Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Guest Blog 2 - Adriaan Geldenhuys from Lesotho

In this, the second of our guest blogs, South African athlete Adriaan Geldenhuys talks about his experiences altitude training in Lesotho.  Lesotho is a small country completely surrounded by South Africa, and which has the distinction of being the only country in the world completely above 1,400m altitude.  And from the photos Adriaan has taken, it looks very beautiful too.

Adrian himself is a1500m runners, and started taking the sport seriously just after finishing high school.  He had a successful season racing in Europe in 2012.  He is studying sports science in Potchefstroom, under Jean Vester (who coached Olympic silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng), and hopes to make the South African team for the 2013 World University Games.  We wish him every success, and thank him for taking time out from his training to tell us about Lesotho and all it has to offer.

Altitude training in Lesotho
Afriski in Lesotho is a skiing resort through the winter months of June - August. The mountain adventure sport activities and training camps take place during summer months of October - April. It’s located in the Maloti Mountains 3222 m (10570 ft) above sea-level, operating in Southern Africa near the northern border of Lesotho. The resort is approximately 5 hours' drive from Johannesburg, South Africa via the steep Moteng Pass and the Mahlasela Pass. It is considered to be the highest road pass in Southern Africa.

Most roads here in the Maloti Mountains of Lesotho are gravel roads running through the scenic mountains. The road to Afriski namely the A1 is still a gravel road close to Afriski. It is best to train on this road because it's not that hilly. The other roads are mainly 4x4 tracks and run steeply into the hills and is only used by 4x4’s and the many local shepherds. In Afriski itself there is a road on top along the few condos witch is a straight flat gravel road for approximately 1200m where faster repetitions can be done, its about 3100m above altitude with no virtually no traffic. 

We do a few sessions including a uphill fartlek and a uphill tempo run up the last stretch of the Mahlasela Pass reaching almost 3300m before it winds down 4km to Afriski. This is my third year and we have done some tests before and after the 21day training camp. The red bloodcell count increased a lot. The first year (2010, November) I came straight from sea level, my hematocrit count increased from 43 to 48%. Other athletes who train all year round in Potchefstroom with its medium altitude of 1400m resulted in a increased hematocrit count from around 45-46% to 48-50% in only 21 days. 

We go down to do some steady runs 15km from Afriski down the Mahlasela Pass where the road run past Oxbow Lodge. The altitude is approximately 2450m and you can feel the difference in the 800m fall.  If you go further down the Moteng Pass you drive through a lot of villages and huts scattered alongside the tarred road. The tarred A1 runs from the border up the Maloti Mountains and stop at Oxbow Resort 15km before you get to Afriski. Long runs can be done up in the Maloti mountains without travelling from Afriski where we base, without big hills if you follow the A1 away from Afriski. Long runs can also be done down by the villages where the altitude ranges between 1850-1900m. 

The border into South Africa is approximately 85km from Afriski. We go once a week down to the border and into South Africa to the town Fouriesburg (10km from border) or Bethlehem(45km from border) to do some training on the Tartan track in Bethlehem or Fouriesburg a gravel track witch are both around 1800m above sea level.

Afriski are still developing more and more for the summer months' activities. They’re getting some gym equipment like stationary bikes, treadmill and free weights aswell. The accommodation is exceptional by any standards.

We eat three balanced meals a day at the Sky Restaurant witch is the highest restaurant in Africa. There you can find Wi-Fi aswell.

The athletes range from 800m to 5000m runners and are all top South African athletes, mostly from Potchefstroom and then some other athletes tag along aswell from other training groups throughout South Africa. Guys from France and the UK have joined us too.

The reason why we choose to train here in Lesotho are when we go back to Potchefstroom to train with the other international athletes, we can train harder for longer and recover faster, thus it results in better performances and faster times every year for everyone. It is also a great place to build some natural power for running the hills and the roads are extremely good for the legs to keep you injury free. 

Ryan Sandes uses Lesotho in his preparation for endurance races aswell. In 2010 he became the first competitor to have won all four of the 4 Desert races, each a 250-kilometre (160 mi), 6/7-day, self-supported footrace through the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara Desert in Egypt, Atacama Desert in Chile and lastly Antartica.

The Lesotho Olympic distance athletes also train here in the Maloti Mountains. It's a regular training facility for triathletes aswell.

Adriaan Geldenhuys, 16/1/2013


  1. Trekking in Nepal…Family Adventure style
    The towering Himalayas are, to many travellers’ minds, the chief reason for visiting Nepal. The country tumbles steeply down from the 800km stretch of the Himalayan battlements that forms its northern border, and can claim no fewer than eight of the world’s ten highest peaks – including, of course, Everest, the highest of them all. The mountains are more than just physically astonishing, however. The cultures of highland-dwelling Nepalese peoples are rich and fascinating, and the relaxed, companionable spirit of trekking life is an attraction in itself. The Himalayas have long exerted a powerful spiritual pull, too. In Hindu mythology, the mountains are where gods go to contemplate, while the Sherpas and other mountain peoples hold certain peaks to be the very embodiment of deities.
    Most visitors to mountain areas stick to a few well-established trekking routes. They have good reasons for doing so: the classic trails of the Everest region with its famous trails like Everest Base camp trek and the 3 high passes are both mind blowing ventures and highly popular in the world. And Annapurna regions are so popular because they offer close-up views of the very highest peaks; this includes Annapurna 1 & 2, fishtail peak and Ganesh Himal trek. Famous treks like the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, Annapurna Base camp trek & the Annapurna Circuit trek are some of the most famous on earth. Dramatic scenery and fascinating local cultures are most known in this area. Lodges on the main trails – some as sophisticated as ski chalets, these days – make it possible to go without carrying a lot of gear or learning Nepali, and without spending too much money, either. While trekking, you’ll likely eat and sleep for $20–30 a day. For those who put a high priority on getting away from it all, there are plenty of less-developed routes, of course, and simply going out of season or taking a side-route off the main trail makes a huge difference.
    The Helambu and Langtang regions are less striking but conveniently close to Kathmandu, attracting a little fewer than ten percent of trekkers. The Langtang valley trek & the Ganja-La pass are known trails in this area. This leaves vast areas of eastern and far western Nepal relatively untrodden by visitors. To hike in these areas you’ll need either to get set for camping and carry your own supplies, and live like a local, or pay to join an organized trek with tents and accept the compromises that go along with that.
    With a good operator, you can anywhere in the wild. A Great Himalayan Trail now runs the length of highland Nepal – though it will be for some time, if ever, before such a route will be serviced by lodges.
    Treks in remote far eastern and far western Nepal are mostly restricted to two kinds of globe trotters, both adventurous in their own way. The majority come on organized camping treks with agencies – in fact, this is obligatory for those areas that require a permit. The minority are independent trekkers prepared either to carry tents and food or negotiate with porters, or to seek food and lodging in local homes and basic lodges. Some great camping outdoors include the Manaslu circuit Trek, Upper Mustang trek the Dhaulagiri circuit, Rara lake trek and the great Kangchenjunga trek, both north and south.

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