Sir Lowry’s Pass

Original content sourced from Greg Hamerton’s ‘Fresh Air Site Guide’, 5th edition, 2006.

BASIC + 4 / B


Soaring and thermic. A regular site that offers soaring, thermalling and cross-country, with superb views. The long mountain chain extends in a fairly consistent ridge to the south. To the north of takeoff the ridge rises to become towering mountain peaks, then curves to form a semicircle. Thermals can be strong, taking you high up and away from the earth, into the blue.

WIND: NW – SW GPS: +- S34o08.917’ E18o55.65’
LAUNCH: Launch for competent pilots (very good ground-handling skills) from the grassed slope below the wall, where turbulence from the big rocks to the right or left can make it risky. If you misjudge the wind, you are likely to get blown back into the carpark. For an easier launch, walk directly across the road from the entrance to the carpark, and take the little footpath up the mountain, bearing left until you ascend the final steep crest (10 minutes). You will be high above the pass. There is a wind streamer tied to a tall pole, and some netting on the ground. Have a good look at the windspeed, you do not want to be blown over the back of this mountain!
HG: A-grade lower launch is about 500m down the road, just below the railway line.

ALTITUDE: 320m high (420m ASL), airspace ceiling at 1200m ASL.
LANDING: At the base of the pass, on the S side of the road, before the pine trees is a bald spot. Anywhere close by, in the low bushes is okay, but be careful not to damage the sensitive fynbos. Be careful of the big set of powerlines on final approach on the far side of the landing spot, between it and the highway. Please do not land too close to the road, as you may cause an accident. More experienced pilots can land a little further on, at the second clearing where the retrieval road turns off the base of the pass. Toplanding is not recommended when the carpark is congested (weekends, holidays) or for Basic Pilots. If the air is thermic or the wind crossed, toplanding is very risky.
DIRECTIONS: N2 towards Caledon, at the top of the Sir Lowry’s Pass, turn right into the viewsite. Beware of baboons (keep windows closed and food out of sight).
RECORD: 117km N to Porterville (Greg Hamerton, Nov 1999), 60km E to Caledon (Carlo Borsattino, Dec 1996), S to Betties Bay, Johan Anderson (Jun 2001)

CAUTIONS: Severe wind gradient in a NW. If the wind swings S, conditions will get very turbulent, and toplanding dangerous. Sometimes it is flyable with a light SE, in lee-side wind-shadow conditions. Watch the water for signs of the wind-line deteriorating. Light aircraft fly beneath the controlled airspace. Beware! They will come over at the low point (the Pass). An airband radio would help to avoid a conflict.

PERMISSION: none needed