Images courtesy Dirk Mostert
The weekend of 30 May saw the 4th annual Mountain Mania trail runs take place at the Avalon Springs Resort situated just outside of the picturesque town of Montagu. We decided to give a run down of the race, with some great detail on the route, for anyone who wants to do the race next year – or just get a beautiful trail run in!
The races cater to runners of varying abilities, with three race distances to choose from, ranging from 10km to 20km, as well as a 4km Fun Run/Walk. All four routes start at the Avalon Springs Resort, and from there head out for about 2km along Badskloof Gorge from where the routes split. This is the starting point of three well-known hiking routes in the area, namely “Klipspringer” (10km, +/- 568m elevation gain/loss), “Cogmans” (17km, +/- 1070m elevation gain/loss) and “Bloupunt” (20km, +/- 1395m elevation gain/loss).
All three routes start with a flat section of about 2km next to a stream with two or three crossings thrown into the mix and the high walls of Badskloof Gorge surround you on either side. This serves as a nice warm-up – although the loose river sand underfoot had a couple of runner’s muttering some choice words under their breath. This then quickly gives way to some very technical terrain with lots of loose stones and gravel. At around 4.5km, the 20km route splits in two with runners following the fork to the left.
The ascent starts with a fairly technical uphill section with multiple switchbacks, alternating between “definitely a power walk” to “I should actually be running this”, making it very difficult to fall into any kind of rhythm. From here there is a short flat section of a couple of 100m before the route drops back down to the approach of the last assault on Bloupunt itself.
The climb to the top of Bloupunt is fairly technical, with (short) runnable sections interspersed with portions of the route that have to be scrambled using all four limbs. Once at the top though the 360 degree views are incredible, with one literally being able to see all the way back to Robertson in the East and Bonnievale to the South. My only regret at this point was that (being a race) there wasn’t enough time to sit down, have a good rest and really appreciate the majesty of the mountains around me. On days like these it is very easy to remember how fantastic this sport of ours is – there are really few things as satisfying as reaching the top of a tough climb and being able to experience your surroundings on such a personal, unobscured level, knowing that you are seeing things that many people can only dream of or read about, and realising that it is an incredible privilege.
From here it is downhill all the way home, although it has to be noted that this doesn’t mean the work is done and you can relax! The descent down the East side of Bloupunt is one of the more technical sections I have experienced, with lots of loose rocks of that uncomfortable size (just too large to not bother about and just too small to ignore completely) to navigate. Throw into the mix some very sharp turns and the route down quickly becomes quite a challenge, especially on tired legs – I have blue toes on both feet to show for this 🙁
The route winds back towards the original split for about 5km before flattening out as you then head back in reverse of the first 4.5km of the route. The last part of the route is essentially flat but I had to double check myself a couple of times as the combination of tired legs and river sand made it seem a hell of a lot harder than the “out” part earlier in the day!
At this stage there were plenty of people along the route – a combination of the 10km and 17km race backmarkers, some very chilled 4km walkers and a couple of rock climbers – which made the final stretch (after about 2.5 hours out and now on tired legs) a breeze.
Once across the finish line, war stories were shared, ice cold beers were drunk and a general good time was had by all. Most finishers hung around for a bit (always a good sign) and the prize giving was concluded at around 1pm. Overall this was a fantastic race and I will definitely be back next year! The route markings were ample and fairly well spaced, the organising was that sweet blend between “not too structured but not too gung-ho” and the general feel of the day, including the vibe afterwards was fantastic, with most runners I spoke to having had a great time. The longer route options are definitely a couple of steps above “entry level” in difficulty, but for anybody wanting to challenge themselves I can recommend giving it a bash next year!