Doing a fast Grand Traverse

25 Jun 2014 08:55 #61162 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
For what it's worth, here is the gear/food that Andrew and I took on our 3.5 day GT in 2008. It was in mid-summer, so the sleeping bag and clothes requirements were a bit lighter..

Food consumed (Andrew):
Carried 5000 – 6000 kcal x 4 days, and used the following:
Pro Nutro (300g/day)
Powdered milk (mixed into Pro Nutro)
Banana loaf/fruitcake (2 slices/day)
Game (5 litres)
Maynards sweets (250g/day)
PVM bars (6)
Fritos (4 x 25g)
Dried pears (250g)
Cake mix (250g)
Safari bars (4)
Eat sum Mor (2 x 200g)
Biltong/droe wors (240g)
Jambos (2 x 125g)
Gu (1)

I eat a lot when excercising, as you can see. This worked well in that I felt well fueled and strong right to the end of every day, escpecially late afternoon climbs.

Shoes:
Salomon XT Wings (Stijn)
Salomon XA Comp (Andrew)

Clothes:
Longsleeve shirt (wickdry/polyprop)
Lightweight waterproof jacket
Capestorm Helium jacket (Andrew only)
Light fleece top (Andrew only)
Down jacket (Stijn only)
2 x pair of socks
Shorts
Beanie/balaclava
Buff
First Ascent Powerstretch tights
Cap

Other gear (we didn't both carry everything):
30 litre backpack, camelbak/waterbottles (1 litre capacity), sunscreen, headlamp, GPS, spare batteries, whistle, pocket knife, space blanket, water purification tablets, watch, dry bag, trekking poles (Stijn only), ziploc bags, toiletpaper, AR-X Sleeping Bag/Capestorm Wasp, compass, waterproof map case, maps, tent (sans inner), cellphone, first aid kit, duct tape, needle & thread, pepper spray, camera, Amarula Cream, cards.
How that all fitted in I don't know. Total mass per pack at start probably 10-11kg.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Grandeur

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25 Jun 2014 09:15 #61163 by Grandeur

For what it's worth, here is the gear/food that Andrew and I took...

Thanks Stijn
I see a distinct lack of a stove from that list which ties back to your previous post about leaving the stove and taking processed food. 3,5 days might be managable. Wonder if I could do that for 6 days?

Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions. I'm feeling pretty confident that I'm going to be lean and mean and enjoy the lighter pack :thumbsup:

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25 Jun 2014 10:24 #61164 by Captain
Replied by Captain on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Have you looked at the K-Way 40L Lite, it weighs 767g and has an aluminium internal frame. If Stijn and Andrew could fit all their gear in 30L packs, the extra 10L gives you additional gear options. If you're looking at a capable lightweight stove set up try the Kovea Spider (180g) and use a titanium mug/pot for boiling water. The Spider stove is an invertible remote feed stove and is the best compromise between a canister and liquid fuel stove.

A while back I stopped carrying a bowl/plate and started using tuffy fill'n freeze bags to hold my couscous and noodles with powdered sauces and biltong etc. I eat straight from the bag using a long handle titanium spoon. This saves weight and space.
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25 Jun 2014 19:19 #61167 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
For a good laugh, this is what I plan to take on my next attempt at a GT.

I want to leave Sentinel Car Park with a pack weighing in at under 3kg. So, I will eat and drink well before starting out, meaning that I can carry an empty water bottle all the way to the Khubelu river crossing about 2 hours into the trip.

What I will wear at all times:
1x trail shoes
1x socks
1x stretch pants (knee length)
1x thermal underwear type top
1x cap

What I will carry in my bag:
1x headlamp (possibly 2x, the 100g extra gives me ability to have a very bright light for all time)
1x GPS with 2 sets spare batteries, giving me continuous GPS use of up to 50+ hours
1x cell phone, 1x credit card, 1x drivers licence, 1x R100 note in a waterproof pouch
sunblock, lipice, 1x roll of tape
1x 500ml water bottle, carried in side pouch of pack at start and in hands for most of way
1x backpack that is supposedly 15l, but I would not be able to fit 2x 2l coke bottles in it
1x set of long johns (top and bottom)
1x balaclava
2 - 2.5 kg worth of food (energy bars, gu's, game powder etc)
1x watch
1x heart rate monitor

I admit I will miss out on:
- no photos
- no contact with outside world
- will be too stuffed to bring back any worthwhile memories
- Stijn mentioned a while back that the "fast route" misses much of the scenery of the escarpment route a person would use over 2 weeks. I disagree - the numerous water falls and beautiful pools you encounter in the valleys make up for the lack of spectacular escarpment views. I will though, miss every blo..y one of those pools!
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04 Aug 2014 13:34 #61452 by Grandeur

For what it's worth, here is the gear/food that Andrew and I took on our 3.5 day GT in 2008. It was in mid-summer, so the sleeping bag and clothes requirements were a bit lighter..

Food consumed (Andrew):
Carried 5000 – 6000 kcal x 4 days, and used the following:
Pro Nutro (300g/day)
Powdered milk (mixed into Pro Nutro)
Banana loaf/fruitcake (2 slices/day)
Game (5 litres)
Maynards sweets (250g/day)
PVM bars (6)
Fritos (4 x 25g)
Dried pears (250g)
Cake mix (250g)
Safari bars (4)
Eat sum Mor (2 x 200g)
Biltong/droe wors (240g)
Jambos (2 x 125g)
Gu (1)

snip...

Been meaning to ask you - when you say cake mix, do you just take a packet of the dry ingredients and mix it with water?

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04 Aug 2014 17:24 - 04 Aug 2014 17:26 #61456 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Hmmm... this is something Andrew brought along. I think he is referring to the raisin-mix that would be used in a traditional Christmas Cake. www.montagusilverlakes.co.za/product/dried_fruit_cake_mix

My respect for him would have gone up a few notches on being presented with a full-on cake on the other side of Mafadi! :P
Last edit: 04 Aug 2014 17:26 by Stijn.

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04 Aug 2014 17:44 #61459 by Grandeur
Just a "few notches"? Haha
The only thing better than that would have been if he carried you!

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03 Feb 2015 23:06 #62766 by Jan
Replied by Jan on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Goodday,
We're planning a Traverse half march, travelling fast and very light, trail(if existent)running.
I've founds tons of valuble info on this great forum. about routes, gps tracks etc. Thanks a lot.
But still a couple of questions:
-Weather, how cold at night ? or which sleeping bag to bring, even if I won't spend much time in it.
-The Maps of the SA part are looking quite usefull, but not much info about the Lesotho side. Is it hard to find some caves overthere to spend the night ? and is it hard to find other caves, not marked on the map to bivy in ?
-Who did this before, at that time of the Year and does have some other great tips, things not to forget, things to look out for etc ?
Thanks in advance !

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04 Feb 2015 08:26 #62768 by Stijn
Replied by Stijn on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Hi Jan

I did the traverse in 3.5 days back in December 2008. Since I wasn't that well-conditioned for long-distance running back then, we took the approach of slogging it out at a hiking pace and sleeping for 5-7h every night to recover and avoid injury.

I'm not sure what experience you have with the Drakensberg escarpment, but my main advice is not to underestimate the challenge of the terrain. I (and many others) have regularly made the mistake of looking at this route on paper and wondering why it can't be done faster, even by just running 30% of it. The reality is that unless you are a very strong runner, it is very difficult to keep running (or even shuffling) on Berg escarpment terrain beyond the first 8 hours or so. If you look at Ryan & Ryno's record, they ran as much as they possibly could and still only averaged 5km/h. So please factor that into your planning.

Having said that, even if you don't run at all (like us), 4 days is very achievable. Mid-march is one of the best times to make an attempt as the weather is fairly stable. There is much less chance of an afternoon thunderstorm rolling through and the temperatures are fairly moderate. Keep an eye on the forecast and just make sure there is no cold-front coming through and you should have glorious weather. Night-time temps can drop below zero on the escarpment so make sure you have enough with you to keep warm at night. In December, I got away with an ARX sleeping bag (only rated to 5 deg) but also used a down jacket and balaclava to make that warmer.

On a 4-day itinerary, you're going to struggle to align with a cave every night, so unless you are really planning on only cat-napping for an hour or 2 at a time, I would recommend some sort of bivi bag or a tent flysheet and poles as a shelter. We aimed to start with shorter days and end with longer days and managed to use Easter Cave on night 1 (45km in), camped just South of Mafadi on night 2 (another 50km) and camped just South of Thabana Ntlenyana on night 3 (56km), leaving 58km for the last day.

Other tips - watch out for the dogs! Especially at night. The record route tends to follow valleys quite far into Lesotho at times, so passes many kraals where packs of Basotho shepherd dogs are prevalent. The shepherds normally keep them under control, but there have been incidents where dogs have attacked hikers. Give the populated kraals a wide berth for this reason.

Good luck with the prep and give AndrewP (Andrew Porter) on this forum a shout for the best insight available - he has done it several times!

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04 Feb 2015 15:47 #62772 by AndrewP
Replied by AndrewP on topic Doing a fast Grand Traverse
Hello Jan

Way to go.

I have now attempted a speed GT 6 times and only finished once. That is because I have always gone super light and then had to bail if the slightest thing goes wrong. Expect it to be much tougher than the map suggests. Not to put you off, but to at least put the thing in perspective.

In March it will still be swampy on top. Expect to have wet shoes and socks for most of the route and the blisters that likely go with it. The Drakensberg is very beautiful in March and the sounds of rivers and waterfalls should make it all worth it. Go for a swim in the pools. The valley heading out of the Senqu as well as the Yoddlers Cascades have awesome pools. Any valley though will present good options of you keep an eye open.

Dogs. Fear of hitting a valley full of dogs at night has stopped one of my attempts before and for my next attempt I am putting more effort into dodging dogs than everything else together. If dogs come at you in the day the shepard calls them back. At night they go into pack mode and literallly hunt you. Probably the closest i have ever come to snuffing it. I will not go near the mafadi to giants haul at night for this reason.

It will actually be warmer in March than now. Now you will get mist or rained on. If the air is dry you will be warmer in the end. Last year I did an all night run in June and was still warm enough with a double layer of thermals and very thin jersey.

I used to think mid summer was the time to go. Long days allow you to go about 10-15km further each day as you literally go double the speed in daytime than at night. I now agree with Ryan amd Ryno's thoughts of going for shorter days and the stable weather. I now feel that end April is still a good time to go for it and that the best time to go really fast is just after the first snow falls once the shepards start retreating down the valleys (Read: less dogs about).

Headlamp. Even in day it is hard to see the path ahead. At night it is very hard to see ahead. You hit the centre of rock bands instead of skirting around them and just dick around a lot. I thus recommend a very good headlamp and enough batteries to give you mega time at bright light. Note that most headlamps literally die aftet 3 hours of bright light despite the claims on the box. I suggest testing your light out before with a 6 hour run in the dark.

Maps: I have a copy of the std government issue 1:50000 maps. These extend far enough into Lesotho to plan all of your route (although the Geomap series does as well, whereas the old Slingsby maps are lacking on that score). The government issue maps have surprisingly accurate locations of the paths in Lesotho.

If you do want to do a significant amount of running, keep your pack as light as possible (I aim for 4kg total weight including water). The combined effects of altitude, pack, lack of paths and distance will make you walk more than you expect. I carry a 500ml bottle as my max water supply, and most of the time it is only half full.

I am considering a 5 day GT in early April with lots of sleep on way. If plan A does not work out for you, you are welcome to join.

Cheers
Andrew

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