Volunteer Wildfire Services trail challenge

Phillipa Humphreys, Anton Esterhuizen and Daryn Clarke, cheerful and on top of the world, running the 22km route at the VWS Nuweberg Trail Challenge on Sunday November 22 in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. Holland Nature Reserve.

The Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) Nuweberg Trail Challenge takes place on Sunday November 3 at Nuweberg in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.

The biggest fundraising event of the year for the VWS Jonkershoek and Grabouw firebases, the event offers two distances, 10km and 22km, both with spectacular views.

“It’s a chance for trail runners to run the high mountain fynbos which we protect from wildfires every fire season,” says race director and events manager, Candice-Lee van Tromp.

The VWS deployed multiple ground crews during the Van der Stel’s Pass fire in February, which threatened the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.

“During our annual Vasbyt weekend training camp in August, an ignition occurred in the reserve, and we were able to deploy three crews within 20 minutes of the fire starting. We know this area very well,” says station manager, Ian Harrison, with a grin.

“The 10km race is almost entirely on jeep track, with just one quite steep, technical section of about 400m, which, if you take it carefully will, will pose no major risks,” says Ms van Tromp. “It does have some gnarly hills towards the end, but all on jeep track, with good footing. It’s also entirely possible to walk the 10km route, and finish within the cut-off time.”

“The 22km route, is somewhat more challenging, and runners need to be self-sufficient, carrying water, their preferred trail food, a space blanket, and a charged mobile phone for emergencies,” says Ms Van Tromp. “The long-range weather forecast says it will be a chilly start, around 10ºC, peaking at 26ºC in the afternoon, but if things turn very cold, which they can, runners need to be prepared.”

Sweep vehicles will pick up runners who are not likely to complete their route within the allocated maximum times.

“We will have marshals at approximately kilometre intervals, many of whom are First Aid trained, and we will have a professionally staffed emergency medical centre and First Aid post at the operations centre,” Mr Harrison says. “The routes will also be well signposted.”

Last year’s race, the inaugural event, was well received by the trail running community, if feedback is anything to go by. Margi Hoffe of Somerset West, running with husband, Steve, in the 10km race said: “We took the most awesome photos and even ran a bit slower to really take in the nature and the beauty of it all. We are definitely doing the 22km next year.”

“It is an important fund raising initiative for us, since we are entirely donor funded, and since the number of runners permitted is limited, we’d like to sell every entry if we can,” says Ms Van Tromp. “With fire season starting on November 1, it is the perfect time for us to hold the event.”

“Ryan Larkman, owner of Cape Canopy Tour, has once again generously offered his facility as our base of operations, and our deployment partner, CapeNature, has again waived the permit fee,” says Mr Harrison.

The 22km race starts at 7.30am, and all runners must attend a mandatory pre-race briefing at 7.15 am.

The 10km race starts at 8am, with a mandatory pre-race briefing at 7.45am.

There will be a number of prizes on offer, all donated to aid in the fundraising effort. Prizes range from two Cat S31 smartphones donated by the Bullitt Group, to premium-quality wine from Keermont Wines and Joostenberg Wines, trail running and hiking socks from Advanced Technical Sock Industries, and vouchers from The Coffee Roasting Company at Lourensford Estate, and Nova Hair Studio in Somerset West.

“Trail running is hungry business,” says Ms Van Tromp, “and we’ll have pancakes and boerewors rolls on offer at the finish line. Cape Canopy Tour has a coffee shop, for those who need a caffeine boost before or after the race.”

Entry costs R195 for the 10km race, and R280 for the 22km race. Visit vws.org.za to buy an entry. “For those who don’t wish to enter either of the races, but would still like to support the VWS, there is a donation opportunity on the race entry page,” says Ms Van Tromp.

Race numbers can be collected at Cape Canopy Tour from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday November 2, and from 5am to 7am on race day. “No number, no race,” says Ms Van Tromp.

“It promises to be a great day out, and we’re looking forward to hosting the trail running community,” says Mr Harrison.

BLOB) Norman McFarlane is a volunteer firefighter with Volunteer Wildfire Services.