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Moteng Pass (A1)

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Summit of the Moteng Pass under snow Summit of the Moteng Pass under snow - Photo: Wikipedia

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.

Scroll down to view the map & video. This is a provisional video consisting entirely of Google Earth animations. The pass will be filmed in real time in Sep, 2019 and this video will then be upgraded. It is recommended to watch this video in HD. (Click on the "quality" button on the lower taskbar of the video screen and select 720HD.) Wait a few seconds for the video to display.....

[Video cover photo: Google Images]

FULL-SCREEN MODEMODE: Click PLAY, then pass your mouse over the bottom right corner of the video screen. The outline of a square will appear. Clicking on it will toggle Full Screen Mode. Press ESC to return to the original format.

Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.


Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the west (as we have filmed it), the most obvious starting points are either Maseru or if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Maseru, then Ficksburg might be a quieter option. From either point it's easy to access the A1 route. There are many villages and towns to traverse, with the main ones being Hlotse, Jonathans, Butha Bhute and Kala. From Kala it's another 25 km to reach the western start of the Moteng Pass. 

To approach from the east, the best known landmark is the Afriski Resort. Head north west along the A1 for 20 km to reach the eastern start of the pass.

Lesotho sheep herderHappy sheep herder along the pass / Photo: Mark Eekhoff

Pass Description: From the western start the road runs directly into the east for 1 km climbing gently at a gradient of 1:25, but this changes as the first major bend is reached, which is a 110 degree right hander, which changes the heading into the south as a tributary stream has to be cleared.

A short straight of 600m is followed by another 110 degree left hander, which is followed by a short dip to cross the stream at the 1.7 km mark. This is also the point where the 2000m ASL level is reached. Immediately after the crossing, the road sweeps through a 120 degree right hand bend, heading back into the south and remaining on the eastern side of the tributary which is visible on the right.

Moteng Pass accidentBe wary of large trucks that need space to get around the hairpins / Photo: YouTube

A large mountain towers up into the sky on the left which is approximately 2700m high and forms the headwaters of the stream on your right. At the 2.1 km mark, the road turns sharply through 150 degrees and heads north-east as the big mountain is skirted on its north-western flank. The gradient after the stream crossing ramps up to 1:10.

As the northern most nose of the mountain  is cleared at the 2.8 km mark, the gradient suddenly eases off to 1:40 and the going is easy for the next few kilometres.

At the 4.3 km point, there is another 100 degree right hand bend to be aware of. It's the start of the next ravine which needs to be cleared. The road forms a large U shaped bend and crosses the river at the apex of the bend. Soon after this second crossing the gradient picks up again to settle down between 1:6 and 1:10 as the road follows the main river along its southern side. This leg of 1.1 km has very few bends, so there's time to enjoy the magical mountain scenery.

Moteng Pass dramaA stark reminder of how dangerous ice and snow can be - even on a tarred road / Photo: P.G. Jonker

Things change dramatically at the 5.8 km point, where the next hairpin is reached. It turns through a full 180 degrees to the right and also has a very tight radius. This is one of the hairpins where trucks might use up the entire width to make the turn. Always give way to them.

With the direction briefly reversed into the west, the next hairpin makes its appearance at the 6.1 km mark and is equally as sharp as the previous one, but turns to the left. The gradient remains steep throughout this section as the road follows the contours of the mountainside to enter the crossing of the third tributary at the 6.5 km mark. There are actually two streams at this point approximately 80m apart. Once over the 4th tributary, the road swings through a tight S-bend.

With the direction now into the north-east once more, the road again remains on the southern side of the main river for 700m and crosses the 5th tributary at the 7.2 km mark. From this point to the summit is by far the most technical of the entire pass. It's packed with razor sharp bends - six of them which turn through angles greater than 100 degrees. It is also here that you will experience the steepest gradient on the pass of 1:5.

AfriskiIf you want to stay at Afriski during the winter months, please book early / Photo: Google Images

Take it easy and enjoy the magnificent mountain-scapes as you climb almost 400m in altitude over just 2.8 km. If there is any ice on the road, extreme caution needs to be exercised - even if you're in a 4WD vehicle. The summit point of 2820m ASL offers wonderful and vast views both to the west and east. Make sure you pull well off the road if you plan on taking photographs.

The eastern descent is fairly easy and most of the bends have wide angles. The pass ends at the crossing of the 6th stream at the 15.3 km mark at an altitude of 2612m. Continue for 6.5 km to reach the New Oxbow Lodge or 20 km to reach the Afriski Resort.

CAUTIONARY: The speed limit in lesotho is 50 kph in rural areas and 80 kph on national roads. Road blocks and speed traps are common and more so nearer the bigger centres.


Fact File:

GPS START

S28.756894 E28.536258

GPS SUMMIT

S28.755714 E28.600811

GPS END

S28.736043 E28.616896

AVE GRADIENT

1:17

MAX GRADIENT

1:4

ELEVATION START

1924m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

2821m

ELEVATION END

2612m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

896m

DISTANCE

15.3 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

East

TIME REQUIRED

15 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

60 kph

SURFACE

Tar (A1)

DATE FILMED

12.05.2019

TEMPERATURE

15C

NEAREST TOWN

Kala (37 km)


Route Map:

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  • Zoom in and out; rotate in any direction.
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  • Detailed written and printable directions.
  • Drag the 'little orange man' icon onto the pass for a complete 360° tiltable "street view".

From Address:


Route files:

||Click to download: Moteng Pass (A1)  (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)

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