FKT: Ryan Sandes, Andre Gie, Kane Reilly - Jonkershoek Traverse (South Africa) - 2016-09-24

Gender category
Route variation
Standard route
Finish date
Total time
8h 35m 58s

This article from Red Bull describes the traverse and the Sandes, Gie & Reilly, and previous FKTs.

The route – known in some circles as the ‘Jonkershoek Marathon’ – traces the top edge of the Jonkershoek valley watershed in a horseshoe-shape, from Botmaskop all the way round to Stellenboschberg. Seven summit peaks are to be ‘ticked-off’ along the way: Botmaskop; Squaretower Peak, North Twin (Pieke), Rifberg (Virgin & Third Ridge Peak), Second Ridge (Katedraal), First Ridge (Katedraal), Haelkop and Stellenboschberg.


Steeped in mountain lore, the first recorded attempt was on 19 May 1962 when Rudolph Buhrman, Piet Hugo and Jan du Plessis finished in 19:30. Their time was smashed later that same year by Ernst Lotz who completed it in 14 hours. The next successful attempt took place in December 1962, when Christopher Spottiswood ran 10h45min. There are some gaps in the records, but by most accounts Spottiswood’s record stood until 10 October 1991, when Lydia Roos completing the route in 10h13min. In October 2000 Henco Jordaan set the record at 9h40min where it stood for 15 years until Samuel Holtzkampf completed it in 8:44:57 on 16 December 2015.

It was Holtzkampfs time the trio had in their sites.

The 31-odd-kilometre route requires a combination of trail running, speed hiking, scrambling and bundu bashing, as well as, of course, navigating. “The perfect last long run before our baby is born,” joked Ryan Sandes before. “Thanks a lot to Andre – who is currently training to tackle World AR Champs in November with his team – and Kane for inviting me. I definitely tagged along on the mission - I have no real experience in Jonkershoek and they have both spent a fair amount of time up there.”

The short story is that they completed the route on Saturday 24 September in a time of 08:35:58, some nine minutes faster than the previous FKT.

“It’s just such an iconic challenge. I’ve always heard about it and often wondered how I would get to achieving it. You know, you hear about these old ‘ballies' back in the day kind of trekking the Jonkershoek Traverse. And taking like 24 hours to do it. That really intrigued me. And then, just be able to do it with Andre and Kane was super epic.” - Ryan

“Really we just wanted to spend a kiff, big day out in some epic mountains and get into some remote areas you wouldn’t normally get into. Also, to have a bit of a thrash in the mountains with okes like Ryan and Kane is always fun. Of course the FKT was in the back of our minds, but it wasn’t the primary goal.” Andre

“I remember my uncle showing me a write-up done by a guy at least 20 years ago, with descriptions like ‘at the big tree, stay high on the ridge…’ That has stayed in the back of my mind for a few years. And, as Andre said, it’s the old school nature that appealed to us - just an honest point-to-point mission across some pretty radical terrain.” - Kane

“Definitely the route, what we we could see and weren’t clouded in, anyway. That and the adventure aspect and mission behind it. None of us had any major expectations but in the back of our minds we kind of wanted to set the new FKT. If that didn’t happen we wouldn’t have been too bummed, I don’t think, it was more about a rad long day in the mountains and having a few laughs with mates.” - Ryan

“The route - it’s a super aesthetic line that kind of just makes sense. You can see the whole route and it’s a logical line to follow. Also, the undercover, trail-less, no-rules nature of the thing, apart from tagging the peaks and getting around the horseshoe, of course.” - Andre

“If I had to pick a single highlight, it would be the section from Pieke to Bergriver neck! It is beautiful and gnarly in equal parts. Also, was also pretty cool to be out there with two of SA's endurance legends!” - Kane

“Checking the beacon at the finish was pretty rad - we had a crazy scramble for the last 20 minutes to get up there, because we suddenly realised we were a little bit behind schedule so we pushed hard. Walking off the mountain was also pretty special.

Also, it’s kind of funny now, but after we tagged the last beacon we thought we had finished, only to realise we might be at the wrong beacon. We did eventually find the other beacon. Thankfully when we got down we spoke to Robyn Kime who knows the route really well, and she confirmed we were at the correct beacon initially.” Ryan

“Fearing a beatdown from the other guys when I suggested we may be at the wrong finishing beacon, haha.” - Kane

“The traverse takes place on no real trail, so knowing the route is key, I think that is at least 70% of getting the traverse done. You could easily run around in circles if you don’t know the route, it’s not necessarily about moving fast, but rather being consistent and staying on track with navigation. Andre’s navigation was on point - he was super on it the whole day, I think he has an in-built GPS in his brain, if it wasn’t for him and Kane I’d probably be up there somewhere still.

Terrain is also super technical. You can’t force the pace because then you can easily lose momentum and get injured, lost or bomb out really early on. Crazy to think that it takes eight-and-half hours to do like 31-plus kilometres but there is like over 3000 metres of vertical elevation - even though you are on a ridge line you are still going up-and-down all the time.” - Ryan

“The toughest challenge was definitely trying to keep up with Ryan and Kane in the last 10 minutes. They put the hammer down and I was toiling a bit. I nearly choked on a jelly baby trying to keep up. Might have run my fastest kay of the year up a hill right there - hahaha.”

“Kane and Ryan assumed I knew the route very well. Truth is I didn’t know it well at all. I had done it once before with Kane and Luke Powers, most of which we couldn't see much at all. In addition I had done the first half of the route once before with a guy who knows the route well. I had the foolproof route navigation of a screenshot of the route from the previous record holder as well as his route description – which isn't much – luckily the route has some cairns and tends to follow the line of least resistance, and as long as I looked confident the boys didn't know if we were lost…” - Andre