A RUN FOR CONSERVATION AND HERITAGE

The WILDSERIES Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge is one of the pioneering trail events in South Africa with its first event held in 1992. This set a precedent for trail running as this was a unique, sold-out event which was limited to 100 runners. It soon became the most sought-after event with an endless waiting list raising funds for the conservation efforts of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at the Royal Natal National Park, in collaboration with WILDLANDS, a programme of the WILDTRUST.

Twenty-nine years later, nothing much has changed and the WILDSERIES team is proud to celebrate many gains which this event continues to make. As Covid-19 prevented the staging of this premier trail event in 2020, the 2021 staging was truly epic on the 4th of September.

While Covid-19 protocols threatened the event, the WILDSERIES Co-ordinator, Hilary Bruss, together with the Stephen Richert, Officer in Charge at the Royal Natal National Park, pulled out all the stops to have the event approved and staged. The event was run under the strictest of Covid-19 protocols as all participants had to be tested for Covid-19 via a non-invasive Rapid Antigen test – this set a precedent for sporting events in KwaZulu-Natal.

The very professional and efficient team from the Event Medical Services (EMS) administered 283 tests of which only 3 tested positive. While this was an unfortunate situation, these participants have been guaranteed a spot in the 2022 event. All was not lost; they were able to keep the field of 204 runners safe from Covid and safely into the mountains.

Adding to the many challenges of this event was the huge oil spill on the N3 on Friday, 03 September which saw many the field being delayed getting to registration on time and the WILDSERIES team remained opened for registration well past midnight. While some participants spent up to more than 12 hours in their cars, their determination surprised the hosts as some still took to the highest waterfall in the world with minimal sleep.

The iconic Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge takes runners (21km and 50km) from the Mahai Campsite (voted as one of the top 10 Campsites in South Africa) up through to Gudu Bush (checkpoint) then up to Witsieshoek. The 21km runners then turn around at this point to make their way back to base camp. While this may sound fairly easy, it is a challenge that cannot be taken lightly.

The 50km ultra distance offers some of the most unique views in the world. Boasting the world-renowned Chain ladders, every participant’s ‘dream’ or ‘fear’ as they are then able to summit to the top of the highest waterfall in the world. This is 3100 metres above sea level (more than a third of the way up Everest!!) and is the Tugela River source, making it a vital water source for KZN and Gauteng.

As the runners make their way back down the Gully, they were then treated to a ‘secret’ water table which was stocked with delicious delights, giving them strength to make their way back to the Sentinel Car Park then back to base camp.

Hilary Bruss, WILDSERIES Coordinator comments, “It is really great to be back working on the WILDSERIES event again. It was simply exhilarating being a part of Monties this past weekend. I am really looking forward to organising all the runs that the WILDSERIES has to offer. It was not an easy weekend for the participants and the organising committee, but stories were told and memories were made; that made me happy. Congratulations to all the runners and thank you to everyone that made the weekend a success.”

Dr Roelie Kloppers, WILDTRUST CEO comments, “Monties is engrained in the DNA of the Trust, being one of the first trail running events we ever staged to raise funds for conservation. It’s also a great opportunity to get people into the WILD, thus raising awareness of the amazing natural heritage of our country and the need to celebrate and protect it. We are extremely grateful for all the sponsors, partners and participants who share our vision.”

This event would not be possible without our valued sponsors and supporters which include Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, SA Climbing Academy, Lee Fuller Safaris, Witsieshoek Hotel, Devil’s Peak Brewing Company, BON Natural Oils, Dixon Caterers and ofcourse, the participants.

Stephen Richert, Royal Natal National Park Officer in Charge comments, “This event is the reason Royal Natal still maintains its world- class trail running experience.  Funds from the event come directly to Royal Natal and are spent in line with our conservation mandate as a World Heritage Site.  We have several Bearded vulture nest sites, and a comprehensive program of camera traps, nest surveys and second-egg collection.  These birds are critically endangered and need every cent to survive.”

“Only around 350 are still left in South Africa.  A large portion of the funds go into maintaining the trails, with large teams of community members employed for eight months of the year.  We are proud to host TWO of the few Green Flag trails in South Africa, which indicates we meet the global standard for hiking trails.  We also purchase anti-poaching equipment for the hard-working field rangers, who were also out there on route during the event.  So, we really wish to thank you for your support and enthusiasm for the event.” 

“Watching runners crossing the finish line with big smiles is what this race is about.  It made us so excited and thankful to be part of this great event.  We have the highest possible standards in our sights, and we assure you that next year will be even better!  Thank you again for your amazing support,” Richert concluded. 

For more information on WILDSERIES events, visit https://wildtrust.co.za/wildseries/

 

Next event on the WILDSERIES Calendar:

The Golden Gate Challenge https://wildtrust.co.za/wildseries/golden-gate-2/

Date: 21 – 24 October 2021

Venue: The Golden Gate National Park

Format: 3 Day stage event and 1 day runs