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KwaZulu-Natal

Mike's Pass is a rough, high altitude, 4x4 pass in the Drakensberg in KZN. You will be rewarded with incredible views and mountain top fresh air to invigorate your senses. Snow in winter is common, in which case the pass will probably be closed to the public. Some sections have concrete strips.

Latest info: As at September, 2014 we have it on good authority that this pass is now only accessble in a NCS vehicle (the nature reserve's own vehicles) at a cost of R60 per person - minimum 4 persons. Trips are on offer 4 times per day - at 0900; 1200 and 1600. The controlling authority must have had good reason to have made this decision and I doubt very much it would have been based on profit. We invite them to contact us with an explanation as there appear to be many disappointed gravel pass fans who would have loved to drive this pass in their own vehicle.

The pass is obviously named after the Mkomazi River (Umkomaas) and displays a typical inverted vertical profile associated with a pass that drops down into a river valley and ascends up the other side. This is a fairly long pass at 11.8 km and has an altiude variance of 521m, which translates into an average gradient of 1:23.

There are 34 bends, corners and curves to contend with, most of which have gentle arcs, but there two sharp 90 degree corners on the northern side, which require careful driving. In earlier times the river was known as the Umkomaas, mainly to suit the Western tongue better, but today the spelling has reverted back to the original Zulu version.

The pass is part of the R56 and connects Ixopo in the south with Richmond in the north. The road is currently (2021) under refurbishment and is generally in a fair condition.

Mollshoogte is a long gravel road pass located in the north-western corner of the KwaZulu-Natal province, close to Volksrust and Charlestown. It is in the centre of a trio of passes which traverse the escarpment in this area, the other two being Lang’s Nek to the west and Barrowfield Pass to the east. With a height gain of nearly 400 metres and a length of almost 7 kilometres, this a substantial pass, but the road surface is good and there are no particularly sharp corners. It should not present any problems, except perhaps during or after heavy rains. Another official pass called Mollsnek is located very close to the summit, but as this is on private land, we have elected not to document this pass on our website.

 

This short pass of 3,2 km connects Hlobane/Vaalbank in the north with the village of Bloemendal in the south. It has a classic low-high-low profile with a summit height of 1350m. What sets this pass apart from it's peers is the number of potholes (at the time of filming in September, 2021) that have to be avoided. It's probably one of the worst in South Africa and results in drivers weaving onto the wrong side of the road.

The good news is that the average speed is relatively low, so avoiding collisions is quite easy. The probable cause of the poor road condition is the constant presence of coal mining trucks which service several mines in the immediate area. Other dangers include heavy mountain mists and livestock on the road.

Mpate Heights is a minor tarred pass located on the R68, a shortcut road between the N11 and Dundee in northern KwaZulu-Natal, on the western side of the town. It is named after the mountain which dominates the skyline on its northern side, today called “Mpate”, although earlier maps and transcripts always spelled the name as “Mpati” or sometimes even as “Impati”, which translates as “the place of good waters”. There is only one shallow corner on the pass, which is 2.6 km long and which changes altitude by 139 metres. The road is in a good condition and can be traversed in any vehicle.

 

The Mpate Mountain looms above Dundee on the northern side of the town, and the pass is basically an access road to the host of telecommunication towers erected on its summit. Spectacular views over the town and the surrounding river valleys make this a very worthwhile traverse, as does the scenery all along the access route as the road winds its way up the side of the mountain. The gravelled section of the road is in a fairly good condition for the most part, and can be driven in any normal vehicle that has a reasonable ground clearance. This pass should be avoided in bad weather. It should not be confused with the nearby Mpate Heights Pass.

 

This steep, gravel road pass lies between Newcastle in KZN and Memel in the Free State. The pass traverses a natural path up the Drakensberg and is located roughly 33 km west-south-west of Newcastle and  15 km north east of the Normandien Pass. It is OK to drive in a normal car subject to conditions being dry. Like most passes in this part of the Drakensberg, it is subject to heavy electrical storms in summer and snowfalls during winter. In such conditions a 4x4 vehicle is much safer.

Murray's Neck is a straightforward tarred pass rising 116m to a neck where fabulous views over the Pongola Nature Reserve can be enjoyed. The pass forms an integral part of the access road from the N2 to the SA/Swaziland border control point at Golela, where there is also a railway station. The road provides tourism access from the eastern end of the pass to some of KZN's finest game reserves. The pass has a steeper descent gradient, but in general this is an easy pass with a good safety record and comfortable gradients with gentle corners. It is suitable for all vehicles.

This substantial suburban pass is 5,2 km long and descends 435m producing an average gradient of 1:12 with the steepest parts registering in at 1:5. The road connects a wide range of suburbs, both residential and commercial with Inanda Dam and environs. Its located approximately 23 km north-west of the Durban. The pass offers some fabulous bends and even better views over the Inanda Dam.

The traverse includes 32 bends corners and curves of which 2 sections are chicane style bends which include tight hairpins of 180 degrees and another horseshoe bend of the same arc. The road is tarred and is also sometimes confusingly known as the Inanda Pass. Inanda Road traverses a different valley near this pass a little further south, so calling it Inanda Pass can only cause confusion.

This is a high crime zone, so be fully aware of your personal safety at all times and preferably drive in a group.

Nicholson's Nek is a relatively minor and insignificant gravel road pass through a natural break in the mountains just north of Ladysmith, but it is of great historical value and is mentioned frequently during the second Anglo-Boer war. The pass is just 1.4 km long, and has a small height gain of only 58 metres.

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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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