On Sunday, 7 March 1897, 25-year-old Carl Wilhelm Schneeberger, set out from the old Johannesburg Hotel in Long Street and climbed Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, by way of Platteklip Gorge to Maclear’s Beacon (at 1086m the highest point on TM) and Lion’s Head in succession on one day. Returning after each ascent to his starting point at the hotel for a short rest and finally completing the challenge in 9 hrs 5 min (not counting rests).
On Sunday, 25 September 1927, Sandy Trimble improved on Schneeberger’s time, completing the feat in 7 hrs 17min (counting rests). Fifty years later, to the day, Geoff Pitter of Kenwyn improved on Trimble’s time by 26 minutes, running all the tarred sections.
One hundred years after C W Schneeberger’s attempt, Don Hartley organised and celebrated the feat – something he had contemplated for 35 years.
On Saturday, 24 September 1997, 13 runners took part in the commemorative centenary run, which started at 108 Long Street, where the old Johannesburg Hotel used to be and which is presently an antique shop. Wally Struthers was the official starter and the Schneeberger grandsons and their wives also attended. Organiser Don Hartley, whose timekeeper was 5 min late with motor bike problems – as had one of Schneeberger’s “pacers” 100 years before been late with bicycle problems – finished first in 7:18 after Glenn Castle got lost in the mist, opening the way for Gavin Snell to finish second. 11 people completed the challenge.
Geoff Pitter runs through town in 1977
The Scheeberger family produced a commemorative wine and presented it to the participants of the 2001 Three Peaks Challenge in commemoration of their grandfather’s original personal challenge in 1897. They have continued the tradition producing a special wine each year for the occasion. Don Hartley and Gavin Snell (who has done every challenge since 1997) continue to organise this very successful event. Don, a well-known artist, also hand makes clay statues of the three peaks and presents it to each finisher.
The Three Peaks Challenge is now an annual event on the Cape Town calendar. A truly Cape Town challenge in an awesome arena.