Perfect weather, a quality field and a generous dose of sentiment, comradeship and spirit… All of the necessary ingredients were prevalent for the running of the 2016 Three Peaks Challenge, the 20th edition of the event in the ‘modern’ era*.

Three Peaks Challenge 2016

Andrew Hagen ascends Devil’s Peak

Andrew Hagen, returning after an absence of several years, cruised to an unprecedented fourth victory. His finishing time of 4:55,13 was a little less than a minute quicker than his previous personal best, when he finished runner-up to AJ Calitz in that memorable record-breaking day in 2012.

Hagen and Lucas Adams made the early running on the Devil’s Peak leg, with just 40 seconds separating the two when they turned at Greenmarket Square for the very tough second peak, with a group of several runners three minutes back. Adams called it a day before he reached Maclear’s Beacon, leaving the chasing pack of Mark Winter, Pete Calitz and Darryn Patterson to fight for second place.

Undeterred by a large number of recreational visitors and tourists on the mountain, a visibly relaxed Andrew Hagen breezed down Platteklip Gorge, well in control, before wrapping up a comfortable win with a successful final assault on the Lion’s Head leg record. Winter finished 9 minutes behind in second (surely somebody to watch in the future?) with Darryn Patterson 27 minutes further back, in third.

Three Peaks Challenge 2016

Jane Wyngaard takes on Platteklip Gorge

Jane Wyngaard took complete control of the women’s race going up Platteklip Gorge and romped home in a very credible 6:40,45, nearly half an hour ahead of Jana Trojan. 2015 winner, Melany Porter, was third.

One of the performances of the day was undoubtedly that of Brian Key. Just eighteen days shy of his 78th birthday, the incomparable Key completed the gruelling challenge in under eight hours, beating three-quarters of the field on his way to his 14th finish.

20 Finishes! Gavin Snell receives his painting from Don Hartley

20 Finishes! Gavin Snell receives his painting from Don Hartley

Some significant milestones were achieved on the day. Event co-organiser Gavin Snell became the first person to successfully complete the challenge twenty times, while Barry Washkansky secured his fifteenth. Arno Lawrenz and Andre Filander were presented with Don Hartley paintings, their well-earned reward for ten finishes. Permanent Number 99 was awarded to Peter Johnstone – permanent numbers are a privilege accorded to participants who complete five challenges.

The 2017 Three Peaks Challenge has been scheduled to take place on Saturday, 4th of November.

* The event follows a tradition started in 1897, by Carl Wilhelm Schneeberger.


Header image and images of Andrew Hagen and Jane Wyngaard by Ark Images – Shawn Benjamin Photography

Full Results

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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 by Ark Images and Shawn Benjamin Photography


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