The Sondagsrivier (Sundays River) Pass is a long gravel pass of 14 km with two summit points followed by a big descent on the eastern side, offering grand views of the Chelmsford Nature Reserve and Ntshingwayo Dam. There are some very sharp corners (including one hairpin bend) and steep gradients on this pass, which might well cause traction issues for non 4WD vehicles in very wet conditions. This pass gives access to Brandons Pass, Rogers Pass and Keays Pass (all of which are 4x4 only passes) as well as the Normandien Pass.
Soutar’s Hill is an official tarred pass located between Nottingham Road and Himeville on the Lower Lotheni Road in KwaZulu-Natal. It isn’t much of a pass, and it pales into insignificance when compared to the next three massive passes which have to be negotiated before Himeville is reached when travelling from east to west. Despite intensive research, we have been unable to establish the identity of the person after whom this pass is named, but, like some many of the other mountains and hills in this area, it is probable that it originated after an important personage related to one of the Anglo-Boer wars.
The Devil's Pass is a rough jeep track only suitable for 4x4 vehicles. It runs from east to west up the Southern slopes of the historical Mhlobane Mountain to summit at 1562m ASL, offering 360 degree panoramic views. This is a not track to be tackled lightly as it is a dead end at the summit, which means you have to back-track to where you started. Allow plenty of time (4 hours) to complete the circuit. It is probable that a permit is required to do this route and it might even be closed to vehicles and only accessible on foot. Inquire at Vryheid Tourism.
An easy traverse along the tarred N11 route just south of Newcastle. The short pass climbs 90 vertical metres over 2,6 km producing an average gradient of 1:29 but the road steepens to 1:14 near the summit. From the pass there are good views of the old Newcastle power station and the Kilbarchan Colliery. The pass is suitable for all vehicles and holds no apparent dangers.
The Tintwa Pass is a 4.7 km gravel road running through the Drakensberg on the North-West / South-East axis. It is known as the S1101 and connects the farming areas north of Bergville with the upper plateau of the Free State around Swinburne, Van Reenen and Harrismith. Some references list the Middledale Pass and the Tintwa Pass as being the same pass. Together they are virtually one long pass with a plateau joining them in the middle. Although it has an average gradient of just 1:48, this figure is somewhat misleading, as the pass rises and falls a number of times over its length, and the pass is more demanding than would first appear.
Named after the little town of Van Reenen, which seems to stand guard at the top of this majestic pass which winds its way through the Drakensberg mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith along the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the only record that the pass can lay claim to is that of the most dangerous pass in South Africa. Despite this, the long pass provides beautiful scenery as it descends towards Ladysmith in the KZN Midlands from the Free State.
This road is often mistakenly called the Old Van Reenen’s Pass, which is incorrect because the original pass mostly followed the course of the present-day N3 route. The road tracks the course of the railway line, which follows a series of contorted loops and tunnels in an effort to keep the gradient to a reasonable level. There does not appear to be an official name for this pass, so it can be confusing to research and to locate. The road, which is mostly gravel, is in a surprisingly good condition and can be driven in any high-clearance vehicle, provided that the weather allows; like Van Reenen’s Pass, the route is subject to both snow in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer.
Van Tonder’s Pass is a gravel road pass located just to the west of the R33 between Dundee and Helpmekaar in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Details of the Van Tonder families that migrated to this area during the Great Trek are a little hazy, but it is most likely that the pass was named after Johannes Van Tonder (1788–1855), who owned the farm “Goedekeus”, located on the western extremity of the pass. The road is in a fairly good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but this would depend on the prevailing weather conditions. There are some steep sections, and the pass could be decidedly slippery when wet!
Visierkerfnek, which translates as “Gunsight Notch Neck”, is minor pass which connects Newcastle with the Vulintaba Country Estate and Hotel. Although recently tarred, poor workmanship has resulted in a bumpy surface riddled with potholes, but the pass can be negotiated in any vehicle. There are no apparent dangers, other than the tight curves on the southern side of the pass where the speed limit has been reduced to 40 kph, obviously because problems have been experienced here in the past. The pass is 3 km long and there is a height gain of just 105 metres.
This relatively unknown pass runs along the east-west axis between Wakkerstroom in the west and the farming areas around Paulpietersburg in the east. With a summit height of 1925m it settles in as the 51st highest altitude pass in South Africa. Although the pass is technically fairly easy, the real reason to head out onto this big gravel traverse is to enjoy the exceptionally attractive scenery of rolling grasslands, dotted with green clad koppies, wide valleys, tumbling streams filled with trout and a general ambience of country tranquillity.
The pass contains 23 bends corners and curves within its 11,9 km length. Two of those exceed 90 degrees, but neither is particularly dangerous as this road is well engineered with none of the gradients exceeding 1:9.
Cautionaries for this pass include dense mountain mists, heavy rain, snow on occasion in winter and livestock on the road.
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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