is usually known as “Ikhupe” in modern times, although the more correct and traditional spelling is “Mkupe”, an old Zulu name meaning “Eagles Nest”. To this day, black eagles roost along the cliffs in this vicinity. To add to the confusion, nobody seems to be quite sure of the actual names of the mountains on either side of the pass. Some maps and charts show the flat-topped mountain on the western side as “One Tree Hill” and others as “Mkupe Mountain”; this is reversed when using different references. To make matters worse, both One Tree Hill and Mkupe Mountain are also the names of other peaks in the Drakensberg near Cathedral Peak and Nkandla respectively.

This is a gravel road pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.

This is a gravel road and it is lethal when wet, so take it nice and easy and enjoy the incredible views as you gain/lose altitude. About 3/4 way up, there is a 145 degree left hand hairpin. This is a good spot to stop and absorb the grandeur and wide panorama of the river valley far below.

Griffin’s Hill is a straightforward official tarred pass with a simple low/high profile, located on the R103 between Estcourt and Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal. It only has one significant corner, a long S-bend in the middle of the pass, and is suitable for all traffic. We have not been able the establish the identity of the person after whom the pass is named, but it is likely that this would have been a farmer that owned property in the area, or the name of the prominent person from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.

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