WATCH: Snow flurries sees Lesotho Ultra Trail go from summer to winter and back again

2017-11-27 09:35 - Selene Brophy
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(Twitter: @LesothoUltra)

Cape Town - A snow alert over the weekend for SA landlocked neighbour Lesotho saw some extreme race conditions for the annual Lesotho Ultra Trail Run.

Snow Report forecast that light snowfall was expected for the Maluti mountains on Friday 24 November, with possible snowfall at Sani Mountain Lodge and Sani Top. 

As a result some 154 mountain runners took on the 5th edition of Lesotho Ultra Trail in the Maluti Mountains, through sun, rain and snow.  This is not the first of the unusual snowfall in November either - WATCH: Blankets of snow cover parts of Lesotho, SA's east and even the Karoo!

Winners of #LesothoUltra2017 were Johardt Van Heerden (05.22.53) for the men's race and Nicolette Griffioen (06.37.46) for the women's race.

Lauren Booth‏, the new director of the race posted pics of the unusual weather on Saturday, 25 November saying, "Trust it to #snow the first time I take over Race Directorship from @Andrew_Booth1 at #LesothoUltra2017! Lucky to have legendary volunteers like #CampJubeJube & #CampDavis supporting! @LesothoUltr."

Lesotho Ultra Skymarathon® is a 50km trail run through the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho in Southern Africa. A remote race traversing trails primarily established and used by livestock and shepherds, of which a majority lie at over 3000 metres above sea level.

Featuring a strong international contingent from Spain, France and Canada, the competition was fierce at the front of the field.

Ultimately, South Africans Johaart van Heerden and Nicolette Griffioen handled the extremely technical terrain and high altitude best, claiming the mens’ and womens’ top podium in the 50km Ultra Skymarathon®. After a long-term injury, the 2016 South African Long Distance Trail Champion firmly announced his come-back by setting a new course record of 5:22:53.

Twenty six minutes later, Kwenza Ngubane from the Gijima Trust claimed second place in his first attempt at the race with Spanish runner Joel Aubeso another seven minutes back. In the womens’ race, Griffioen shared the lead from the outset, but pushed head approaching Camp Davis at the 15 kilometre mark before setting off across the top of the Maluti escarpment. She claimed the win in 6:37:48 with Marzelle van der Merwe crossing the line in 6:46:56, only nine minutes behind. Simone Barret finished third a further twenty seven minutes back.

The flurries of snow proved more challenging for the participants towards the mid and back field who had to ensure they kept their pace up to keep warm. The notorious second climb on the 50km Ultra Skymarathon that starts with 10km to go, again proved the most challenging aspect of the course “The Maluti are big mountains, and running long distance at high altitude up and down steep the gradients challenges the best trail runners from around the world” said Lauren Booth who took up the race directorship after her husband Andrew took the start line.

“As a brand passionate about sharing the trails with our community, Raidlight was really excited to partner with Lesotho Ultra Trail in 2017. The iconic race delivered all that was expected of it, and more. Sun, rain, snow, spectacular views combined with mountainous technical trails that made the race and the entire weekend an experience that everyone passionate about trail should experience, and we will be back for more in 2018” said Anthony Rush, managing director of Raidlight South Africa.

“We are proud to support a race of this level that showcases, in everyway, what the mountain kingdom has to offer” Tsokolo Makeka, Metropolitan Lesotho.

Visit www.lesothoultratrail.com for more information on the 2018 challenge.

Have a look at the social posts shared of an amazing weekend of sky running:

What to read next on Traveller24:

#LesothoRoadTrip: Discovering more than just majestic mountains

Extreme Lesotho: Bikepacking the Kingdom in the Sky

Gateway to Lesotho: 8 Winter must-dos in the Drakensberg