The Northern Cape

The Komsberg Pass is located approximately 40 km to the south-west of Sutherland. It's named after the mountain down which it traverses. It is a gravel road (P2243) and gets fairly steep in places. It has a maximum gradient of 1:5 and an average gradient of 1:13 which is produced over a distance of 3,9 km. In wet weather (a rare occurrence) or snow, this pass will need to be driven in a 4WD vehicle. Avoid it completely in heavy snow as there are some sections with negative cross-flow, which could result in a rollover.

One of the points of interest of this pass is that the official notice board at the summit gives the incorrect altitude (1721m). The correct altitude measured with a 12 sattellite GPS reading is 1654m. which concurs with the reading on Google Earth. Effectively, this makes the official board wrong by 67m. Errors like this frequently slip into official signage, but this is one of the biggest margins of error we have yet come across.

The pass mimics the line of the Verlatenkloof Pass which is 23 km to the north-west and offers a gravel descent down the same mountain range, as opposed to the much busier tarred version on the R354. As a bonus, you get to drive another two smaller passes along the same route. These are the Smoushoogte and Bakenshoogte passes.

This is an easy tarred pass on the R357 main route between Nieuwoudtville in the south and Loeriesfontein in the north. The pass is fairly short at 2,8 km and has an altitude variance of 118m, producing a moderate average gradient of 1:24 with the steepest section near the summit as steep as 1:10. The road surface was good at the time of production in June 2016 and the pass holds no obvious dangers. It is suitable for all vehicles, subject to fine weather and speed limits and barrier lines being adhered to.

This fairly long pass of 7,3 km has an interesting profile and consists of two summits and a twisty section down into a narrow poort. Although the average gradient is a very mild 1:140, the short descent down into the river valley at the 4,3 km mark gets as steep as 1:12. This road offers a wide variety of scenery and is one of the more interesting of the isolated Northern Cape passes. The name must have an interesting origin, but we were unable to find a single trace of where the name originated. About 6 km south of this pass, there is quite a tricky river crossing, which could be the undoing of many a vehicle.

There are at least another two passes with the same name, one in the Western Cape and confusingly, another in the Northern Cape near Garies. This pass is aptly named, as it is both a long ravine and it passes through a range of mountains called the Langberge. The road is in a reasonable condition and can be driven in any vehicle in good weather, but on the day of filming the road had been recently resurfaced and was covered with sharp stones, so if this is the case, the chances of getting a puncture are fairly high. The area is quite remote, with only a few farms interspersed along the route, so if you are going to drive the pass, it might be a good idea to let somebody know where you are going.

The 13,7 km long Langkloof Pass (Long ravine or valley) lies deep in the Namaqualand mountains. It parallels the N7 some 30 kms further east and connects Garies with the farming communities of the Langkloof as well as providing a link with Leliefontein, Kheis and Paulshoek further north. The road also provides several circular route options as an enjoyable day drive. If you visit here in springtime (August and September), you will be treated to one of natures miracles as the sun-parched landscape transforms into endless carpets of multi-coloured wild-flowers. Visitors both local and international are attracted to this part of Namaqualand in their droves.

 

 

This decidedly steep, gravel pass offers excellent scenery of the granite clad mountain plateaus of Namaqualand. it's located at the small settlement of Leliefontein, where the huge Sentech tower dominates the summit point of the pass, about 20 km ESE of Kamieskroon and 34 km NNE of Garies.

The pass is 3,9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 182m, producing an average gradient of 1:21, with the steepest parts on the northern side of the summit presenting as steep as 1:7. During the rainy season, things can get slippery and muddy at this high altitude plateau and lightweight front wheel drive cars might experience  a loss of traction. At all other times of the year, the pass is perfectly suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for corrugations as well as a couple of blind rises and corners.

The Maerpoort (which translates into Thin Passage) is 9,4 km long when measured from intersection to intersection. It has an easy average gradient of 1:41 and has an altitude variance of 230m. The summit views are exceptionally dramatic and it's one of the photographic hotspots in the Richtersveld. There is only just over 1 km of the total length of this poort which is technically complex. The entire balance of the poort is an easy meander across the sandy desert floor and a reasonably good speed can be maintained, with the only cautionary being the perpetual corrugations.

The views more than make up for the flat terrain as the composition of the geology changes around every corner with small black and ochre outcrops seemingly 'growing' out of the flat plains. Here and there a small shrub or small tree can be seen, but otherwise this poort is mountain desert in its purest form. Anyone wanting to access the campsites at Richtersberg, Tatasberg, Kokerboomkloof or Gannakouriep will need to traverse this poort first.

This miniature poort is just 2 kilometers in length and rises only 10 meters in altitude. It starts at 1085m ASL and 'summits' (so to speak) at 1091m and ends at 1081m. This little poort will definitely make the record books - probably being the lowest altitude gaining, official pass in South Africa. It lies deep in the 'thirstlands' of the Northern Cape on the R386, which is a gravel road, except for the actual poort itself, which is tarred.

 

 

This historical gravel road pass was built between 1867 and 1869. It's a long pass at almost 17 km and it has a substantial altitude variance of 383m which produces a fairly mild average gradient of 1:44, but the vast majority of the steeper gradients occur on the eastern side of the pass, where there are some steep sections at 1:5.

Fortunately it seldom rains here, so the road is generally quite safe for non 4WD vehicles. The scenery along which the road traverses is exceptionally dramatic with towering rock faces and a generally bone-dry river bed in view most of  the time. This road is not suitable for cars lacking good ground clearance. This pass should be viewed in tandem with the Wildeperdehoek Pass as they are inseparably linked, both geographically and historically.

 

This minor pass is located some 35 km north-east of Calvinia in the Northern Cape. The name is interesting and a little misleading as this road does not conform to the definition of a poort and is much more of a classic 'down-up-down' profile type road over a nek.  It's one of those roads not many people know about and is a perfect road to explore by car, 4x4 or bike. The road connects the farms to the north of Calvinia with Brandvlei as well as Calvinia itself. With an average gradient of 1:54 no-one will struggle to climb over this little pass. The road reaches its steepest point on the northern side of the summit where the gradient reaches 1:11.

We filmed this little pass very early in the morning in the late autumn of 2017. There is a remarkable sense of space, peace and solitude and the views of the mountains around the northern side of Calvinia are absolutely breathtaking. The road is generally in a reasonable condition, but as is the case with all gravel roads, this can change rapidly after rain, so drive below 80 kph and beware of corrugations. The shakiness in our video is evidence of the corrugations on this road (this despite deflated tyres and operatring in full 4WD).

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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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