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Mountain Passes

Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.

The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.

The Red Hill Pass is located on the tarred R352 in the dense forests of the Amatola Mountains between Keiskammahoek and the main trunk route - the R63 which it joins about midway between Alice and King Williams Town. The pass is  a fairly safe one in fine weather with a gradient of 1:21,but it is subject to frequent misty conditions and heavy rainfall and of course, you can expect stray cattle on the roadway at any time of the day or night. There are a total of 23 bends, corners and curves to negotiate, three of them which are in excess of 90 degrees with very tight radii.

Qacha's Nek Pass is a long, gravel road, high altitude pass leading to the border control point with Lesotho at the town of the same name. Go prepared for severe weather, including thunderstorms, electrical storms, rain, mist or snow. Beyond the border post, the road is tarred .

Potters Pass is a short suburban pass located in the West Bank area of East London (Buffalo City). It offers beautiful views over the Indian Ocean and the adjacent East Coast shoreline as you descend the pass from north to south. It is also unique in that the pass itself once formed part of the course over which the South African Grand Prix was held in the smoke-and-thunder glory days of motor racing in the 1930s, an era far removed from the clinical procession of Formula 1 racing today.

The Pot River sources in the Drakensberg, where the pass of the same name traverses its western flank. It's asurprisingly long pass, initially crossing over the Pot River about 22 km north-west of Maclear. This is a reasonable, gravel road and can be driven by normal cars in fair weather. In wet weather you are best off in a 4x4 or a 'bakkie' with decent ground clearance.

Most of the pass consists of a fairly straightforward ascent along the main spur of the mountain, with the only set of sharp corners, consisting of a set of double hairpins, being near the southern end of the pass. From the summit point at 1783m ASL the road displays an altitude variance of 461m over a distance of 8.9 km, producing an average gradient of 1:19 with the steepest parts measuring in at 1:6.

If you're driving between Rhodes and Maclear this is one of three passes you will traverse along the R396 - the other two being Elands Heights and the major pass is of course, the Naude's Nek Pass.

Pitseng Pass is dwarfed by the nearby Naude’s Nek Pass, but nevertheless it is a substantial pass in its own right. In good conditions the pass can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, but in wet weather or snow a 4x4 will definitely be required. Together with its sister pass, Luzi Poort, the road is often used as a shortcut by travellers wishing to get from Mount Fletcher to Rhodes or vice versa; it is a much shorter route than going via Maclear, and it is certainly more scenic. Either way, Naude’s Nek still has to be negotiated. There is a significant height gain / loss of 368 metres, and the pass is 8 kilometres in length.



Perdepoort on the tarred N9 is located 15 km North of the Karoo town of Willowmore and 100 km South West of Aberdeen. From the Northern approach keep a look out for the majestic Aasvoelberg (Vulture Mountain) to the West. The road enters a natural nek in the mountains after a long straight strecth, then climbs fairly quickly to the maximum altiutde of 906m ASL.

The Penhoek Pass is a well engineered, high altitude tarred pass forming part of the N6 highway between Queenstown in the south and Jamestown in the north. The 5.6 km long pass traverses through the aptly named Stormberg to assert itself as one of South Africa's dangerous tarred passes. In earlier days (circa 1846) the original pass was known as the Stormberg Pass and featured some impressive retaining walls with very steep drop-offs. Some of the original lines can still be seen on the satellite imagery. Traversing the old pass was a major event, compared to the easy drive over today's version with it's perfectly banked corners, deep cuttings and easy gradients.

This gravel road pass is located in the Hogsback area and connects the tiny settlement of Lower Hopefield and Alice a few km further south on the R345 with the town of Seymour on the R67 some 40 km to the north. The 6,3 km long pass has an altitude variance of 300m, summiting at 985m ASL, producing an average gradient of 1:21. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. In very wet weather, things could get slippery in the upper half of this pass making a 4WD vehicle a safer option.

There are several similarly named passes spread around South Africa - at least 4 in the Western and Eastern Cape alone - so make sure you are not heading off to the wrong pass! This Ouberg Pass, or more accurately named the Oudeberg Pass in the more traditional Dutch style, lies 20km north of Graaff Reinet on the R63 tarred secondary road that connects with the town of Murraysburg.

 

 

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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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