Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Andrew sets new Drakensberg Traverse record

Trail runner Andrew Porter set a new record for the Drakensberg Grand Traverse this past weekend (17-20 December 2009). He took 20 hours off the record set by Stijn Laenen and Andrew Hagen this time last year. Stijn and Andrew broke Gavin and Lawrie Raubenheimer's long standing (10 years) record of 4 days 9 hours 39 minutes.

In setting this new record, Andrew covered the 210km high-altitude distance, solo and unsupported, in 61 hours 24 minutes 11 seconds.

From Andrew's blog posting (20 December 2009) on drakensberg.ning.com

"It is with great relief to mention that I have finally completed a fast, lightweight and solo traverse of the berg, in a new record time of 61 hours 24 min 11 sec.

Having learnt a few valuable lessons on previous attempts, I decided to wait for a good break in the weather and then go for it. The kit was essentially unchanged from previous attempts, except that this time around I decided to use an iPod to help out on some of those long, lonely sessions, usually with a hard hill ahead.

I left Sentinel Car Park at 4am Wednesday morning (16 Dec), in the by now, obligatory mist. That cleared after about 15 min and I carried on up the zig-zags to the chain ladder.

The haul across Mont-aux-Sources, Cleft Peak and Champagne Castle is by now getting a little too well known, and I made it to Champagne Castle at 19:00 Wednesday. By midnight, I had crossed Mafadi, which had been a touch bleak due to a strong, cold wind that blew right through everything I had with. I decided to spent the remaining hours of darkness next to a small, but sheltered band of rock shortly after the summit.

Day 2 (Thursday) started a little later than I would have planned beforehand, but another day of perfect weather saw me safely to Giants Castle and then across Thabana Ntlenyana before sunset. Once again, the cold wind made me choose a bivyy in the narrow valley you decend into before heading out onto the Sani flats.

On day 3 (Friday), I started out just before 4am and headed out into new territory south of the road. Things went generally well, even though I was now well short of the target 40 hours I had had in mind. Once again, I had perfect weather, which this day even managed to give me sun, with a cooling wind on top, with a blessful band of mist on the way down Thomatu Pass so that I could not get discouraged by the sight of a border post that just not get closer.

I finally reached the Bushmans Nek border post after a rather long and exhausting time. The feeling of relief that I do not have to endure another cold night out there with min gear is rather hard to descibe!"

So what is this Drakensberg Grand Traverse?
It is a traverse of the Drakensberg that starts from North to South. It starts from the Sentinel Car Park perimeter fence and the stops at the Bushman's Nek Border Post perimeter fence. Various checkpoints have to be visited along the way. These include:

* the Chain Ladders
* Mont-aux-Sources summit (3282m)
* Cleft Peak summit (3277m)
* Champagne Castle summit (3377m)
* Mafadi summit (3451m)
* Giant's Castle summit (3314m)
* Thabana Ntlenyana summit (3482m)
* Thomathu Pass must be used to descend to Bushman's Nek

The only other rules are that it needs to be entirely self-supported (i.e. no seconds, food caches or resupplies) and entirely on foot. GPS is allowed.

Future attempts?
Nicholas and Ryno from Team Cyanosis are rumoured to be planning an assault on the record in January - weather permitting.

For reference:
Dec 2009: 2 days 13 hours 24 minutes (61h24m11s), Andrew Porter
Dec 2008: 3 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes (81h52m52s), Stijn Laenen and Andrew Hagen
1999-2008: Around 15 unsuccessful attempts
1998: 4 days 9 hours 39 minutes (105h39m), Gavin and Laurie Raubenheimer (I'm not exactly sure when Gavin and Laurie set their record. Approx 9-11 years ago)

Thanks to Stijn for his information on the GT checkpoints and heads-up on Andrew's successful trip.

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