On Friday, 15th November the Merrell Adventure Addicts team of Graham Bird, Robyn Kime, Hanno Smit and Grant Ross successfully completed the Drakensberg Grand Traverse in 78h57m. A 213km journey, with 9500m of climbing, from the Sentinel in the Northern Drakensberg to Bushman’s Nek border post in the South.
As with most extreme expeditions it takes time for the enormity of the accomplishment to register. For the mind and soul to return from the expedition and slide back into society. For the body to recover and heal. Now 5 days after finishing, the four addicts are returning to normality. “To be in the mountains and experience nature at its rawest and most beautiful was a true privilege,” commented Grant Ross. “We have such fantastic places in South Africa to explore and the Drakensberg is truly magnificent.”
As part of the team’s rebuilding process and training for their busy schedule in 2015, the team only decided a few weeks ago to tackle the Drakensberg Grand Traverse. “We had a few chats with Ryno Griesel about what we could expect and got the route from him the week before”, stated team captain Graham Bird. “Ryno has an infectious passion for the mountains and we are extremely grateful to him for all the guidance, without which it would have been hard to have done this.”
With Robyn based in Europe at present and the other three members working, the team did not have the luxury of waiting for the “ideal weather window” and chose the week of the 10th November. As luck would have it, the weather descended on the Drakensberg as they set out on Tuesday morning. The team had to endure unseasonal rain, wind and cold during the first 40 hours of their journey which slowed them significantly and forced them to stop for over 11 hours at one point as they waited for the worst of the weather to pass.
The time of 78h57m set by the Addicts shatters the previous ladies/mixed record for the DGT (110h57m) set by Christine Harris with Carlos Gonzalez in January 2010. “It’s nice to have bettered the previous record but I am sure there is still room for improvement and hope to see more ladies giving the challenge a go” said Robyn Kime.
Having now completed the DGT, the team can only marvel at the current record of 41h49m for the DGT set by Ryno Griesel and Ryan Sandes during the Red Bull attempt in March 2014. “It is a phenomenal time, that others will struggle to beat, set by two superhuman athletes.” commented Graham Bird.
“We wanted to treat this like an expedition adventure race, throwing ourselves into it with “limited” information in order to develop the team dynamic”, said Hanno Smit. “With the conditions we experienced and the toughness of the route, we definitely achieved our goal of bonding the new team.”
The partnership with MERRELL, with its tag line “ Out. Perform”, is a match made in heaven with the team focusing their lives on the outdoors, while encouraging and inspiring others to get outside and explore their boundaries. Other team sponsors include PVM Nutritional Science, Giant Bicycles, Squirt Bicycle Lube, Glider Eyewear, Island Tribe Sunscreen and Black Diamond head torches.
The rules governing the challenge as found on the web:
So what is this Drakensberg Grand Traverse?
It is a traverse of the Drakensberg that goes 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.