Sutherland is seen as the coldest place in South Africa. Here midwinter temperatures can drop to -15°C (5°F). According to Sutherland locals, the first cold comes over Easter Weekend. The colder this weekend – the colder the winter.
Some years snow comes early, even at the end of May or beginning of June. The earlier it starts, the more often it tends to snow. But as a rule of thumb and again according to the locals who have been in Sutherland for generations – the month of August is seen as the snow month. This does not mean June and July has no snow, it just means that August is normally the month that gets the most snow. BUT, this is based on averages – and as all things in life, it is not a guarantee, but rather a calculated guess based on past years.
When it does snow – there are a few things to take into consideration.
If the snow is too wet, or if too much rain mixes with the snow (i.e. if it rains in between), then the snow won’t stick to the ground. So you may see snow falling – but have no proper photos of you making a snow angel to prove it.
When the snow does stick, it usually starts showing in the higher areas first. So the pass (Verlatenkloof) normally fills up with snow first, as well as higher lying farms like Gunsfontein Guest Farm, Blesfontein Guest Farm, Sterboom Guest Farm and Skurweberg Guest Farm. These farms are further out of Sutherland. Verlatenkloof Guest Farm is situated in the pass and of course also has a window to the first snows that usually fall in the pass.
When the snowfall is heavy, the pass may become unapproachable. As the wetness, water and ice rain lies on the tar and temperatures drop, the road may freeze and it becomes extremely slippery. So in many cases, you may have to turn around and wait at Matjiesfontein.
Snow only lasts a short while. Of course, how long it lasts would depend on the temperature and amount of snow that has stuck to the ground. But chances are good that if there is snow everywhere the morning, it may have all melted in the lower areas and on the tarred road by midday – with only drips and drabs in the shade.
Also remember to pack enough warm jackets, scarves and beanies!