Hiddingh – Ascension Ravine

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Hiddingh Ravine, The Pulpit, Ascension Ravine as seen from Newlands

My only wish for Christmas was to eat some trifle.

And so my wife went to search the local Woolworths for a) a store with a manageable que and b) one that does in fact have stock of said trifle.

I promptly finished the “serves 4” on my own.

When asked which part of the trifle I like best I had no good answer. I like the different textures and how they feel and taste different. Too much of one thing is not that great in the end but it is the subtle combination that seals the deal. Pretty much like a good trail.

A seemingly endless grassy slope is fun in the same way that caramel is fun – in limited doses. Same with bush bashing through fynbos. Fun for a while. Think the biscuity pieces in above mentioned dessert. The short bit of getting lost: crunchy chocolate bits. Scrambles above a big drop: cream. Too much of a good thing ultimately does make my head spin. The girls in bikinis sunbathing at the top: hmm maybe that was a hallucination.

And so I went. In search of new land, in search of new adventure and in search of a new route.

I wake up every morning looking up at Fernwood Precipice and that impenetrable part of our mountain. The last time that I had this view I was preoccupied with harder objectives.

This is the world between GPS tracks and heatmap lines. Now my mix of motivation and difficulty is just right.

The recce was well on its way.

Finding the quickest way onto the contour path from Newlands Forest parking was easy. A quick navigation to find the right gully and it was upwards all the way. Nice pools in the stream bed. Followed by a steep slope led to the obvious slanting line of weakness. Then another traverse onto the edge of the buttress. The long slope up to the next rockband. I got lost a bit here. Did not trust my instincts but then found the delightful calf burner that would rival Kilian’s best fresh pow. In defence of this comparison fresh pow makes you work way too hard for vertical gain, you end up hot sweaty and out of breath. Fynbos is the same with the added delight of ending up with a whole herb garden in your shoes.

This is old school FKT or TM FKT X

From the Newlands Fire base gate to Maclear’s Beacon.

What time can you post?

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BAt Run 09 race report

above: Tatum Loftus (1st women) and me rehydrating at the end.

I was here before:
The “gun” went off, Well actually more like a motley crew of mountain goats slowly headed up towards the hills, not quite running at sub 4min pace, not quite walking either. There was a larger supporting crowd than in previous years seeing us off. I found myself out in the lead pretty quickly- not exactly what I wanted to do but there was this tall guy (Simon von Witt) seriously pushing the pace. The early tar kays were ticking away far too quickly. This was insane. I tried to back off a bit in the hope that he would too but it did not work. One of us was going to blow. I just prayed that it would not be me!

The Bat Run was under way and I had put in all the training. Everything was looking good except the weather. Today was one of the hottest days this summer and the wind was picking up. Hmm we would have to see what happens…

The Bat Run is a limited entry event which starts at Kloof Nek at 19h00 on the full-moon weekend in Feb. The route takes runners to the top of Devil’s Peak, back down to Tafelberg Road, up Platteklip Gorge, down to Kloof Nek, it is then followed by a quick jaunt up Lion’s Head. The finish is at Kloof Nek. Only 25 km, 2085m of ascent and descent all run in the dark and finish in under 4h05 to break the record. Easy init?

We ran along Tafelberg road to the zig zags leading up to the Nek (16min27 ). Faster than I had ever done this in training. Simon was right on my heals all the way up to the Nek. Thunder Clouds were gathering in the intense heat. I threw water on my head to cool things down a little. Lightning flashes got closer and closer. Retina burn! Time to put my head down and just keep going. I was hoping to be able to open a bit of a gap between me and Simon just to take the pressure off a little. It was not really working! Ironically I figured that the worse conditions got the better my chance of winning was. My mountaineering background would hopefully help me here.
That is not why I was here though. I knew for a while that the record should be at 3h30 to 3h40 range. On paper it is doable. The question is “Am I up to the task?”. Right now conditions weren’t helping and the question mark was getting bigger and bigger. Top of Devil’s Peak and a quick turn around (53min). At least now I did not have to look into the lightning flashes and just concentrate on the slippery slidy down hill. I was going full blast but feeling surprisingly relaxed. Just almost falling down the slope. I hit the road not daring to look behind me for fear that I would see Simon a few paces behind. A quick jog along the road and I reached Mel and friendly seconds at the bottom of Platteklip (1h17).

There was no need to use my BD Icon headlamp. The moon was behind the clouds but it was bright enough for the plod up the gorge. Step, step, step, hydrate, throw water on head, step, step. I was barely on pace at the halfway point. 37 min up Platties certainly is not fast but that was all I was capable of. Eric Tollner was taking some pics at the top. It was really nice to see him. Even better was the fact that it was completely dry. No moisture on the slippery steps meant that coming down would be fast. I had to think economy as far as hydration goes. The temps were so hot that I had to use quite a lot of water to just cool down, let alone get it down my throat. I was only a few minutes past the top of Platteklip when I could see the light on top of Maclear’s Beacon. The guys at the checkpoint had placed the guiding star strategically so that would could all see how windy our little path was. Touch the beacon and a quick turnaround. This would be the first time that I would be able to tell how far anybody was behind me. 4minutes passed until I passed the second runner. Jayde Butler and Roger Steel (this time without a hat- I guess the moon was not too bright!) were not far behind. Down Platties in went really well (20min). My legs were going strong. I was not even thinking about conserving them too much. Just running in the moment. Many lovely greetings of runners coming up- Thanks to you all! I always find it very hard to recognise everyone in the dark especially when I am trying not to break my legs running downhill. Tafelberg Road and a water refill from my seconds! Espresso Gel kicked in none too soon to. In fact seeing as I never drink coffee this double shot of espresso (and the serious dose of adrenaline) kept me awake the whole night. Herda cycled next to me down to Kloof Nek. The company was quite nice despite me not being able to talk much. My brain was maxed just trying to work out splits and keep me on pace. I was really surprised to see such a large crowd at the Nek cheering me on.

The most dangerous part of the course- crossing the Kloof Nek Circle went ok. Then walk up the short section of tar to the Lion’s Head parking. A friendly park official tried to dissuade me from walking up. “But I am part of the race…”. “Oh ok…good luck” And I was gone. The circular route is real pretty with its changing vistas as you circle the peak. It is even better alone and in the dark. The crowds we had seen earlier heading up for a sunset walk had obviously realised that their excursion up this lightning pole was probably not such a good idea. Not a single soul was left on top. No wind, just a little drizzle. Just enough so that I would have to watch my footing on the sandy steps. Go, go, go. Down the chains and run forest run. Ok, unless something real bad happened now I was in the clear.
I congratulated second (Alister Pott) and then Jayde in third (go boykie, go). Jayde had been throwing up on his way down Platties but managed to keep things together and fight back until the end. Well done mate!

Roger was looking strong and relaxed as ever in forth.

I savoured the last few minutes down to the Nek on my own. I had given this run my all. I have never run as hard as this before and am happy with the result.
3h46- beat that boys!

Thanks to all who encouraged and rooted for me.