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Mountain Passes

This lovely pass has two unusual features. Firstly its indigenous name is very long at 21 letters and secondly it has the English name of God Help Me Pass, which conjures up instant images of fear and alarm. The reality is that today's version of the pass is actually quite easy to traverse along the tarred A3 main route.

The pass is one of several big passes on the A3 between Maseru and Mohale. It has a summit height of 2332m and like most passes in Lesotho is subject to winter snowfalls and ice on the road. It has 31 bends, corners and curves of which 8 are greater than 90 degrees and of those 8 there are 4 bends of 180 degrees.

 

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4. Red markers are for gravel passes and/or jeep tracks.
5. Black markers are for tarred or concreted passes.

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This gravel poort is located on a farm road to the west of Potchefstroom. Many maps do not show this as a public road, but it is accessible, although very difficult to find. The origins of the name have been lost in the mists of time and one can only speculate as to how it came about, but it is an official pass and it is marked on the 1:50000 maps. It surely must be a contender for the title of “most unusual pass name”!

The road itself is in a fairly good condition, although it should not be driven in anything less than a high-clearance vehicle or a 4x4 after heavy rain. The poort is not particularly beautiful and is completely off the beaten track, so only traverse this route if you really feel the need; MPSA drives and films this type of pass so that you don’t have to!

This is another major pass in Lesotho located on the A4 main route in the south-western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. It's long at 13.4 km and climbs 576 vertical metres producing some stiff gradients of 1:6. It connects Mount Moorosi with Qacha's Nek and a string of smaller villages along the way.

The pass has 61 bends, corners and curves to contend with of which only 2 are greater than 90 degrees and one of those is a 160 degree hairpin at the 4.3 km mark (measured from the western start). With a summit height of 2464m you can expect snow and ice on this pass on a regular basis.

The pass is tarred and under normal conditions is quite safe for any vehicle.

Schuilkrans Pass is a gravelled pass located in the south-eastern Free State, near the little town of Marquard. Considering that this is a minor farm road, it is in a surprisingly good condition, except for corrugations in some sections. It can be driven in any vehicle, although in very wet weather it could get quite slippery.

The eastern Free State is renowned for its scenic beauty and the area around the pass is no exception, so it is worth the effort required to get there. There are 12 bends, curves and corners on the pass, 3 of which exceed a turning radius of 120 degrees. One of these is a very sharp hairpin of 160 degrees.

 

There is not much left of the old Van Ryneveld's Pass with most of it being either under the surface of the new road or under the sparkling waters of the Nqweba Dam. The 'new' pass which forms part of the R63 route, is just  2.1 km long and only displays an altitude variance of 40m. What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than makes up in points of interest and lovely scenery.

You will be able to enjoy shady picnic spots, views over the dam, close up views of the old pass (built by Andrew Bain), a visit to the Gideon Scheepers memorial and gain access to the Camdeboo National Park. Andrew Bain started his road building career in Graaff Reinet where he first worked as a saddler and later gained experience as a road builder. His famous son, Thomas Bain was born here.

Witnek is a very minor gravel pass located approximately halfway between the towns of Paul Roux and Rosendal in the Eastern Free State highlands. The name is derived from the exposed slabs of white and light-brown sandstone which are prominently visible all around the summit area of the pass. The road is in a reasonable condition, although the surface is quite badly rutted and covered with small sharp stones. It can be driven in any vehicle, but a high clearance vehicle fitted with all terrain tyres is recommended. In wet weather, a 4x4 would probably be required.

Lancer's Gap is a short, steep tarred pass on the eastern outskirts of Maseru. At 1.9 km it's the shortest of the official passes documented in Lesotho. Other than the chicane section of a set of very tight double hairpin bends, the drive is straight-forward and is suitable for all vehicles.

The average gradient on this pass is a stiff 1:12 but there are several sections that get as steep as 1:5. For vehicles approaching from the east in the descending mode, it is best to run against engine compression.

You will be treated to some gnarled and spectacular sandstone formations in the middle section of the pass.

The name of this pass translates from Afrikaans to English as “Swirling Winds Passage”, which would be typical of the weather in this area, usually hot, dry and windy. Although it is located in a fairly remote region of the Northern Cape, it is worth the time and effort it requires to get there, if you enjoy driving quiet country roads dotted about with sheep, cattle and game farms.

The poort itself is a very minor one, with only one corner and a height gain of just 16 metres, but the magnificent Karoo scenery makes up for this deficiency. The gravel road is an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.

This lovely little poort comes as something of a surprise when driving along the R61 between Tarkastad and Cradock after many kilometres of flat Karoo driving. It only takes 4 minutes to drive it and the gradients are gentle, so typical of a poort. Lovely sandstone formations are visible during the second part of the descent and there is one well designed layby worth stopping at at the halfway point at the apex of a big right hand bend at the confluence of the two streams.

The poort is named after the Rasfontein farm over which land it traverses and is approximately midpoint between the Karoo towns of Tarkastad and Cradock. There is a blanket speed limit of 80 kph throughout the length of the poort, which is a sensible speed to cope with all the bends which come thick and fast during the lower part of the poort.

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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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