Four intrepid adventurers are tackling a unique challenge as part of the Summit South Africa programme – running from the lowest to highest points in South Africa in one go.
by Stephen Granger
While the highest point of the country is 3450m atop Mafadi Peak in the KZN Drakensberg, the lowest could be anywhere along the coast from the Orange River mouth to the Mozambique border.
So it makes sense that Matt te Water and his companions are departing from a relatively nearby sea-level destination – the Moss Mabida Stadium in Durban. The team departed from the stadium early on Friday (June 18) shortly after the break of the COVID curfew.
Mafadi Peak is situated on the border with Lesotho and towers above most peaks along the escarpment. It is just 32m lower and 30km to the north of Lesotho’s Thabana Ntlenyana, at 3482m the highest peak in Southern Africa.
The summit challenge route is approximately 250km in length, with an equally formidable 7000m of elevation gain over the distance. The team aim to summit Mafadi on Sunday 20 June at two in the afternoon.
The chosen route is mostly on district roads, criss-crossing the N3 highway all the way up to Pietermaritzburg. From there, the runners will pass in front of the Midmar Dam near Howick, before changing direction towards the Giants Castle Reserve – the entry point to the Drakensberg itself. The summit route will likely be via Centenary Hut in the Njesuthi Nature Reserve.
“As far as I know this has never been done before,” said Summit SA leader, Te Water, a KZN North Coast doctor, with ‘a hunger for adventure and movement’. “We are respecting the current curfew laws, and plan to be off the roads between the hours of 22h00 and 04h00 each day.”
Te Water’s companions in the core team are leading KZN ultra-trail athlete, Andrew Erasmus, landscape manager of a large North Coast estate, Jordan Leppan, a trail relative trail novice and the second doctor in the team, currently completely his masters in Sports Medicine and top field hockey player and coach, Michael Baker, an experienced mountaineer and no stranger to long distance running events.
“We have a strong support crew to assist us, including a seconding team, team manager (Mike Tredway), team doctor (Laurica Bailey, a Cape Town based expert in emergency medicine) and four strong local runners, who will be doing the final push to the summit of Mafadi with us on Sunday Te Water explained.
Leading ultra-trail athlete, Jo Keppler, who placed second in the recent Ultra-trail Drakensberg 100 miler, will be joining the team on their summit day run on Sunday, along with another elite ultra-trail athlete, Steven Erasmus (brother of Andrew on the core team), Michaela Geytenbeek (owner of @Pathfinders_SA) and team manager, Tredway.
Apart from personal fitness and strength, the intrepid adventurers’ needs appear to have been completely met, with kit and gear from Salomon, nutritional requirements from Future Life, wings to fly from Red Bull, eye protection from 30South Sunglasses, and curfew accommodation at Blesberg Farm near Howick and Giants Castle Hotel.