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Trail running star Ryan Sandes says traversing Lesotho on foot was an ‘epic adventure’

Ryan Sandes and his friend Ryno Griesel, traversed Lesotho on foot. Photo: Redbull Content Pool

Ryan Sandes and his friend Ryno Griesel, traversed Lesotho on foot. Photo: Redbull Content Pool

Published May 12, 2022


Johannesburg - Ryan Sandes could not hide his excitement at chalking up yet another huge achievement that only serves to cement his status as a South African sporting hero of sorts.

The Capetonian renowned for his trail-running exploits completed what he described as “an epic adventure” when he and partner Ryno Griesel circumnavigated Lesotho on foot late last month.

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The duo traversed the entire mountain kingdom on foot over a period of 16 days, six hours and 56 minutes, an adventure that saw them cover an incredible 1 100km distance.

Speaking to Independent Media a few days after the adventure, Sandes – still looking a bit knackered – hoped he would have inspired a few people to realise that they can go for their dreams and goals no matter what they are.

“I think being able to do projects and stuff like this is a blessing, and I believe it is important for everyone to have their own dreams and aspirations. I hope they can live their dreams, and it doesn’t have to be a sport like it is for me.

“It is important to just be able to dream and go make that happen and for me running has given me so much, it has been an unexpected but amazing journey. And I believe if I can go out there and achieve this, anyone can go there and live their dream,” Sandes said.

The seed of the idea to circumnavigate Lesotho was planted a few years ago by a friend of his who was considering exploring the country via different modes of transport.

But when he realised it would be a tad tedious, he asked Sandes if he would do it on foot.

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“Ryno and I did the Himalaya Trail a few years ago and when the idea was put to me, we decided to go for it. No one has ever circumnavigated Lesotho in one go before, so to have done it is really amazing,” Sandes said.

Because it had never been done before, the project was much bigger than any the duo had done before and it took a massive support team and months of preparation to put together the logistics for a successful adventure.

“Everyone had to pull together to make this happen and while

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Ryno and I are the ones everyone’s talking about, there were many people who were responsible for this,” Sandes said.

How did this expedition compare to the Himalayan one, which saw them go across the entire Nepal from the west to the east?

“They were both extremely difficult. But in a lot of ways

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Lesotho was tougher. The terrain was a lot tougher at times and the weather conditions were extreme. In the Himalays there was never lots of rain like we got in Lesotho,” Sandes said.

The weather conditions nearly saw them abandon the expedition, and Sandes admits to fearing for his life one night.

“We had some extreme weather conditions that were not supposed to have been there (as per the weather forecast). There was snow and lots of rain, and very cold winds. The nights were extremely cold and one night I really thought I was going to freeze to death,” he said.

On day six of the expedition the pair had to make a trek back down a mountain, because the weather was too extreme.

“We had to turn around because it was very hard. We had the horses backtrack down to Bushman’s

Nek about 30km down. It was tough, and at some point, I was questioning myself whether I’d made the right decision. I wondered if we should have just gone on,” Sandes said.

The competitor in him was not pleased that the expedition could be ending prematurely.

“I was really wondering if that was how it would all end. It felt like everything was unravelling,

but luckily we got down there and we waited it out and the weather improved, although not amazingly, but enough for us to go up there. In hindsight it was a good decision. It would have been stupid for us to have continued,” Sandes said.

Many would say it was stupid of him to go on the adventure in the first place.

But then again this is Sandes we are talking about. An adventure junkie who is already looking forward to the next one, with Ultra Trail Mont Blanc coming up in August.

“I’d also love to explore places closer to home and the idea is to go back to the Skeleton Post and do a run there,” Sandes said.


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