Rhino Peak Trail Run

Our trail grading: RED 5C
Distance: 26km
Extremeness: technical single track, slippery shale descent, and hands-and-knees climb
Location: Rhino Peak, Southern Drakensberg, South Africa
Joggers: Heloise Hunter and husband Travis Marshall
Post author: Heloise Hunter

Travis is new to trail running, but we're often found hiking in the berg. Since the trail bug bit, he's spent a couple thousand on shoes, socks, and a hydration system. He wanted to try it out, and I had a new pack to test. With the recent RHINO. The Peak FKT set by AJ Calitz with Johardt van Heerden, and Tracy Zunckel with Su Don-Wauchope, Rhino was calling.

We'd hiked 8km up the 13km route to the tippy top in the snow, and thought the extra few km would be super easy with our new light gear, and the longer days of spring.

After a night spent in Hermit's Wood campsite, we set off from the trailhead at 6:16am, with a selfie to maybe get on the mixed team leader board. The course is runnable (and familiar) for the first few km, though it took me a while to warm up. Eventually we got into the shadow of Rhino going up Mashai Pass, and felt the chill breeze. We made good time for the first 7km, but the loose ground had us hiking thereafter. It got so steep (with so little grip) in sections that we were on all-fours. A trekking pole is definitely coming with on the next attempt!

There is some scary rock climbing involved, and I can't fathom running the sections higher up the pass, either up or down. After 3km of very slow, arduous climbing we reached the plateau 10km in. My heart leapt! I ran the flat, feeling so free, tough the altitude did slow me down eventually. The Peak looks deceptively near, but there was a ways to go, cold wind howling, for 3km over the flap escarpment towards the Rhino's horn. I ran ahead of Travis, impatient to take our selfie with the promised plaque on the cairn.

There's a rock climb to get to the cairn, coupled with high winds, but once up there, we felt on top of the world! What a reward. The plaque was absent, a minor disappointment.

We got our fill of the view, gatvol with the the wind, and jogged back to descend Mashai Pass. Just as we started the descent, Travis was 15m behind me, and rolled his ankle with a bad fall. Ouch.
The descent was very slow, and scary from then on.

We were happy to make it back down in 3.5 hours, with a swollen ankle and scratched up legs to show. It was tough, but we'll definitely be back next year to test our mettle, and Travis's ankle.

Ridiculously steep single track: they do not believe in switchbacks here!

How Johardt, AJ, Su, and Tracy RAN up here is anybody's guess.

Finally at the escarpment! Being on relatively flat trails felt like floating.

Bit of a rock scramble to get up to the cairn.

No plaque (apparently it's been hidden in a crevice until they get permission to fasten it with concrete)

Slippery, dry, rocky, and steep. How do you run that?!


Altitude, pace & disctance


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