KwaZulu-Natal

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.

Both this pass and the mining village situated at its northern end were named after a large farm which sprawls across the hills and valleys in this remote part of northern KwaZulu-Natal. The road is in a good condition and can be driven in most vehicles, although difficulties could arise in wet weather. Located in the middle of a triangle formed by the towns of Wakkerstroom, Utrecht and Paulpietersburg, this is one of those passes that you would be unlikely to find or traverse unless you actively look for it, or you have some other reason to be in the area. It has a classic up-and-down profile, gaining 222 metres in height over a distance of nearly 6 kilometres.

 

The name of this pass is no doubt a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous Khyber Pass which connects Afghanistan and Pakistan in Central Asia. The pass descends from the upper ridges of the mountains near Curry’s Post down into the Karkloof Valley, and is located on a public road designated as the D293. As it is used primarily for logging operations, the condition of the road can vary greatly, especially after heavy rain. Under normal circumstances, the pass can be traversed in any vehicle, but it would be wise to check with the locals before attempting this route. Avoid it completely in wet weather.

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.

Many of the historical documents relating to the Utrecht area in KwaZulu-Natal make mention of a Knight’s Hill located to the east of the town, with a property called Knight’s Farm situated on its summit. Although the appropriate links have been difficult to establish, it is very likely that this farm belonged to either Humphrey Evans Knight or his son, Marthinus Mortimer Knight, and that this is the origin of the name of the pass. The gravelled road, like many of the backroads in KZN, is well maintained and is in a fairly good condition. It can be driven in any vehicle in good weather, although a 4x4 might be required after heavy rain.

Koffiekloof Pass is one of those official but technically insignificant passes that you would barely notice unless you know exactly where it is, and is hardly worth going out of your way for unless you intend to tick the pass off a list. It is highly unlikely that coffee was ever grown here, so the name is probably derived from the likelihood that this location was used as a stop-over or break area during treks. The gravel road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle, and few hazards other than the probability of farm animals in the road are likely to present themselves. The scenery is however lovely and its proximity to the Chelmsford Dam means you will probably see game and birdlife.

Kwaggasnek is a short and straightforward gravel pass which straddles the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal near Volksrust. It would usually be driven in conjunction with Majubanek, a much bigger pass located to the north-east on the same route. The road is not in a particularly good condition, but can be traversed in any vehicle, provided that the weather allows. The pass is probably named after the now-extinct Quagga, which once roamed these hills in vast herds, but the name could also refer to the Burchell’s Zebra which is sometimes called a Kwagga in Afrikaans.

This insignificant little climb up a small hill with three slight changes in direction is an officially recognized pass on government maps, despite the fact that it does not meet any of the defined requirements of a true mountain pass. This area is, of course, rich in battlefields history and most of the hills, ridges and mountains around the town of Ladysmith have a military connotation - in this case, we have Rifleman's Ridge forming the northern part of the neck, whilst a small peak called Lancer's Peak [1202m] is the highest point of a series of hills forming the southern part of the neck.

Lang’s Nek was named after William Timothy Lang, who bought a farm located to the north and east of Mount Majuba in Northern Natal in 1874. This is extremely well documented and cannot be disputed, but for the last 130 years, the pass itself, the road, the railway and the battlefield have all been erroneously spelled as “Laing’s Nek”. How this occurred is a mystery – perhaps a battlefield reporter or a cartographer made a careless mistake, and this has somehow been brought forward in perpetuity. Early maps of the region all have the correct spelling. The road is in an excellent condition and can be driven in any vehicle.

This steep, tarred pass has the classic low-high-low profile rising 262m over 6 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but many parts of this pass are at a stiff 1:7. The road, which has a summit altitude of 1351m ASL, connects Vryheid with the Black Umfolozi Valley. The pass is a mix of tar and gravel with all of the western ascent being tarred and most of the eastern descent, being gravel, except for three short tarred sections on the steepest sections most prone to water damage. The name Leeunek translates into Lions Neck.

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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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