This fairly tricky pass is the second pass one encounters when entering the Richterveld National Park at Sendelingsdrif. The 5,1 km long pass twists and turns through the rugged Richtersveld mountains ascending 103m, producing an average gradient of 1:50 with the steepest part closer to the summit, reaching 1:11. The pass is named after the Halfmens (Half a Person) succulent Pachypodium namaquanum, which is endemic to this region.
There are a total of 36 bends, corners and curves several of which are sharper than 90 degrees. The road is rough in places and speed needs to be kept under 20 kph. Many parts of this pass should be driven in low range for precise control of your vehicle.
The Richtersveld National Park plays host to six official passes and poorts. The Swartpoort is easily the easiest of the six in terms of terrain and gradient and provides a gentle introduction to this stunning mountain desert with its harsh and rocky landscape, sandy plains and absence of plant life - or so it seems to the first time visitor, but to the more astute observer there is a whole world of succulents that thrive in this dry climate, if you take the trouble to look properly.
The Swartpoort is an easy meander along a sandy plain amongst some mountain ridges which display black coloured rocks, hence the name, Swartpoort. The poort starts soon after entering the national park at the Sendelingdrif main gate.
This is the second of the more serious passes in the Richtersveld National Park. Only 4WD vehicles with good ground clearance will cope with conditions in the Richtersveld, with the biggest obstacle being soft sand.
The Akkedis Pass (Eng. Lizard Pass) together with the Swartpoort and Halfmens Pass, connects the main entry point at Sendelingsdrif with the central and northern sector of the park. The scenery is truly magnificent and along this entire pass you are fully immersed in a true mountain desert. It takes a good 40 minutes to drive this pass and there are some sections on the northern ascent where low range should be utilised. The pass is 6 km long and climbs through 169m to summit at 578m ASL, producing an average gradient of 1:36, but there are several short sections that get as steep as 1:5. The pass is also sometimes referred to as the Penkop Pass.
The Richtersveld National Park plays host to six official passes and many more unofficial ones. Of the six official passes, the Domorogh Pass is easily the most technical, as well as being the shortest. The pass connects the upper plateau area of the Richtersveld with the Gariep River valley and was originally built by hand by a small handful of local men to create an access route down the small escarpment for their livestock to move between the winter and summer grazing areas. The pass is 1,4 km long and has an altitude variance of 139m of producing a steep average gradient of 1:10 with the steepst parts being at 1:4. This pass should not be driven in any vehicle other than a high clearance 4WD vehicle with low range. We issue a 'danger' cautionary for this pass, especially in the descending mode.
Brown’s Cutting is an obscure gravel road pass situated in the north-western corner of Limpopo province near Vaalwater, quite close to the Botswana border. It presents a challenge in that it is difficult to find, and will test your orienteering skills and sense of direction to the limit, particularly from the northern side. Although the pass itself is not very difficult to negotiate, the approach roads can be tricky, and some offroad driving experience would be helpful. You will need to be a dedicated pass-chaser to tick this one off your bucket list!
Lawson's Pass is a 16, 2 km long 4x4 route over the Gamkaberg and is located about 35 km south-east of Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo. It lies within the boundaries of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and offers exceptional mountain and valley views, coupled with a true eco-experience and a good chance of spotting game. The route is only open to 4x4 vehicles with adequate ground clearance and it is rated Grade 2. With most of the steeper sections being concreted, there aren't really any traction issues. Although there are several out and back and extenstion options in the reserve, we describe this route as a one way pass starting in the north and ending in the south. To make use of this option, it's necessary to make special arrangements with the manager, as the south gate is locked and keys must be obtained.
This short, rough gravel road winds its way up the slopes of the Goukamma River Valley just to the north of the N2 between Knysna and Sedgefield. The pass offers great views over the Ganzvlei farm, after which it is named, where it nestles on the green banks of the Goukamma River. The railway line (now defunct) lies between this pass and the N2. The road is primarily used by loggers living in the mountains and it's not suited to sedan vehicles, but any vehicle with good ground clearance will manage, although we recommend a 4WD vehicle is being optimal.
This is a serious off-road pass that involves a bridgeless river crossing, long sections of stepped rock inclines, sharp corners, razor sharp tyre slicing rocks, loose stones, steep gradients and immense views over the Doring River valley. It is only possible in a high clearance 4x4 with low range or for motorcycle riders, a lightweight bike will also do the trick. This road is not recommended for inexperienced drivers/riders. The pass straddles the border of the Western and Northern Cape and forms part of the R2266 gravel road that connects the Biedouw Valley with the R355 south of Calvinia.
This poort runs along the north-south axis through the mountains approximately halfway between Willowmore and Steytlerville. It's gravel and it's rough and we dont recommend this road for non 4WD vehicles or vehicles with low ground clearance. The 4,38 km long poort gains only 95m in altiitude, producing an easy average gradient of 1:46. This part of the Eastern Cape offers some of the best gravel roads in South Africa for the adventure traveller.
Let it not be said that we dont cover every mountain pass in South Africa! Over the past three years we have had many requests from pass fans as to exactly where the fabled Donkies Pass is. This week we unveil the first of two passes named after the asses. It took a lot of research finding these two passes, but thanks to the meticulous work done by one of our readers, Brits Steyn, who submitted an exceptionally well researched list of passes in KZN and Mpumalanga, we are able to accurately pinpoint these two 'off the beaten track' passes.
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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.