The Slagtersnek (or Butcher's Neck) is an easy gravel road that descends very gently from a natural neck between the two prominant mountains north-east of Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape. The road first crosses the Great Fish River near the start, then approximates the river's course along it's western bank at a higher contour, in a south westerly direction, where it terminates after 3 km at the crossing of a small stream. The pass is insignificant in terms of statistics, but it has a major historical connection - the Slagtersnek Rebellion, which was the major instigator of the Great Trek.
This is an obscure gravel surfaced pass on a farm road, approximately 27 km due West of Dordrecht, in the Eastern Cape. The road starts at 1846m ASL and rises 70 vertical meters over 3,45 km to summit at 1916m. Expect snow here in winter and like the nearby Penhoek Pass, this region being part of the Stormberg can produce serious weather at any time of the year.
This easy tarred pass is located on the tarred R75 route about midway between Kirkwood in the east and Jansenville in the west. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 135m and an average gradient of 1:35 with the steepest section being near the summit at 1:9.
Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein) and the more northern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof).
Soutpansnek translates from Afrikaans as 'Salt Pan Neck'. This 7 km tarred pass is located on the R75, about 15 km north of the small Karoo town of Jansenville. The pass has a stiff gradient on its northern side of 1:14, but other than the one sharp bend at the summit, which is well marked, should present no real dangers. The road is suitable for all vehicles. There are several references to this pass also being called the Ravelskloof Pass. This stems from a sign at either end of the pass marked 'RAVELSKLOOF' which is the name of the kloof over which the Soutpansnek Pass traverses. In reality, there is no such pass as the Ravelskloof Pass.
Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof) and the more southern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein).
This was the first of the series of classic Garden Route/Tsitsikamma passes to be built by Thomas Bain in the late 1800's. The pass bears all of Bain's hallmark features, with sweeping curves and high retaining walls, whilst still retaining a reasonable gradient for wagon traffic - in this case 1:15.
Today the pass falls wholly under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Board and no vehicles are allowed to drive the pass. The good news is that you can walk it or cycle it.
The Studtis Poort is exceptionally scenic and typical of all poorts, the gradients are very easy as the road essentially remains next to the river for most of it's length. You will be treated to towering mountains with near vertical cliffs and dense riverine vegetation. If you are able to comfortably clear the first river crossing, all of the other 8 crossings should be OK, as it is the same river and will have roughly the same amount of depth and current.
This lovely and spectacular poort on the R332 between Willowmore and Patensie links the two halves of the western section of the Baviaanskloof, covering 6,4 km and crossing over the Baviaans River nine times. In fair weather most of the main roads in the western Baviaanskloof can be driven in a normal car. Poorts are different to passes in that they usually have very gentle gradients. One of the downsides of this fact, is that water tends to remain in a poort much longer than on a pass and as a consequence, Studtis Poort is often prone to some deep-water crossings after periods of rainfall. We have two videos on offer. A completely dry traverse filmed in December 2017 and a much wetter version filmed in August 2012.
If you are new to the Baviaanskloof, we recommend that you first watch the Baviaanskloof Overview and Orientation video clip.
This interesting gravel pass if well above the national average in terms of length at 7,2 km and ascends 352 metres up the southern side of the Suuranysberg mountain to summit at 562m ASL. The pass offers excellent vistas over the Kromrivier valley, which it follows for most of it's length and the town of Kareedouw is also visible from the pass.
The pass is peppered with 54 bends, corners and curves of which three are semi-hairpins and a further four exceed 90 degrees radius. The condition of this road can vary greatly depending on when the last maintenance was done, as well as recent rainfall. Mostly it can be driven in any vehicle in fair weather conditions.
The Suuranysberg range is about 16 km in length and runs along the east-west axis, forming the southern watershed into the Kromrivier as well as the northern watershed into the Kouga River. The range has peaks which reach a maximum height in the 750m range. The pass is obviously named after the mountain which it ascends.
This long and sometimes extreme gravel pass is located on a secondary road (the R335) in the Eastern Cape approximately 35 km north of Addo and 75 km south of Somerset East. At 27,5 km it is one of the longer passes in South Africa and traverses all four tiers of the dominant Zuurberg Mountain range. It was originally constructed by Henry Fancourt White in 1849, but White resigned during the construction phase to take up a post in parliament, leaving the project in the capable hands of the assistant roads engineer, Mr. Matthew Woodifield, whose name appears carved into a rock slab near the southern end of the pass.
The pass contains within its length 158 bends, corners and curves. As progress is made northwards, the road surface deteriorates to the point where low range and high clearance is required. Allow two hours (excluding stops) to complete the pass and be patient and careful as this is true puncture country. Changing a spare wheel on a steep incline is a risky affair, so it's better to drive slower and choose your driving lines with care.
Note ~ Due to technical reasons we were only able to film the middle section of the pass from the 10th to the 20th km.
The Swaershoek Pass (translated as Brother-in-laws Pass) is a major gravel pass located about 20 km south-west of Cradock. The pass is quite long at 8,1 km and has an altitude variance of 468m which produces an average gradient of 1:17, but there are many sections which are considerably steeper at 1:11. Despite the steep gradients and unpaved surface, the pass is well designed and is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather. The pass connects Cradock with Pearston 70 km further south.
This pass and its approach roads offer some of the best Eastern Cape scenery imaginable. Anyone willing to get a bit of dust on their vehicle will be richly rewarded travelling this route on the R337 which includes another great gravel pass much further south, called the Buffelshoek Pass.
This small 2,7 km long poort drives through the natural gap in the northern-most of the four ridges comprising the Grootrivierberge between Willowmore and Jansenville in the Karoo. Typical of a poort, the road follows the path of the Plessisrivier and there is not much gain or loss in altitude. Both start and end points are at crossings of the same river. The road is generally maintained to a reasonable condition and is suitable for all vehicles.
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.
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.