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Mountain Passes

Nelshoogte, also known as Nelsberg Pass, is located on the tarred R38 road between Barberton and Badplaas in Mpumalanga. It was named after Louis Johannes Nel (1821 – 1860), the father of the three Nel brothers that founded Nelspruit, when he procured the farms Doornhoek and Goedehoop at the foot of the mountain.

The road is in a good condition and is suitable for all vehicles. The are very few hazards on this pass, except for occasional logging vehicles and slow-moving trucks. Wonderful views over the Nkomati Valley are presented, particularly when traversing the pass from east to west.

 



 

The Mpageni Pass, together with it's tandem pass, the Bouldersberg Pass forms the bulk of the old Nelspruit-Kaapmuiden road. It is a narrow tarred road [D286] that traverses the Crocodile Poort Nature Reserve. It climbs 472 vertical meters over a distance of 10,2 km to produce an average gradient of 1:22, with some sections as steep as 1:8.

The pass terminates 2,5 km before the western starting point of the Bouldersberg Pass (after the summit plateau). Watch out for wild animals, especially at night and it should also be noted that there are two control booms, where you have to sign in and out. There is no charge for entry into the reserve, but you will be required to produce your drivers licence and it will be scanned as will your vehicle's licence disc. This is an anti-poaching initiative.

The Montrose Pass is a short tarred pass on the N4 approximately midway beween Ngodwana and Nelspruit. The highlight of the pass is a stop at the Montrose Falls where there is a small hotel and where you can see the Crocodile River plunging over a solid rock sill. The pass only rises 61m over a distance of 3,74 km producing an average gradient of an easy 1:61, but there are steeper sections at 1:10 just before and after the summit.

 

 

This big gravel pass traverses the Mokobulaan Nature Reserve and gains 625m over 19 km to produce an average gradient of 1:30. It has some fairly steep sections at 1:8. There are 48 bends, corners and curves crammed into it's 19 km length, so sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace. There are a number of cautionaries for this road which include thick mountain mists, heavy rain, slippery and muddy sections, deep ruts and washaways, logging debris on the road and the presence of heavy logging vehicles on weekdays.

The pass connects Lydenburg in the north with the N4 in the south and follows a similar direction as the Long Tom Pass some 20 km to the north. It has a summit height of 1921m ASL producing sweeping views over the valleys and kloofs. This pass should be viewed/read in conjunction with the Wonderkloof Pass which follows it on the southern side on the same road.

This is undoubtedly the most famous pass in Mpumalanga - and with good reason too. It is 26,2 km long (and even longer depending on where one starts measuring), plus it displays an altitude variance of 671 vertical meters through a complex network of curves as it ascends up the Drakensberg escarpment between Sabie in the east and Lydenburg in the west. The pass forms part of the Mpumalanga Panoramic Route and carries appropriately heavy traffic - both tourist and commercial. It is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. It is named after the famous Long Tom cannon.

With 66 bends, corners and curves and a fairly easy average gradient of 1:39 and no part being steeper than 1:10 this pass is a magnificent spectacle with grand views and rugged frontier and Anglo-Boer War history adding to its allure.

Kranspoort is located on the national N11 road between Groblersdal and Middelburg, very close to the Loskop Dam. The road is in an excellent condition and has been extensively refurbished (construction was completed in late 2017). The pass is nevertheless still considered to be extremely dangerous, and road users should apply due caution and heed the speed limit of 60 kph which applies for the majority of the length of the pass.

The biggest hazards which could be encountered are the mine trucks which use this route, and which could lose their brakes when descending the pass under heavy load. The name is misleading, as this is much more of a pass than a poort, and it is far steeper than one would expect. It comes as somewhat of a surprise after the long flat straight sections on the approaches from both the northern and southern sides.

This is another of the Top 10 Mpumalanga passes with stunning views and an altitude drop of 512m through the Drakensberg escarpment over 7,8 km., producing an average gradient of 1:15. This is a steep pass in places with gradients in excess of 1:11 and is on route R533. It was was completed in October 1959 and named after a local Sotho chief, Koveni who controlled the land along the track. The name, Koveni, became Anglicized to Kowyn. The area around the pass is truly 'out of this world' with a wide range of attractions for the traveller.

At the time of its original construction, the engineering work on this pass was one of the most advanced in South Africa with the half tunnel and cantilevered roadway with a concrete surface forming a stable structure near the summit ridge. Today (2018) the once proud pass is taking strain where many potholes have made an appearance. The Mpumalanga roads authorities appear to have no funds to appear the road and potholes are being filled with gravel (which obviously only lasts till the next rainshower). Drive carefully on this pass which is prone to thick mountain mists, but the biggest danger is opposing traffic that crosses the median line in an effort to avoid the potholes.

This long and beautiful pass is one of the hidden gems of the Lowveld and provides an alternative route to Nelspruit to the N4. It joins Nelspruit with Ngodwana at Sappi's massive paper mill and in the process bisects the little mountain top village of Kaapsehoop (originally Kaapschehoop), from which the pass gets its name.

The pass summits at 1653m ASL and ascends from just south-west of Nelspruit, gaining 736m of altitude over 20 kms, producing an average ascent gradient of 1:20 with the steep bits measuring in at 1:10. Stop at the village near the summit and explore the peaceful charm of the free range horses, Anglo-Boer war and mining history, quaint architecture and the walk in the nature reserve. The western descent of 12 km ends at Ngodwana and forms a T-junction with the N4.



Mpumalanga is rich in natural beauty and what better way to experience this than driving some of the fabulous passes the province has to offer. Rich in forests with fast flowing rivers and multiple waterfalls and major attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Pilgrims Rest and the many game reserves, it's no wonder local and foreign tourists alike flock to this region. Often the real gems are the smaller passes tucked away in the backwaters where few people get to. Jaap se Hoogte is one of those passes.

 

Hennings Pass is an off the beaten track gravel road, becoming a jeep-track that is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. It lies near the Verloren Valei and runs in a southerly direction along the banks of the Crocodile River. It is roughly 20km SE of Dullstroom and 18 km NW of Machodorp (as the crow flies). For those wanting to drive this route, please note that is slow going and it is an out and back route, so allow plenty of time.

As far as passes go this is really not much of a pass with a moderate altitude variance of 52m and only short sections even vaguely resembling a true mountain pass, but it is an official pass and is recorded as such on the official government 1:50,000 maps.

So why drive it? This road is remote and you will more than likely be the only vehicle there. So if you enjoy being away from the crowds and in the bush, then by all means go and drive this one. The road is a dead-end and ends at a farm, so the entire route has to be backtracked when you are done.

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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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