Rhino Peak Challenge out to smash records in 2017

Photo - Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

22 September marks World Rhino Day and the third edition of the Rhino Peak Challenge that sees 24 people from elite ultra-trail athletes to sporting celebrities and conservation heavy-weights tackle the Southern Drakensberg’s Rhino Peak to raise funds for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

This unique event sees the participants raise funds via a pledge system that is linked to the time it takes for each runner to complete the 21km round trip up and down the Rhino Peak.

The Elite athletes are given set Goal Times for the run while the ‘People of Influence’ are allowed to choose their own Goal Time. The RPC is a 100% fundraiser with no expenses deducted and all funds administered transparently through the EWT.

Of the 12 elite athletes that are taking part, 2016 winner, and holder of the fastest known time (FKT) up and down the Rhino Peak, Rory Scheffer will be back to take part in the event again this year.

Along with Scheffer, there will be a number of first-timers taking on the RPC with the likes of Kane Reilly from Cape Town, Johardt van Heerden, Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy pair of Mthobisi Mzolo and Siyabonga Ngcongo as well as Taryn Lopez from the KZN North Coast.

The event will also see the debuts of two FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon winners in the forms of Sbonelo Khwela and Hank McGregor.

Khwela, who uses trail running as an important part of his base training during the winter months, has been bracketed in the elite athlete’s bunch and has been set the target of 210 minutes to complete the 21km journey.

McGregor, who recently won his tenth canoe marathon world title, will be taking on the Rhino Peak Challenge with his wife Pippa, who completed the Cape Town Marathon last weekend will be looking to get up and down in 300 minutes.

Rugby World Cup winning captain John Smit will also be making the journey on Friday and the Springbok icon has given himself 420 minutes to make the round trip.

Two men that are heavily involved in adventure racing in South Africa, Gary Green and Glen Haw, will also be taking on the challenge. Haw took part in 2016 and he will be joined by Old Mutual joBerg2c partner Green.

The beauty about the Rhino Peak Challenge is the integration between elite athletes and conservationists. 2017 will see a wide variety of passionate conservationists taking part to help both the rhino as well as the endangered Bearded Vulture.

Manager of the black rhino expansion project for Ezemvelo Wildlife Dr Jacques Flamand will be taking part as will Ezemvelo Wildlife ecologist and manager of the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Programme Dr Sonja Krüger – who will be involved for the second year in a row.

Continuing on with the conservation theme, a number of rhino conservation champions will be taking part, including Dennis Kelly and Zama Ncube.

Kelly, who has been with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for 14 years, beginning as a Wilderness Trails Officer for 2 years, and then as Section Ranger for 10 years in the Mkhuze Game Reserve, is now managing the Makhamisa Section of iMfolozi.

Being a Section Ranger Kelly is very involved in Law Enforcement operations, and over the last few years rhino poaching has become a main focus. However, he mentioned that he is exceptionally passionate about vultures and is keen to do more for vulture awareness and conservation.

Ncube, who has over 10 years’ experience tracking rhino, is not only heavily involved in rhino conservation but also in community awareness.

He is also very involved in community conservation education, where he teaches kids the importance of the environments and game reserves. He is in direct touch with conservation work and therefore can give a true picture of conservation to the youth.

Pledges for the runners will be taken right up until the last runner crosses the finish line.