Rider tack­les moun­tain for chil­dren


EX­TREME ath­lete Jamie Marais set out to break his record on Sani Pass with a goal of achiev­ing five sum­mits in 12 hours on a moun­tain bike from bor­der post to bor­der post in sup­port of Head­Start Kids, which de­vel­ops early child­hood devel­op­ment pro­grammes.

Sani Pass is the most dan­ger­ous road in South Africa (dan­ger­ous­roads. org) and rises about 1 000 ver­ti­cal me­tres over 8km from the lower bor­der post to the sum­mit at 2 876m.

“There are mil­lions of mal­nour­ished chil­dren in South Africa, and what peo­ple don’t re­alise is that a full tummy is not nec­es­sar­ily a healthy child,” said Marais, from Cape Town.

“Poor nutri­tion af­fects a child’s phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional devel­op­ment, and the first five years of a kid’s life are crit­i­cal in that re­gard.

“That’s why do­ing five sum­mits was so im­por­tant to me – to help pro­mote aware­ness of Head­Start Kids, which feeds over 10 000 chil­dren a day, and to high­light the power of the first five years.”

Last year, Marais achieved four sum­mits in 10 hours be­fore the team de­cided to stop the chal­lenge, as it was “sim­ply too dan­ger­ous to con­tinue”.

Gale-force winds of up to 100km/h made even push­ing his bike al­most im­pos­si­ble. “Last year we had close to hur­ri­cane-force winds that lit­er­ally blew me right off my bi­cy­cle and sev­eral times al­most right off Sani Pass. It was just too dan­ger­ous to carry on.”

Sup­ported by Land Rover Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, Marais and his team com­menced at 6am, but had no idea of how ex­treme the weather would be­come. “It was ab­so­lutely bru­tal.”

He even­tu­ally achieved his goal of five sum­mits in just over twelve hours, but says he’s not quite done with Sani Pass yet.

“I re­ally be­lieve that six to eight sum­mits is achiev­able in 12 hours on the right day, and I’d like to tackle that again next year, per­haps dur­ing win­ter, when we don’t have such strong winds, like in Novem­ber.

“The mind fol­lows where the body leads and the only lim­its in life are the lim­its you place on your­self,” he added.

Marais once speed-sum­mited Ta­ble Moun­tain 22 times in 28 hours.


Jamie Marais tak­ing on Sani Pass.

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