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The Western Cape

The Gysmanshoek Pass follows an historical ox wagon route dating back to the mid 1700's. This is an old gravel pass through a natural cleft in the Langeberg Mountains between Heidelberg in the south and the Little Karoo/ Ladismith area in the north. It is driveable in a normal car in good weather, but if it's been raining, a 4x4 will be a better option.

Depending on the weather, things can get tricky on this pass. Not too many people have travelled this delightfully scenic and off the beaten track pass. It was originally named Hudson's Pass after the local magistrate. Take your time over this pass and stop frequently to enjoy the proteas, ericas and other flowering fynbos species. See if you can find the ruins of the old English fort which dates back to the Anglo Boer war.

The pass is 11,6 km long and contains 51 bends, corners and curves. The average gradient is a mild 1:36 but there are two very steep sections close to the summit,where the gradient gets as steep as 1:5 and FWD cars might well experience traction issues here (especially if driving from south to north) - even in dry weather.

This little known pass is just off the N7 route between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam and offers a tarred road in good condition that rises up the attractive Haarwegskloof with mainly easy curves and fairly comfortable gradients. It's a fairly short pass at 3,2 km and rises 165m in altitude, producing an average gradient of 1:19. The road is suitable for all vehicles.

This smallish pass forms part of a great gravel drive along some farm roads under the towering backdrop of the Outeniqua mountains not far from the R328 and the Robinson Pass. It traverses two deep valleys and offers tranquil pastoral scenery in this dairy farming region with its steep hills and many rivers. As a bonus it provides a lovely drive through the countryside, with access to the Robinson Pass and several other passes in the area, including Cloetes Pass, Du Plessis Pass, Attakwaskloof Pass and Jan Muller Pass.

Heights Road (also known as Hoogte Road) is a short and very steep, narrow tarred road connecting the holiday village of Wilderness with the farms and residences on top of the hill known as Wilderness Heights. It is the preferred, quicker route for locals over the much longer, gravel surfaced Whites Road. Both roads terminate at the same point.

This excellent new pass connects the university town of Stellenbosch with the R45, Pniel and Franschoek and is designated as route R310. The pass has been upgraded several times, with the old pass (also tarred) traversing in a much more complex route of twists and turns to the  northern side of the current pass. The old pass can still be accessed on foot or on bicycle. To be fair, the old pass was far more scenic than the new pass - that is the price of progress. Not that the scenery from the new pass is in any way poor of course!

The Hemel en Aarde Pass is a tarred road connecting the coastal town of Hermanus with Caledon via the Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley - well known for its world class wine estates. The pass is longer than the national average at 8,2 km and it descends 231m to produce an average gradient of a mild 1:35, but there is one specific secrtion where things get decidedly steep at 1:8.

The pass offers access to a number of tourist attractions and is very popular amongst the mountain biking set, so be particularly aware of coming across cylists on this road - especially over weekends and holidays. The scenery is varied and includes open heather and fynbos slopes near the summit to neatly cultivated vineyards along the southern section.

The road had no safety shoulders, so bear this in mind when overtaking cyclists, who must be given 1,5m clearance space by law.

This short and fairly minor pass is located on the tarred R317 south of Bonnievale in the Breede River Valley. It is just under 3km in length and climbs only 45 vertical meters to summit at 179 ASL, producing a gentle average gradient of 1:33 with the steeper bits near the summit being at 1:10. The pass has gentle turns and gradients and parallels the south side of the Breede River to end opposite the Shalom farmstead.

 

 



Ranking closely alongside the notorious Kaaimans River Pass as one of the Western Cape's most dangerous passes for trucking accidents, it is not so much the gradient that is problematic, but the long, straight, momentum-gathering descent which leads suddenly into a dangerously sharp, left-hand bend. Thankfully, a substantial crash-barrier prevents out-of-control vehicles from crossing over into the oncoming traffic. A strategically place arrestor bed halfway down the pass has also helped to reduce the dangers of trucks experiencing brake failure. There are so many scars on that crash barrier that it leaves one wondering what story each scar has to tell!

Travelling south, the Hex River Poort follows the Hex River Pass about 8 km towards the southern exit of the Hex River Valley and is a distinctly separate pass to it's northern cousin, with both providing entry and exit routes from then valley.  Many noteworthy and well respected travellers from the 17th and 18th centuries, incorrectly recorded in their travel journals that this was the Hex River Pass. Not that the poort is unworthy of being called an official pass, with its wild and rugged terrain! Twenty years ago, rockfalls and flooding caused endless problems for the roads authorities. Nowadays, the excellently engineered renovation makes for safe and wonderfully scenic, comfortable driving. 
 

This substantial gravel road pass provides an alternative to the Houw Hoek Pass and paralells it a little further to the south. These days the road is used primarily by the Elgin farming community as well as those interested in hiking and mountain biking. Most of the southern section of the pass falls within the Mount Hebron Nature Reserve. From the summit area access to the Kogelberg Nature Reserve can be gained, where the well known Pedeberg Hiking Trail is located as well as several excellent MTB trails. The pass climbs 384 meters over 12 km to produce an average gradient of 1: 31

 

 

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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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