Mont-Aux-Sources 50km Challenge, Ukhahlamba, KwaZulu-Natal, 10 September
The event takes place in the Royal Natal National Park in the northern Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal. Athletes must carry their own hydration and warm weather gear as well as a whistle for safety reasons, because the weather can change in an instant in the Drakensberg!
The 50km route follows a hiking path up the Mahai Valley and past the Mahai Falls to Witsieshoek Mountain Resort, a 1700m climb over 9km! There we found the first of four very welcome water tables as well as the first checkpoint. The water tables were well stocked with water, energy drinks, sandwiches, sweets, chocolates, you name it! From ‘Witzies’ it is a very long 9km slog up a very rough dirt road to the Sentinel Car Park, where athletes are again checked off the list. From here there is no water until returning again after reaching the summit. Fortunately, there was plenty of water in the Tugela River on top of the Amphitheatre due to the relatively heavy winter snowfalls and many of us took the opportunity to savour the pure mountain water.
It was a thrilling experience climbing up the chain ladders, where every athlete must be harnessed to ensure their safety. Crossing the Tugela River at the lip of the world’s third-highest waterfall is an absolutely amazing experience and many a photo opportunity was seized! The final upward drag, lined with the last remaining patches of snow, to the top of the Gully, was rewarded by an intense downhill strewn with loose sections and boulders which saw athletes clinging to the rope and rocks as we scrambled back down to the zigzagging hiking path and then onward down to the Sentinel Car Park.
The views in all directions were awesome and some could have been lucky enough to see the endangered Bearded Vulture. As one of the Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Wildseries events, athletes who enter this race contribute towards an extremely important Bearded Vulture conservation project through their entry fees as well as fundraising initiatives.
Every single one of us was reminded of how lucky we were to experience such incredible beauty in a pristine environment while doing what we love. Thank you so much to Heidi Mocke and her organising team – we’ll be back!