Pitseng Pass (MR00837)

Read 5211 times
Eastern Cape perfection Eastern Cape perfection - Photo: Photo courtesy of Hougaard Malan

Pitseng Pass is dwarfed by the nearby Naude’s Nek Pass, but nevertheless it is a substantial pass in its own right. In good conditions the pass can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, but in wet weather or snow a 4x4 will definitely be required. Together with its sister pass, Luzi Poort, the road is often used as a shortcut by travellers wishing to get from Mount Fletcher to Rhodes or vice versa; it is a much shorter route than going via Maclear, and it is certainly more scenic. Either way, Naude’s Nek still has to be negotiated. There is a significant height gain / loss of 368 metres, and the pass is 8 kilometres in length.



Scroll down to view the map & video. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: Mike Leicester]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.



Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the east, start off at GPS coordinates S30.761931 E28.523079 on the R56 between Mount Fletcher and Maclear. Travel in a westerly direction along a gravel road for 31.5 km to S30.748181 E28.334810, which is the eastern start point. To approach from the west, travel from Rhodes over Naude’s Nek to S30.799048 E28.228950, or start off from Maclear and travel north along the R396 to reach this same point. From here, head in an easterly direction for 7.2 km to S30.764571 E28.285371, which is the western start point.

Healthy Nguni cattleHealthy Nguni cattle / Photo: Marie Viljoen

We have filmed the pass from west to east, in the descending mode. The pass can be divided into four very distinct sections. The first is a fairly flat phase which traverses the plateau at the top of the pass; the second is a very steep and perilous descent cut into the side of the mountain. This is followed by a long straight section running along an intermediate saddle, which then finally leads into another very steep descent which takes you down into the Luzi River valley and to the end of the pass.

From the start point, the road climbs through a shallow cutting, at the same time curving slightly to the right. This is followed by a few gentle curves, as the pass begins a slow descent along the plateau. At the 1.1 km mark, there is a very sharp 90-degree turn to the right, leading into a short straight which dips down into two gentle left-hand bends. A fairly long straight of 400 metres, with a slight ascending gradient, concludes this section of the pass, the view off to the left down into the valley far below giving you a hint of the steep descent which is about to follow.

At the 2.2 km mark, there is a sharp 90-degree right-hand corner, and suddenly the view opens up to reveal the second phase of the pass. The gradient decreases sharply as the road enters a short straight. The rocks on the right have been blasted away to make room for the traverse, revealing multiple sedimentary layers, and a steep unguarded drop-off presents itself on the left. There are a few culverts interspersed throughout this section, each of them marked by a low stone wall on either side of the road.

Wonderful scenery from Pitseng PassIncredibly good scenery along this pass / Photo: 66 Square Feet

Two shallow left-hand bends take the heading directly into the north, then a long right-hand curve follows the mountain back towards the east. The road condition does deteriorate along this part of the pass, mainly caused by water runoff. In wet weather, pay particular attention throughout this section, as the road slopes slightly down towards the steep drop-off on the left. The consequences of a slide over the edge would be disastrous!

A series of shallow left and right bends follow each other in sequence as the road continues its steep descent, tracking a natural contour line down the mountain. Floodwater has caused a deep ditch to develop on the right-hand side, which is probably a good thing as it forms a natural catch barrier for rocks falling from the hillside. At the 3.8 km mark, the gradient flattens out and the road straightens up, signalling the end of the second section of the pass.

It would be easy to mistake this point for the end of the pass, but this is certainly not the case. For the next 1 kilometre, the road follows the spine of the ridge in a more or less straight line, heading directly east. Beautiful views over the valley on the right-hand side are presented, and the flat pastures on the left give way to some steep cuttings as the end of this straight is approached.

[Video cover photo: Mike Leicester]

 

At the 4.9 km mark, the road enters a hairpin bend of 150 degrees to the left, and the descent begins again.

Near the hairpin on Pitseng PassPitseng Pass - Approaching the hairpin / Photo: Mike Leicester

From the hairpin, the road drops down through a short straight of 550 metres, then curves through a shallow S-bend as it follows the shape of the mountain. A deep furrow has been eroded on the left-hand side by rainwater and the drop-off on the right is again unguarded, but thankfully this time the road slopes away from this hazard.

Still descending steeply, the road meanders through a grove of alien trees, then suddenly enters a hairpin to the right of 150 degrees, the sharpest corner on the whole pass. This is followed by a short straight of 100 metres, then by another sharp 100-degree right-hand corner.

The gradient flattens out slightly as the road now bends and twists its way down the valley. The steep cuttings on the right have exposed some beautiful rock formations, and the vegetation changes completely from open grasslands to thick trees and bush as the altitude reduces. Even cactus trees start to appear at intervals along this stretch of road! The views on the left towards the Luzi River and straight ahead of you towards the tall mountains in the east are stunning, but you still need to pay attention as the road is narrow and not in a particularly good condition.

The last part of the pass offers up a few more sharp corners, including a nasty S-bend at the 7.2 km mark, but the view is much more open and these are easily negotiated. Beware of corrugations which may skitter your vehicle around through these bends. The road continues to descend all of the way up to the 8 km mark, where the end of the pass is reached at a natural low point. Continue straight on towards the east through Luzi Poort for another 31.5 km to reach the tarred R56. At this point, turn left to get to Mount Fletcher, or turn right to head towards Maclear via Moordenaarsnek and Katkop Pass.

Text & video footage by Mike Leicester 


Fact File:

GPS START 

S30.764571 E28.285371

GPS SUMMIT

S30.764571 E28.285371

GPS END 

S30.748181 E28.334810

AVE GRADIENT

1:22

MAX GRADIENT

1:9

ELEVATION START

1900m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1900m

ELEVATION END

1532m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

368m

DISTANCE

8 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

East

TIME REQUIRED

15 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

60 kph (MR00837

SURFACE

Gravel

DATE FILMED

29.04.2017

TEMPERATURE

20C 

NEAREST TOWN

Mount Fletcher (51 km)


Route Map:

Use these powerful features to get the best use out of the map:

  • Choose either Map View or Satellite View (overlaid on the map detail.)
  • Zoom in and out; rotate in any direction.
  • Use the Get Route'feature (directly beneath the map): type in your address to get a personalised route straight from where you are to the pass, with time and distance included.
  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:


Route files:

||Click to download: Pitseng Pass (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google Earth and most GPS software systems)

 

 

Mountain Passes South Africa

Our website is 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.

Subscribe to our Site

Subscribe for only R250 a year (or R180 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...