Trail runners connect two iconic mountain massifs in George this weekend

Sunrise greats athletes in the 2022 MUT. Photo - Simon Pocock.

Two major mountains on separate continents will be connected this weekend as trail athletes from Africa and further afield gather in the Southern Cape for one of the year’s leading trail running festivals.

The Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT), run from the city of George, has grown each year in stature, but the 2023 version is set to surpass all that has gone before through the incorporation of the MUT into the ever-expanding Ultra-trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) series of races and the addition of a 100-mile event to add to the diverse range of distances and terrains on offer.

The rising sun illuminates beautiful Outeniqua vistas and its trails during the 2022 MUT. Photo – Jacques Marais.

Run on routes in and around the imposing Outeniqua Mountain range, success in the weekend’s races could lead to sought-after entries into Europe’s biggest trail festival – the UTMB which takes place in late August around western Europe’s tallest mountain peak, Mont Blanc, from the French Alpine village of Chamonix.

The Outeniqua Mountains provide a spectacular playground for adventure-seekers, with hundreds of kilometers of mountain trails criss-crossing the peaks, which reach up to over 1500 meters above sea level, and fynbos-covered  valleys and ridges.

And while the World Mountain Running and Trail Championships, which take place in Austria in less than two weeks’ time, might have impacted the quality of this year’s fields, there is little doubt that the MUT by UTMB is set to launch as one of Africa’s finest.

Remy Kloos had recently returned from summiting both Mount Everest and Lhotse when she took part in the 2022 MUT. Photo – Emma Rorke.

In a mouth-watering 100miler, which got underway at 2pm this afternoon (Friday 26 May), South Africa’s ultra-trail legend, Ryan Sandes held a one minute advantage over Stellenbosch athlete, Grobler Basson through Cradock Peak 17km into the race with Ultra-trail Drakensberg record-holder, Doug Pickard a further 8 minutes back in third.

Approaching the marathon mark at Herold Wines Sandes had opened his lead to five minutes with the veteran trailer running with the freedom of one half his age.

Bruce Arnett in the early stages of the 2022 MUT 100km before going on to victory. Arnett will be aiming to defend his title tomorrow. Photo – Stephen Granger

Bruce Arnett and Tarrin van Niekerk will aim to defend their titles in the MUT 100km tomorrow while two leading athletes from the global adidas TERREX team will be chasing the MUT 60km titles. American Jeshuran Small will be up against leading South African Johardt van Heerden, looking for a shake-out training session ahead of the World Mountain and Trail Running Championship in Austria next month, while German athlete Kimi Schreiber, should hold the advantage in the women’s competition.

Iain Peterkin will face strong competition from Collin Kanyimo in his quest to defend his title in the MUT Marathon, while Sume van Heerden and local athlete Rebecca Kohne will be favoured to contest the top step of the podium in the women’s competition.