kruger 2 canyon
4 September 2021
Stage Race: 3-5 September 2021
5km, 10km, 25km & 42km
Sunday Stage Races: 19km, 28km
So it was the beginning of 2015 and we had just moved to Howick when in early February the phone rang and Andrew Venter asked me if I would be interested in heading up WILDSERIES events on behalf on WILDLANDS. Although slightly awkward as I knew Hillary who was the current organiser, it was an opportunity I could not refuse. Old Mutual was the sponsor and were looking to expand the Series, Wildlands were doing a lot of work in the Lowveld and around Hoedspruit, so it made a lot of sense to explore there. In a six seater Ezemvelo plane we set off early from Pietermartizburg one morning and took 3 hours to fly to Hoedspruit. We had barely landed when Wynand Uys of the K2C Biosphere put us back in the air to loop around Mariepskop and the Canyon. The possibility of running the mountain and then the bushveld was obvious, but we needed a trail and a venue. So to the ground we went and that afternoon we found ourselves at the top of Mariepskop near the radar station looking down on the beautiful Lowveld.
We could not miss noticing the school at the base in a small town called Kampersrus, seemingly a great venue with access to both Mountain and Bushveld. When the story about the kids attending the school and riding on donkeys to get back up to the base for weekends got told, we didn’t need to go any further. A venue with an old trail up the Mountain, it was surely just a matter of finding it. Riding our luck we stopped in at the Forestry station to be shown a map of the old trail network that existed on top of the mountain. Fortunately a few of the older rangers had been involved in building them and were able to assist with finding and clearing them down the line.
A visit to the school the next day also proved fruitful when they showed us around their old Koshuis (boarding house) that had recently be turned into accommodation.
The inaugural event took place on the first weekend of October 2015. A heatwave swept across the country that very weekend making conditions really tough, especially on Day 2 which – back then – was the Mountain Day. The race had only one more year under the WildSeries banner who then made the call to withdraw when the sponsors did.
KZNTR showed enthusiasm to continue with the event and Wildlands gave their support for the race partnership with the K2C Biosphere to continue without them. In 2018 the opportunity to move to Franklyn Park, the current venue, was an obvious one when the school could not host us because of a hockey tournament. Local runner and organiser Michael Dickerson spent hours searching for a new way up and down the mountain from Franklyn Park and was eventually successful (Mike has since immigrated to New Zealand).
We have always felt that the Mariepskop stage of K2C is seriously epic when it comes to Mountain Running. Its technical and steep and all those things, but also incredibly beautiful and varied terrain. Mariepskop itself is a “knoll” that sits just off the main Drakensberg ridge line, this small separation has resulted in a unique grouping of plants and animals in the forests and grasslands on the mountain. The venue, Franklyn Park, is perfectly situated right on the edge of the forest and the bushveld run up straight into forest and down straight into Bushveld.
If you like camping then accommodation is a dream for this event. The venue has ample warm water ablutions, space and shade for self camping.
We will only offer 25 Full Packages that include a tent and all meals. Otherwise its self camping and meal packages, or self catering. Spectators are welcome to book camping and meal packages.
If you prefer not to camp then look to the local BnB’s and lodges. Kampersrus is 15 minutes and Hoedspruit 35 minutes. Swadini is also a great option for chalets.
All routes are fully marked and do not require a GPS or self-navigation. Aid Stations are positioned along the route. Distances between them vary from 7km to 14km.
Ultra Distance (70km)
The Ultra is a notoriously tough course, mainly because day 1 takes place in steep mountainous terrain with approx 2300m of elevation gain. Stage 1 quickly earned itself the reputation of one of South Africa’s toughest stages on a multiday event. Stage 2 is much easier (350m elevation gain), but not to be totally underestimated on tired legs!
Marathon Distance (42km)
The Marathon distance was added in 2017. Stage 1 is a tough 25km, it also climbs up the escarpment, but does not go down into the Blyde River Canyon which means it has considerably less elevation gain. To receive a finishers medal participants must finish the Ultra or Marathon Distance on both days. Finishing both days, but on different courses will earn a Marathon medal.