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Mountain Passes

This pass, located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith, is usually known as “Ikhupe” in modern times, although the more correct and traditional spelling is “Mkupe”, an old Zulu name meaning “Eagles Nest”. To this day, black eagles roost along the cliffs in this vicinity. To add to the confusion, nobody seems to be quite sure of the actual names of the mountains on either side of the pass. Some maps and charts show the flat-topped mountain on the western side as “One Tree Hill” and others as “Mkupe Mountain”; this is reversed when using different references. To make matters worse, both One Tree Hill and Mkupe Mountain are also the names of other peaks in the Drakensberg near Cathedral Peak and Nkandla respectively.

This is a gravel road pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.

This is a gravel road and it is lethal when wet, so take it nice and easy and enjoy the incredible views as you gain altitude. About 3/4 way up, there is a 145 degree left hand hairpin. This is a good spot to stop and absorb the grandeur and wide panorama of the river valley far below.

Griffin’s Hill is a straightforward official tarred pass with a simple low/high profile, located on the R103 between Estcourt and Mooi River in KwaZulu-Natal. It only has one significant corner, a long S-bend in the middle of the pass, and is suitable for all traffic. We have not been able the establish the identity of the person after whom the pass is named, but it is likely that this would have been a farmer that owned property in the area, or the name of the prominent person from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.

Endumeni Pass is a tarred pass located on a minor road connecting the northern KwaZulu-Natal towns of Dundee and Wasbank. On many internet references, the name is often spelled (incorrectly) as “Endoumeni”, and it is also sometimes referred to as both Glenluce Pass and Wenkommando Pass. The pass is named after the landmark mountain on its eastern side, which is not clearly visible from the road itself, because it is obscured by another much closer mountain called Platberg. Endumeni is an isiZulu name meaning “place of thunderstorms”. The road is in a reasonable condition and presents very few hazards, provided that the speed limit is adhered to.



Research indicates that this pass was named after Herman de Beer, who owned a farm at the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment in 1870 and who granted permission for the pass to run through his property. This is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in South Africa, and has been the site of a number of fatal accidents. The road is tarred and extremely well-engineered, but some very sharp curves and deceptively hidden corners, as well as weather conditions, have all taken their toll. The pass is sometimes closed due to snowfalls in winter, but in good weather can be driven in any vehicle, although motorists and motorcyclists need to be aware that all of the approach roads from the western side are gravelled.

This beautiful gravel road pass is located in the western KwaZulu-Natal highlands, close to the border with the Free State province. The pass was named after Thomas George Collings, who trekked with his wife from Oudtshoorn and was the first white person to use this route. The name is often misspelt as Collin’s Pass, and also as Colling’s Pass (with an apostrophe). The pass is subject to heavy snowfalls in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer, but generally-speaking is in a good condition. Keep a lookout for the usual array of farm animals all along the length of the pass.

Cecil Mack's Pass is located in the Northern section of KZN on the border with Swaziland. It is a rough, gravel road better suited to off-road vehicles with 4WD. This is not one for the casual weekend traveller. The pass has something of a chequered history including severe cyclone damage, military control and now, obsolesence. Please note that the road is blocked at the Swaziland border and no traffic may proceed beyond that point, other than on foot.

This superb pass is rich in South African folklore and we are fortunate to bring you the story of John Versfeld - a resourceful farmer from Bo-Piketberg who built the original pass in 3 months with only 16 farm labourers. There are two Versfeld passes in close proximity to each other. The original one lies slightly to the north-east of the current one and its path can still be seen, but it is no longer publicly accessible. Our focus is on the existing pass. The gradients of the new pass are up to good engineering standards and the road descends the mountain through a series of dizzying switchbacks. Not many people know about the pass. It's narrow and very twisty, but although it was built in 1943 and widened and tarred in 1958, it offers a bountiful of delights as it ascends or descends the mountain to Piketberg.

The Van Der Stel Pass is a fairly easy, but long, gravel road pass between Bot River and the Theewaterskloof Dam in the Overberg region. It mainly serves the farming community. The road is generally well maintained and is suitable for all vehicles. This is a fairly long pass at 17 km, but the gradients are very easy at a mere 1:145 with the steepest section near the summit at 1:6

 



This short and steep pass connects Gordons Bay on the R44 and Clarence Drive, with the Steenbras Dam at the top of the Hottentots Hollands mountains. This is also one of only a handful of passes in South Africa that has a hairpin bend in excess of 180 degrees. The road was built in the 1940's to service the water filtration plant near the top of the mountain. The road is restricted from the filtration plant where there are control booms and only bona-fide permit holders may proceed beyond that point. The road carries low traffic volumes, due to it's restricted nature and was purpose built to service the dam and filtration plant.

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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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