Blanerne Pass is located on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. The pass derives its name from the historical farm on the southern side, which dates back to 1863. Like so many of the towns and villages in the area (for example, Glencoe and Dundee), the name is of Scottish origin. The pass takes you through a beautiful gorge filled with lush vegetation towards the Sundays River on the southern end, descending a significant 173 metres in the process. The road is in a magnificent condition, and should not present any problems provided that the speed limits are adhered to.
A fairly easy pass just north of Volksrust on the N11 with an average gradient of 1:45, but there are some steep sections at 1:8. The vertical profile is the classic up/down shape with a summit altitude of 1844m offering grand views in all directions. Volksrust is subject to winter snowfalls due to its high altitude and this pass does sometimes get closed by the traffic authorities in the event of heavy snow, which makes conditions on the pass dangerous.
A straightforward, easy tarred pass suitable for all vehicles, on the N11 between Volksrust and Amersfoort, that clears a neck on the eastern side of the aptly named Graskop mountain [2203m] which is completely covered in grass, about 16 km north of Volksrust. It's a pass with an average gradient of 1:38 over a distance of 4,37 km with the steepest parts being at 1:10. This pass should not be confused with the much bigger and more majestic Grasnek Pass in the Baviaanskloof, in the Eastern Cape.
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.
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 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.
Kranspoort is located on the national N11 road between Groblersdal and Middelburg, very close to the Loskop Dam. The road is in an excellent condition and has been extensively refurbished (construction was completed in late 2017). The pass is nevertheless still considered to be extremely dangerous, and road users should apply due caution and heed the speed limit of 60 kph which applies for the majority of the length of the pass.
The biggest hazards which could be encountered are the mine trucks which use this route, and which could lose their brakes when descending the pass under heavy load. The name is misleading, as this is much more of a pass than a poort, and it is far steeper than one would expect. It comes as somewhat of a surprise after the long flat straight sections on the approaches from both the northern and southern sides.
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.
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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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