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The Western Cape

At 670m this is one of the shortest passes on our database, but this little pass has plenty to offer the traveller. In that short distance are dense coastal forests, steep descents, a gravel surface, some water diversons, nine corners of which two are very sharp as well as fabulous views over the Indian Ocean at the Goukamma Nature Reserve's Platbank Beach.

This short pass of 1,7 km descends 99m in altitude producing an average gradient of 1:17 but it never gets steeper than 1:14. The pass falls under the category of a suburban pass and offers excellent views of the eastern side of Plettenberg Bay as well as the Keurbooms River estuary and beach zone, known as Lookout Beach.

It carries heavy traffic being on the N2 and there a number of cautionaries on offer. Be on the lookout for minibus taxis, jaywalkers, livestock, road blocks and speed traps as well as slow moving heavy trucks. This is a high accident zone, so stay sharp!

This lovely gravel road pass near Montagu in the Western Cape was built by the Department of Water Affairs as part of the access road and construction for the Poortjieskloof Dam. Access is available within certain hours, by permit only. This is a popular fresh water fishing venue. The road is an out and back route and terminates at a view-site adjacent to the dam wall. The road is 5.5 km long and you have to return the way you entered, making the total drive 11 km.

 

The Potjiesberg Pass is a long pass on the N9 south of Uniondale. It descends from the Karoo plateau to the valley that hosts the R62 route. There are some big descents and motorists should exercise caution on this pass - especially heavy trucks can have braking issues here. The pass is broken up into two distinct sections, with a valley separating the two.



The Prince Alfred's Pass on the R339 gravel road between Knysna and Uniondale is probably Thomas Bain's greatest work. Not only was this an extremely long pass, but it also presented almost every possible technical obstacle to the pass-builders. Due to the length of the pass, we have filmed this pass in a 14 part series, which includes a separate 2 part video set covering the detour up to the Spitskop viewsite. At 68,5 km it is the longest (publicly accessible) mountain pass in South Africa by a considerable margin, as well as being the second oldest unaltered pass still in use.  The video footage covers the entire pass starting at Avontuur and ending at the at the junction with the N2 just east of Knysna. 

We recommend watching the series of videos sequentially to gain a complete picture of all this wonderful pass has to offer. All 14 videos follow below and are placed in the correct sequence amongst the relevant text section. The pass is Thomas Bain's Opus Magnum - a work of monumental proportions carried out with rudimentary equipment and convict labour, but with science, ingenuity and Bain's "can do" attitude making it all possible. Bain constructed 29 passes mainly in the Cape colony in his lifetime. This pass epitomises all of his unique touches, but especially his exceptional dry walling method of construction.

Allow 1 hour and 15 minutes to watch the full video set and longer if you also want to study the text. Once digested you will be well equipped to deal with the rigours of the pass and the knowledge gained will greatly enhance your journey.

The Prinspoort is often confused with the Prinsrivier Pass, and it's easy to see why. Both passes are formed by the Prinsrivier, which is a tributary of Touwsrivier. It flows from north to south through the Witteberg and Anysberg mountains, where the Prinsrivier Dam and the Prinsrivier Pass are located. It then swings into the east for 11 km where it finds a path around Oshoek se Berg, before curving back into the south. It is at this second southerly bend that it has formed the Prinspoort, where it has carved a natural defile through the mountains, making it a suitable routing for a road. The pass is an easy, scenic drive of just under 6 km in length and connects the R62 tar road with the P315 and R323 further north.



 

The Prinsrivier Pass should not be confused with the Prinsrivierpoort, which lies a few kms fiurther to the south east, on the same river. It's an unofficial pass and is technically a mixture between a pass and a poort. Whatever you decide to call it, you can enjoy a beautiful traverse of the Prinsrivier Valley with its green pastures. There are some very tight corners, narrow bridges and fairly steep gradients to keep the route interesting with fabulous views of big mountains on either side of the road. You can also pay a visit to the Prinsrivier Dam, with its crystal clear mountain waters.

This very steep, high altitude, gravel pass will be remembered a long time after you have travelled it. It is located on a reasonable gravel road between Merweville (40km) to the east and Sutherland (50km) to the west. It climbs 263 meters in altitude over just 2,6 km producing an average gradient of 1:10 with the steepest sections (which are concreted) ramping up to under 1:5. Whilst a 4WD in dry conditions is not mandatory, it could be a life saver in the wet. The pass is subject to heavy winter snowfalls and offers spectacular views with steep drop-offs down cliffs of some 300 meters in height. There are some sections on this pass which have negative cross-flow. If it's snowing, this could result in a rollover. We recommend not driving this pass under snow conditions, as things get considerably worse higher up the mountain. The chances of getting help in this remote part of the Karoo are slim.

This is an easy gravel poort in the heart of the Sandveld potato growing region that connects a range of local farms. It has a minor change in altitude and a single S-bend in the middle of the poort. Typical of a poort, it sports an easy average gradient of only 1:30 and the steepest section is a mild 1:16. The road is suitable for all cars, bearing in mind that gravel roads can change quickly in wet weather. In the dry season, the road is subject to corrugations, so adjust your speed accordingly. The road runs through a gap on the southern side of the Heerenlogement mountain, which plays host to the famous 18th century traveller's cave of the same name.

Red Hill Road is 7.6 km in length, packing a fantastic scenic punch into that distance, with most of it in the final 3.4 kms of descent. The road starts at the intersection of the M65 (the coastal road from Cape Point to Kommetjie) and the M66 (Redhill's official route designation.) It plays host to one of Cape Town's favourite long distance road running races - the 36 km Redhill Race. The road contains over 30 corners, bends and curves, which include no less than 6 hairpin bends - four of which occur on the eastern side of the mountain. Allow space on the hairpins for bigger vehicles, which will require the entire width of the road to negotiate the bends. Despite the extreme bends, the gradients are actually quite reasonable at 1:14 at the steepest point.

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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.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map 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.

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