COVID – 19 Update
We will offer a 95% refund on your entry up to 1 October 2022, when the final call will be made as to if the event can take place within Government regulations at that point. Please note that our normal refund policy will be in place for any other cancellation scenarios, the 95% refund will only be paid out if the event can’t be held due to Government Regulations.
The legend of the To Hell & Back
CS Lewis said that ‘the road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.’ In this case, the road to the Hell is a rocky dirt road with steep slopes, sharp switchbacks, ups and downs, dropping a hair raising 3000 feet down into a valley.
This race proudly is the first MTB stage race in South Africa. The views while riding on these historic roads are extraordinary, jaw-dropping and nail-biting all in one. It is known as the longest mountain pass in South Africa.
The overnight stop in The Hell means everybody stays together, which makes for a great atmosphere. The uniqueness of the race village is ‘captured’ within the sheer remoteness of Gamkaskloof, no electricity, no cell reception, no TV, not even radio reception.
It was in 1995 that the first To Hell and Back took place. It came about from the love of riding and to popularise The Hell. Due to limited accommodation and facilities in The Hell, only 500 participants are allowed.
Important breaking news
Signup for the EcoBound newsletters to stay up to date with important event details.
Day 1: Over the Swartberg Mountains, Into the Hell
|Start:||De Hoek Holiday Resort|
|Water tables:||20kms, 37kms, 52kms and at the finish.|
The first ± 4km is tarred road whereafter participants turn off onto a gravel road snaking through the farms in the Cango Valley. After a steep climb, this road links up with the main road at the base of the Swartberg Pass (860m). From here the route follows the Swartberg Pass to the top (1560m) where the Gamkaskloof turnoff is taken 3km further. The route follows this road to Gamkaskloof where the first day’s riding end at the Fonteine Guest Farm (560m).
Day 2: Up Elands Pass, Out of the Hell
|Start:||Die Fonteine Guest Farm|
|Water tables:||12kms, 23kms, 40kms and at the finish.|
The second Day starts with the gruelling 4km climb up Elandspad. Riders will follow the same route back to De Hoek, turning each awesome downhill from the previous day into climbs, changing the character of the route completely. The race will finish in the campsite of De Hoek.
After the fires of 2019. The To Hell and Back’s accommodation options has changed. We now have 2 camps that offer the same at the same price and the option of the Cape Nature Cottage accommodation.
||Bring your own:
|R3400 – entry only||
||Bring your own:
|R4900||Luxury Race Camp (pp sharing)
||Bring your own:
|R5850||Luxury Race Camp (Single)
||Bring your own:
|FRIDAY||16:00||Registration at De Hoek Mountain Resort|
|17:00||De Hoek (start venue) chill area opens|
|SATURDAY||05:30||Registration Starts at De Hoek Start Venue|
|06:15||Registration Closesat De Hoek Start Venue|
|06:15||Luggage Trucks departure from De Hoek Campsite (and all other vehicles)
Please ensure that your luggage is on the correct luggage truck
At the Campsite under the Arch.
|14:00||Bike Workshop at “Die Fonteine” Campsite
Available till 16:00
|18:00||Dinner – Braai
|SUNDAY||05:30||Breakfast at Campsites|
|06:15||Luggage Trucks departure from The Hell (and all other vehicles)|
At the “Die Fonteine” Campsite
The First 200 riders will be seeded
|13:00||Prize Giving at De Hoek Mountain Resort
Will take place at the finish line or in case of rain it will be in the hall
The pre-race evening accommodation is not included in any entry fee and must be arranged by yourself.
Night before Race
De Hoek Holiday Resort – 044 272 8214 (Race venue)
Wilgewandel – 044 272 0878
Oudtshoorn Tourism – 044 279 2532
Gamkaskloof Self Catering Cottages
Cape Nature – www.capenature.co.za PLEASE BOOK VIA ECOBOUND – firstname.lastname@example.org
Turnberry Boutique Hotel
130 St. John Str, Oudtshoorn
044 279 3268
- Sweep vehicles will be available
- Traffic Control
- Water points
- Bike Shop/Mechanical Services
- Luggage Truck available
- Fuel Zone (Food and Beverages)
- A photographer will take photo’s on route – order at registration
Do you want to have your bike delivered to the start of the event?
From Pretoria – Bicycletransport
Tel 082 4465141 082 4465141
Cost is R1200 per bike.
Call using Skype Send SMS Learn more You’ll need Skype CreditNo Skype credit required
Conservation / Environmental:
The event is taking place in a Nature Reserve – Standard Nature Conservation rules and regulations apply.
DO NOT LITTER – anyone observed littering will be disqualified and banned from future races. Large items such as tubes can be left in the road to be collected by sweep vehicle other items must be taken out.
Smoking or the lighting of fires is forbidden at all times on route during the race.
Do not camp along the river in the hell. Washing of apparel and equipment in the river or streams is forbidden at all times during the race. Please use water sparingly in The Hell.
Strictly adhere to the “leave no trace and take no souvenirs” policy.
Support / Outside Assistance:
No Support / Seconding Vehicles will be allowed.
Competitors may assist and be assisted by fellow competitors / race official.
No Supporters will be allowed to travel to The Hell, unless they have booked accommodation in a Cape Nature cottage.
All traffic rules apply. Please obey all officials and marshals.
NO Helmet, NO ride! Bicycles must be in good order, especially the brakes.
Along the route there are extremely sharp and hidden bends, serious injury will result if you go over the edge. Riding on this route comes with inherit risks that participants accept upon entering the event. The finish on the 1st day is on a steep downhill, be careful.
Your race number must be visible at all times on your handlebar.
Most of the course will be clearly marked (follow the marked course route) however basic common sense may be required to find the route on certain sections. No taking short cuts.
Tampering with Route Markers will lead to disqualification. Misplaced or damaged event signage must be reported to the next race official immediately.
Respect other participants when passing – keep left and pass right, be aware of blind spots and slow down when you need to.
The first 200 cyclists (on day one) will be seeded for the start of day two in the Hell. Everyone else to line-up behind these seeding blocks – adhere to this.
Make way for any official / medic vehicles. Unfortunately it will be unavoidable to prevent certain official vehicles to pass cyclists – please bear with it. This will be limited as far as possible.
Withdrawal: Should you need to drop out of the race, inform the nearest race official. If you leave the course and fail to notify race officials, you will be banned from participating in the future (unless assisted from the course by Medics). Sweep vehicles will be available to act as pick-up vehicle for those that withdraw.
The organisers reserve the rights to change the routing and format at any time during the event.
Vehicles on Route:
No vehicles on route. Vehicle access to Gamkaskloof is limited to house/cottage bookings only and controlled by Cape Nature when you enter The Hell. Ensure that you obtain your permit at registration and that the permit token is displayed in the window at all times.
Make way for official vehicles on route. Ignoring official & emergency vehicles may lead to disqualification.
Important: Vehicles MUST depart with the Luggage trucks each morning at 06:15 and drive straight to the finish. Vehicles leaving later than this will be kept behind the cyclists & Sweep Vehicle.
No unofficial vehicles will be allowed between cyclists. Riders of these vehicles will be disqualified.
Bag Service (Luggage Trucks):
A Bag service is provided for participants to get their personal belongings to the overnight accommodation in The Hell.
Ensure that your Bag is on the correct luggage truck (in De Hoek campsite) by 6:15. Trucks will be leaving at 6:15 sharp on both days.
Trucks will be marked according to race numbers:
- Riders with numbers 1-299: First Campsite (Race Village).
- Riders with numbers 300+: Second Campsite
Limit luggage to the minimum and ensure that it is well marked and packed in a dust free, waterproof container such as a black bag.
Categories / Minimum Age:
Open Men / Open Women – Prize money is not given at this event.
Minimum Age: The minimum age for riders is 18.
All ages are calculated using the age you are on 31 December.
Preliminary results will be available within 24hrs on the website.
Final results (should there be corrections) will be posted on this website within a few days of the race, if applicable.
The use of band performance Enhancing Substances is not permitted during this event. Event organisers reserve the right to test participants for Band Substances. Participants failing to provide a sample on request will be disqualified from the event.
Racers wishing to make a protest must notify a race organiser within 60 minutes of finishing the race. Protests will be considered by a three person committee consisting of the race director and two race organisers. Decisions of the committee are final.
Bad sportsmanship and abuse towards officials can lead to disqualification. As participants please show your appreciation for their efforts to help you finish the race by thanking and giving a smile to our volunteers.
The event will take place irrespective of weather conditions unless intervened by Disaster Management.
The event organisers reserve the right to cancel the race at any time and the race can be cancelled due to any circumstances. Serious considerations will be taken before this happens and the decision will not be taken lightly.
Lost and Found:
Any personal items left after the race will be donated to a charity or to other local runners in need. We will not ship items to you.
Refund policy and cancellation:
All refund requests must be made in writing via email. The date the email was sent will determine the refund amount.
Please see below refund scale:
- 50% refund – if refund request is made before 01 October
- After 01 October – Substitution / replacement of entries must be handled privately. No refund will be given.
Once your substitution /replacement / cancellation have been arranged, this must be notified in writing via email to the EcoBound offices for Registration and Event Administrative Logistic reasons.
No credit towards another event will be given.
Cancelling the Event:
We (the event organisers) reserve the right to cancel the race at any time and the race can be cancelled due to any circumstances. Serious considerations will be taken before this happens and the decision will not be taken lightly. If the event is cancelled, no refunds will be made.
1995 – A Legend is Born
Die Hel (The Hell) is the colloquial name for a remote green valley in the Swartberg mountains. Twenty-five kilometres long and half-a-kilometre wide, the valley was once home to a thriving community of self-sustaining farmers whose only access to the outside world was a sketchy bridle path on the western end of the Gamkaskloof and the rugged Gamkapoort itself. It was only in 1962 that the first “real” road, and the one used currently, was built into the valley. It remains the only road, and its twisty hairpins form the route for the infamous there-and-back two-day sojourn that is the To Hell & Back Extreme MTB Tour.
It was in 1995 that Wikus Van Der Walt and his colleague, John Sharples, decided after riding the route themselves, that it would be a great idea to organise an event to Gamkaskloof and back as a way of promoting this remote valley. At that stage, Wikus and John were still government officials working for Cape Nature. In 1996 Wikus left Cape Nature and started an environmental consultancy called EcoBound, with mountain-bike eventing as a small sideshow, and To Hell & Back the only event in the portfolio at that stage.
The limited accommodation and facilities in The Hell, placed a limit on the number of participants allowed. When the event first reached that capacity around 1997, entry forms were no longer publicly available. The only way participants could get hold of an entry was to provide EcoBound with a self-addressed envelope and stamp, which normally exceeded the allowable capacity. EcoBound printed only the exact number of entry forms, filled the envelopes and posted them back to the participants. The limit on the number of participants still remains the same today.
The secret to experiencing the soul of the event, is to tour and not race the scenic 120km, over the two days. It is known as the longest mountain pass in South Africa, the road either going up or coming down.
The sheer remoteness of Gamkaskloof, no electricity, no cell reception, no TV, not even radio reception creates a unique wilderness atmosphere at the overnight stop in The Hell. Life long friendships have been made in the shadow of the winding Elands Pass. Its majestic ambience make sure everyone stays humble and get enough rest to make it out the next day.
The true spirit of mountain biking is captured deep in the roots of the To Hell and Back. It is South Africa’s first mountain bike stage race and undoubtedly attributed a great deal to the development of subsequent MTB events, and some infamous riders. It forms an important part of the history of mountain biking in this country and will always remain –
The original. The Legend
Gamkaskloof is a legendary and remote valley situated in the heart of the Swartberg mountains also referred to as the Hell. The history is as fascinating as the natural beauty and splendour thereof. It is almost certain that the first inhabitants of Gamkaskloof were bushmen. Only in 1830 did European farmers first establish themselves here. These farmers farmed with goats, wheat and beans, and later the valley became renowned for the high quality of its dried fruit. For many years the inhabitants were self-reliant and essentials such as salt, paraffin and sugar were brought in with pack mules from Prince Albert through the northern gap formed by the Gamka river. This northern access route could later not be used due to the construction of the Gamkapoort dam, which was completed in 1968, and for this reason, a road was built by Kosie van Zyl, in 1963 on the eastern side of the valley to provide the necessary access for the inhabitants.
There were never more than 100 people living in the valley at any given time. In 1915 the first school (Kleinberg) was built and in 1923 a second school followed. The last school was finally closed in 1981 as a result of many people leaving the kloof. The long droughts followed by floods, together with the new access road and the young people leaving for the bigger schools, led to the final exodus of the inhabitants out of the valley.
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.
When the organisers noticed that there were some riders returning each year, they thought of a way to recognise these diehard fans.
The Old Nicks Club was established to recognise this achievement and to ‘give back’ to our loyal supporters that complete 10 or more To Hell and Backs.
What happens when you get into the Old Nicks Club?
Old Nicks automatically qualify for the event each year – with the limited amount of entries, this is a bonus. They receive a personalised race number (spot them in their blue numbers) and To Hell and Back apparel. Their names are also listed on the Hall of Old Nicks. One of the biggest bonuses is the Old Nicks Race Village in The Hell. Everything is super-sized and made more comfortable than the standard tented camp.
Hall of Old Nicks
- Tony Thorburn
- Paul Goedhart
- Andre Loots
- Andrew Marshall
- Andries Grobler
- Barry Pauw
- Bernie Stopforth
- Blyda Malherbe
- Cecil Baker
- Chris Barker
- Chris Derksen
- Colin Mathiesen
- Corrie Muller
- Danie Van Tonder
- Dennis Du Toit
- DeWet Marais
- Dirk Joubert
- Fap van der Merwe
- Geniel de Villiers
- Hannes Hannekom
- Hannes Neethling
- Hennie Van Rooyen
- Harold Basson
- Isak Malherbe
- Ischen Stopforth
- Izak du Plessis
- Jake Crowther
- James Stopforth
- Jerry Aries
- Jill Black
- Johan Nicol
- John Sharples
- Juan Mason
- Kevin Evans
- Kevin Taljaard
- Leon van Niekerk
- Murray Derksen
- Nick Brummer
- Paul Haumann
- Paul Van Zyl
- Peter Stopforth
- Pieter Eksteen
- Pieter van der Merwe
- Riaan Derks
- Salome Loots
- Steve Cilliers
- Tim Ziehl
- Viljoen Thom
- William Stopforth
- Wouter Olivier
A special mention to Paul Goedhart and Tony Thorburn who has ridden every single event, to date. They have grown with the event and seen it’s many faces and is our ‘oldest’ Old Nicks.
We thank these riders for their loyal support!