This short but difficult little pass is located to the south of the town of Memel in the eastern Free State, on top of the Drakensberg escarpment close to the KwaZulu-Natal border. Named after a scenic farm situated along the banks of the Klip River, it is also sometimes referred to by the locals as Roodepoort. With a summit altitude of just under 2000 metres, the pass is subject to frequent snowfalls in winter and violent thunderstorms in summer, so careful planning is required if you intend to drive this pass. Even in good weather, a 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
This 4 km long official pass is named after the Hartbees antelope, which once roamed these plains in their thousands. The pass is insignificant in the greater scheme of things and has only one gentle bend and a small alttitude variance of only 66m. It's located on the P0663 / R391 north of the much bigger Groot Doringhoek Pass about 20 km north-west of Molteno, just off the tarred R56.
Mielietuinspruit Pass - which translates as Corn Garden Stream - is named after the large beef farm situated near its summit, just off the N11 on a minor gravel road between Ladysmith and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Although not technically challenging, the pass offers the intrepid traveller a “surprise” element, in that it is a much better pass than its name or location would suggest. The road can be used as a shortcut access route from the N11 to the far more significant Mhlwane and Collings passes, which are located to the west. The road is in a good condition, and can be driven in any car, although wet weather might be a problem.
This very minor nek is located on the P2563 gravel road between Doornvlei in the north and Cradock in the south. The 'pass' is just 1,7 km long and has an altitude variance of 47m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:36, with no part being steeper than 1:25. There are no sharp corners or other obvious dangers, other than the chance of finding livestock on the road. This is one of those official passes that completely mystifies logic and does not fall within the parameters of a mountain pass, yet it is well marked on all official government maps, so it must have some historical significance - none of which we were able to track down. If you don't mark it on your GPS as a waypoint, you probably won't even realise you have just driven over a pass.
This fairly off the beaten track pass is located on a farm link road - the P2394 - about 60 km WNW of Cradock. The pass is 9 km long and displays an altitude variance of 237m, producing an easy average gradient of 1:38, but most of the steeper action and sharper bends occur in the last 2 km where the gradient gets as steep as 1:10. You need to know your way around these farm roads and this pass is best tackled with a good GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa, otherwise you will probably get lost in the maze of farm roads to the south of the pass.
Belet is Afrikaans for forbid or prohibit, so the name of the pass no doubt at some point in it's history was a 'no-go zone' The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather and like all gravel roads is subject to rapid changes in condition after rain.
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.
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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