Lucky Miya erased the huge disappointment he suffered three years ago, when he won the Three Peaks Challenge on Saturday, more than ten minutes ahead of four-times winner and defending champion Andrew Hagen. For the top K-Way trail athlete from Gauteng, it was a vastly different mountain to climb, from that which he encountered in 2014, when severe cramps and inadequate knowledge of the route relegated him to second place.

Three Peaks 2017 8

Lucky Miya receives his winning trophy and painting from Don Hartley

In a break from CW Schneeberger’s 1897 traditional Long Street start, close to 150 high-spirited trail enthusiasts lined up outside Cape Town’s historic Old Town House in Greenmarket Square for the 5 am send-off, and an escape up Government Avenue and out of the city.  

In near-perfect conditions, a group of six runners stayed in close contention as they tackled the gradual climb through Deer Park to the first checkpoint at “Dead Man’s Tree”, on Tafelberg Road. Hastening up the slippery slopes of Devil’s Peak, the group reached the beacon in five to six minutes more than an hour.

A strong-running Darryn Patterson seized the initiative on the return to the city and arrived at Greenmarket Square three minutes ahead of Lucas Adams, in second, with Miya, Hagen, Pete Calitz and Rupert Becker just less than a minute further back.

On the second peak, Patterson’s lead was whittled down to barely a minute by the time he reached Tafelberg Road and started up Platteklip Gorge, ahead of Hagen and an ever-watchful Miya.

Miya launched his assault on the tortuous climb and had opened up a seven-minute lead on Patterson by the time he had reached Maclear’s Beacon; Hagen was a further minute behind. Miya had stretched the gap to eight minutes when he landed on Tafelberg Road and to nine minutes when he turned in the centre of the city for the final time, and the third peak.

Hagen passed Patterson on the Lion’s Head ascent, but was fifteen minutes behind Miya at the top. One of the top downhill mountain runners in the business, Hagen made up five minutes on the leader, from the beacon to the square, but it was too little too late. With no pressure to bear and the sounds and smells of the city within his grasp, Lucky Miya was able to win comfortably, in a finishing time of 5:04:55. Hagen finished in second place with the gallant but weary Patterson not that far back in third.

Karoline Hanks celebrated her long-awaited Three Peaks debut with an emphatic victory in the women’s race. Challenged only momentarily by an inspired Cleo Albertus – to the top of Devil’s Peak and on the return to Greenmarket Square – Hanks had built a fairly sizeable lead at Maclear’s and shook off her less-experienced and fast-tiring rival on the way down. She went on to win in 6:57:20, half-an-hour ahead of Cherry Gammelin in second. Albertus did well to finish third – one to watch in the future?

A total of 138 people completed the 2017 Three Peaks Challenge, the 21st in the modern era – 120 years after Schneeberger, 90 after Trimble and 40 after Pitter.

Full Results             

Images courtesy of K-Way       
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“He undertook to do his self imposed task between six in the morning, and six in the evening, and finished with an hour and ten minutes to spare. In each ascent he was accompanied by a friend as pacemaker, Mr. E.V. Bentley and Mr. C. Otto sharing this duty, while Mr. G.M. Anderson officiated at the Johannesburg Hotel, which was the starting post and finishing goal from which Mr. Schneeberger had to start and return to each time.”
The Cape Register – Saturday March 13th, 1897

Trimble (left) and Schneeberger

In March 1897, 25-year-old Carl Wilhelm Schneeberger successfully ascended Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, starting from, and returning each time, to the old Johannesburg Hotel in Long Street, Cape Town. He completed the challenge in ten hours and fifty minutes (including rests) and was duly presented with a gold medal.

Thirty years later, Sandy Trimble, then in his early thirties and a regular climber on Table Mountain and other peaks in the Western Cape, met Schneeberger’s son and a discussion ensued over whether the time could be bettered. Trimble took on the challenge and accomplished the feat in record time. Another medal was struck and presented to Trimble by Mr CW Schneeberger in person. It was inscribed: ‘To Mr Sandy Trimble who climbed Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head in 7 hours 17 minutes on September 25, 1927.’ 

Trimble's 1927 medal

Trimble’s 1927 medal

In June 1977, 26-year-old Geoffrey Pitter “came across the reminiscences” of Trimble’s friend, A.B. Berrisford, who had recounted the event in the 1963 Mountain Club of South Africa Journal. He decided that the 50th anniversary should not go unnoticed and on the 25th of September, 1977, 50 years to the day, he commemorated and emulated the feat, completing the three successive climbs in 6 hours and 51 minutes in the process.

The tradition continues…

In September 1997 Don Hartley, an experienced mountain climber and marathon runner – twice the winner of the Two Oceans Marathon in the early 1970s – initiated and organised a 100-year commemoration of Schneeberger’s achievement. Eleven of the thirteen starters completed the ‘inaugural’ Three Peaks Challenge which was won, appropriately, by Hartley. Intended to be a one-off affair, it revived a tradition that has since entrenched itself amongst the toughest physical and mental challenges of its kind.

With its intriguing blend of mountain and city, culture, history and adventure, it has become a truly quintessential Cape Town event.

Header image courtesy of K-Way


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