There is not much left of the old Van Ryneveld's Pass with most of it being either under the surface of the new road or under the sparkling waters of the Nqweba Dam. The 'new' pass which forms part of the R63 route, is just 2.1 km long and only displays an altitude variance of 40m. What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than makes up in points of interest and lovely scenery.
You will be able to enjoy shady picnic spots, views over the dam, close up views of the old pass (built by Andrew Bain), a visit to the Gideon Scheepers memorial and gain access to the Camdeboo National Park. Andrew Bain started his road building career in Graaff Reinet where he first worked as a saddler and later gained experience as a road builder. His famous son, Thomas Bain was born here.
Lancer's Gap is a short, steep tarred pass on the eastern outskirts of Maseru. At 1.9 km it's the shortest of the official passes documented in Lesotho. Other than the chicane section of a set of very tight double hairpin bends, the drive is straight-forward and is suitable for all vehicles.
The average gradient on this pass is a stiff 1:12 but there are several sections that get as steep as 1:5. For vehicles approaching from the east in the descending mode, it is best to run against engine compression.
You will be treated to some gnarled and spectacular sandstone formations in the middle section of the pass.
Generaalsnek is a very minor pass located on the tarred R26 road between Fouriesburg and Ficksburg in the Eastern Free State highlands, close to the border with Lesotho. The entire length of the R26 is generally in a very bad condition, with potholes and patches everywhere, but this route can be driven in any vehicle and in any weather.
There is nothing to distinguish this little rise of just 49 metres with any of the other rises and falls along this road, except that it has been officially marked on the 1:50000 maps. The name of the pass was no doubt derived during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, when this area was a hotspot of action, and there are many other passes in the vicinity that also have war connections. Perhaps it was named after that wily old fox very active in this region, General Christiaan De Wet?
The A25 route is home to a number of spectacular passes. Although the Laitsoka Pass is not the highest, if offers magnificent scenery and includes the crossing of the high level bridge over the upper reaches of the Katse Dam. The pass is long at 14.7 km and contains 75 bends, corners and curves, of which 16 exceed 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.
The average gradient of 1:25 is moderated by a central summit point of 2649m ASL but the gradients do reach 1:5 on several sections of the pass, so it's steep by any standards. The pass is tarred and forms one of the main routes through the central part of Lesotho and has become busier since the completion of the Katse Dam and the ongoing Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
There are at least two good lodges in the Lejone area for travellers to overnight at.
If you blink, you will pass through this little poort without noticing it. It's an official poort duly noted on the government 1:50,000 maps. The vital statistics are frivolous with the poort only being 1.1 km in length with an altitude variance of only 8m. The scenery is however, quite pleasant as the road follows the poort between two large hills - both comprising sandstone formations typical of the area.
The region offers wonderful tourism opportunities for the adventure traveller with the town of De Rust being the springboard and focal point of the area. The town is something of an artist's and writer's haven as many of the old buildings have been beautifully restored, as city folk have moved here to live a quieter lifestyle. The region also makes excellent port wine and it is of course also the southern gateway to the world renowned Meiringspoort.
This is a mega pass by any standards. It's very long at 32 km and displays an altitude variance of 1066m. With a summit height of 3244m ASL, headaches and nose bleeds might be experienced by travelers from the coast who have not had time to acclimatise. It is the second highest pass in Lesotho and is also commonly referred to as the Black Mountain Pass.
Packed into that length is a total of 139 bends, corners and curves of which 8 have angles in excess of 90 degrees and of those, 6 are hairpin bends, all of which occur on the south-eastern side of the pass. The pass is subject to lots of snow in winter and ice on the roadway will make things highly dangerous, even for 4WD vehicles.
The pass is virtually and extension of the Sani Pass, separated only by a short 6 km plateau. It connects South Africa (KZN specifically) with the main southern town of Mokhotlong. It was recently tarred which makes this a relatively comfortable drive compared to the rough two spoor track prior to 2004.
Cautionaries: Snow, Ice, Livestock, Herdsmen, Altitude sickness.
This is an extremely high altitude pass. It's lowest point is higher than the highest pass in South Africa. You will start at 3012m ASL and climb streadily to summit at 3246m ASL. Despite the extreme altitudes, the pass itself only contains 16 bends corners and curves and only two have an arc greater than 90 degrees.
Assuming fine weather, the pass should present no problems other than a lack of power in your vehicle due to the oxygen starved air and the very real possibility of experiencing headaches and nose bleeds. Many visitors to Lesotho experience altitude sickness and especially those that have travelled up from the coast. If you normally suffer from AS, please vsit your pharmacist for advice before setting off on your journey.
In the colder months, this pass will have snow and ice on it. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle it's best to choose an alternative route or wait a day or two for conditions to improve. Snow is less of a problem than ice. Ice creates extremely dangerous conditions on tar (much worse than gravel) which can quickly cause a total loss of control.
The pass connects Mokhotlong in the east with the northern villages, as well as the Afriski Resort via the main route - the A1.
This big pass is located on the A3 main route between Maseru in the west and the much smaller village of Fosi in the east. It displays an altitude variance of 487m over a distance of 11.9 km producing an average gradient of 1:27, but there are several very steep sections at 1:5.
The pass is also commonly known as Bushman's Pass or Bushmen's Pass. Most maps use the spelling Bushman's, but the official sign at the summit is spelled as Bushmen's Pass.
The pass has 65 bends, corners and curves compressed within its length and with a summit height of 2277m ASL it receives regular snowfalls. During very cold conditions ice might be present on the roadway, which is extremely dangerous - even for 4WD vehicles. Being one of the main routes in Lesotho the road carries a steady flow of traffic. Be wary of large trucks and buses that need the whole roadway to negotiate the sharper bends.
Although its is only 1.8 km long, the beautiful little poort packs 10 corners into its short length as it sinuously tracks the course of the Little Caledon River through a deep canyon. The poort terminates at the Caledonspoort Border Control Post, which manages access in to and out of Lesotho. This route can get very busy, particularly on Friday and Sunday afternoons, so avoid it during these times if you can.
The road surface is good for the most part, but there are a couple of sections where the tar has broken up. It is a real pity that the poort is so close to the border post, as the sheer stunning beauty of the surrounding area is not really noticed by most people as they rush through it in preparation for the border crossing.
This major pass is located between the town of Kala in the west and the Afriski Resort in the north in the northern quartile of Lesotho. It has a huge altitude gain of 896m that stretches over a distance of 15.3 km which converts into an average gradient of 1:17, but don't be fooled by that figure as it includes the descent. Most of the ascent from the western approach is between 1:5 and 1:8.
The 91 bends, corners and curves will require your full concentration. Amongst those there are 4 extreme hairpin bends and one full horseshoe. The A1 road is the major route across the northern sector of Lesotho and as such carries a fair volume of traffic including some very large trucks. These need the full width of the road to negotiate the hairpin bends, so be fully aware of this as you proceed along this pass.
The pass has been the scene of numerous accidents, mostly involving trucks and buses. All the passes in Lesotho are above the snow line, so driving here in winter invariably means having to deal with snow and ice, which is to be avoided if possible - and especially so if you are not in a 4WD vehicle.
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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