Sani Pass

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Distance: 7.7 km
Average Gradient: 12%
Elevation Gained: 896 elevation
Road Surface: Gravel (poor condition)
Traffic: Non-existant

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

If you like Gravel Grinding then you will want to add this to your best bucket list 

The Sani pass is an infamous climb used in one of South Africas most popular Mountain biking events called “The Sani Pass Classic”.  This takes you up to the border of Lesotho. It is a really rough road which is only accessible by 4WD, and one for the gravel grinders. The surface is unforgiving, with lots of loose stones, corrugations and potholes to keep you on your toes. At the top of the climbs is the Sani Mountain Lodge aka “the pub on top of the world”. This is South Africa’s highest pub situated at 2,874 metres above sea level.

Heading towards the border, you will see a tonne of switchbacks going skyward up the mountain. No matter how good a climber you are, I can guarantee you will look up and say “WTF!”. This is going to hurt something special. The road is extremely poor quality, and is little more than a goat track with nothing in the way of safety barriers. There are some very steep drops to the side of the road. It is considered a very dangerous road to travel across.  The good news is that there really isn’t much traffic using this road, and you can see all the way from the top to bottom off the climb.

If a vehicle does come along, it would be easy to time a safe place to pull off the road to let the vehicle pass you safely.
Sani Pass
Image taken by Vaiz Ha; courtesy of Flickr

The scenery can be truly amazing, but you probably won’t notice as you will be spending your time in the pain cave, staring at the road in front of you. You’ll be trying to find the best (if any) riding line through the corrugations, the loose rocks, gravel and potholes. Save some legs as the last couple of k’s just gets harder and harder with gradients ranging in-between 15 – 25%. This last section has been nicknamed ‘the ladder”. These are a series of tight hairpin bends, with about 100 metres of climbing in-between. You will discover a new meaning of the word pain. If you pick the wrong line and get yourself stuck, don’t be surprised if you find yourself heading towards the roads steep edge.  The drop over the side is quite scary.

You will earn the recognition of getting up one of South Africa’s most difficult climbs, and a view from eye to eye that is to die for. As a bonus, head into the “Highest Pub in Africa” for a beer or a meal and sit at the balcony appreciating the view.

Sani Pass
Image taken by Vaiz Ha; courtesy of Flickr

You can enjoy the thrill of crossing the border into Lesotho on this ride (passports are required). Although the climb up to the Lesotho border post is steep and challenging.  Hey if you made it this far……

Getting to Sani Pass

From Underberg, take the Himeville turn-off. Drive through Himeville until reaching the Sani Pass gravel road on the left. Sani Lodge is a further 10.5km along this road, on your left-hand side

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