This is a very minor pass close to Ladysmith in KZN of only 2.6 km, with an easy average gradient of 1:55 and the steepest parts along the eastern descent being only 1:20. The pass has only a few minor bends and very little to offer the enthusiastic pass hunter other than the Anglo-Boer War history in nearby Ladysmith. The road roughly parallels the N11 which is 3 km to the south as well as the course of the Sandrivier about the same distance to the north, and provides a quieter alternative to the busy N11.
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.
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.
Lombardskop Nek is an easy tarred traverse along the east/west axis just outside Ladysmith in KZN with a minor change in altitude of just 53m. The road routes between a series of peaks and hills which have great historical value and in this instance the peak called Lombardskop takes us back to the Battle of Lombardskop in 1899. We spend most of our research into the history of the Anglo-Boer war, rather than the technical side of this very easy drive.
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.
The R74 regional road offers a beautifully scenic alternative to the N3 for travellers between Johannesburg and Durban. The route starts off near Harrismith, then traverses Oliviershoek Pass, Bergville and Winterton, before rejoining the N3 just north of Estcourt. For many years, the 23 km section from the R712 to the summit of Oliviershoek Pass was in a terrible state of disrepair due to a dispute between the provincial government and the company contracted to do a complete revamp, to the point where the road was virtually impassable. This was eventually resolved, and in 2016 the restoration work was completed. The road is now in an excellent condition.
Oliviershoek Pass straddles the border between the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, but the majority of the pass falls within the latter province. This big pass, which has a height difference of 471 metres and a length of 13.5 km, is arguably one of the best and most scenic tar passes in the country. The road is suitable for all vehicles, and its wide sweeping bends make it particularly beloved by motorcyclists. If travelling in winter, make sure before you go that the pass has not been closed due to snowfalls.
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.
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.
Endumeni Pass is a tarred pass located on a minor road connecting the northern KwaZulu-Natal towns of Dundee and Wasbank. On many internet references, the name is often spelled (incorrectly) as “Endoumeni”, and it is also sometimes referred to as both Glenluce Pass and Wenkommando Pass. The pass is named after the landmark mountain on its eastern side, which is not clearly visible from the road itself, because it is obscured by another much closer mountain called Platberg. Endumeni is an isiZulu name meaning “place of thunderstorms”. The road is in a reasonable condition and presents very few hazards, provided that the speed limit is adhered to.
Research indicates that this pass was named after Herman de Beer, who owned a farm at the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment in 1870 and who granted permission for the pass to run through his property. This is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in South Africa, and has been the site of a number of fatal accidents. The road is tarred and extremely well-engineered, but some very sharp curves and deceptively hidden corners, as well as weather conditions, have all taken their toll. The pass is sometimes closed due to snowfalls in winter, but in good weather can be driven in any vehicle, although motorists and motorcyclists need to be aware that all of the approach roads from the western side are gravelled.
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.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.