Ryno Griesel is so passionate about the mountains that in late 2013 he hung up his business suit (he was a chartered accountant) and became a ‘full-time shoe salesman’ as he calls it, for mountain apparel brand Salomon.
Griesel is a consummate mountaineer, having climbed various mountains in Africa, Europe and Nepal. He also currently holds the record for the Hobbit 100km mountain run (back to back wins in 2012/13).
He’s raced the Adventure Racing World circuit since 2006 with various top-five finishes. He also finished second at the 2010 Rogaine World Champs (a partnered 24-hour navigation run) in New Zealand.
Griesel is in charge of navigation, logistical planning and keeping the attempt within the rules and mountain ethics of the challenge. We found out what makes him tick.
Tell us about your long relationship with the DGT...
I’m super passionate about mountains in general. I’m pulled by the curiosity of what the view would be like from the top, but even more so that it takes will and determination to get to the summit.
This passion has drawn me to play in the Drakensberg quite a bit over the years, since it is a only about a five-hour drive from home [in Gauteng]. Over time I developed a deep relationship built on respect and love for the Drakensberg. It’s super rugged, unforgiving and often under-estimated by visitors. Make no mistake, it is a BIG mountain and the weather – your biggest risk – can change in an instant. I’ve paid quite a bit of school fees over the years.
What's the motivation in teaming up with Ryan on a record you already have?
For me, it’s not all about the record, but rather the opportunity to share my running and mountain passion with a good friend and role model as well as an amazing back-up team. The DGT has become the vehicle to live this dream. We are both, however, super competitive – so watch this space.
How important is tackling the DGT with proper ethics and the right spirit of mountaineering?
The reality is that no kilometre is for free up there. Mountains eliminate the ‘plastic’ in our lives and remind us that it is a privilege to play in God’s creation. It is part of my responsibility on the team to ensure that we not only conform to the rules and ethos of the DGT, but respect the pure spirit of mountaineering in general. Something both Ryan and myself feel very strongly about.
There's a lot of logistics involved – are things going smoothly?
This project has attracted the most professional team in their respective fields, from sponsors, to logistics, safety and filming – it’s a privilege to be involved and to see how each operate and how smoothly their skills integrate.
What makes this attempt different?
This is the first time, as far as we know, that the traverse is being approached with a pure running mentality. Over the years the record has been set by traditional hiking, then speed hiking (faster and lighter) and then it moved into adventure racing. We’re taking small 12-litre packs with only essential gear – no sleeping bags or tents… So the biggest differences are lighter loads and less sleep.
We’re going to run where we can, rather than push with power hiking. Of course, the risk level is going to go up.
Follow Ryno Griesel and Ryan Sandes as they attempt to break the Drakensberg Grand Traverse record. Check out the interactive map and real-time tracking and sign-up to get notifications on when the attempt is on.