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Mountain Passes

The Bo-Swaarmoed Pass  is located to the north of the much bigger Swaarmoed Pass, 3,5 km kilometers after the Matroosberg/Erfdeel turn-off. It is a gravel road that connects the summit area of the Swaarmoed Pass with the farm Uitkomst (Matjiesrivier) in the lower valley to the north. The pass is also sometimes called the Uitkomst Pass and the Bloubank Pass by locals. This is a very old farm with old buildings, dry packed stone walls and a unique and completely intact slave bell dating back to the early 1700's.

Most of the passes aound Ceres are tarred which tends to lull drivers into a false sense of security. When adding very steep gradients, sharp corners and several bends which have negative banking, this pass has the potential to become very dangerous and doubly so during snow or after heavy rain for unattentive drivers. Don't be fooled by the mild statistics or how easy it looks on the video. It is safer to ascend this pass than descend it. Speed needs to be drastically reduced if you have approached from the south via the Swaarmoed Pass.

The Gannaga Pass is a magnificent gravel road ascending 548 meters through the Roggeveld Mountains from the endless plains of the Tankwa Karoo to the high plateaux near Middelpos. The pass does not break any records in terms of altitude, gradient or length, but it possesses an almost ethereal quality from a combination of graceful curves, raw mountain beauty and scope of vision that is rarely repeated in other passes.

It contains 45 bends, corners and curves which include 4 extremely sharp hairpins and another three corners sharper than 90 degrees. The quality of this road can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall and snow and especially when last it was maintained. On the day of filming it was in good condition, but is not always in this state.

Although it can be driven in a normal car, it is the roads leading to the pass in the Tankwa that can be a bit rough for a vehicle without adequate ground clearance. The approach from the south via the south and R355 is often a real tester for tyres that are not in top condition. Come well prepared in terms of the real possibility of picking up a puncture and carry two tins of 'Tyre Weld' or similar product with you.

The Bloukrans Pass on the R355 some 20 km south of Calvinia, is one of four Bloukrans Passes in South Africa. It is named after the majestic Bloukransberge over which foothills the pass traverses. This is a safe, well designed road in all, but very wet conditions and snow does sometimes fall on the pass's upper reaches (1029m ASL)

The pass only has 15 bends, corners and curves, most of which are fairly gentle but the average gradient is 1:19, which is on the steep side. The road is wide and the gravel surface has good run-off, so even in rainy weather, this pass should present few issues to normal cars. However it is the approach sections on either side,which can get extremely muddy and slippery, so if its been raining heavily in the area, it is best avoided unless in a 4WD vehicle.

The Nuwekloof Pass has a long history dating back to the early 1700's and is also known in it's various forms as the Nieuwekloof Pass, the Roodezand Pass or the Tulbaghkloof Pass. It is a modern, safe, well engineered pass which connect the towns of Tulbagh and Wellington on the tarred R46 route.

The wide, safe and well engineered Bothmaskloof Pass is located between the Boland towns of Malmesbury and Riebeeck Kasteel on the tarred R46 route, which descends along the southern side of the Kasteelberg through a wide U bend. The pass has history dating back to 1661 and was first recced by Pieter Van Cruythoff.

Lying just 40 minutes drive from Cape Town, this safe, all weather pass offers sweeping views over vineyards and olive groves as well as giving access to some historic wine estates including Kloovenburg and Allesverloren. The town of Riebeeck Kasteel lies at the foot of the pass and has become one of the chic and fashionable places to be seen with some excellent restaurants and the zest of country life available via a variety of art and craft shops.

Baillie's Pass is a minor gravel pass with major historical value, located some 35 km due east of the small Namaqualand village of Kamieskroon, which is itself located on the N7 highway from Cape Town to Namibia. The pass was built by the Reverend John A. Baillie from 1853 1863 to enable his parishioners to attend his church. The pass is just 1,8 km long but climbs quite steeply at gradients as steep as 1:6 over a nek in the granite smothered ridges. The road is generally maintained to a reasonable level, but corrugations and hanging dust are often problematic in this area. The road is suitable for all vehicles. The old hand-built supporting stone walls of the original pass can still be clearly seen on the right hand side (east) of the road.

Many respected resources on the internet list Baillie's Pass (Bailey's Pass sic) with Pypmaker se Poort in brackets as the alternative name. This is completely incorrect, as Pypmaker se Poort, although fairly close to Baillie's Pass, is on a different road altogether. The only site that got this one right, is Tracks4Africa. Also note the correct spelling of Baillie. Most sites also show this pass as being about 6 km long, which is also incorrect.

Use the hyperlinks below to check out South Africa's most extreme passes and where your favourite pass fits into the bigger picture.

These statistics are continually expanded as we add passes.

The Bain Legacy 

The Longest Pass 

The Highest Pass


The Steepest Pass


The Biggest altitude gain

The Most Popular Pass by page views


The Shortest Pass

The Most Dangerous Pass

Unusual and bizarre statistics

With so much data available to us, we sometimes come across weird names, and odd statistics which we list in this category. For example, there are four Ouberg Passes, as well as six Langkloof passes (the most popular pass names)and as many Rooiberg passes. There are those with short names and long names. This page is a compilation of interesting and unusual passes. We add to these categories as information becomes available.

We get countless requests with the question: "When is a pass a pass?"

The answer is complex and almost impossible to define, but we have come up with a broad enough definition to cover most options : A pass is a pass when a road traverses up or down or down and up, or any variable of down and up or through a kloof, or nek of a mountain or a hill or follows the course of a river through a mountain and complies with certain geographical requirements in terms of distance, gradient, number of turns, geological complexity and also if a government department has named any road officially as a pass whether it complies with this definition or not.

Our favourite "padmaker" Graham Ross submitted this list of names which all describe mountain passes: A saddle, canyon, col, neck, defile, gorge, ravine, gap, notch, bwlch (Welsh). [Yes, there really are no vowels in the last one!]


The pass with the longest name: Wildehondskloofhoogte Pass WC

The pass with the starting and end altitude identical (63m) - Constantia Nek WC

The pass with the most unusual name: Ping Pong Cuttings KZN

The most cursed pass: Suikerbossie/Victoria Road WC

The pass with the most misspelt name: Hessekwas Pass WC

The pass with latitude and longtitude similar: Ping Pong Cuttings KZN

The oldest properly engineered pass: Franschoek Pass WC - 1822

The oldest pass: Clooff Pass (now Constantia Nek) WC - 1657

The newest pass: Langeni Pass EC - 2008

The pass with highest average number of corners: Moordenaarskloof Pass EC (1 bend every 53 metres)

The only pass with a double summit of identical altitudes: Bastards Poort WC

The most popular pass name: Langkloof (6) and Rooiberg (6)

The 2nd most popular name: Ouberg (4)

The only official pass which is not a pass: Rankins Pass in Limpopo and Grey's Pass in Cape Town.

Most dangerous pass (accidents): In order and mainly proportionate to traffic volumes.
Van Reenen's Pass KZN
Sir Lowry's Pass WC
Kaaiman's River Pass WC
Hex River Pass WC
 
Most iconic pass: Sani Pass KZN

Most technical pass to drive: Bastervoetpad Pass EC

Most Northerly pass: Masekwas Poort (LPO)

Most Southerly pass: Akkedisberg Pass  WC

Most Easterly pass: Jozini Pass KZN

Most Westerly pass:  Swartpoort NC

The shortest official pass: Grey's Pass (Cape Town) at 97m. This pass also has the smallest altitude variance of 1m.


Strangest requests on our website: (We're impressed that some folk consider our knowledge to be this vast !)
1. How much will it cost to hire the Helshoogte Pass for a wedding for 92 guests?
2. How much are the caddy fees at Fancourt Golf Club? (Outeniqua Pass)
3. We would like to buy some olive trees from you. (Blinkberg Pass)
4. How many neon lights are there in the Huguenote Tunnel (Du Toits Kloof Pass)

Seriously?

South Africa's top 100 steepest passes - expressed in height : distance ratio  (eg 1:8). Note that these are AVERAGE gradients. Sections of each pass could be much steeper. For example Prince Alfred's Pass in the Western Cape is 68 km long and has an average gradient of 1:96, but it has certain sections as steep as 1:8. As a consequence of simple mathematics, the shorter passes present steeper average gradients than the longer passes. Statistics should always be read in context.

We have hyperlinked the Top 10 for your 'one click' convenience

  01  

Mpindweni Pass (EC)

  5.57
  02  

Mount Paul Pass (FS)

  6.93
  03  

Sylvias Pass GTG

  8.52
  04  

Donkies Pass KZN

  8.54
  05  

Tom Jenkins Drive (GTG)

  8.64
  06  

Rondevlei Pass WC

  8.66
  07  

Ben MacDhui (EC)

  8.75
  08  

Oudekloof Pass (Modern) WC

  8.85
  09  

Matroosberg WC

  8.88
  10  

Donkey Pass FS

  8.96


South Africa's top 100 passes ranked in altitude gained (metres):

We have hyperlinked the Top 10 so you can click straight through to any of the passes.

 

  01   Sani Pass KZN    1332
  02   Mariepskop Pass MPL    1100
  03   Clivia Pass MPL    1047
  04   Matroosberg WC   991
  05   Baviaans-Kouga 4x4 EC   905
  06   Gamkaskloof WC   872
  07   Mzintlava Pass EC   866
  08   Prince Alfreds Pass WC   844
  09   Swartberg Pass WC   838
  10   Bastervoetpad EC   830

 


 

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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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