Quite sensibly‚ most South Africans cuddled up on their couches beneath blankets and duvets to beat the bitter chill this weekend.
But high up in the mountains of KwaZulu-Natal‚ a group of nearly 250 energy-bunnies forsook such comforts - choosing instead to skip‚ and sweat‚ their way up very close to the top of the world.
Grunting and groaning to reach an altitude more than 3‚000 metres above sea level‚ they slogged for 50km along a steep pathway that includes negotiating two precipitous chain ladders during the annual WILDSeries Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge in the Royal Natal section of the Maloti-Drakensberg World Heritage Site.
Quite apart from the adrenalin rush and the opportunity to snatch glances of the magnificent mountain scenery en route‚ the trail runners also helped to raise funds for the conservation of the region’s endangered Bearded Vultures.
The race route follows a hiking path up the Mahai Valley to Witsieshoek Mountain Resort‚ a climb of almost 700m over a distance of 9km.
Further up‚ the runners have to hook up to safety belts and ropes to climb the chain ladders to reach the Tugela Falls‚ source of the province’s mightiest river. Before turning back downhill‚ participants then scramble up the final leg up Sentinel Gully‚ clinging to ropes to avoid slipping on the loose rocks.
For the top runners‚ the race takes just over four-and-a-half-hours.
Zandile Mvuyane‚ of the WildTrust conservation and development group‚ said the race was won by Linda Zondi‚ who completed the 50km trail in 4:31‚ just a few minutes shy of the record set by Eric Ngubane at 4:21.