EXCLUSIVE PICS: SA's #CodeClimbers share their record-breaking nine peaks adventure

Cape Town - On Sunday 16 July, four South Africans broke a record after climbing the nine highest summits in each of SA’s provinces.

Their final feat, which earned them the prestigious record-breaking achievement, was after summiting Seweweekspoort in the Western Cape in an incredible 2 hours and 39 minutes, well before the cut-off time at 18:00pm and while facing harsh weather conditions.

Despite the icy winds of 100 km/h and facing injuries while atop SA’s highest mountains, the “famed code-climbers” - Adrian Saffy, Alex Harris, Sean Disney and Tian Liebenberg - continued to complete the summits in pursuit of establishing a new South African record.

SEE: SA's nine peaks record smashed under icy conditions

From 12 July to 16 July, the climbers braved the weather and conquered Iron Crown Mountain in Limpopo, Die Berg in Mpumalanga, Nooitgedacht in North West, Toringkop in Gauteng, Namahadi in Free State, KwaZulu-Natal’s Mafadi Mountain, Kwaduma in Eastern Cape, Murch Point in Northern Cape, and finally Seweweekspoort in Western Cape.

Conquering challenging peaks

Expedition leader Tian Liebenberg tells Traveller24 that the most challenging of the nine peaks was Mafadi, the highest peak in KZN and also in SA, adding that it was a challenge “from a length and duration perspective”.

“It was a 57km round trip, which means that it was a very long day. Given the time it takes to complete Mafadi, means that much of the climbing of this peak happened after sunset and in the dark. It was also on Mafadi that I injured my leg,” he says.

From a weather point of view, he says that Seweweekspoort – the highest peak in the Western Cape - was the most challenging. “We arrived at the peak shortly after an icy blizzard which meant that we had to battle through 1 metre thick snow and ice in some sections of the mountain,” he says.

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“An extraordinary set of circumstances came together that put us on the slopes of Seweweekspoort hours after an icy blizzard,” adds Liebenberg.

Even with an injured left knee and only six hours of sleep on the first three days, Liebenberg and the team continued their adventure.

Liebenberg says his injury occurred on Mafadi, the 6th peak and just below the summit, and they had three more peaks to complete. “We had worked so hard to get to that point and had gained good time on the existing record and knew that even with the delay of an injury, we were still in with a chance of breaking the record. To give up at that point was not an option,” he told Traveller24.

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“The rest of the team played an integral part in terms of motivation and encouragement to see the attempt through. We knew that we had a lot of people backing us, hoping that we would break the record, and so pushing through was also about knowing that we have many people wanting us to succeed,” he says, adding that the goal was to improve on the current record time.

Luckily, Liebenberg’s knee injury is not long-term and he says he “will be good to go in a couple of weeks”.

He told Traveller24 that it feels “Awesome!” to have broken the record despite the injury although they would have liked to break the record by a bigger margin, which they believe is still possible.

“The frustration of an injury and travelling delays caused by road works, all played a part in ensuring that we were not on the mountain at the time of the blizzard,” he says.

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“We had climbed Seweweekspoort earlier this year as part of our preparations and it took us just on 7 hours to get to the top. During our record attempt, we climbed to the top in 4 hours and 21 minutes, which is very fast. Knowing that we were climbing against the clock served as motivation to give it our all to ensure we break the record.”

The next summit…

Liebenberg says that Harris and Disney are full time mountaineers and adventurers, so there will be “many more summits coming from them from different parts of the world”.

“As for me, I will wait for my knee to recover fully before I make further plans. I am sure that our attempt has contributed to the popularity of climbing the 9 peaks in SA, so I anticipate that more and more people will start climbing them and also taking on the challenge of trying to set a new record,” he says.

“Who knows, perhaps a year from now, we will set off on another attempt to better our own record or break the new record.”

Capturing the majestic mountains

Accompanying the four mountaineers was expedition photographer, Erik Vermeulen, who captured their journey and achievement with striking shots of SA’s highest peaks.

“As one of SA’s foremost expedition photographers I make it my aim to immerse myself in the expeditions I shoot. It’s almost mandatory for me to be part of the team as the unseen member to capture the emotions, conditions and the story that unfolds. So I do everything the team does - with 20 pounds of gear!” Vermeulen tells Traveller24.

He says that this particular trip was “very challenging from a photographic point of view as 6 of the 9 peaks were summited at night with very little or no ambient light from the moon”.

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“This, coupled with the fact that it was a record attempt, meant little or no opportunity to set up shots. I literally had to shoot on the fly, and make adjustments as we progressed,” he says.

“Freezing temperatures below what I’d expected also meant that the gear, like the flash unit, acted up and batteries were drained almost instantly,” says Vermeulen, adding that this resulted in him not summiting Toringkop as he had to detour to collect a spare tracking unit.

Project #CodeClimber

Far more than breaking a record, the venture was part of project #CodeClimber – a volunteer initiative (as part of Media24’s Volunteer24 programme) started by Liebenberg, which is aimed at raising funds on the crowd funding platform Backabuddy, to purchase coding courses from the Change the World Trust.

When asked about the initiative, Liebenberg told Traveller24 that the team decided to support Change the World (Code4change) as they are responsible for teaching learners how to write code.

“We can no longer refer to a digital future, but rather to a digital present. There is a great shortage of the skills required – especially among the youth – in terms of coding. As a result we partnered with Change the World to address this shortage – to bring the coding skills to learners from a young age,” he says.

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