Going up Sani Pass (snow)

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Thanked: 7

    Default Going up Sani Pass (snow)

    Sani Pass in the snow (10-12 Aug 2012)

    After months of planning and constantly checking the weather conditions on www.yr.no made the final days interesting. First we thought that the heavy amount of snow-fall in July has “stolen” our change of seeing anything in August, boy where we wrong!!


    Defender 90 Puma, Land Cruiser 79, Nissan Hardbody, Mitsubishi Pajero, Fortuner, 3 Jeep Wranglers and Isuzu KB


    Kempton Park to Underberg via the N3 (turning off @ Howick)
    Underberg to Sani Top and back

    Total: 1324km


    Khotso Horse Trails

    This is a lovely place with a log cabin sleeping 24 people as well as 4 chalets
    We stayed in the log cabin due to our group being so big
    The 5 bedrooms are on the 2nd floor. 2 bathrooms on the 1st floor
    Very spacious lounge, dinning room and adequate kitchen
    All the bedding and cutlery is supplied, all are very clean


    The plan was the leave around 08:00 on the Friday morning from our “rendezvous” point in Kempton Park. With the N3 being closed earlier the week, I informed everyone that we should leave @ 06:30 to make up time if there is heavy traffic. Werries had left the day before and advised that they where re-routed back on the R103 via Greytown toward Underberg. Lucky for us the route was clear down to Howick.

    After our prayer and “briefing” and making sure all the drivers had there 2ways on the correct channel (Zartek 705, 708 and pro 8’s) we left at 06:30 and made our way to the 1st stop at Villiers. The Wimpy coffee was much needed as few people had slept very well due to the excitement of seeing snow for the 1st time and so we headed to Harrismith.
    Just before Harrismith you could see the snow capped mountains, but Mr. Fish & Chips was adamant that it was only mine dumps that we where seeing (LoL). It felt like we where in a fairy tale when we saw all the snow at Harrismith, you started to feel like a kid again. Everywhere people pulled to the side of the road to build snow men and take pictures (not many South-Africans are familiar with the white stuff).

    The petrol/diesel tanks were filled and off we went to stop at Mooiriver. The convoy kept an average of 103km/h (gps speed). The “sweeper” at the back closed “the door” for traffic and made going past slow moving vehicles quite easy, as my 90 is not built for speed or comfort (LoL). When we reached Mooiriver all the diesel vehicles poured the Wynns Diesel in the tanks as they filled up (though it would be best at that point to get the ‘product’ in the complete fuel system).

    The snow was packed around the Underberg area as we stopped for the last supplies in town. After the GPS “wanted” to take us on a little detour we arrived at Khotso Horse Trails around 15:00. Most off us started to unload the vehicles and some got there chairs out and opened the 1st “cold-one”. Due to the heavy amounts of snow and wind there was no electricity for the last 3 days. Luckily for us we came prepared as Kobus had a small gas geyser. He and Gouws (Mr. Fish & Chips) started to connect the geyser (but as always “n Boer maak n plan”) and we had hot water.
    That evening we had n braai and chilled in the howling wind (no matter what but we South-Africans will always have n braai). Just before our meal we had n little briefing on what are the plans for tomorrow as this is what we all came for, going up the infamous Sani Pass. The vehicles had their blankets over the engine bays and boxes placed underneath, just to be sure that the 4x4’s start the next morning. (Only Jaco B remembered to lift his windscreen wipers)

    With all the excitement some off the group where already up by 04:35!!! We where only suppose to leave @ 07:30..LoL!! Crazy what the “white-stuff” does to the “Vaalies”. We got the vehicles packed and off we went. By 08:40 we arrived at the border post, have to say that it was n breeze going through (my 15month old baby boy was still sleeping and I had to stay with him, the officials had no problem when my wife stamping our passports). This would be the 1st time anyone of us had driven up Sani Pass in the snow and even had 2 vehicles (Jeep Wrangler and Pajero) that would engage 4wd for the 1st time!! Off we went, around the 2nd water stream we got on to the snow, what a feeling of adrenalin and exhilaration. 2nd Low Range we went going up corner for corner taking in the amazing view. Some sections you had virgin snow and others there was ice and mud. Not long and the 1st 4x4 was “stuck”, I parked and went to assess, Duane (1st time ever engaging 4wd on his Jeep) was sliding and battling to get up. Simple driver error and with the right pointers the Jeep ever so calmly went over the rock and snow.

    I then decided to pull over on a safe place where all 10 4x4’s could stop to let down the tyre pressures. Just as we got going I noted that the Jeep Wrangler JK and Disco 3 was making there way down. The guy in the Jeep advised that he could not go any further due to ice. At the back of our convoy was a Colt with snow chains, Kobus informed as that this guy wants to pass, we decided that it would be a good idea as he was kitted with snow chains on all 4 wheels (BF’s All Terains) but there was no place to pull over so I decided to push on and would stop if a safe place was visible. As I kept going I noted that I have already passed the place where the guy in the Jeep said he could not go, a little worried I just kept going and going the Defender was like a Machine up the hill, as I made fresh tracks the others just followed. Eventually came to a safe spot around a bend at a view point. SWAMBO got so scared with the wind howling from the mountain, that I had to move closer to the other side. The gentlemen in the Colt went passed and said he would check the road up ahead. Then Jaco B (Isuzu KB) radioed that he was struggling and started to slide. Nic (Hardbody) and Kobus (3” Jeep) went and helped him while me and Gouws (Cruiser 79) was waiting for the Colt to give the thumbs up, after just 200m further the Colt came back and said no way anyone is going up as the snow was over a 1m deep!! About 2.7km from the summit, we decided to play in the snow, Rubin and Luzaan build a Snowman while others jumped and made “actions video’s” in the snow.

    We quickly realized that the “traffic” up Sani Pass was getting worse, as more and more vehicles where ascending!!
    What didn’t help was a bunch of hikers was also coming up. We got our convoy turned around and started descending, this was actually scarier then going up as the hikers (With all do RESPECT) was all over the place. They walked in front of the vehicles just stopped in the tracks!! Being any other condition it would have been fine, but the snow was melting and it was mud slush puppy everywhere. The rule of ascending vehicles having the right off way makes for an interesting scenario when going past or pulling over. The one guys almost hit Nic’s Hardbody when he had to swerve out for a hiker!!

    Down at the border post we decided to get a place with a beautiful view and have some Boerie-rolls. The border procedures were again very quick. A few kilometers after the border we got n nice ditch where the wind was not so strong, we stopped for lunch and a “cold-one”.

    When we returned home, most of the group went to take a snooze, they just had to much fun..LoL
    As boys will be boys we took the 2.8 CRD and 3.6 V6 Jeeps out for a “Voortrekker” road test, bliksem does that Diesel pull!! That evening we had lovely warm soup (thanks to Ties & Sonet) as well as a salsa salad (thanks Zelli & Carla).
    The plan was that on Sunday we had to leave early as well due to the traffic and the long stretch back. Jaco H (Fortuner) with Daune (Jeep) left the group around 05:00 the following morning. After the rest of the convoy had a wonderful “Farm-House” breakfast (thank Nina) we took a group photo and off we went. We left @ 08:45, the traffic was terrible up to Harrismith. Just as we passed De Hoek tollgate the traffic started to stand still. Luckly I noted a small road going underneath the N3 and pulled off to the side and radioed the other guys to turn off as well. Quickly viewing on my Garmin that the road connects to the R103 we got on it…..(Boer maak n plan) LoL

    (We later heard that it was a Road-Block that caused a delay of 45-60min)

    We said our goodbye’s at all the necessary stops as everyone was headed their own way after Kempton Park.
    With the snow being printed in our memories forever....It makes you realize how blessed we as people are in the world of GOD.

    Thank you all for a wonderful trip and awesome company.

    Especially my SWAMBO (Erika) for all her planning and dealing with Estehan who got 3 teeth on the night we got back from Sani Pass…what a GREAT woman..
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    "Jaag elke avontuur met n Hart wat gelowig klop"

    2008 Land Rover Puma 90 - sold
    2003 Land Rover Disco 2 Td5 - sold
    1972 Land Rover Series 3 88'' - investment
    2011 Land Rover Puma 110 - SWAMBO daily
    1966 Land Rover Series 2a 109" diesel - investment

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