Wildrun® Goes Transfrontier
Words Shaen Adey, pics Shaen Adey, Ian Corless, Nick Muzik, Mark Middleton
It was raining incessantly, turning the rocky slope that I was descending into a muddy morass. Apparently 27mm of rain had fallen in the previous 24 hours, almost the yearly average for this part of the world. The loose, rocky slope down from the Tswayisberge saddle even more treacherous than expected, so we picked our way cautiously between the weird-looking Halfmens. Deep in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, in an area that is inaccessible to vehicles, we couldn’t risk injury.
Then I slipped, badly twisting my knee. As I struggled to stand the challenge of running through this remote mountain wilderness hit home. There was no cell phone reception, no settlements and no chance of helicopter rescue out here. If I couldn’t walk I would have to wait for the sweep who was trailing the last runners, and hope that he could radio for help. If need be, in the form of stretcher-bearers. I gritted my teeth. With 16km to the end of this stage it was going to be a long day.
For the next five hours I hobbled down the seemingly endless Ganukouriep river valley. Most of the time we were in the sandy riverbed, boulder hopping and scrambling down small rock cliffs, though on occasion I managed to clamber up to raised terraces where the going was easier. By the time I finally limped in to the overnight camp at Hakkiesdoring I was exhausted. The Richtersveld Wildrun® is not for sissies!
But I knew that before signing up. Since launching in 2014, the Richtersveld Wildrun® has quickly acquired the reputation of being one of the toughest trail running events in southern Africa. Although competitors are issued with maps and a preloaded GPS track there are no marked paths or other navigational aids. We occasionally followed jeep tracks near the camps and picked up faint goat paths through the veld, but for most of the time we were bundu bashing, trying to find the easiest line. It was tough. But I loved it.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but when I learnt that the 2016 event had been extended from four to five days to include crossing the Orange River into Namibia - making the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun® the first cross-border trail running event in the world - I needed no more encouragement. It’s on my ‘to do’ list for next year.
The new route, through the heart of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, will maintain the best of the first three days of the original edition, including the Vyf Susters, Hellskloof Pass, Armmanshoek, the Tswayisberge, Springbokvlakte and the iconic Tatasberg boulders. On day 4, the route will veer of its original course and cross the Orange River at De Hoop into Namibia and the untouched southern section of the Fish River Canyon before a short final day to finish at the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort.
“To be the first to cross an international border in a trail running event and to be in such an iconic part of Namibia as the Fish River Canyon is awesome” said Tamaryn Middleton, general manager of Wildrunner at the launch of the new route. I’ll second that!
The Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun® will take place from 13-17 June 2016. Entries open today, 21st October 2015, but as with all Wildrunner events, places are limited and sell out quickly. Check out www.wildrun.com for more details.