"South Africa’s 10 highest passes are all in one province. A recently launched challenge rewards road trippers who can conquer them all in seven days. Here’s why you need to be one of them."
- January 2018 edition of Getaway magazine
Tryvge Roberts interviewed by Ewan Strydom about South Africa’s Most Beautiful Mountain Passes, on the Expresso Show on SABC3.
To drive ten specific high altitude gravel passes within a time frame of seven days, whilst enjoying the beautiful Eastern Cape highlands scenery. In the process you will be supporting eco-tourism in this remote part of the Eastern Cape, thereby uplifting the local population.
01. Ben MacDhui Pass (3001m)
02. Carlisleshoekspruit Pass (2563m)
03. Volunteershoek Pass (2581m]
04. Naudes Nek Pass (2590m]
05. Lundin’s Nek Pass (2170m)
06. Joubert’s Pass (2234m)
07. Bastervoetpad Pass (2240m]
08. TTT [Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse] (2720m)
09. Otto du Plessis Pass (2115m)
10. Barkly Pass (2018m)
Drive, ride, cycle, run or walk all 10 passes within 7 days, taking time to discover the natural wonders of the Eastern Cape Highlands and enjoy the local hospitality. This is not a race, but rather an opportunity to embrace eco-tourism in its finest form. The best places to secure accommodation are around Rhodes. Please support the businesses that are supporting this challenge and providing the prizes, which include 2 nights free accommodation. The prizes will be drawn by lucky draw once we reach the first 20 completed entries and again at 40 entries, ad infinatum.
Entry Form link below.
Will be awarded by lucky draw once the first 20 entries have been completed and then again after the next 20 and so on. There are several prizes on offer which include weekend accommodation, MPSA gear and more.
Here is a video made by Behan Boshoff (In Search Of Stories), which illustrates just how tough the challenge really is (especially as the entire challenge was completed in a day):
We will hold your audience spellbound as we take you through the project showing its evolution from simple blog to world class website.
You can book Trygve Roberts in person to talk at your function or special occasion. Ideal for clubs, private functions and organisations.
We do public talks for free on the proviso that they are within 20 km of Cape Town. Venues further afield will attract an small travel charge, depending on the distance. Talks include a video presentation as well as a comprehensive Q&A session.
Bookings are done on an ad-hoc basis. Please call or email. We will tailor design a talk for you.
Acknowledgements: (This list is updated once per month)
The project has been supported by a wide range of people since inception to varying degrees. Two of those on the long list below need special mention. These are people who have done pro-bono work for the website of exceptional quality.
The late Dr. Graham Ross who unselfishly gave us copies of all his research and spent hours checking on our technical information and spent much of his personal time mentoring us on the finer points of road engineering.
Mr. Mike Leicester has meticulously checked all our GPS co-ordinates and elevations (that's about 7000 of them!) for accuracy. He has donated his own research into passes and amalgamated his information for the betterment of this website. He has also taken on the responsibility of filming most of the passes in the northern areas - all at his own expense. Give that man a Bells!
A project of this magnitude starts to gain critical mass, when those interested begin to contribute to the general wisdom and the betterment of the project in an unselfish and giving way. We have had countless emails with pass suggestions and undiscovered roads in obscure places. Information from grandchildren of some of the original pioneers who tamed the wild mountains of South Africa had been sent to us, enabling us to weave these beautiful and factual stories into the pass pages. It is this collective information which has allowed the website to evolve into true Africana, which can be left in perpetuity for future generations of South Africans.
We thank each and every contributor, whether your name appears on the list below or not.
Andre Brummer - For technical corrections on the Swaarmoed Pass
Andre Palmer - For original photos of Sir Lowrys Pass
Andre van Dyk - Submission on the Kamiesberg Pass, N/Cape.
Andrew Jones-Phillipson - Submission and information on Kap Cutting Pass.
Andrew McKenzie - Submission and information on the George's Valley Road, Limpopo.
Anton van Tonder - Information on Ladismith, Western Cape.
Bart Nel - Information on Mariepskop Pass, Mpumalanga.
Burckhardt Krieg - Information and submission of Old Mill 4x4 route, Free State.
Cav. Andre Martinaglia - For photos and information pertaining to Italian POW's involved with the Du Toitskloof Pass
Charon Roberts (my wife) - For giving me the space and 5 years out of my life to complete this project.
Chris Boyle - For information and photos on passes in Namaqualand.
Chris Moore - Info on Roodezand Pass
Chris Smit - For invaluable information on passes in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
Deon van der Westhuizen - Photos and information on several passes.
Dr. Andrew Spence - For information, photos and video material on Cecil Macks Pass.
Eugene Rossouw - Photos and information on several E/Cape passes.
Fritz Van In - For information and photos of the area around the Orrie Baragwanath Pass and Limpopo Passes.
Geoff Russell - For expert 4x4 guidance in the E/Cape and Lesotho.
Gillis van Schalkwyk - For detailed history on Van Reenens Pass.
Dr. Graham Ross - For technical and historical information on Western Cape passes and general mentoring in the field of road engineering.
Henry (Dutch) Diesveld - Shared information on Western Cape pass data.
Jacques Rentzke - For technical IT expertise, innovation and maintenance on this website.
Janine Reyneke (Tracks4Africa) - For co-operation and sharing of mapware and technical data.
Johan Buys - Video material and photos of the Wildeperdehoek & Messelpad Passes.
Johan Krog - For photos and information on Rankins and Jan Trichardt passes.
Johan Sevenster (GPS World) - For technical assistance with mapping software and GPS information.
Johan Thiart - Submission and information on the Langeni Pass in the Eastern Cape.
John Irvine - Information on Bedrogsfontein Pass
John Parkin - Information and pass submission for Bakkers Pass
Leonico Erasmus - For photos and information on the Bottelnek Pass and many other passes.
Lisa Roberts - For artwork, research, Twitter feeds and moral support.
Louis Botha Photography - For various photos of passes including Bosluiskloof.
Louis Fourie - Photos and info on the Witelskloof Pass, W/Cape.
Malcolm van Coller - For information on suburban passes in Johannesburg.
Melt de Kock - For photos and information on the Versveld Pass.
Mickey Clark - For information on the Antoniesberg pass in the E/Cape.
Mike Jones - For info and photos on the Donkerkloof Pass & Pietersfontein Pass.
Mike Leicester - For information on various passes, onroad tests of passes as well as a comprehensive spreadsheet of passes, videography, research and write-ups.
Mike Rust - Info on Witelskloof Pass nr Clanwilliam.
Nick Najbicz - Submission and information on the Kobee Pass.
Phill Moser - Information on various E/Cape passes
Pieter Du Preez - Road number map and info for Limpopo province.
Robert Randall - Submission and information on the Witsieshoek, Monantsha and Sandrivierhoogte Passes in the Free State.
Roland Bergh - Submission and location of several low key passes in the Eastern and Western Cape.
Steyn Britz- For a long list of passes in KZN with technical information.
Tony Murray - For corrections and technical assistance, maps, photos and information on some Western Cape passes
Winston le Roux - History on Combrincks Pass, Baviaanskloof.
Apologies to anyone who'se name has been omitted from this list. It is impossible to list each and every bit of information submitted, but we try to acknowledge all meaningful contributions, wherever possible. [Ed.]
How to get the most out of the Mountain Passes South Africa (MPSA) website
The website has 8 main navigation links.
The HOME PAGE is divided into 4 segments
The LATEST NEWS is issued weekly, usually on Thursdays . Expand this page by clicking on the title, picture or the READ MORE button. The blue hyperlinks will take you directly to the pass under discussion. Archived news items are stored in date order under the NEWS top-menu link.
This is a vital page which connects the entire website.
Click on the title (Master Orientation Map) or the READ MORE button to expand the page. A larger blank map of South Africa will appear. Be patient for up to 10 seconds as the map automatically populates itself with passes.
NEW! The red dots indicate gravel passes or jeep tracks, whilst the black dots indicate tarred passes.
Hover your cursor over a chosen dot and a small tab will pop up showing the name of the pass.
It is best to zoom in on the map of your area of interest, to get adequate separation between the dots.
By hovering on any dot, you can right click and a larger window will open again showing the name of the pass with the offer to take you directly to that pass page by a simple click on the blue hyperlink.
The map is fully interactive and can be viewed in map or satellite mode. It also has the 'street view' option.
Note that only certain roads have been incorporated by Google in 'street view' mode. Many of the more remote passes will not have this feature. If you drag the little orange man over a pass, the road will turn blue on the map indicating that 'street view' is available.
You can plan an entire journey selecting passes of your choice incorporated into your route.
Each pass also has a downloadable route file. This feature is free for all registered members and is explained in detail further down this page. The files are in .gdb file extensions and are compatable with old and new Garmin GPS units.
This is a fun page where we list the passes in ranking order of the highest, longest, steepest, biggest altitude gain and most popular. There is also a category for unusual and bizarre statistics.
Click on the relevant sub-title. A page will open up showing all the passes in ranking order for that particular statistic. The first 10 passes have been hyperlinked, so you can go directly to a specific pass that might interest you.
As passes are added, the statistics will change until such time as we have completed the entire project. Due to data constraints we only list the top 100 passes in each category.
Click on the FIND A PASS menu link. A sub-menu will open with 10 sub-categories. These are the 9 provinces plus the Extreme Passes listing with the number of passes per province shown in brackets.
Click on the province of your choice. A page will open for the province selected with the passes listed (approximately 15 passes per page) in alphabetical order. The next page of 15 passes can be opened by clicking the prompt at the bottom of the page.
You can either browse through the 'teaser' section or use the search bar at the top of each page. Once you have found a pass you want to know more about, expand the page by clicking on the title, the photo or the READ MORE button.
Using the Search option in the top menu:
Type in the name of the pass you are looking for. For example if you want the Du Toits Kloof Pass, you need only type in 'du toit' . A list will populate in a new window with passes containing the word 'du toit' Select the one you want and click on the blue hyperlink. It will take you directly to that pass page.
Hint: Don't type in the word 'pass' as you will get over 500 results.
PAGE LAYOUT/ UNDERSTANDING THE MAPS and VIDEOS
Each pass page follows a 'recipe'.
1. A small photo appears at the top of the page, which might or not be taken on the actual pass itself. Sometimes it is of an object in a nearby town or something closely related to the pass.
2. The introductory first few sentences loosely describes the pass. By expanding the page, you get more details. If space allows, we sometimes add in another few photos if we can source them. Any page on this website can be expanded by clicking the picture, title or READ MORE button.
3. Below the intoduction section is the video clip of the pass. Click the white triangle in the middle of the 'video playback screen' to start watching. For some of the bigger passes there might be more than one video which will be stacked one above the other. These are always posted in the correct order, so you can watch them sequentially.
4. All our videos are filmed in HD. This is the best format to watch them in and will greatly enhance your viewer enjoyment with crystal clear video imagery. If you have a slow connection, the system will automatically default to the next best setting. If you want the best reproduction, change the quality setting on the bottom right corner of the video screen (the gear/cog icon) to HD. This might mean having to wait for the full video to download, but it's always worth it!
For those wtaching our videos at higher resolutions of 720 and 1080 on the YouTube player, might notice that some pixellation occurs every 5 seconds. We are busy researching how to prevent this, but in a nutshell, YouTube compresses all videos to a standard format. It is this compression which affects pixelation issues on most videos - especially those with lots of detail in the frame (as most of ours exhibit). We have subsequently opened an account with Vimeo and all videos from December, 2017 will display in the Vimeo player, which is far superior to YouTube and our videos are displayed as we upload them without any pixelation issues.
5. The videos also follow a strict format. These start and end with the MPSA logo, followed by a Google earth space to pass zoom. This helps the viewer to orienteer themselves quickly as to where the pass is located in South Africa. You can stop, pause or go back at any point if you want to rewatch a specific part of any video. You can also change the screen size of your video from the normal frame size shown, to half page or full screen, by clicking on the rectangle outline on the bottom right of the task bar on the video screen. To get fine details it is best to watch in Full Screen mode. To get back to the normal size, press the ESC key on your keyboard.
6. This is followed by an animated vertical profile animation clip, which gives you a general idea of gradients and routing. As the two markers (one in the graph - the other on the map) move in sync with each other, a set of values show alongside the markers. These are distance, gradient (in % format) and altitude in meters above sea level (ASL). Both the first two animations are presented with a 'North Up' orientation to provide consistency of orientation.
7. The third part of the orientation is a 3D simulated helicopter fly-over. These clips are always oriented in the direction of travel and are generally only "North Up" by coincidence. If we have filmed the pass in real time, the final part of the video will feature the 'on car' filming. These clips are generally edited down to under 3 minutes per pass, which means you are watching only about 15% of the actual footage, but it is adequate to familiarise yourself with any pass on this website. This is to comply with international requirements on YouTube. On some of the major passes (like Prince Alfreds Pass), there can be multiple sequential clips, which can be watched easily in the correct order. All are clearly marked.
8. The next item as you scroll down is the Fact File. This is a compact table of the pass's vital statistics showing GPS co-ordinates, altitudes, distances, gradients and other information. This is a quick way of assessing if a pass is suitable for you to drive, ride, cycle, or walk.
9. Please note that we universally use the recognized international format of decimal degrees. For example S33.123456. Make sure that you program your GPS to be on the same format, otherwise you can end up with major errors in your navigation. The other formats are Degrees, Minutes and Decimal- minutes and the old format is Degrees, Minutes and Seconds. All GPS units will have the ability to change format to one of these formats.
10. Next is the interactive map. It works the same as the Master Orientation Map on the Home Page. You can zoom it infinitely, scroll it, and switch between map or satellite mode. Often satellite mode offers superior feel and imagery. These maps also offer "Street View" if available, as per the Master Orientation Map. If you click and hold on the orange man top left of the map, and then drag it to the pass route on the map, the road will change to a blue colour if the pass has been photographed by Google for street view. As a general guide, most of the major tarred passes have this feature, but few of the remote gravel passes do.
11. Just below the map is a small white window, labelled "Get route" If you type the address in of where you currently are, the map will quickly calculate the best route to get you to the pass of your choice. It will show as a bright blue line on the map. A green balloon marked A will show where you are now and a red balloon marked B will show the location of the start of the pass. Just below the window, you will find the total distance to get there and the approximate time it will take. Below that is a printable list of accurate directions with distances between turn-offs. To print the directions click on the blue words PRINT ROUTE just below the map bottom-right.
12. Below the map are the ROUTE FILES (described in detail a little further down this page) If GPS navigation is not your thing, rather just download the route file for a pass you want to get to, which will take all the dogwork away. The route files are in a .gdb or .kmz file extension format which is compatible with .gpx, which you can also use in Google earth. Note that this feature is only available to subscribers. Subscription is R200 per year, so subscribe/register now!
13. Below the video is the COMMENTS section, where you can let us know anything that is on your mind, be at a compliment or a criticism or any other relevant information you would like to share. Please dont post any links to your own website here, as it breaches our advertising protocol. We have a FaceBook (see SOCIAL MEDIA) page where you can post pics or whatever you want to chat about. Please keep the comments relevant and stick to the general tone of the website. No foul language, politics, religious or racist comments please. Comments are moderated daily. Offensive comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be banned from this site and blacklisted with Google.
Each pass has its own unique route file. This is a small file with a .gdb or .kmz file extension. You will need an appropriate form of software like Garmin's 'MapSource' to read these files or you can read them in Google earth. You have to be a registered member of this website to gain access to the route files. Once you are registered/subscribed you will need to keep a record of your user name and password so you can log in when you want to download a route file. As the files are really tiny, they download in less than a second. Once you have saved it onto your PC/Laptop/Mobile device, you then upload the file onto your GPS. You will then have exact pin-point accuracy of the entire pass (turn by turn, meter by meter) without having to enter GPS co-ordinates. This is completely free to our subscribers. Subscribers receive an automated email prompt with each news bulletin uploaded. In general we post news items once per week.
For travellers with GPS units other than Garmin, you might need to download a file converter to make the route file work. The fact is that Garmin have about 95% of the SA market, so we have provided the route files in .gbd file extensions. Newer Garmins use .gpx file extensions which should automatically convert from .gdb - The route files are also compatible with .kmz which you can use in Google earth.
Why do we ask you to register/subscribe? This project has been privately funded by the founder of the website for the past 5 years. It has now grown into a very large website of encyclopaedic size and requires funding to constantly improve the quality of the videos and research provided. It is no longer sustainable for us to provide the service completely free. We have carefully structured the subscription at a very affordable rate which is currently R200 per year. Non-subscribers can see all the menu and sub menu items including the Master Map, but can only see about 10% of the actual pass page which consists of a one paragraph overview and one photograph. Subscribers can see the full text, all the photographs, the video(s), the interactive map with directions, time and distance calculated, access to download the route file, the Fact File plus accurate approach directions from either side of the pass - as well as a discount on any item purchased from our online shop. If all our readers subscribe, it assists greatly to continue to bring a world class website into your homes and offices. Subscribers visit websites they are subscribed to more often than non-subscribers. Being a subscriber also keeps us in touch with you and informs you of each new item that gets added to the site. In short, we want to stay connected with you! We have tried to create the best mountain pass website in the world. We believe we have achieved that. As at May 2017, the site is attracting 90,000 page views per month, based on pure organic growth.
Certain phrases, technical words, abbreviations and acronyms are used repeatedly throughout the site. Below is a list of commonly used formats and their explanations:
ASL - Above Sea Level
m - Metres
km - Kilometres
GPS - Global Positioning System
Cavitation - When air/water gets inside rocks and they slide
Catchwalls - Reinforced concrete walls designed to stop rocks from falling onto the road surface
Shotcrete - Stabilizing the rockface by spraying liquid concrete onto the rocks under high pressure.
Rockbolts - Deep steel bolts anchored into an unstable rockface as a form of anchoring.
Weepholes - Pipes inserted throughthe rocks to encourage the flow of water away from the rock cevices.
Camber - The slope of the road from the mid point of the road to shed excess water
Cross Flow - The slope of the entire road at an even angle from one side to the other to assist speed through a turn and shed water.
Banking - The same as Cross Flow above.
Super Elevation - The same as Cross Flow or Banking above
Gradient - The steepness of a pass. It can be expresses as a ratio, percentage or in degrees. We use the ratio format throughout. [ 1:7 In this example it means you go forward for 7 units for a 1 unit gain in height]
Average gradient - The steepness of a pass calculated by deviding the altitude gained by the distance of the pass multiplied by 1000.
Maximum Gradient - The maximum steepness of any one portion of a pass.
Pitch - The same as gradient.
Nose - An elongated section of mountain through which engineers must cut a passage to allow the road to pass through
N, S, E, W - North, South, East, West (Main headings on a compass)
NW, SE, NE, SW - Main headings devided by two (eg. North-West, South-East, North West)
NNW, SSE etc - Half headings devided by two (eg. North-North-West, South-South- East)
All the news items are listed in date order including the latest item, from newest to oldest. Scroll down to find archived news items. Our news items are almost always focussed on mountain passes. We will rarely stray from this formula.
Expand each news item to read the whole article, by clicking on the title, photo or the READ MORE button.
The link to view Visitor Feedback, is located below the News link on the top menu. This is a list of comments from our subscribers and readers published in chronological order from newest to oldest. Don't be shy to send us a compliment. We are creative people at MPSA and we thrive on compliments. Go for it! For your trouble, we'll put your name on the map, so to speak!
We absolutely hate cyber trolls. We get about two of them each year. A cyber troll is a viewer who only has negative and destructive things to say. Usually cowards that hide behind their keyboards. If you have something constructive to bring to our attention, you will find us pleasantly willing to listen and edit any real errors (Yes, we do make mistakes!).
A second sub-link is titled ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. This is the page where we pay tribute to all our readers who have sent us information, photos, video material or contributed in any meaningful way to this website.
There are 2 sub-menu links below the Social menu link. These are for our Facebook and Twitter pages and we will soon be adding Instagram onto the page.
If you choose the FaceBook link you can see the most recent wall posts or you can click through to FaceBook and get involved by posting photos, videos or comments. If you "smaak our site stukkend" then why not give us a 'Like' on FaceBook. Your likes help to give us more media muscle and allows us to provide you with a very affordable service.
The Twitter link takes you direct to our page on Twitter. We seldom post on Twitter as the format does not dovetail with our communication style. Every news release is automatically fed through to Twitter. If you are a tweeter, then tweet away!
We hate spam as much as you do and we go to extraordinary lengths to ensure our site remains secure and spam free. Enter your details plus that infuriating code that is so hard to read and send us your message. We try to always reply the same day (unless we're out filming)
This page sets out our advertising structure in the simplest of terms. We are always willing to tailor a package to suit your specific needs. Talk to us – we will make a plan. Advertising on our site exposes your business to 90,000 page-views per month (we have the Google Analytics to prove it!). Whether you have a guest house, restaurant, hotel, gift shop, garage or general store, you can get into the minds of like minded people who are in a relaxed mode cyber driving passes that will be in your area. The advertising is intensely focused – for example if you have a business in Montagu (Western Cape), you could focus on advertising only on the passes that lead to Montagu (there happen to be six of them!)
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.