Lesotho News

Ryan Sandes trail running around Lesotho

It took Ryan Sandes and expedition running partner Ryno Griesel 16 Days, 6 Hours and 56 Minutes to run the 1100 kilometres (with over 33 000m of ascent) around Lesotho. Here he talks us through some of what it took to complete the epic circumnavigation.

It’s always nice to look back on stuff and how cool that was, but at the time, it wasn’t so fun.

Geared Up

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Some of my gear for Navigate Lesotho, you will see it’s packed quite neatly there, it was only for the photograph. It took Craig probably about an hour to sort out my gear. It’s pretty daunting packing for a project like this – it’s so remote, you don’t want to forget anything, it’s a hard one to get the balance. Luckily for me, Ryno is super pedantic and he makes a lot of spreadsheets, so it was easy not to forget anything.

Vital Restock

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Night one, trying to sort my gear out for the next day, shivering, wondering what I had got myself into. It was somewhere near Tiffindell Ski Resort, close to the border. We were fortunate to be able to get vehicle support there after a day of running through severe weather. It was not quite how we envisioned the project to start (I was hoping for more blue skies) but as you can see there, it was flippen cold.

Long Days from the very early days

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

The morning of day two – again, I just thought to myself, ‘no bru, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be…’ It was bitterly cold, pretty unpleasant and we were heading off to meet with the horses, so at least we had some company out there. But, as you can see it was a one of the bleaker times. Like Ryno says, ‘it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!’

Snow to start, and then some more

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

This was the first day back on the mountains after we had decided to backtrack and get down because of the severe storm that was coming through. I think going through those conditions (when we got back up to altitude) made me realize that we’d made the right call two days prior. On that day the weather forecast predicted nice weather, but yeah, it wasn’t so nice… This was actually still relatively low down, the higher up we went, the more snow we hit. If you think that’s a lot of snow, we hit some pretty gnarly snow after that. In hindsight, it was pretty cool. We got some epic memories on those last two days in the ‘commercial’ Drakensberg. It was slow going but super scenic and unique.

Friendly Basotho Locals

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Definitely the highlight of the project for me were the local Sotho people – some of their interactions and, just how kind, giving and welcoming they are – always makes me realize how a small act of kindness can go a long way. This is down on the Western side, you can see we weren’t running with big backpacks (like we did in the mountains), we had a lot more support. We didn’t need to carry as much stuff. It was more runnable when the areas were not as flooded.

Multiple River Crossings Daily

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Another river crossing. Another one! We had our fair share of crossings and most were much higher than initially anticipated due to all the rain. In the mountains we had no choice but to cross and you obviously don’t want to get washed down any rivers. We got through those. But on the Western side unfortunately had to backtrack around one or two rivers. What was a trickle in the recces were raging rivers, 50-100m wide when we did the project. This made for lots of thinking on our feet, so I think that was a big take-out from the Himalayas, not forcing things, listening to our intuition and making calls on the go.

Wettest Season In Years

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Lesotho had continuous rain from December all the way until when we started the project (in April). It wasn’t quite how things normally happen there, everything was flooded. This is on the Western side and we ran through a lot of knee-deep puddles. With really sore feet, it wasn’t always fun at times, but having support close by definitely made it. Having Adrian Saffy (always with a good sense of humor) and Craig Kolesky and Stephan Griesel as back-up, definitely made it more memorable.

Gear To Go The Distance

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

That was after the mountain stage (and pretty relieved to have it behind us), the soles of my shoes showing the signs of 600km of mountain running, but also pretty impressed with how my shoes had handled those conditions. Before the project I did a lot of work with Salomon on kind of helping design the perfect adventure shoe for multiple days, which worked out really well.

1100 kilometres later

© Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

The finish at Tele Bridge border post – I think right there the feeling was that we couldn’t actually believe we made it back after 16 days of running. It felt like an eternity since we’d left Tele bridge, the border post, in the early hours of the morning 16 days before. We were just super stoked to be in shorts and a t-shirt for a change, as it was a little bit warmer. We were just relieved to be done and also really proud of the achievement. This project for Ryno and I entailed a lot of logistics and a huge effort from the support team I’m really proud of having pulled it together and how amazing the whole team around us was.


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