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Bottelnek Pass (P2895)

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Scenery north of the pass Scenery north of the pass - Photo: Photo: Willem Schoeman

The Bottelnek Pass is a very steep, gravel pass in a remote part of the Eastern Cape roughly 25 km north of Elliot (as the crow flies). The 5,1 km long pass has an altitude variance of 193 metres to summit at 2204m ASL producing an average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest sections being at 1:5. In wet weather non 4WD vehicles will have traction issues. It snows regularly on this pass during winter and the usual snow-driving cautionaries apply. Although this pass can be driven in a normal sedan, we would rather recommend a high clearance vehicle and definitely a 4x4 in rainy or muddy conditions.

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[Video cover photo by Mike Leicester]


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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: The pass can be accessed from the R58 or the R393. For those wanting to drive this route from north to south: Drive along the R393 from the Mountain Shadows Hotel turnoff north of the Barkly Pass via the Fetcani Pass for 22 km till you arrive at a minor road leading off to the left (west) marked 'Kylemore' at GPS S31.077058 E27.828775. This road winds its way laboriously southwards along a substantial valley with fabulous scenery. Remain on this road for 4 km to arrive at the northern start of the pass at a small concrete bridge. This is the preferred option of driving this pass to maximise on the scenery.

Close-up of the abandoned churchClose-up of the abandoned church / Photo: Willers BaardFor those wanting to approach from the south, take the tarred R58 road from either Elliot or Barkly East and turn north-east onto the minor gravel road, clearly signposted "Bottelnek" with the number DR 02895 on a white board lower down. This turn-off is at GPS S31.113160 E27.717517 approximately 22km south-east of Barkly East and 34 km north-west of Elliot. Turn onto this road and follow it for 10 km as it follows the valley of the Bottelnekspruit to the start of the pass.

We filmed the pass from north to south. From the turn-off at the R393, the narrow gravel road heads in a southerly direction, meandering along the side of a narrow valley and offering really attractive views. The Kylemore farmstead can be seen amongst a copse of tall trees lower down in the valley. 

Summit viewsSummit views / Photo: Willers BaardThe road starts climbing quite steeply up the western side of the valley and the mountains loom ever closer on either side. The scenery is wild and unsullied leaving the traveller with a sense of complete isolation. There are a total of 10 bends along the northern ascent with several crossings of minor streams.

The summit point of 2204m ASL is reached at the 2 km point, where there is space and a fairly level roadway to take in the grand scenery. This is a special place and one that you will remember for many years. It is a stark reminder that a vehicle breaking down on this road might not be noticed for several days as the traffic volume is very low - perhaps 2 to 3 vehicles per week at best. It's worth noting that the farm 'Singleton' lies at the foot of the pass, which is only 2 km away, which is not a difficult walk and downhill all the way, should you require assistance. There are tractors on the farm.

It would be risky in the extreme to drive this pass in bad weather and possibly even deadly in snow, as the road is quite basic and the banking is frequently to the wrong side. Without protective barriers, a vehicle will easily slide off this road in snow and end up at the bottom of the gorge.

Bottelnek Pass summitThe summit of the pass - 2204m ASL / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe descent begins immediately after the summit, via an S-bend with fairly easy gradients. The road then bends gently towards the right taking the heading into the south-west, and the road starts getting steeper at 1:7. The road follows the contours of a nose of the mountainside via a gentle right hand bend until the 2,8 km point, where the horseshoe bend begins.

It swings through a big arc of 170 degrees into the north-east, forming the first of two switch-back sections along the descent. Far below in the valley the outbuildings of the Singleton farm can be seen. This straight section descends for 300m at a slight gradient which is virtually level. This is another safe place to stop and enjoy the views or take photographs.

At the end of that little leg, you need to negotiate the sharpest bend of the pass, which has a very tight radius and rotates through 160 degrees, bringing the heading into the WSW.

At the Singleton farmBreathtaking scenery at the foot of the pass / Photo: Trygve RobertsA fairly long (and slow) descent at 1:7 which is 1,8 km long takes one to the crossing of the Bottelnekspruit via a low level concrete bridge. Proceed slowly through the Singleton farm and be aware that there will more than likely be livestock and pedestrians around as well as farming equipment and vehicles.

The main part of the pass is now over. All that remains is a gentle, easy gradient drive along the western bank of the stream for 1 km past some lovely old farm houses. The pass ends at the 5,1 km point at the second crossing of the Bottelnekspruit.

Regardless of which direction you drive this pass, you are in for a visual treat at either end, as the access roads take the traveller through some beautiful Eastern Cape landscapes of swiftly flowing rivers, green grass covered hillsides, towering mountains with spectacular sandstone outcrops in weird and wonderful shapes, with tall poplar trees and evergreens lining the road side.

Along the exit road heading back towards the R58 which is about 9 km long, the road passes through several farms on its path westwards, including Singleton, Sonskyn, Rosehill and finally Redbrook. We have produced a separate video below which covers the finer points of the southern exit route.




Fact File:

GPS START 

S31.104080 E27.812384

GPS SUMMIT

S31.118118 E27.815841

GPS END 

S31.118033 E27.797755

AVE GRADIENT

1:26

MAX GRADIENT

1:7

ELEVATION START

2061m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

2204m

ELEVATION END

2011m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

193m

DISTANCE

5,1 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME REQUIRED

30 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

None (Self limiting)

SURFACE

Gravel (P2895)

DATE FILMED

22.12.2016

TEMPERATURE

22C

NEAREST TOWN

Barkly East (32 km)


Route Map:

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From Address:


Route files:

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

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