Carlisleshoek Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.563m (8,408ft) above the sea level, located in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, on the road between Rhodes and the Tiffindell Ski Resort. You don't need 4x4, but you do need controlled power, particularly where the cement strips zigzag their way up the most extreme section. It’s one of the highest mountain passes of South Africa.
The surface of the road to Carlisleshoek Pass (also known as Carlislehoekspruit Pass or Carlisle's Hoek) is gravel and sand. The pass is notorious for its descent into the little historical village of Rhodes. Actually the pass links Rhodes with Tiffendell, on the slopes of Ben McDhuui peak. This fairly extreme pass is for the more experienced driver.
The rules of the road include drive slowly (40km/h), road narrows regularly, sharp corners, blind spots, steep grades and slippery when wet. This fairly extreme pass is for the more experienced driver. It rises more than 573 meters over 6,16 km producing steep average gradients of 1:10 with some of the sections an adrenaline pumping 1:2 [or 44% or 24 degrees].
Engage lowest gear. Keep up revs. Take corners wide and drive confident. Carlisleshoek Pass has been described as 'going into free fall' by bikers it is so steep. It is virtually vertical, and described as 'one of the hairiest descents in Africa'. In just over three kilometres you descend more than 300 metres. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. Be well prepared if you plan on driving this route in winter. Temperatures can drop as low as -22C, so ensure you have warm enough clothing in case something goes wrong. This road is not to be trifled with and although a 4x4 is not mandatory, it is nontheless recommended.
Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. It is possible to drive the pass in a normal car under stable and dry weather conditions, but if it is snowing or raining heavily, a 4x4 is a much safer option. For normal vehicles, the steep sections will need to be tackled in 1st gear. Under no circumstances should you try to change to 2nd gear until you are at the summit. Remain in 1st gear and keep the revs up, making sure you don't stall the car, especially on the hairpin bends. Automatic vehicles should select the lowest gear and lock the gearbox in 1st gear. The section with the switchbacks needs your concentration and whilst the hairpins are very sharp, even big 4x4's will make the turns by utilising the space on the corners that have been created for that purpose.