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Mountain Passes

Nicholson's Nek is a relatively minor and insignificant gravel road pass through a natural break in the mountains just north of Ladysmith, but it is of great historical value and is mentioned frequently during the second Anglo-Boer war. The pass is just 1.4 km long, and has a small height gain of only 58 metres.

This steep, gravel road pass lies between Newcastle in KZN and Memel in the Free State. The pass traverses a natural path up the Drakensberg and is located roughly 33 km west-south-west of Newcastle and  15 km north east of the Normandien Pass. It is OK to drive in a normal car subject to conditions being dry. Like most passes in this part of the Drakensberg, it is subject to heavy electrical storms in summer and snowfalls during winter. In such conditions a 4x4 vehicle is much safer.

Mike's Pass is a rough, high altitude, 4x4 pass in the Drakensberg in KZN. You will be rewarded with incredible views and mountain top fresh air to invigorate your senses. Snow in winter is common, in which case the pass will probably be closed to the public. Some sections have concrete strips.

Latest info: As at September, 2014 we have it on good authority that this pass is now only accessble in a NCS vehicle (the nature reserve's own vehicles) at a cost of R60 per person - minimum 4 persons. Trips are on offer 4 times per day - at 0900; 1200 and 1600. The controlling authority must have had good reason to have made this decision and I doubt very much it would have been based on profit. We invite them to contact us with an explanation as there appear to be many disappointed gravel pass fans who would have loved to drive this pass in their own vehicle.

The Middledale Pass is a 6.3 km tarred pass running through the Drakensberg on a North/South axis. It is known as the S1101 route and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references show the Middledale and Tintwa Passes as being the same pass, whereas they are actually two separate passes on the same road separated by a short plateau. There is a similar scenario in the Western Cape with the Wildehondskloofhoogte and Op de Tradouw Passes being the same pass, with the former being the ascent and the latter the descent.

This gravelled road pass is located on the north-eastern side of the small town of Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal. The surname “Burger” or “Burgers” is quite common in South Africa, and the word itself can also mean “citizen” when translated into English, so it is a little difficult to establish the origins of the name. But through a process of elimination and deduction, and given the history of Utrecht, it is most likely that the mountain and the pass were both named after Thomas Francois Burgers (1834-1881), president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic (ZAR) from 1871 to 1877. The road is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but it is plagued with corrugations in some sections.

This pass connects the Free State farming town of Memel via the R34 with the KZN town of Newcastle and straddles the border between the Free State and KZN. The pass starts at the summit altitude of 1809m ASL and descends to 1569m taking you 245 meters down the escarpment and in the process producing a gradient of 1/21 over 5.0 km., which is moderate. There is one U shaped bend halfway down the pass which turns through almost 170 degrees, but the arc is fairly wide, making it fairly safe providing the speed limit is complied with. With a summit altitude not far under the 2000m mark, it does sometimes snow on this pass.

Named after the largest flightless bird in the world, the Volstruispoort (Ostrich Poort) Pass is a minor poort where the road runs between two Karoo "koppies" on the newly tarred R384 between Carnarvon (75km to the SW) and Vosburg (20km to the ENE). It only falls17 vertical meters over 4,5 km to produce a very easy average gradient of 1:264. The maximum gradient of 1:24 is reached between the two peaks.

The Verlatenkloof Pass (translates into 'Desolate Pass') is a substantial altitude gaining tarred pass on the R354/R356 some 30 km south of Sutherland in the Northern Cape. It winds its way laboriously down the Roggeveld Mountains via the Verlatenkloof. It is often still referred to in the original Dutch format of Verlatenkloof Pass, but mostly the "n" has been dropped in favour of the local Afrikaans version - 'Verlatekloof''. Either version will get you to the same pass! You will descend 668 meters in altitude over 14,4 km producing an average gradient of 1:22, with the steeper parts at 1:8. This statistic makes it the 26th longest pass in South Africa as well as 10th biggest altitude gaining pass.

The pass has one or two exceptionally dangerous corners and drivers need to concentrate the whole way down and comply with the speed limits and warning signs. The pass offers wonderful Karoo views, some clever engineering, a guest farm and the geology has been laid bare through the multiple cuttings.

This beautiful tarred pass forms part of the R27 between Vanrhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville and was originally built and designed by Thomas Bain.  It is just under 9 km in length and climbs 595m to summit at 825m ASL,  producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest sections being at l:12. This is a well engineered pass with a good safety record providing you stick to the speed limits. This is amongst the top 10 passes of the Northern Cape and is a must drive offering grand views, tight chicane style corners and lots of variety. The pass is named after Petrus Benjamin Van Rhyn - a clergyman, politician and member of parliament in the old mission settlement of Troe-Troe. The town's name was changed in 1881 to Vanrhynsdorp.

 

This beautiful and fairly major pass is located right on the border of the Northern and Western Cape between Leeu-Gamka on the N1 in the south and Fraserburg on the R353 in the north. The geology of this pass comprises both the hard weathering sandstone and the much softer mudstone. This latter layer caused many problems on this pass with rockfalls and damage to the road surface. It was completely revamped in 2006 at a cost of R11,2m. The pass is also spelt as Theekloof in the Dutch format as per the official signage. In keeping with the more popular Afrikaans version, the "h" has been dropped.

 

 

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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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