Volunteershoek Pass (Bidstone Pass)

Called Bidstone Pass by some.  This is a particularly tough, high-altitude gravel pass that connects the Wartrail farming valley with the well-known Tiffindell Ski Resort. Relatively long at 9,64 km, it rises from 1916 m ASL to 2567 m. With its 1/14 average climb gradient, this pass can be called nothing but ‘steep’! The first 5 km offers gradients of up to 1:5! This is strictly a 4×4 only route.

VOLUNTEERSHOEK PASS

Between Wartrail and

Rhodes via Tiffendell

Altitude: 2381m

Distance: 18 km

Road Surface: Gravel

 

Approx Time: 1-1.5 hours (average conditions)

Vehicle: High clearance vehicle recommended and 4×4 in wet or snowy conditions.

Difficulty: Steep gradient, loose rocks in places, hairpin bends and steep drop-offs so confident driving and controlled power is required.

GPS Points:

Bidstone Farm, Wartrail S 30°43’457” E 7°49’626”

Tiffindell Ski Resort       S                  E

Rhodes Village                 S                  E

Nearest fuel station: Barkly East (60kms) Rhodes Village (40kms) does often stock fuel, but it is best not to rely on this

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Picnic or fly-fishing at Loch Ness dam

Tiffindell SkiResort and Ben McDhui peak – highest point in the Cape (3,001 metres above sea-level)

Stunning views of Halstone Krans and the beautiful Wartrail Valley

Rare alpine wildflowers, especially in February and March

Bird species include Cape vulture, Drakensberg rock-jumper, Verreaux’s (Black Eagle)

From Wartrail, follow the signs to Tiffindell Ski Resort. After 5-6km note the unusual mushroom rock formation on the left hand side which gives Funnystone Farm its name. The turning on to Volunteershoek is on the left hand side, just after Bidstone Farm. There is a boom at the bottom of the pass which may be closed if the pass is closed due to snow or rockfalls. Please do not attempt the pass if the boom is down.

 

After crossing the Funnystone stream, the pass ascends sharply for 5km, with hairpin bends and steep drop-offs. Once up onto the plateau, enjoy stunning views back down into the Wartrail valley and beyond. You can usually see as far as Lady Grey 100kms away, and on a clear day even the outline of the Stormberg mountains towards Queenstown.

As you drive along the plateau, you are right on the edge of the Lesotho border, the “Mountain Kingdom” is just on the other side of the peaks to the north-east.

 

You will pass by some ‘containers’ which are self-contained herder’s huts for the farmworkers who tend stock up here in the high mountains during summer (in the middle of winter, the animals are moved down to the valleys below).

After 17kms you will arrive at Loch Ness dam, a pretty spot for a picnic. The dam is one of the highest still fishing waters in the country at an altitude of 2,540 metre. Permits to fly-fish here for rainbow trout may be obtained through the Wild Trout Association (045 974 9290) www.wildtrout.co.za.

 

Once you have crossed the dam, you will arrive at Tiffindell Ski Resort where you are beneath the highest point in the Cape region (3,001m above sea level). Known by local tribes as ‘Makhollo’ (Great Mother), the Europeans named this peak Ben McDhui after the mountain in Scotland and it is affectionately referred to as “BenMac” by local residents. The ski resort is currently closed to the public, but following its recent sale at auction, it is hoped that it will reopen in 2013/14.

 

From Tiffindell you can continue along an old border patrol route to Tenahead Mountain Lodge (4×4 only), or down to Rhodes Village via Carlisleshoek Pass.

POINTS OF INTEREST

3kms Pretty little waterfall with crystal clear, ice cold drinking water (ideal for whisky…..!)

6kms Stunning views of the Wartrail Valley

12kms Kraal and herders huts – self-contained units for the herders who look after the stock

17kms – Loch Ness dam

18kms – Tiffindell Ski Resort

FURTHER INFORMATION

High altitude = high UV, so do use sunscreen, even in winter months.

The temperature on the high alpine plateau at over 2,500 metres above sea-level can be up to 10 degrees C cooler than the valleys, so it is a good idea to take warmer clothing and a wind-proof jacket.