Although dwarfed by the many huge passes in this area, Grondnek is in fact a fairly significant pass, with a height difference of 112 metres and a length of 4.3 kilometres. Despite its name, which when translated from Afrikaans means Ground or Gravel Neck, the pass is tarred and is suitable for all vehicles in most weather conditions, but a summit altitude of 1997 metres ASL means that it is sometimes subject to snowfalls in winter. Located on the very scenic R58 between Lady Grey and Barkly East in the Eastern Cape highlands, the pass offers up spectacular views of the towering sandstone mountains, rolling meadows, fast-flowing rivers and isolated farmsteads that abound along this route.
Amandelhoogte (“Almond Heights”) is located on the tarred R58 between Aliwal North and Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape highlands. The pass itself is very minor and would not be noticed by most people as they drive along this very scenic stretch of road, as it consists of only one shallow corner with a height difference of just 34 metres.
Magnificent views of the cordon of mountains which surround Lady Grey are presented from the summit when travelling from west to east, providing a preview of the plethora of huge gravel passes which abound in this area. The name is popular in several places in South Africa, with the primary word Amandel being used in at least four passes spread around South Africa.
Janspoort is a very minor tar pass located on the R58 between Burgersdorp and Venterstad near the northern border of the Eastern Cape. It is virtually the only structure to break the monotony of this otherwise featureless road. The surface is in a good condition, probably because there is very little traffic, and can be driven in any vehicle without problems. We have been unable to establish the identity of the “Jan” that this pass was named after, or why he was important enough for this pass to bear his name, but we can be fairly certain that he was a farmer in the area, or an important personage from one of the Anglo-Boer wars.
Benjaminshoogte Pass is a high altitude pass with a summit of just under 2000m ASL. It follows a natural kloof into the north-west, which later follows the Karringsmelkspruit (Butter Milk Stream) valley, as it descends from the high mountains in the east from Glen Doone and Lupela Lodge. On the left hand side of the road is the well known (and now defunct) 6 part rail reversing sections, which can be seen from the pass. The pass has a fairly comfortable average gradient of 1:23 and drops 336 metres in altitude over 7,8 km. The steepest sections are near the bottom of the pass at 1:11.
This beautifully scenic, high altitude, modern tarred pass is located on the R58 between Barkly East and Lady Grey. The 10 km long pass descends steadily through majestic mountain scenery to cross the dominant local river, the Kraai River (Crow River) at approximately the halfway point. The descent down the western side offers fabulous views of the Kraai River which has carved a series of serpentine like bends through the landscape. This is a safe, well-engineered road, providing the speed limits are adhered to, but dangerous when there is snow or ice on the road.
Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.
The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.
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.
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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