Grootrivierhoogte Pass (P1482), Cederberg

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Low level bridge over the Groot River at Mount Ceder Low level bridge over the Groot River at Mount Ceder - Photo: Trygve Roberts

The Grootrivierhoogte Pass forms part of the exceptionally beautiful route through the Southern Cederberg, connecting farms like Kromrivier, Matjiesrivier, Nuwerus and Mount Ceder, with the plateau of the Koue Bokkeveld. The road is made up of two major passes - the other being the Blinkberg Pass. Both offer stunning mountain scenery in crisp mountain air. The passes are seriously steep in some places - as steep as 1:5 !!!

The Grootrivierhoogte Pass is one of the steepest along this route and light front wheel cars will struggle on the final section near the summit in wet conditions, but for the vast majority of the year, this pass is doable in any vehicle. Take time to stop at the summit and allow the mesmerising mountain views to captivate your soul. From the summit one can look to the south and see part of the Blinkberg Pass, whilst the northern view includes Nuwerus, and Cederberg Oasis.

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[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

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Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the north, drive along the main gravel road between Clanwilliam and Ceres. There are two route options. Either start in Clanwilliam and follow the gravel road along the eastern side of the Clanwilliam Dam, past Jamaka farm and join the main road at Algeria or take the turn-off from the N7 between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam (marked "Algeria") and traverse the Nieuwoudts Pass which is the normal access to Algeria.

Northern start of the passThe northern start of the pass at the Nuwerus turn-off / Photo: Trygve Roberts

From Algeria keep heading south and ascend the Uitkyk Pass after which a 19 km drive into the south will get you to the Dwarsrivier, Kromrivier and Matjiesrivier farms (in that order). Keep right at the Matjiesrivier farm and drive south for a further 9 km to arrive at the northern start of the Grootrivierhoogte Pass. (Use the hyperlinks provided for detailed directions for each of the passes along the route)

To approach from the south, head north out of Ceres on the R303 over the stunning Gydo Pass for a total of 47 km till you arrive at the small village of Op die Berg. Immediately after the village take the first tar road to the right at GPS S33.012538 E19.314555. Continue through various farms on a mix of tar and gravel for 17 km to arrive at a fork at GPS S32.935900 E19.451437. The right hand fork goes over the Katbakkies and Peerboomskloof passes to the Tankwa Karoo and the left hand fork leads into the southern Cederberg. Keep left here and drive for a further 33 km over the Blinkberg Pass to arrive at Mount Ceder Guest farm, which also marks the southern starting point of the Grootrivierhoogte Pass.

Matjiesrivier in floodIf the crossing at Matjiesrivier looks like this, rather use the escape route / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe low level bridge over the Breekkrans (Brandkraal) river at Nuwerus is sometimes flooded in the winter, as is the previous river crossing at Matjiesrivier. In such circumstances these should not be crossed except if you have sound 4x4 driving skills. At both these river crossings there are depth boards, which makes it easy to know whether your vehicle will make it across or not (providing of course, that you know what your vehicle's safe wading is). If the water is deeper than 300mm and flowing strongly (which it usually is) rather take the detour via Kromrivier.

There are several accounts of cars being washed down the river. This is a serious cautionary - don't become a statistic. If the water appears to be too deep, it is best to ask one of the local farmers, who will be able to provide sound advice in terms of safety. There is an escape route just before the Matjiesrivier crossing, which is both wide and deep, and has caught many an over eager driver unawares. This particular crossing produced a washed away vehicle scenario with a drowning in the winter of 2012.

The escape route called the Truitjieskraal Road, takes you over the mountain to the west via the Kromrivier farm, where the river crossing is much shorter and less dangerous. To access the escape route you will need to divert over the Kromrivier Pass and get over the Kromrivier via the bridge on the farm, then take the Truitjieskraal Road which rejoins the P1482 just north of Cederberg Oasis. The video below illustrates just how dangerous this crossing can be.

We filmed this pass from north to south. The pass begins at a Y junction shortly after crossing the Breekkrans River. The left hand option is a dead-end and ends at the Nuwerus guest farm about 2 km away. The climb towards the summit is fairly gentle at first with easy gradients and gentle bends, but as distance is gained into the south, the gradients get ever steeper, until the reach 1:5 over the last 1,5 km near the summit. In smaller engined vehicles, it might be necessary to gear down to 1st gear to avoid a stall.

Vogelfontein water bottling plantVogelfontein / Photo: Trygve Roberts

The views are lovely with the road rising up a long kloof with a small unseen stream on the right.  There is an old ruin fairly close to the start on the right hand side, which makes for a good photographic subject, when the light is right. During springtime (August/September) the entire kloof is smothered in purple flowers.

Along the northern ascent of the pass, you will see a single building on the western side of the road. This is the Vogelfontein water bottling plant, which supplies high quality water to a famous bottled water brand in South Africa. The Cederberg is renowned for its water purity, where almost all the streams and rivers have perfectly potable water with no sediment. This is also the reason for cobalt blue colour of the Clanwilliam Dam which is fed by several rivers via the Cederberg, the main artery being the Olifants River.

Cederberg mountain majestyCederberg mountain majesty / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe ascent gets very steep near the summit and after having completed the 400m climb, the road widens at the summit point (995m ASL) where there is a cattle grid and ample space to park and enjoy the achingly beautiful vistas both to the north and south. A minor two spoor track leads up the mountain on the right (west) which eventually terminates at the top of the ridge known as Hondverbrand. Note that no 4x4's are allowed up this track, it is for hikers only.

Next up is the descent. As the first 2 km of the descent is extremely steep it is best to descend the pass is 2nd or even 1st gear and run against engine compression to save on the overuse of the footbrake. It is best to keep your speed below 40 kph as there are several extremely shap corners on the descent and a couple of them have negative banking. There are no guard rails or other barriers, so take it easy.

 

 

[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

The kloof on the right hand side is marked on the official government maps as Varkkloof (Pigs Ravine) and some references also name the entire pass as the Varkkloof Pass. 

After the 8 km mark, the gradients gradually start easing off as do the frequency of the bends, with the final few kilometres being a fairly straight -forward descent down to the Grootrivier crossing. Two small cottages appear on the right, which are guest cottages on the Mount Ceder farm.

Equestrian activities available at Mount Cedar on the GrootrivierEquestrian activities available at Mount Cedar on the Grootrivier / Photo: Mount CederAt this point the first of Mount Ceder's olive groves make an appearance and the main processing shed is visible further down the valley to the left. Dust is a huge problem for the farmers along this road and damage the olives and citrus crops. In an effort to support our farmers, we encourage all road users to slow right down when passing through orchards (like this one) in an effort to reduce the dust levels.

The low level bridge over the Grootrivier marks the end of the pass at the 10,7 km mark at an altitude of 486m ASL. This bridge is also subject to occassional flooding. The bridge clears two separate streams of the river, with the main flow being the closer one. The bridge is single width, except for a small section over the central island section, which is wide enough to allow passing.

Hugely popular with the adventure set and those interested in hiking, camping and wild flowers, including the touring biker fraternity, the Cederberg Wilderness seems almost endless, covering some 175,000 hectares of rugged mountainous terrain. The pass ends at the Mount Ceder Farm where visitors are hard-pressed to choose between what's on offer: Olive-picking, horse-riding, biking, hiking, swimming, canoeing, fossil-hunting, bird-watching, star-gazing or being transported back in time by the ancient rock-art!

Succulents near the passSucculents / Photo: Mount CederAt Mount Ceder they have an excellent array of accommodation ranging from camping to inexpensive restored labourers cottages  and all the way up to four star lodges.

The Grootrivierhoogte Pass and the Blinkberg Pass present as one very long pass, but the official start and end points of both passes is at the Mount Ceder farmstead. 
 
Whilst travelling in this area you can also drive the long and elegant Blinkberg Pass, the short and steep Kromrivier Pass and the beautifully designed Uitkyk Pass which is the gateway to the Northern Cederberg. From Clanwilliam and it's blue dam, you can take the Pakhuis Pass to Wupperthal via the Hoek se berg pass and Kouberg Pass and possibly do the complete round trip including the Eselbank Pass (4x4 recommended) and explore the tiny mountain hamlet of Eselbank and it's spectacular waterfall. On your return trip to Cape Town, you can try something different and drive the Winkelhaak farm road loop if you have the time.

The Cederberg Wilderness is one of those timeless places where you can find your soul and restore your equilibrium in exquisite surroundings and complete silence. There is little or no cell reception in most of the area. Halleluja!

When we film in this area, we usually base ourselves at the Mount Ceder Guest Farm. We produced a short video below featuring one of the small, restored labourers cottages that sleeps just 2 people. We can recommend this establishment for quality and value for money.




Fact File:

GPS START 

S32.568220 E19.366313

GPS SUMMIT

S32.610816 E19.367636

GPS END 

S32.645629 E19.406903

AVE GRADIENT

1:21

MAX GRADIENT

1:5

ELEVATION START

604m

ELEVATION SUMMIT

996m

ELEVATION END

486m

HEIGHT GAIN/LOSS

510m

DISTANCE

10.7 km

DIRECTION - TRAVEL

South

TIME REQUIRED

15 minutes

SPEED LIMIT

60 kph

SURFACE

Gravel (P1482)

DATE FILMED

23.06.2018

TEMPERATURE

16C

NEAREST TOWN

Op die Berg (55 km)


Route Map:

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Route files:

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

 

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