Moon 16 July


1 – 17 July 1

Have you always been a runner? No. Even though I grew up in Cape Town, I was much more into surfing as a kid. Loving the mountains has come with time. To me they feel like a natural extension of the ocean, and that same connection I had with surfing as a teenager I now have with running in the mountains as an adult. When I’m up there, I can detach from the craziness of life and really focus on the present.

How did the 13 Peaks Challenge come about? I wanted to link some of my favourite summits on the Cape Peninsula. One evening I sketched them out in my notepad and came up with a route that would make for a great adventure. I wanted the start and finish to be in the same place, to mimic the famous Big Rounds route in the UK, where runners summit 113 peaks in England, Wales and Scotland.

The distance between the peaks didn’t look too bad on my sketchpad and I estimated the entire trail to be about 55 km. I convinced a buddy of mine, Kane Reilly, to join me for a recce of the route. We made it off the mountain 19 hours later, after covering more than 100 km with 6 000 m of vertical ascent! So much for my 55 km estimate…

We actually only summited 12,5 peaks on the recce because our headlamp batteries died, but for both of us it was one of the most epic mountain adventures we’d ever been on.

So, what’s the route? It starts and finishes at Signal Hill. From Signal Hill, you climb Lion’s Head, Maclear’s Beacon, Grootkop, Judas Peak, Klein Leeukop, Suther Peak, Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak, Muizenberg Peak, Constantia­berg, Klassenkop, Devil’s Peak, and back to Signal Hill.

If you’re a Capetonian, or a visitor to Cape Town, the 13 Peaks Challenge is a great way to explore the mountains that exist in close proximity to the city.

Most people won’t be able to do it in one go… Of course. To run up to 116 km in a single day isn’t a realistic prospect unless you put in some serious training. That’s why I’ve created one-day, two-day and multi-day categories, each with its own badge, in order to make the challenge possible for everyone, hikers and runners alike.

It’s not about the time it takes you to complete the challenge, but about getting out there and exploring one of South Africa’s most accessible wilderness areas.

Sometimes a person might go for the multiday badge, but then the speed bug bites (as it does) and they work up to doing the two-day and then the one-day badge.

What’s so special about Cape Town’s mountains? They’re accessible to everyone.

I have been lucky enough to travel and compete in races all over the world, like the Gobi March in China, the Western States 100-Mile run in the USA, and Racing the Planet in Madagascar, but the variety of trails that we have on our home turf is mind-blowing.

What has been the highlight of this journey? It has been amazing to see how people have embraced the challenge. One woman who is recovering from cancer hiked the multi-day route with her friends. Local Hout Bay crime-fighting hero JJ de Villiers did the route over six days with his buddy Garth Loots. It’s been inspiring to see people fall in love with the mountains again.

Favourite view spot? Grootkop is one of the 12 Apostles on the Atlantic Seaboard. At the top, you can see all the way north to Lion’s Head, and if you look south, you can see the whole peninsula stretching towards Cape Point. It’s a special summit, especially if you get up early enough to see the view at sunrise.

– Kyra Tarr

Head to 13peaks.co.za to find out more. Check out Ryan’s impressive ultra- distance feats at ryansandes.com. He lives in Noordhoek with his wife Vanessa, son Max and their rescue dog Thandi.

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