KwaZulu-Natal

This scenic, high-altitude, gravel pass connects local farms north of Utrecht with the area to the north at Groenvlei. The pass ascends 304 m over 6,16 km producing an average gradient of 1:20, with the steepest section near the summit getting as steep as 1:11. It snows here in winter, in which case this pass would best be avoided unless in a suitable 4x4 with the appropriate equipment to deal with snow. The pass is also subject to violent electrical storms and even tornadoes on the odd occassion.

This pass lies on the tarred R68 between Melmoth in the east and Babanango in the west and traverses large commercial lumber plantations mostly above 1000m ASL. The road is quite narrow and motorists should always be wary of large logging trucks on this road, which might encroach over the barrier lines on corners, due to their size. The pass has an average gradient of 1:14 which puts it firmly into the 'steep' category. The steepest sections are at 1:7. The pass is also subject to mountain mists which can severely reduce visibility.

This is a gravel road pass for the purist! With a major altitude gain of 651 vertical meters over 7,2 km, the average gradient is a steep 1:11 - but wait, there's more....... You will be dealing with gradients of 1:6 along certain sections of the pass and if it's raining, prepare yourself for some slippin' n slidin' if you're not in a 4x4. The road traverses the deep valley carved out by the Umkomaas River, which is also known in Zulu as the Mkomazi River.

This is a gravel road and it is lethal when wet, so take it nice and easy and enjoy the incredible views as you gain altitude. About 3/4 way up, there is a 145 degree left hand hairpin. This is a good spot to stop and absorb the grandeur and wide panorama of the river valley far below.

This steep pass forms part of the tarred R33 route between Dundee and Pomeroy. Translated it means "Help Each Other Pass" and dates back to the pioneering days when farmers needed to help each other to get their wagons up the steep inclines of this pass. The pass climbs 427 m over 9,8 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but there are some steep sections at 1:7. The tiny settlement of Helpmekaar is located on the left hand side of the road, about 2 km after the summit point.

This pass, located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith, is usually known as “Ikhupe” in modern times, although the more correct and traditional spelling is “Mkupe”, an old Zulu name meaning “Eagles Nest”. To this day, black eagles roost along the cliffs in this vicinity. To add to the confusion, nobody seems to be quite sure of the actual names of the mountains on either side of the pass. Some maps and charts show the flat-topped mountain on the western side as “One Tree Hill” and others as “Mkupe Mountain”; this is reversed when using different references. To make matters worse, both One Tree Hill and Mkupe Mountain are also the names of other peaks in the Drakensberg near Cathedral Peak and Nkandla respectively.

This pass is named after the Ngogo River, which flows from west to east on the southern side. Derived from Zulu, the name has been explained as an onomatopoeic rendering of water gurgling over stones, but the phrase is also used as a term of respect for an older woman. This area was especially vulnerable during the Boer struggle for independence from Britain in the 1880’s, commonly known as the First Anglo-Boer War. Decisive battles were fought in the vicinity of Volksrust at Lang’s Nek and Ingogo, followed by the Boer victory at the Battle of Majuba, where the British commander, General Colley, was fatally wounded.

This one is not for the faint-hearted. It is essentially a very rough 4x4 track, often not even visible - involving scouting ahead on foot at times. There are 15 stream crossings and a climb through a neck towards the northern side involving gradients of 1:3! The pass is basically a northern extension of Rogers Pass and is used by local farmers to manage their fire-breaks. It is also a dead end at its northern side and the only way to head east or west from the end of the pass is on foot. For those willing to take the risks of driving this very remote pass, you will be rewarded with absolute isolation and some of the best scenery the Drakensberg has on offer.

The oddly named Khyber Pass (undoubtedly a tongue in cheek reference to the famous Khyber Pass in Afghanistan) is essentially a logging road that descends/ascends the Karkloof Valley to the north of Howick in KZN. Despite the heavy duty forestry type traffic which uses it, the road is usually in a surprisingly good condition. As is the case with all gravel roads, rain can change the status from good to bad within hours. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle, apply some common sense on this pass. The road descends 233m over only 3,2 km producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14 and expect some very steep sections at 1:6. The road can be driven in either direction. Adapt the directions if you are driving it in the opposite way.

The Kingscote Cutting is an impressive example of road engineering where the hills have been carved into to make a safe and more level driving surface. It's named after the nearby Kingscote farm and lasts for 4,3 km descending a total of 260 vertical metres, producing an average gradient of 1:17. It's located on the tarred R617 route between Kokstad and Underberg with sublime views of the Drakensberg for most of the distance.

This steep gravel road pass presents a challenging drive but rewards with amazing views over the Balele Mountains. It is a high altitude road summiting at 1662m ASL - and that means regular snowfalls in winter. It is best to be in a 4WD vehicle under snowy or very wet conditions.

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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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