The Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is an "unsupported" non-stage mountain bike race of approximately 2,300 km across South Africa. While recent winners have won in around 11 days, the race cut-off is 26 days. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg in early-to-mid-June, and ends in Paarl near Cape Town. Temperatures are known to drop as low as minus-10 deg. Celsius. While there are periodic "support stations" which will feed and accommodate riders should they require, the race is unsupported in the sense that riders must carry their own clothing and equipment, are responsible for their own maintenance and navigation (without the aid of GPS), and there are no marshalls or safety officials on the course (Race monitoring is done by satellite tracking). Estimates of cumulative ascent are around 37,000 metres, and the highest point on the route is approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. See the following link for an introductory slideshow by Mike Roy - http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-02-04-extreme-endurance-the-freedom-challenge

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Container Clan's sleepout high on Lehana's Pass, as written by Jody Forrester (source: www.jodyforrester.com)


As mentioned in the earlier Race Progress post, perhaps the real race drama last night did not involve Martin or Alex. It took place high on the Lehana’s Pass portage over the Southern Drakensberg, and involved Jody Forrester, Dino Marusich and Glenn’s original riding partner Andre Visser, now known as the "Container Clan". Near the top of Lehana’s Pass is definitely NOT the place to get lost in such icy winter conditions. I took the liberty of posting the following description of last night’s events, as compiled by Jody Forrester and appearing on the blog section of his website www.jodyforrester.com Happy reading, and take a look at his website. Its cool

THE CONTAINER CLAN

Setting off from Tinana we had a new rider join us, Andre, a racing snake who was due to ride with Glen before he pulled out with flu. Andre like us was a novice so happy to tag along with us merry men.

We navigated out of Tinana fairly well with the overall goal of getting through the tricky Vuvu valley to hit the bass of the 4 hour Lehana Pass bike hike with sufficient daylight.

We emerged out of the Vuvu valley after only suffering 1 turn up a wrong valley at 12:00 – not bad for the Hackers. We quickly ate the infamous vuvu boiled chicked, raided our supposed overnight boxes and were off in the rain to the base of the pass.

We reached the base of the pass with just enough visibility to see the jagged ridge line towering all the way up to the Lesotho border. Dino, Andre and myself decided to give it a crack as we had the 4 hour window and were dead set on making it to Rhodes that night. Shaun and Phillip opted to head back to Vuvu and go in the morning. Remember that at this point we had already been going for 8 hours.

The initial sections of the pass went well and reached the mid way point easily within time, however at this stage the weather closed in with thick mist and rain. Getting wet did not deter us and the line was clear, so we soldiered on. As we neared the crest the wind picked up significantly to near gail force conditions. We huddled under a ledge to put all available clothes we had on us on, by this stage the shivering and nerves had kicked in proper. Those last few vertical metres scramble took us over an hour as the driving wind and rain made it very difficult to stay upright, let alone carry a bike. Finally we reached the top of the snow covered Drakensberg marked by a blue container and beacon. As the last light was fading we set off in the direction of the Tena Head hotel a mere 8km away. Problem was that in the dark with gail force winds and our narratives blown off our bikes we were getting lost. Our core temperature at this stage plumeted, with speech slurring and motor function waning we made the call to retreat to the cover we knew on the top of the escarpment, the blue container.

To our horror we arrived to find it padlocked. We had no option, hypotherma was starting to kick in so we used a fence standard and a rock to smash open the padlock. At 7pm wefinally got out of the life threatening conditions and stepped into the rescue container. Inside an essy stove, wood, 4 bunk beds and 5 very old army blankets…..thats it. But it was all we needed, we stripped off our wet gear, made a fire and waited for our core to return to normal. We then shared the food we had, an orange, mango pieces and a John West tuna packet. During the night it was incredibly cold and the the wind so strong it was moving the container on its mooring ropes.

Finally day light broke but the adventure was not over, in our hast to close the door last night we had lodged it shut so hard that it took us over an hour to bash the door open again. The thought of being not only the first ever group to use the container but then phone for a rescue from the rescue hut was proper traumatising!

Never the less we left laughing and enjoyed a nice coffee at Tena Head, then a leasurely 30km ride into Rhodes.

Here in Rhodes the hotel is fantastic and to be around the race organisers and other compititors is fantastic. Bike is serviced and clothes washed. Now to settle in at the bar to watch the boks game whilst still catching abuse for being such loose canons so far.

The last 2 days resulted in a great Freedom Challenge story to go with all the others over the years, but it is also important to take stock of the power of mother nature and how quickly it can all go horribly wrong.

A milestone has now been achieved, we leave the KZN majestic valleys and starting cutting south west into farm country, hopefully on a more civilised surface!

This race is as tough as it gets……so far still up for the challenge. 522km down in 73 hours of riding/pushing/carrying !

Source: www.jodyforrester.com

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