George MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) : Dog Fight in George

Yup, this past weekend saw a trail dog scrap of note going off along the Outeniqua Trail system, traversing those imposing peaks above the #GardenRoute city of George.

It’s not often that an inaugural event draws nearly 300x runners, with quite a few of them flying in from all around the country, nogal. But that’s the George Mountain Ultra Trail for you, and it was obvious from the word go that organisers EcoBound Mountain Events had pulled out all the stops in putting together their first official #trailrun event.

Zane Schmahl and Jacques Mouton headed up an incredible team, and together they made 100% sure that the #GeorgeMUT delivered on every level possible … superb scenery, great organisation, lekker T-shirts, excellent #beersponsor, endless views and a pretty kickass field of athletes.

#DieOom himself got to spend a LOT of time on the #trail, and I have to say that I discovered a few spots in the #OuteniquaMountains that I had no idea even existed. Of these, #Tonnelbos has got to top the list, with clear mountain streams, ancient deciduous montane #forest, tree ferns up to 5m high, and #singletrack that keeps on going for ever.

Beyond the forests, runners free-ranged onto grassland mountain plateaus, pine plantation paths, alpine ridge lines, fynbos tracks, rock-hopping descents … One thing is for sure, the #GeorgeMUT is the perfect race to go and lose (and therefore find) yourself in these dramatic ranges.

But one thing is for sure: do not under-estimate the snarl and gnarl of this particular #ScruffyDog. The 25km left many a wounded leg, while a good few of the 60km competitors barely survived this canine face-off. Roelof Mostert caned it home in 6h 21min, with Megan Skowno claiming her win in 8h 23min.

AJ Calitz blitzed the 25km in 2h 18min, with Melissa van Rensburg clocking in in just over 2h 54min. For all the results you can check www.georgetrailrun.co.za

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Fishermans Trail Challenge 2018

Missioned up #MuizenbergPeak a couple of hours before dawn this morning to shoot the annual Old Fisherman’s Trail Challenge, which this year sort of morphed into the ‘Muiz Monster Ascent’. Runners had to gun into near-vertical mode straight from the start-line, with no respite until they summitted this craggy pile of rocks before dropping down onto the #Silvermine Trail System.

The weather was having a proper wintry sulk, and there was a fair bit of mutter about wet camera equipment and the likes on the dark-zone trek to the peak. Once there, #DieOom then took cover behind a jagged outcrop, ineffectually trying to shelter from the wild tempest roiling in from the north-west.

This brings me to the part where I need to apologise to Kane Reilly. I saw him bomb up the lower ridge like some surreal mountain sprite, winding wraith-like through the misty fynbos. After shooting a few long-lens shots – at 12800ISO, they were barely adequate, though.- I should have had ample time to get to my camera bag to set up the wide-angle shot. But we’re talking hyper-speed here, and he blasted past while I amateurishly hunted focus on the wrong lens. Rookie mistake, so I owe you, bud.

On the flip side, the rain had stopped by now and the light started to improve a bit making for better photography, so the next section of the field at least benefitted. Good to see so many familiar faces still cooking at the sharp end: Derrick BaardDom WillsJonathan BlackAlex HawkinsNoel Ernstzen … you guys are all proper mountain men. Amongst the women, Hayley PreenSam Reilly and Lauren Grangerseriously turned up the heat during the summit assault.

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Expedition Africa 2018: Part V – Carnage in The Kobee

It’s been a long week since the ‘Big Babbelaas’, after the Namaqua Wines Party, following on from the Big Sleep, and post #EA2018 … I must confess, it somehow feels way longer, and while looking through the images in this final #ExpeditionAfrica post, there’s a compelling urge time-lining me back to that breathtaking route the racers took on through the Namaqua West Coast region. I am sure that holds even more true for Peter Van KetsKim van KetsMisty Weyer and Dylan James Weyer of the GRIT Nyamezela Adventure Racing Team .

I got to know them as Ramkat, Doring, Sakkie and Spoedniek over six days of gruelling #expeditionracing, and have walked away with newfound respect for these four amazing characters. Together with Dudley Bruce Wessels, we got to share so many highs and (a few) lows, all leading up to that moment when #GRITnyamezela crossed the finish line in Van(tastict) Rhynsdorp.

To get to this elusive finish line from Jamaka Organic Farm – deep within the beautiful #Cederberg ranges – the foursome still had to face off against two challenging mountain bike legs and a hectic ‘Hike from Hell’. The first bike mission consisted of a gritty cascent out of #Algeria, finally culminating in a series of #neverender hills bunkering along the gravel roads leading to #Zandvlakte Private Game Reserve.

The Kinetic Events Africa Crew said all along the final trek through #KobeeCanyon would test the teams to their utter limits, and Stephan and Heidi Muller were certainly on point here. This remote and inaccessible tributary of the gnarly #doring River snakes through broken terrain and onto the approach to the imposing #gifberg massif. This turned into a killer trek, with some teams estimating up to 30hrs of bundu-bashing through near impenetrable spiky bush.

We saw huge #leopard tracks on most of the hike while trailing the team down the #brandewyns river. In addition, there were countless clawless otter, civet, African wild cat and aardvark spoor, too, and little wet patch in the sand where I had a moment with Donovan Sims 

By now, the dreaded #sleepmonster were stalking both #DieOom as well as Team #GRITnyamezela, with the #GRIT boys and girls spending a solid 25hrs on the slog to the #abseil and their final transition. When I finally found them at the trail head out of the #Kobee, they were forcing their exhausted legs into a run, and not a second was wasted as they slugged it out to #gifberg.

I joined them on a scratchy bundu bash towards the prominent Spitskop peak, then missioned around to the abseil point with Africanyon, waiting on tenterhooks for them to arrive before the 6pm cut-off here. A few tense minutes followed, but the four heroes did not disappoint, and snuck in with just 12min to spare!

So cool to join them on the 100-plus abseil, with the amber sandstone cliffs bathed in gorgeous sunset light. I have a feeling this is a a moment none of them will ever forget. Nor will they forget the final night-time bike onto the finish line, and the utter exhilaration of crossing through the arch to complete this amazing race!

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Expedition Africa 2018: Part IV – A Commune with Cedars

Gut-thumpingly craggy, with jagged peaks and stone-chocked gulleys … Golden grasslands a-wave along the Jan Dissels River run-off … Gnarled and contorted mountain cedars, locked in life or death struggles upon high, serrated ridge lines … And heathers, proteas, lilaceas and restios in utter profusion …

At first glance the #Cederberg ranges comes across as something out of a Cormack McCarthy novel, with nuances of the opening scenes from ‘No Country for Old Men’. But amidst this hard rock grandeur, a multitude of tiny pinpoints of beauty bloom and blossom and sprout in counterpoint to the freeze-frame eruption of those imposing sandstone crags.

Most impressive to me are the indigenous cederbergensis trees, like wisened Ents from the pages of the Tolkien Trilogy. You somehow expect these gnarled shapes to come to life, and stomp like Fangorn and Bregalad and Fimbrethil through this gargantuan boulder Lego Land sprawling here at the foot of Sneeukop.

Last night, GRIT Nyamezela Adventure Racing Team spent the witching hours embedded within the very heart of these #cederberg ranges, having somehow reaped some recovery after their monster #mtb leg into the time-warp that is #wupperthal. I trekked from the #Algeria side into the peaks on a wing and a prayer, hoping to find the team on Sneeukop, or to at least intersect their path somewhere along the way.

Happiness, as this finally meant a proper day of adventure for #DieOom in what surely rates as one of South Africa’s blue-chip adventure playgrounds. The mountain gods smile on me, and it is postcard-perfect light when I spot the team just of the #Sneeukop descent. It’s been a long day out for Peter Van KetsKim van KetsMisty Weyer and Dylan James Weyer, but it’ s obvious that #GRITnyamezela is still loving every moment of their Kinetic Events Africa #ExpeditionAfrica.

On the hike in, I had time to grab some #macro imagery of the miniscule beauty one can so easily miss while you’re missioning through the mountains … minute flowers, lichen on the rocks, heather petals, grass seeds in the wind … just another special space within this breathtaking Namaqua West Coast region. Thank you for letting us experience this, Stephan and Heidi Muller, and Monika De Jager, and for the #SpotAfrica unit to keep me safe, Deborah Matthews Fourie.

There was precious little rest for the foursome as they came off the mountain, as another massive bike leg loomed to #Zandvlakte Private Nature Reserve, and they set off into the night a few hours later, with the #Sleepmonster snapping at their heels …

Massive shout-out also to #gritgroup#RacePace#extremelights#giantbikes#DunloptyresSA#DripDropSA#FrontRunnerZa and all the sponsors who’ve made this #ARjourney possible – it is hugely appreciated.

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