For most people Platteklip Gorge is just a means to getting to the top of Table Mountain. For first time hikers it’s a safe but strenuous journey to the top but

AJ Calitz descending Platteklip Gorge

for many seasoned hikers/runners it’s often a route to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

On Saturday, April 6, AJ Calitz, one of South Africa’s top trail runners, will attempt to ascend PK 12 times between sunrise and sunset. No mean feat and a seriously tough ask even for the fastest and fittest.  AJ will not be doing this for personal glory but for a good cause as he is among 175 entrants in this year’s  K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge, an annual fundraiser where runners get sponsored for their ascents up PK.

Last year, as a first-time entrant, AJ set a new course record with 11 ascents. Now, with numerous wins and race records on his impressive resume, Calitz has set himself a challenge; to better his record with one more ascent. With the start at sunrise and the finish at sunset, he has only 11 hours to achieve his goal.

Platteklip ascends 760 metres from bottom to top, which puts 12 summits at an accumulative 9,120-metre – that’s almost 300-metres higher than Mt Everest from sea level to summit! At the top, participants run to the Cable Car and catch a ride to the bottom. Each lap is 5.5km in total and the ascent alone is a physically demanding route that takes one to two hours on most fresh legs. It is this level of difficulty that makes this event worthy of being called a ‘challenge’. Most runners make three to six summits.

With this in mind, how will Calitz squeeze out another lap to reach his objective of 12 ascents?

As of this year Calitz is running full time – a professional athlete. He is putting more time into training, focusing on power and speed, which are both needed to get him through this Challenge.

“I have no specific plan other than to just run harder and faster,” he says. Calitz needs to make up five minutes per lap to fit in the 12th ascent.

“The easiest place to make up time is on the flat sections at the top of the mountain and the cable way,” he explains.

And it’s not like the cable car will be sitting waiting for him: “There is no way you can judge the cable car unfortunately,” he says. Calitz will certainly need a dash of luck to be on his side too.

As a fundraising initiative for Sinenjongo High School, the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge raised R500,000 for the school in 2012 – and they aim to better this contribution this year. Donations are linked to runner profiles from the ‘Sponsor’ tab on the event website. By sponsoring a runner, donors contribute to the fund for the school, which is located in the impoverished community of Joe Slovo Park, in the Milnerton suburb.

Despite its lack of facilities and resources -  no hall, library, staff room nor sports facilities – this school has lifted its matric pass rate from 27% in 2008 to 90% in 2011. Last year 77 matrics passed – double that of the previous year – with 56 qualifying for tertiary education.

The Challenge starts at 7am and ends at sunset – 6pm. Throughout the day spectators can cheer on the runners ascending Platteklip Gorge and from the cable car stations.

Event website:

Three Peaks

Runners approaching the Knife Edge

I’m not a particularly competitive runner, although I might sometimes chase a faster time on routes or events that I do regularly. It’s just not often that I’m up for it.

But when the opportunity does arise I’m all for it. Last Sunday was the UCT (that be The University of Cape Town for out of towners) GSB (Graduate School of Business) Three Peaks Challenge. This is an annual event organised by the current MBA class and run by many of them. It is also not to be confused with the other, more difficult, Three Peaks Challenge (3 November)

This one involves Cape Town’s three peaks starting at UCT and going up Mowbray Ridge, over the Knife Edge to Devil’s Peak, down to the saddle and up the infamous Ledges to Maclear’s Beacon, down PK (Platteklip), finally ending on top of Lion’s Head. A not unchallenging and rather fun route.

The run was once reserved for GSB students but they have recently opened it up to the general public. Last year I entered for the first time and ran it with a friend, Petro. I led her a merry dance in the mist, getting lost on the upper slopes of Devil’s Peak and getting caught in the pack on the way up Ledges. Despite this Petro still landed up being first woman home. We had run together most of the way with Petro dropping me on Lion’s Head and finishing a few minutes ahead of me. I finished in 4.35, quite high up the field. The nice thing about this event is that a lot of non regular runners take part, making us mid packers feel good about ourselves as we finish higher up the field than normal.

This year, having reccied the route I was hoping to comfortably beat that time, even dreaming of a sub 4 hour. The weather on the day was spectacular, clear skies and a threatening sun early on. Once again Petro and I set off together – Petro dragging me up the hills and me gaining ground and position on the downs. Having safely negotiated Ledges, thanks to the help of the Mountain Club man and his ropes, we headed for Maclears. On our approach to the highest point on TM (Table Mountain) we heard the voice of Michael “the CEO” Ohlsson, there to meet us and offer some encouragement and company. We raced down PK, me literally bouncing off the rocks on a regular basis, Michael hurling abuse from behind.

But after refreshing at the stream near the bottom of PK and Petro having caught up, my competitive streak set in. As we neared the PK seconding table we could see a small group just ahead of us. At this point I turned to Petro saying, “Petro, you are the reigning women’s champion and in second place, there is the woman currently in first place – go get her.” At which stage Petro turned to me, gave me one of those death stares only women can give and went after her, my words “eye of the tiger Petro eye of the tiger” left trailing in her wake.

So while Petro took care of my competitive streak I meekly coasted to the finish taking some serious strain in the now pretty warm weather.

Petro eventually finished 2nd woman, three minutes behind eventual winner Angela, but it was a fine effort nevertheless. I beat last year’s time by 10 minutes; a long way off the four hour mark but a decent finish.

At the post event braai some spot prizes were given out. I managed to answer a simple question quickest and walked off with an Ipod the size of a blister on my big toe. Yip, I too can be competitive.

First women, Angela (Left) & Petro on Lion's Head


Mike Lundy. Best Walks in the Cape PeninsulaMike Lundy has being hiking and indeed writing about hiking for longer than most people have been walking. The fact that he continues to update his books and has maintained a love for the mountains, so evident in his many publications, is testimony to his fitness and dedication to the mountains that he so often frequents.

Mike’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula was the book that first got me interested in the mountains and I hiked many of these routes for the very first time using these guides  His hikes are well chosen, well described and  his books contain a wealth of useful information and some great pics.

From the Book:

A bestseller for 21 years, Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula remains one of the most popular books on hiking in Cape Town.

Each of the 30 walks in this guide has been carefully chosen because of a particular point of interest, be it a waterfall, cave, indigenous forest, shipwreck or spectacular viewpoint. This classic selection of routes ranges from challenging climbs to the top of Table Mountain to leisurely strolls among the fynbos (and everything else in-between). Practical advice on mountain safety, local weather conditions and how to deal with snakes ensure that the hiker is given a clear idea of what to expect.

For this eighth edition, all route descriptions and maps have been brought up to date and photographs have been added for lively interest.

Each route  includes:

  • Easy-to-follow direction
  • Accurate route map
  • Average hiking time
  • GPS coordinates for start and finish  points
  • Grading that covers  difficulty and exposure
  • Notes on the availability of water
  • Advice on whether dogs can be taken along
  • Fascinating information on historical sites,  plants, trees and birds  en route

The GPS tracks for each walk can be downloaded from

Avid hiker Mike Lundy has written several books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles on  walking and has presented weekly radio reports on  hiking. He has  received a merit services  award fromthe Hiking  Federation of Southern Africa for his exceptional contribution to the hiking

Running up and down Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lions Head) isn’t most people’s idea of fun – but it is mine. This is kind of strange as I usedto hate running. Well hate is a strong word; I just didn’t like it much. I loved hiking though and found once I got into it that I could hike pretty fast up some fairly steep mountains. Then I saw an article in the paper about the Three Peaks Challenge which caught my interest, but after reading that they start in town near to Greenmarket Square and return to the Square after each peak, I laughed to myself, thought “fucking crazy” and lost interest.

The following year, 2002, the Three Peaks reared its beautiful three heads again and a friend, a Celtics runner at the time, told me to phone fellow Celtics runner Gavin Snell, the organiser of the event. As sceptical as I was I soon found myself chatting to Gavin who told me about the event, showed me some pics and hauled out his shoebox of memorabilia including the hand carved trophies of the Three Peaks that every finisher gets. The trophies are made by Don Hartley, founder and co-organiser of the event. All well and good I said but I don’t run. Don’t worry said Gavin you’ll be fine. Far from convinced I decided to give it a bash and entered.

Three Peaks Challenge 2011I started doing some running, completed my first half marathon in the process, and on the first Saturday in November, 2002 I found myself lined up in Long Street at 5am with a bunch of other nutters. About 8 ½ hours later I completed my first challenge, had the best time and was hooked – not just on the Three Peaks but on trail running in general.

November 2011, nine years later, I have completed my 10th Challenge. Those years have seen me become a seasoned trail runner who now loves running and has his own shoebox of Three Peaks memories. I have watched the local trail running scene explode into a main stream sport with many roadies finally seeing the light and now stretching their legs regularly if not exclusively on the mountains. Where once there were a handful of trail events there is now one almost every week.

While the trail running scene has changed I’m glad to say the Three Peaks Challenge has not. The organisers are the same, the atmosphere is the same, and the entry fee kept affordable, unlike many events which charge almost 3x that amount for far less, and you still receive a hand carved Three Peaks trophy if you finish. More importantly I still love this event. I have roped in many an unsuspecting runner who landed up running next to me at some run or another, burning their ears with tales of this special event – some of them completed their 5th challenge this year. The one difference is that nine years ago you could phone Gavin the night before and get an entry – that is no longer possible.

Thanks Gavin, who has not only organised all 15 events to date –read the history of the event here –  but has run every one as well –  and thanks Don for starting this event in 1997, 100 years after it was first completed. Looking forward to no 11.

The Hout Bay Triple Trouble has been trouble for me since its second running in 2006, but now, having recently completed my third, I can safely say its right up there as one of my favourite runs on the trail calendar – despite the tar sections between each peak.

Started by Eric Tollner in 2005 as a training run for the more established Three Peaks Challenge, it has developed into a very special, albeit low key, event. The run starts at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay and takes in Suther Peak, Judas Peak, via Llandadno Ravine, and Chapman’s Peak, returning to the hotel after each peak. The field is small, 30 runners, and friendly, with just a few speedsters chasing records and the win. The rest of us like to take our time (often more through necessity than choice), smell the flowers, enjoy the views and camaraderie and revel in a day out on the spectacular Hout Bay mountains.

Hout Bay TripleTrouble 2011

Doug & Mike on Chapman's Peak

My troubles started at my first attempt in 2006. I somehow managed to get lost descending Judas Peak in the mist, wandered about the top for an hour looking for the path down before finding my own, not very safe descent and traversing back to Llandadno Ravine. After my not so kosher experience I declined the 3rd peak leaving me with unfinished business which I planned to put right the next year. 2007 arrived and I entered early. But the year was a hectic one, with numerous moves and the birth of my son, and came Triple Trouble time, I was pretty exhausted the night before. I woke up at 4am, confirmed what I already knew and sent a text message to Eric, bailing before even putting on my running shoes. I managed to get there to take some pics on the third peak and once again vowed to be back the next year.

2008 and I was the first to enter, but then realised it clashed with my holiday plans so was first out as well. My holiday plans changed and I again landed up on Chappies taking pics.

2009 and finally I got to experience the triple in all its glory. The morning started with a scooter ride from Sea Point to the start with a large orange moon hanging lazily over the glassy sea, the day was already perfect and it was only 5.30am.

After my experience in 2006 I was determined not to get lost this year, but it didn’t take me long. After tagging Suther Peak, I led Brenda, my running partner for the day, down the garden path and landed up with a fabulous viewpoint but sheer drops everywhere. We backtracked and made our way safely down, finding ourselves at the back of the field but in no hurry.

The second peak was stunning; fynbos as far as the eye can see, clear skies with views to everywhere and Mediterranean-like turquoise seas below. The South Easter that had howled the week prior to the run had cleaned up the air and sea for the day.

We finished at the tail end of the field – hot and happy after 10 hours + of beautiful weather and stunning mountains – finally I was on the board.

2010 saw me run the entire route with Michael and Douglas, and various others along the way. With cooler weather and stronger legs we finished in just over 7 ½ hours. Almost 3 hours behind the winner, a certain Ryan Sandes, who seemed to cruise the route but still broke the record finishing in a fast 4.48 and some change.

This year was similar – cool weather and Michael and Douglas again keeping me entertained as we as toured Hout Bay the way very few people ever do. The colourful flowers on the first peak, again the fynbos on the second and whales in the bay on the third made for another memorable trip. While we weren’t racing we realised at the top of Chappies that if we motored we might just break 7 hours. When we hit the tar for the 4km downhill dash to the cold beers – it was still on. But as we neared the finish – about 500m near – Michael started to cramp and stopped to get himself right. Douglas and I had a brief discussion, wait and risk not reaching our sub 7-hour target – or leave Mike, finish under 7 hours and face his wrath. We chose “glory” over sentiment and finished in 6.58.10. Mike, to his credit, finished a minute later also breaking the 7 hour mark and not letting us forget for a minute that we ditched him 500m from home after running together the entire day. Sorry Mike!

At the front of the field Rupert Becker proved you don’t need sponsors and financial incentives to break records (although that would be nice) – just enormous talent and a great attitude – he shaved 1.14 off Ryan’s time – smiling all the way to the finish.

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