To Hell and Back

To Hell and Back

To Hell and Back

Described in 1999 as the Bone Breaker, Bike Shaker, Sweat Maker and Nerve Taker, the To Hell and Back Mountain Bike Race is one of the most challenging cycle tours on the African continent. In order to fully appreciate this race you need to understand where the race takes place. This race is not a case of distance but destination that makes it pure torture, the valley known as De Hell. In the 1830s, a tiny group of settlers from the Great Trek, discovered this remote, 16 kilometre long canyon deep in the Swartberg mountains, completely sealed off from civilisation. The closest sign of civilisation was in the little town of Prince Albert, an incredible 60 kilometre journey over the towering mountains. The gravel access track was only constructed in the mid 1960s. The largest portion of the valley is currently under the management of Cape Nature. They, with the help of the SA Nature Foundation, Simon van der Stel Foundation and the National Monuments Council, are in the process of restoring the buildings in the valley. Onderplaas is being managed as a traditional farm to uphold and maintain the farming methods and traditions of the valley's historic past. This protected haven is now the turnaround point for the To Hell and Back mountain bike tour. Every year a brave group of mountain bikers clash on the uphill hairpins of the Swartberg Pass and the harrowing descent to Gamkaskloof in the Klein Karoo. We said brave, but it is only the very brave and venturesome, that can claim the unique distinction of having been to hell and back.

Race day starts at De Hoek holiday resort at 07:00 with the cry of the baboon, when over 200 riders set off to conquer the Swartberg Pass. After a deceiving couple of kilometres of pleasant farm land, the route attacks, winding up the phenomenal gravel pass for approximately 10km. An intense uphill battle ensues as riders strain to reach the pass as the temperatures soar to an average temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The riders reach the summit and plunge down the incredible downhill twists to the halfway camp in Gamkaskloof. After two and a half hours of gruelling pedalling the first riders cross the halfway line, the conclusion of day one. The next mornings return has more up, up, up and up in store. The first section includes a tough 3km climb to the top of the Swartberg Pass again and then down the other side in the flying stones and choking dust. Another two-and-three-quarter hours and the leading riders hit the finish line at De Hoek with the others completing the challenge much later. The race which takes place on the longest mountain pass in South Africa and on the first day covers a distance of 60 kilometres with total accumulated climbs of 1750 metres and the return on day two has accumulated climbs of 1900 metres.

The 2011 To Hell and Back Mountain Bike race takes place from 10 to 13 November 2011.

For more information and future dates please contact:
The Ecobound team:
Tel: +27-44-8714455
Or email:

From Cape Town:
Enter Oudtshoorn from Calitzdorp
Continue to Baron Von Rheede Street
Turn left and continue along Baron Von Rheede Street
Follow route descriptions from Oudtshoorn

From Johannesburg:
Enter Oudtshoorn from De Rust
Continue to Baron Von Rheede Street
Turn right and continue along Baron Von Rheede Street
Follow route descriptions from Oudtshoorn

From George:
Enter Oudtshoorn from George
Continue straight through Oudtshoorn along Baron Von Rheede Street
Follow route descriptions from Oudtshoorn

From Oudtshoorn:
You will exit Oudtshoorn along the R328 heading towards the Cango Caves
Continue for approx 30 kms
Just after Wilgewandel take the Prince Albert turnoff to the left
Continue for another approx 6kms on this road
At the De Hoek sign post turn right
After approx 2kms you have the De Hoek Holiday Resort - The Start of The 2 Hell and Back.

Accommodation Near To Hell and Back

The Retreat at Groenfontein

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Calitzdorp District

9.6km South of To Hell and Back

The Retreat is an old Victorian farmhouse set in 560ha of the Groenfontein Valley Conservancy bordering on the 129.000ha Swartberg Nature Reserve. The house, with furnishings of yellow-wood and Oregon pine, has the lounge and dining room ........

Sleeps: 28 in 6 units/rooms

Karoo View Cottages

Self Catering Apartment, Flatlet Accommodation in Prince Albert

23.5km North East of To Hell and Back

Perched on a Koppie 400m off the main street of the village of Prince Albert you will find our luxurious Self-Catering Accommodation complete with all your 'home from home' comforts, Bed and Breakfast health provisions, fresh milk and...

Sleeps: 36 in 10 units/rooms

Tamala's Cottages

Self Catering House, Cottage, Chalet Accommodation in Prince Albert

23.6km North East of To Hell and Back

Welcome to the picturesque Prince Albert. Ta Mala's cottage is situated in Mark street 85 one block from the town centre. The house consists of three self-catering cottages. One night stays and children are welcome.

Sleeps: 10 in 5 units/rooms

Saxe-Coburg Lodge

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Prince Albert

23.8km North East of To Hell and Back

Nestling beneath the Prince Albert, possible the prettiest small town in South Africa, with its Karoo style, Cape Dutch and Victorian houses lining quiet arboured streets. Canals lead mountain water into the lush gardens of flowers and fruit trees, a veri


Die Fonteine Guest House

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

43.3km East of To Hell and Back

Die Fonteine is a luxury guest house, situated in the heart of the Cango Valley near Oudtshoorn. The guest house offers stylishly decorated en-suite rooms with beautiful views of the Schoemanshoek Valley and the spectacular...

Sleeps: 24 in 4 units/rooms

Klein Afrika

Self Catering House, Cottage, Chalet Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

43.4km East of To Hell and Back

The 4 self-catering cottages which are located on a smallholding near Oudtshoorn, are close enough to town for a quick visit, yet secluded enough not to be disturbed by the buzz of people and traffic. Each cottage sleeps a maximum of 6 people and...


Old Mill Lodge & A la carte Restaurant

Guest House Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

43.7km East of To Hell and Back

Luxury riverfront tent & luxury waterfront Cabin accommodation as well as omfortable and affordable bed and breakfast 4 star accommodation, Oudtshoorn. Accommodation near the Cango Caves, Schoemanshoek, only 12 km from us. We offer Family, normal and self


Adley House

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

43.8km East of To Hell and Back

With modern amenities, relax in our well kept gardens and pools, park in safety ,in house on our large property. 14 large en-suite individually decorated rooms, all with TV stocked bar fridges, tea and coffee trays, individual modern remote ...

Sleeps: 22 in 9 units/rooms

The Boulders Lodge & Spa

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

43.9km East of To Hell and Back

The Boulders Lodge is fully air-conditioned, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a sparkling blue pool and Jacuzzi on the deck awaits visitors who are ready to restore peace to body and soul. Little extras such as a little special gift on...

Stonebreaker Country Lodge

Bed & Breakfast Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

44.2km East of To Hell and Back

Our thatched lodge is fitted with modern conveniences and offers you safe off-road parking. Twelve elegantly furnished en suite rooms, with an African ambience, make you really feel at home. The luxurious honeymoon and family suites promise you ...