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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel complete Lesotho circumnavigation

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South African extreme athletes Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel embarked on a quest to conquer Lesotho’s mountains on 10 April. They completed their trail in 16 days, six hours and 56 minutes.

The journey covered almost 1100 kilometres with over 33 000 m of elevation, taking the pair to and along the borders of the beautiful country. The trail began and concluded at the Telle Bridge Border Post.

Their adventure took them to the most remote and untouched regions of the Mountain Kingdom and South Africa, putting their navigation skills, seasoned physical training and psychological fortitude to the test.

‘It’s pretty surreal to have circumnavigated Lesotho on foot. It was definitely a lot more challenging than we initially anticipated, especially the extreme weather we experienced in the mountain section – ice, snow and severe cold,’ said Sandes.

The weather continued its onslaught throughout the following few days, with flooding in the region wet and soggy being the flavour of the week.

On navigating both the route and the weather, Griesel commented: ‘It felt like we were building a puzzle. Often we had to take a couple of steps back to move forward again and that was mentally quite challenging. Running through the mud and doing multiple river crossings was pretty slow going.’

Sandes and Grisel covered the length of the entire Drakensberg Mountain range, and summited some of Lesotho’s most breathtaking peaks and renowned trails, including Mafadi Peak, the highest mountain in South Africa at 3,446.1m.

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‘There were some really cold nights out there, where we didn’t think we would make it through. Looking back it feels like an eternity ago that we started,’ said Sandes at the finish of the circumnavigation at the Telle Bridge Border Post. ‘We’ve been on enough crazy adventures together to know that the key to getting through adventures like this is ultimately, trust and respect  – something that Ryno and I truly have in each other. I wouldn’t want to have achieved this with anyone else.

Sandes’ trail-running career, albeit physically and mentally challenging, has afforded him a philosophical outlook on life. ‘All those curve balls make for real epic adventure with some incredible memories I’ll hold onto forever. I’m sure the fact that it’s finally done, will all sink in shortly,’ concluded Sandes.

Pictures: Supplied

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