Pluto’s Vale is quite unique, in that it consists of a combination of a genuine poort and a steep pass. These follow one another along the gravel DR02039 road that extends eastwards from the R67 near Grahamstown to Committees Drift and Breakfast Vlei. Like the adjacent Queen’s Road to Fort Beaufort and the nearby Ecca Pass, the route was constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain during the Frontier Wars in the mid-19th century. Despite diligent research, no clue as to the origins of the unusual name of this pass has come to light.
Kingo Hills Pass is situated just off the R67, about halfway between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape. Also known as Douglas Heights and (incorrectly) King Hills Pass, it is named after Kingo Hill, the summit (581 metres ASL) of which is located just north of the pass summit coordinates. The road is badly maintained, with major ruts and corrugations, and it is not recommended that you drive this pass in a normal car, although a four-wheel drive vehicle would not be required except in wet weather.
This beautiful and fairly steep gravel pass on the P3220 link road between Rhodes and Wartrail, offers wonderful high altitude scenery of mountains, valleys and winding rivers in the Eastern Cape highlands about 14 km south-west of Rhodes. Nestled in the midst of the well known Big 8 passes, this little known pass provides a scenic shortcut for those wanting to get to the Bastervoetpad Pass and the Barkly Pass. The pass has a simple high-low vertical profile and is 3,2 km long producing an average gradient of 1:15 with the steepest parts being at 1:8. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.
This lovely poort offers rugged scenery as it crosses and recrosses a river bed multiples of times along the length of the poort over basic stony drifts. The poort lies close to the Floriskraal Dam, which is the main water supply to the Karoo town of Laingsburg, perhaps most famous for the devastating 1981 flood. In the event of a flash flood, this poort would be a death trap, as can be seen in the video footage. The poort can be accessed off the R323 tar road from Laingsburg to Seweweekspoort and it ends in a dead-end, being mainly a farm service road. The most scenic sections lie on the western side of the poort.
The Ben MacDhui Pass is the new record holder of the highest altitude summit in South Africa at 3001m. It replaces the previous record holder, the Sani Pass [2876m]. This is a new road which has recently been opened. The pass comprises three distinct sections:
1. The access toad to the Tiffindell Ski Resort.
2.The maintenance track for the ski-lift.
3. A two spoor jeep track from the highest ski-lift pylon to the summit point
This is an out and back route and a high clearance 4x4 with low range is needed to complete this drive. We have rated the pass as a Grade 3 in 4x4 parlance and would not recommend driving the route in severe weather and especially not when there is heavy snow. Allow approximately an hour and a half to complete it both ways and add for additional time at the summit. It is often windy and cold (even in summer) so take appropriate clothing with you. The pass traverses private property and it is necessary to sign in at the Tiffindell office before you proceed up the pass.
This very short and fairly minor 'pass' is nothing more than a slight bump in the flat Karoo topography and is located about midway between Fraserburg and Loxton in the Northern Cape, just off the R356 on a minor gravel road that connects the R356 with the R361. About the most exciting feature of this pass, is the tricky navigation trying to find it. This tiny little pass is not really worth seeking out and you will be disappointed with what it has to offer. It is strictly for the commited pass hunter.
Somewhere along the line, a lazy cartographer spelt the name as Amandeihoogte, which has subsequently been repeated on many maps in a typical copy/paste syndrome. This incorrect spelling makes no sense at all and we have officially confirmed on the 1:50,000 government map, that the name is Amandelhoogte. This is also the name of the farm at the northern end of the pass.
To add to the confusion, there is an Amandelnek Pass in the Tankwa Karoo, which would be bound to cause confusion.
This is the longest of the trio of passes in the higher sections of Namaqualand, east of Garies and Kamieskroon along the north-south axis on the P2943. The aptly named Groenkloof Pass traverses a narrow valley compressed between tall granite mountains. This valley is surprisingly well watered and green and becomes a flower wonderland in spring. The 5,9 km long pass gets quite steep on its southern side with gradients around 1:7 and there are one or two very sharp corners to contend with. The road is suitable for all vehicles, except in very wet weather when a 4WD would be a better option. Keep a look out in thevideo clip at 1.32 for the pair of 'meerkatte' playing chicken in the road.
This decidedly steep, gravel pass offers excellent scenery of the granite clad mountain plateaus of Namaqualand. it's located at the small settlement of Leliefontein, where the huge Sentech tower dominates the summit point of the pass, about 20 km ESE of Kamieskroon and 34 km NNE of Garies.
The pass is 3,9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 182m, producing an average gradient of 1:21, with the steepest parts on the northern side of the summit presenting as steep as 1:7. During the rainy season, things can get slippery and muddy at this high altitude plateau and lightweight front wheel drive cars might experience a loss of traction. At all other times of the year, the pass is perfectly suitable for all vehicles. Watch out for corrugations as well as a couple of blind rises and corners.
This short, steep pass is located 7 km north-west of Leliefontein and 14 km ESE of Kamieskroon on a minor gravel road - the P2943 in the mountainous part of Namaqualand and is a prime wild-flower spotting zone. At just 1,4 km the pass is fairly short, but it climbs 96 vertical metres, producing a stiff average gradient of 1:14, with the steepest parts being just before the summit, where things get as steep as 1:5. During wet weather, light front wheel drive cars will experience traction issues here, but at all other times of the year, the pass is suitable for all vehicles. The pass is named after the Draaiklip (or Turning Stone) which can be seen on the right hand side (west) of the road, just after the sharp left hand bend.
The Tilney Pass is a 6,6 km long pass that runs along the east-west axis in the southern shadow of the Warmwaterberg in the heart of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. There is an altitude variance of 107m over that distance, which produces a mild average gradient of 1:61, but there are some much steeper sections at 1:9 near the eastern end and summit. This pass is only drivable by paying guests of the reserve and is not freely publicly accessible. This pass forms a long and intricate traverse in tandem with the Sandfonteinspoort (or Tilney Gorge North) connecting the southern entrance gate with the Sondwana and Sanbona lodges in the north near the Bellair Dam, with the attractively sited Tilney Manor forming a small oasis between the two passes.
*Please carefully read the notes on public access to Sanbona lower down!
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.