fbpx

Mountain Passes

The Gysmanshoek Pass follows an historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700's. This is an old gravel pass through a natural cleft in the Langeberg Mountains between Heidelberg in the south and the Little Karoo/ Ladismith area in the north. It is driveable in a normal car in good weather, but if it's been raining, a 4x4 will be a better option.

Depending on the weather, things can get tricky on this pass. Not too many people have travelled this delightfully scenic and off the beaten track pass. It was originally named Hudson's Pass after the local magistrate. Take your time over this pass and stop frequently to enjoy the proteas, ericas and other flowering fynbos species. See if you can find the ruins of the old English fort which dates back to the Anglo Boer war.

The pass is 11,6 km long and contains 51 bends, corners and curves. The average gradient is a mild 1:36 but there are two very steep sections close to the summit,where the gradient gets as steep as 1:5 and FWD cars might well experience traction issues here (especially if driving from south to north) - even in dry weather.

The Gifberg (Poison Mountain) Pass is a challenging gravel pass (with two short tarred sections over the steepest parts) that ascends the Matsikamma mountain and connects the mountain top farms of the Gifberg with Vanrhynsdorp about 20 km to the north. The pass offers outstanding views, hiking trails, San rock-art, wildflowers, rockpools and waterfalls. It is the source of the Troe-Troe river which flows northwards through Vanrhynsdorp. The pass was originally built in 1917 and improved, widened and partially hard-surfaced over the years in an effort to improve safety.

Floorshoogte is a 16 km long tarred pass on the R43 between Villiersdorp and Caledon. It climbs/descends 257 meters to summit at 525m ASL producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:62, which is mainly due to an undulating middle section. The initial climb up from the Theewaterskloof Dam to the summit is a long, continuous climb with a gradient of 1:8 

 

 

The Dwarskloof Pass is located between the N2 (east of Caledon) and the village of Greyton. It is a minor and completely safe pass and if you didn't know it was an official pass, you would probably miss it completely. It is nothing more than a long descent down a gravel farm road towards the Riviersonderend valley. The gradient is a very easy 1:44 and the steepest part is 1:11. It is perfectly safe for all vehicles and bicycles will have no issues either.

We filmed the pass from south to north to maximise on the beautiful mountain backdrop. Despite the placidness of this pass, it does offer magnificent scenery. In front of you the looming bulk of the Sonderend Mountains form a formidable obstacle, whilst the fields on either side are a mass of rolling hills clad in green and yellow (wheat and canola) in winter and spring. This is also a place you are likely to see South Africa's national bird - the Blue Crane.







 

 



 

Die Venster translates into The Window. This is an easy pass with gentle curves and a fairly small altitude gain/loss. However, what it lacks in technical drama, it more than makes up for in terms of grand scenery. The road ascends gradually from the west through a curve to the left as it heads for the lowest point between two mountain ranges. From the summit, a vast landscape opens up featuring flat plains stretching as far as the eye can see with rugged mountains interrupting the Karooscape.

The Karoo has several dynamic passes and the De Jagers Pass is one of them. It's located on a good gravel road about 30km NNE of Beaufort West. Unless you're a local farmer, you'll have very little reason to be on this road. Of course, pass hunters don't care about these things, and this gravel pass will satisfy every cent spent on fuel, locating it. It's a farm road and leads only to other farms in the area, but it does offer many options to the adventurous traveller. Please note that our description covers an ascending route from south to north which is by far the easiest way to locate this pass, but our video was filmed in the opposite direction for maximum scenic value.

This is a very special pass, much loved by pass hunters, nature lovers and the gliding fraternity. It rises up from the wheat and canola plains of the Swartland just north of Porterville through a series of tight bends, steep gradients and two severe hairpins to summit at 700m ASL at the top of the Groot Winterberg mountain range. The pass was tarred a few years ago, taking away some of the excitement, but the benefits are a much safer pass with considerable savings in maintenance. Near the summit, on the left hand side of the road, you will see the hang glider and paraglider steel launch ramp, where the bird-men go airborne for hours soaring in the updraft of the mountains.

This is one of the most spectacular gravel passes in the Western Cape offering stunning scenery of craggy mountains, vertical rock walled poorts, old-school engineering, game spotting, birdlife and a fabulous 4 star lodge to ease weary travellers into the bushveld way of life. The pass has 60 bends, corners and curves compressed into its 7,6 km length with an average gradient of 1:13 which is remarkable considering that the lower part of the pass where it becomes a poort is fairly flat. Yet there is no point on the pass whichis excessively steep. There are some sections that reach 1:6 so this road with it's steep unguarded drop-offs requires focused attention by drivers.

This historic pass dates back to 1862 and was completed by Thomas Bain's brother in law - Adam de Smidt. The road is named after the many fossilised ticks found in the rocks when the road was built. This used to be the main road between Laingsburg and Prince Albert up till the late 1960's when the Dept. of Water Affairs built the Gamkakloof Dam, which had a number of consequences, including making this road obsolete.

Firstly it made the road a dead end as there was no way around the new dam and secondly it spelt the end of the farming community in the Gamkakloof, as the new road bulldozed eastwards through the Gamkaskloof gave this community access to Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp. They left the kloof in a steady trickle until there was no-one left. That is one of the negative sides of progress. The full story on the on the Gamkaskloof can be read elsewhere on this website.

This long pass of 33 km runs on the east/west axis between Graaff Reinet and Cradock on the tarred R61 route. This is a tarred, high altitude pass summiting at 1768m ASL which puts it firmly into the snow belt. The average gradient is a mild 1:58, but there are sections where the gradients get as steep as 1:10, which translates into slow moving heavy trucks for ascending traffic. The engineering is excellent and double lanes have been provided for most of the steeper ascending sections. The pass is named after the mountain range over which it passes. Most of the corners have a comfortable arc and the deep cuttings ensure that the gradients have been kept to a level which prevents blind rises. This is a wonderful pass to drive at any time of the year and is suitable for all vehicles.

The original pass was named after one of the area's pioneer farmers - Marthinus van Staden, who was the first person to plot a rudimentary track through the Van Stadens River Gorge. By 1867 the Cape Government decided to rebuild the pass to acceptable standards for wagon traffic. The actual construction was managed by George Apsey from 1865 to 1867.

Over time the pass was modified and tarred in the 1950's. When the N2 was rebuilt and improved, a new bridge was built which would span the Van Stadens River gorge and in the process completely remove all aspects of a mountain pass. Similar changes took place at several big bridges along the N2, such as Storms River, Bloukrans and Grootrivier. It takes about 30 seconds to drive over the gorge on the N2 today, which is fine if youre in a hurry, but the charm of the old pass is still available to those with a some extra time to spare. The downside of the tall new bridge is that it saw its first suicide victim soon after being built. One suicide followed another and soon the new bridge became known as the Bridge of Death. Authorities have subsequently erected cages along both sides and a call centre is on standby to help desperately depressed people.

Whilst the old pass still holds its charm and allure, the new bridge casts a sombre mood on an otherwise beautiful river gorge.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter with News and Updates from Mountain Passes South Africa

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R300 a year (or R210 for 6 months), and get full access to our website including the videos, the full text of all mountain passes articles, fact-file, interactive map, directions and route files.

Register

 

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.

View Master Orientation Map...