A Win for Conservation at the Golden Gate Challenge
The weekend of the 17-20 of October 2019 saw trail runners from across the country descend upon the Golden Highlands National Park for the 9th annual WildSeries Golden Gate Challenge. KZN and Free state Regions of the SANParks Honorary Rangers were on hand to provide logistical support and assistance at checkpoints and water tables.
Funds raised from this event are donated to the SANParks Honorary Rangers for conservation projects within the park.
The Golden Gate Challenge is a 3-day track and trail run across the rugged and beautiful mountains of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The trail meanders along hiking trails and jeep tracks through remote and scenic parts of the park, including Little Serengeti with its teeming herds of Blesbok, Zebra, Black Wildebeest and Eland.
Not for the feint-hearted, runners face steep terrain, plenty of uphills and downhills and some technical challenges thrown in for good measure.
The rewards are many: spectacular scenery, stunning views, trickling streams, wildlife sightings and unusual rock formations, to name but a few. This may be one of the country’s toughest trail runs but it is also one of the most beautiful.
The 2019 event was organised by Wildlands, as part of their WildSeries initiative, in partnership with SANParks and in association with KZN Trail Running. The WildSeries initiative aims to raise funds for conservation projects by taking participants through unique and breathtaking conservation areas across KZN and the Free State.
The event has raised, on average, more than R100 000 annually for the SANParks Honorary Rangers. This has funded various conservation projects within the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, including vulture conservation initiatives and the recently opened Glen Reenen Interpretation Centre. Further funds are channeled into Wildlands conservation initiatives.
This year, additional funds were raised for the SANParks anti-poaching K9 Units (K9 Project Watchdog). Initiated by race caterer, Su-yen Thornhill (a well-known Joburg chef), runners could elect to forego their meal tickets to donate to the K9 Units instead.
During 2019, shorter route options were added. For day one, the route options were 27km or 18km; for day two, 29km or 19km and 17km on day three. The overall men’s winner was Lucky Miya who completed the three-day 73 km race in a total combined time of 6:57:31. Trude Carstens was the overall women’s winner, finishing the race in a total time of 9:42:46. The full race results can be viewed at https://kzntrailrunning.co.za/.