The route follows a hiking path up the Mahai Valley, past the Mahai Falls, to Witsieshoek Mountain Resort – a climb of some 700m over a distance of 9km – and the first of four refreshment points. From here to the Sentinel Car Park, a distance of 9km, it’s very rough undulating dirt road resulting in a further climb of some 300m, with fantastic views all around on a clear day. Water must be carried from the Sentinel Car Park to the top and back. Assume that the Tugela River is not flowing well enough to provide water on the summit.
A concrete path is followed for a short distance, ending at the start of a zigzag hiking path past the Witches, the Sentinel, Western Buttress and Sentinel Caves to the chain ladders, a further climb of 450m. The altitude will be affecting you by this stage, especially those runners who live and train at sea level.
At the chain ladders, everyone is required to wear a safety belt and sliding device attached to fixed ropes alongside the ladders. Peak High Mountaineering helpers will assist you in getting attached and detached to the fixed safety lines. The trick is to not look down, but to concentrate on moving one hand at a time up the two ladders. You’ll reach the top in no time, and then it’s a short scramble over rocky terrain, a skip over the Tugela River and a much-appreciated run down a gentle slope to the Tugela Falls.
Now the hard part begins! Labouring up to the Sentinel Gully. There is a risk of loose rocks and stones being dislodged. Make use of the fixed ropes as far as possible; they will give you stability and guide you away from the loose sections. You cannot run down the Gully. Just proceed carefully and cautiously, and you’ll reach the bottom soon enough.
You will now be back on the path that led to the chain ladders. Follow the same route back to the Sentinel Car Park, Witsieshoek and the Finish, utilising the refreshment points along the dirt road.
Note: All runners have to ascend two chain ladders to reach the summit of the Amphitheatre before running to the lip of the Tugela River. A team from Peak High Mountaineering, a locally based adventure group within the valley, will be manning the top, middle and bottom of the chain ladders, harnessing runners into safety belts and helmets, then guiding them up both ladders to ensure safety at all times. Those runners that fail to comply with their safety measures will be disqualified from the event.