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Mountain Passes

Houw Hoek Pass was built shortly after Sir Lowry's Pass was completed in 1833. The distance between the two passes is approximately 25km and covers some beautiful mountainous terrain. This middle section was known as Coles Pass - so named after the very same Sir Lowry Cole. The name Houw Hoek translates into 'Hold Corner' and is derived from the need to hold back, or slow down the ox-wagons whilst negotiating the steep descent down the pass.

This major 10 km long tarred pass lies on the R58 between Elliot and Barkly East in the high mountains of the Eastern Cape at an altitude of 2018m at the summit. The pass displays an altitude variance of 572m which converts into an average gradient of 1:17 which is moderately steep. This pass is subject to winter snow closures. Look out for the country style hotel (Mountain Shadows) at the top of the pass where you can catch up with some of the local history and experience true country style hospitality.



 

All Saints Neck is located on the outskirts of Engcobo (also sometimes spelled as Ngcobo), a small town in the Eastern Cape between Queenstown and Mthatha on the R61. The pass is named after the All Saints mission station, which was founded in 1860 and which is located to the north of the pass, about 8 km from the town. The road has been refurbished and upgraded and is in an excellent condition, but as always in the Eastern Cape, care must be exercised when driving this pass due to the abundance of traffic, pedestrians and animals in the roadway.

The Sudwala Pass is located in Mpumalanga province on the tarred R539 between Sudwala Caves and Lydenburg.  It starts at its northern side at 1072m ASL and rises to 1223m, descending again to 996m. The total length of the pass is 8,93 kms producing an easy gradient of 1/39 with the steepest sections presenting at 1:14. The road is suitable for all vehicles and offers easy sweeping curves with perfect Lowveld scenery. It also gives access to the Sudwala Caves and Resort a further 7,3 kms south of the pass.

 

This gravel pass traverses the Drakensberg and is strictly a 4x4 track, which connects surrounding farms to the east of Harrismith in the Free State with farms in the KZN Highlands near Dundee and Newcastle. The route traverses private land and requires the consent of the land owners. Together with Rogers Pass and Keays Pass the three passes ascend and descend the Drakensberg over some tough tracks making for a challenging 4x4 circuit. Not much information is known about Brandons pass and very few people have driven it.


 

Chunie's Poort is located on the tarred R37 road, about 40 km south of Polokwane (formerly known as Pietersburg). There are various spellings of the name, including Chuene and Tshwene, which translates as “Baboon”, but most sources and the signboards use the spelling as shown above. The pass follows the course of the Tudumo River, which flows southwards out of the Chuniespoort Dam. At the northern end, the river has cut its way through a narrow gorge, and an unusual feature of this pass is that the bridge over which the road is built does not cross the river, but parallels its path through this gorge, directly above the water.

This is a secondary gravel road in the vicinity of some of the famous attractions of the Lowveld, like the Blyde River Canyon (Molatse Canyon), Pilgrim's Rest, Bourkes Luck Potholes - a charming world of a bygone era, loaded with pioneering history and tales of mining hardship.

The pass has a long trekker history and was first built by Paul Kruger's father Casper Kruger, hence the name. The routing of this pass was actually very clever considering the time and evolution of our roads in South Africa and is generally a pleasant route with reasonable gradients, but there are a few sections which do keep very steep, especially on the western side.

Of further significance on this pass is that although the pass is a lengthy 12,2 km it only has 22 bends, corners and curves and all of the sharpest bends, including the single hairpin, occur during the first 2,2 km on the western side. The road follows a similar line to Robbers Pass, but about 20 km further to the north.

Passing through the Soutpansberg, Wyllie's Poort (part of the N1 between Louis Trichardt - Makhado and Musina) boasts a rich archeaological, geological and cultural heritage, and is also a bird-watching hotspot! It lays claim to being the second northern-most tarred pass in South Africa and offers attractive scenery with lots of twists and turns over a distance of 3,57 km with a small altitude drop of just 57 vertical metres.




Connecting Port Nolloth with Steinkopf on the N7 near Springbok, this low-altitude tarred poort on the R382 passes through the endless, arid plains and rocky outcrops of the Windpoort farm after which it was named. It is one of three passes and poorts along the R382 with the other two being the Anenous Pass to the east and Gemsbokpoort to the west. 

As far as dramatic corners and steep gradients go, this pass has little to offer other than the desolate, dry plains of the Northern Cape's semi-desert known simply as Namaqualand - in itself offering it's own kind of beauty, that not everyone appreciates. 

This long, tarred pass connects the two old mining towns of Lydenberg - better known today as the premiere fly-fishing centre of South Africa, and Burgersfort on the R37. Lydenburg is another town which has had a recent name change and is today officially called Mashishing. No doubt because of the difficulty of pronouncing the new name, the vast majority of South Africans still call it Lydenburg.

Packed into its 19,6 km length are 51 bends, corners and curves - some of which are extremely sharp and include two hairpins and another two dangerous 90 degree bends. This is a high altitude pass with a summit height of 1621m ASL and offers excellent views, but is sorely lacking in places to stop safely. Despite the statistics, the gradients on this pass never exceed 1:16. There are a number of cautionaries for this pass, which include heavy mountain mists, lots of slow moving heavy vehicles, and some very sharp bends. Despite the dangers, the road is generally in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but watch out for the occassional pothole.

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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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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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