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Elands Pass (Gamkaskloof) P1722

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Elands Pass (Gamkaskloof) Elands Pass (Gamkaskloof) - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The Elands Pass is the final descent down into the long, low altitude valley called Gamkaskloof, but more commonly known as "Die Hel". This page is repeated in its entirety on the main Gamkaskloof page. If you intend driving this pass, we recommend rather switching to the main Gamkaskloof entry which covers all ten sections, including the Elands Pass. The videos on this page are more detailed than the videos on the gamkaskloof page, so if your interest is is the Elands Pass perse, then remain on this page.

This pass descends a total of 477m over a distance of 4,7 km producing a very stiff average gradeint of just under 1:10. You will have to deal with five very tight hairpin bends, and 49 other bends, corners and curves of varying degrees, but it is the very steep, unguarded drop-offs that tend be unnerving for many drivers and passengers. The design of the pass is actually very good and there is no point where the gradient exceeds 1:7.

This pass, although fairly short ranks right up with the biggest and best passes in South Africa, attracting in excess of 10,000 page views each year. This is a bucket list pass and one that every adventurous traveller should do.

 

Scroll down to view the map & video. 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 by Bipin Prag Photography - Copyrighted]

FULL-SCREEN MODE: 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: Getting to the start of the Elands Pass is something of an adventure and includes driving at least one half of the Swartberg Pass. From the central plateau near the Teeberg view-site, turn west at  the sign-board marked Gamkaskloof. Remain on this road for 32 km to arrive at the summit of the Elands Pass. This is the only approach to the pass. We strongly recommend switching to the main Gamkaskloof page, where you can watch 11 videos covering the entire road. This will give you a very good idea of what to expect and we cover a lot of safety and historical detail on that page as well.The double video set on this page covers the Elands Pass in more detail than those on the Gamkaskloof page.

View over Die HelDie Hel viewed from the first view-point / Photo: Trygve Roberts


Part 1 of this 2 part video series on the Elands Pass covers the first half in the descending mode. The Elands Pass is on many people’s bucket list for it’s magnificent views, multiple hairpins, narrow width and steep, unguarded drop-offs. If you have any passengers suffering from acrophobia/vertigo, arrange that they can sit on the side of the vehicle furthest away from the drop-offs, but you will need to move them after each switchback.

From the start which is also the summit point at 1050m ASL, the road begins descending for the next 1,2 km towards the main kloof at a gradient of 1:14. This section is straightforward and contains no corners and the road surface is generally quite good. As progress is made towards the west, the gradient begins getting steeper.

As altitude is lost, one gets the first glimpses of Die Hel as a tiny wisp of greenery very far below in the valley. When you get to the 1,3  km mark, the road drops down into a tight S bend to the left. You need to drop your speed right down to 20 kph for this bend. As the S-curve is exited via the second left hand bend, you will get an amazing view of Die Hel.

View of Die Hel from the 1st hairpinView over Die hel from the 1st hairpin / Photo: Trygve Roberts


Before you get out of your vehicle to take your award winning photographs, switch your vehicle’s engine off and leave it in 1st gear, making double sure that the handbrake is fully engaged. It might sound ridiculous, but many accidents have happened at view sites like this, due to carelessness and over-eagerness.

The road can be seen dropping down to the miniature looking buildings in the valley, via multiple switchbacks. It is a breath-taking sight. There’s nowhere to stop, but due to the low traffic volumes, no-one will mind if you block the road for a few minutes. The views stretch away into the west where the entire valley is visible well past the Gamkapoort.

Now gear down to 2nd or even 1st gear and allow your engine compression to slow your vehicle down as you begin the first switchback which is into the south. The road is very narrow and it’s generally impossible to get past another vehicle.

KlipspringerKlipspringer near the summit / Photo: Trygve Roberts

Make a careful mental note of the few places where there are spots just wide enough for two cars to pass each other. Should you encounter a vehicle ascending the pass, one of you will have to reverse back to a suitable place. It is etiquette to allow the ascending vehicle right of way, but this is not always practical. If you are the vehicle that is reversing, be extremely careful and take your time, as one small mistake here could end in disaster.

 

Remember that at each of the hairpin bends the road is quite wide and these often make for the safest places to allow passing. When you are at the first viewpoint, described earlier, you will be able to see most of the pass and any vehicle climbing up towards you will be easily spotted. It takes about 15 minutes to drive the pass, so it might be prudent to sit tight at a wide section and wait for the ascending vehicle to get past you safely.

The further south you drop on the first leg, the better the views become. This section has 12 bends along its length, but none of them are very sharp. The driver needs to concentrate 100% on the road and not allow the views to be too distracting. Just before the first hairpin bend, there is a short concrete stripped section. This is probably the best angle to take a great photograph of the pass.

The first hairpin appears at the 2,1 km mark and bigger SUV’s and double can bakkies will need to go into full lock to make it through the turn. Take it very slowly, just in case your vehicle can’t make the turn. Don’t take any risks and rather do a 3 point turn to safely negotiate this bend if in any doubt.

Your views are now on the left hand side, allowing your passengers to see Die Hel in all its grandeur. With the heading now into the north and the roadway that you have just descended being directly above you, the road follows the contours of the mountainside. A section is passed where there are wired cages of packed rock stacked on the right hand side, which helps prevent landslides over the roadway. The scree can be seen all the way up the next level of the road and has obviously caused problems in the past.

[Video cover photo by Trygve Roberts]

Part 2 of this video series on the Elands Pass covers the lower half of the pass and contains four of the hairpin bends. This north facing section is once again extremely narrow, so stay focused. There are 10 bends to negotiate, but due to the low speed you will be travelling, none of them should present any problems. There are two concreted sections provided to improve traction and to protect the road surface from water damage. 

At the 2,5 km point, the road enters a side ravine, where a very tight left hand bend of 110 degrees has to be negotiated. There is a narrow concreted drift over the stream with the drop side marked by 3 tall chevron boards. The dip and exit after this little bridge is steep and you will have a brief period where you will not be able to see the road. Just drive slowly and keep your steering straight ahead. The chevron boards will still be visible and are placed there so that you have a visual fix of where the left hand side of the road is. 

The road now curves around the contour of the mountain for the next 400m heading into the WSW. This section has 5 gentle bends with the views remaining on the left hand side. There are hundreds of magnificent tall aloes on both sides of the road and if the light is just right, this makes for a wonderful photo composition. 

Narrow and steepA narrow road with very steep drop-offs / Photo: Trygve Roberts


Despite this short section being just 2 kms long, you will descend 137 vertical metres which converts into an average descent gradient of 1:14 but there are many sections along this final drop which are as steep as 1:7. Whilst 1:7 is steep, the Elands Pass is actually designed along a fairly easy gradient and it is not the steepness which puts the fear of God into some drivers, but rather the narrow width, multiple hairpins and sheer and unguarded drops-offs which do the trick. 

The second of the five hairpins makes its appearance at the 3 km mark. This hairpin is concreted, so if you are in a 4WD drive vehicle, you will need to disengage the centre diff, otherwise the vehicle will experience axle wind-up, which is not good for the differentials, but remember to re-engage it once you are through the bend. 

The second hairpin is very tight, probably using full lock by longer vehicles. Once through the hairpin, the direction changes into the ESE for the next 100m as the road drops down towards the third hairpin. This part of the Elands Pass descends for most of its length down a long ridge which is formed by two kloofs. The more easterly kloof is formed by the stream that you crossed earlier via the concrete drift and the three tall chevron boards, whilst the more westerly kloof, is known as Lemoenkloof

Die Hel at sunsetDie Hel at sunset / Photo: Bipin Prag Photography


The third hairpin (which is a right hander) has a slightly wider radius and is gravel surfaced, but still requires a low speed of around 10 kph, to prevent a wheel going over the edge. It makes its appearance at the 3,1 km mark and once safely through this hairpin, the heading settles back into the WSW for the next 400m, descending consistently. 

From this point, the drop-offs gradually become less severe and the buildings in the valley start taking on a less toy-like appearance, as altitude is lost. The fourth hairpin is at the 3,6 km point and bends to the left once more. As in the previous left handed hairpin, this takes the direction back into the ESE for the last time. This leg lasts for 400m and the road can be seen at a lower level, a sure indicator that you have almost reached the bottom of the pass 

The fifth and final hairpin is reached at the 3,9 km mark and is the easiest of the five in terms of turning circle and is more of a horseshoe bend than a hairpin. With the terrain having substantially levelled off, the last 700m of the pass is relatively easy. The vegetation becomes denser as more trees appear amongst the thousands of aloes. 

Cape nature's campsite at Die HelThe campsite at the foot of the pass / Photo: Trygve Roberts

A  sign-board is passed at the 4,4 km point,  as the road loses the last bit of altitude via an easy S-bend. The road plunges into thicker bush and suddenly after clearing a small dip, the stone entrance gates of the rest camp at Die Hel appear directly ahead. 

A small dun coloured traditional farm-house is located right next to the road, which is one of several cottages in the kloof, which have been carefully restored. Nearly all the cottages run on solar power and gas and all have fire places for those chilly winter nights. 

The game ranger’s house is off to the left, should you require assistance with anything. It is important to book accommodation and camp sites in advance through Cape Nature. The campsites are attractively laid out in the riverine bush and provide good shade and spotless ablutions.

The engineer, Louis Terblance, who designed the road lamented that he was saddened that this was the only road he had designed, which had brought about the destruction, rather than the upliftment, of a once thriving community.

It is highly recommended to overnight at Die Hel and rest in the tranquility and heavenly beauty of this inaptly named spot. It is important to watch the full series on the Gamkaskloof to ensure you plan correctly. Most people badly underestimate the time it takes to get there. Motorcyclists should note that this is a very tiring trip.

Go to the Gamkaskloof page for the full version of this iconic 37 km long pass which includes this pass in a ten part video series.
 


Fact File:

GPS START

S33.342367 E21.766595

GPS SUMMIT

S33.342367 E21.766595

GPS END

S33.352807 E21.743760

AVE GRADIENT

1:10

MAX GRADIENT

1:7

ELEVATION START

1050m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

1050m

ELEVATION END

573m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

477m

DISTANCE

4,7 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

West

TIME REQUIRED

15 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

40 kph

SURFACE

Gravel (P1722)

DATE FILMED

16.06.2017

TEMPERATURE

17C

NEAREST TOWN

Prince Albert (50 km)


Route Map:

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From Address:


Route files:

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

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