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Get in touch with Hylton and Sunelle today to request a quote for accommodation, wedding, or training at Alpine Swift Trails in the spectacular Southern Drakensberg mountains.

Want a serious challenge?

Then tackle the sixth edition of Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon, held 22-25 September 2021.

Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon race promo 22-25 Sep 2021

This gruelling race is held 4km east of the hamlet of Rhodes in the Southern Drakensberg highlands.

The big news for 2021 is that the lineup will include a 100 miler for the first time. It will have over 16,000m in elevation gain, making it one of the toughest 100 milers you’ll ever do – anywhere in the world!

Heaven & Hell 2020 view over Alpine Swift Trails and the winding Bell River from the top of the first climb.
The view over Alpine Swift Trails and the winding Bell River from the top of the first climb.

The eight races offered are run at an average altitude of 2,150m, based from the Alpine Swift Trails High Altitude Training Facility. The longer routes have everything a mountain runner looking for the ultimate challenge could hope for: steep gradients, technical wilderness terrain, multiple crossings of the Bell River, several peak summits at over 2,500m, massive mountains… and spectacular scenery!

For those taking it easy, enjoy the beauty of our area, but move along steadily to reach your cut-offs in time. For the racers, suffering is a big part of the package and appreciating the heavenly views is short-lived. To be breaking records, you need to move at around 15min/km. You won’t be set off with any chariots nor fireworks, just a simple prayer for protection.

The 2020 startline for the 88km Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon field.

Do not enter if you expect a cushy race with pampered water points. It’s called Heaven & Hell for good reason!

  • 5km / fun run / R50
  • 8km / 800m / R400
  • 14km / 1,100m / R500
  • 22km / 1,900m / R800
  • 30km / 2,700m / R900
  • 44km / 3,800m / R1,300
  • 88km / 7,600m / R2,800
  • 100 miler / 16,000m / R3,800
Heaven & Hell Alpine Swift Trails landscape photo

Entries

Need more info or want to enter?

Download race info

Cut-offs

  • 5km – no cut-off
  • 8km – 6 hours
  • 14km – 8 hours
  • 22km – 12 hours
  • 30km – 12 hours
  • 44km – 13 hours
  • 88km – 25 hours
  • 100 miler – 75 hours
Alpine Swift Trails homepage sunrise

Prizes

An engraved sheep bell trophy will be awarded to all finishers of races from the 8km race up to the 100 miler race.

Sponsorship prizes will be awarded to all male and female winners.

R30,000 cash prize to first male and first lady in the 88km race provided they finish within the 20 hours, failing which, R25,000 cash prize should they finish within the 25-hour cut-off.

R10,000 cash prize to first male and first lady in the 100 miler provided they finish within 75 hour cut-off.

Course information

8km / 14km / 22km / 44km / 88km / 100 miler

This is a marked mountain run that includes technical terrain. The ascents and descents vary from mild to steep. The race is run from marker to marker and may include some single cattle tracks and jeep tracks. You will be traversing typical Drakensberg highlands wilderness.

  • The 8km race is a loop south of the Bell River.
  • The 14km race is a loop north of the Bell River.
  • The 22km race consists of the 8km loop followed by the 14km loop.
  • The 30km race consists of the 8km loop, the 14km loop, and then the 8km loop.
  • The 44km race is 2 x 22km
  • The 88km race is 4 x 22km
  • The 100 miler race is 8 x 22km
Heaven & Hell 2021 loops on the various race distances.
Heaven & Hell 2021 loops for the various race distances.

What to expect

The race is run at an average altitude of 2,150 m and the route has everything a mountain runner looking for the ultimate challenge could hope for: steep gradients and technical wilderness terrain. Participants doing the 14km/22km/30km/44km/88km/100 miler will encounter multiple river crossings of the Bell River, peak summits at over 2,500m, pristine mountains, and spectacular scenery.

A few sections of the ascents and descents will require scrambling and liberal use of grass tufts as handholds. There are no roads, very few paths and jeep tracks, some rock hopping and staircases. There are many climbs, many descents and very few level sections.

Trail runner running behind sheep at 2020 Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon
It’s a working farm: A trail runner paces behind sheep at the 2020 Heaven & Hell Mountain Marathon.

The route is runnable in most places for those that have mountain running technical ability. The route does not traverse steep and dangerous cliffs or ledges. Athletes are however required to stay on the marked / GPS route at all times as there are several potentially dangerous sections close to the official race route.

Concentration is vital. You need to concentrate at all times to stay on the route. You also need to focus over the technical terrain to avoid twisting ankles or falling.

Hylton Dunn standing near Bell River on course trail running Alpine Swift Trails
Stay alert and aware of the terrain. Slow down and stop to recalibrate if you’re uncertain if you’re still on course.

Navigation

The entire route is marked with pink markers that are attached to metal poles. The next marker will be visible from the previous one. These markers are spaced no more than 300m. Should you not pass a marker after having run 300 m or more from the previous marker, the rule will be to return to the previous marker and to navigate your way again carefully to the next marker. All markers need to be passed. Marshalls will be placed along the route. Anyone found not following the marked route may be disqualified or issued with a time penalty.

We highly recommend the use of a GPS unit for those running the 8km and 14km races. For those running the 22km, 30km, 44km, 88km and 100miler races, it is compulsory to carry on your person at all times during the race, a GPS unit with a set of spare batteries. Ultimately you will need sufficient GPS battery life as per respective cut off times.

Tonic Masilo was the winner of the 2020 Heaven & Hell 44km race.
Tonic Masilo was the winner of the 2020 Heaven & Hell 44km race.

Although the route is well marked, the we would recommend using the GPS track for confirmation of the route, as markers could fall over / be damaged for reasons beyond our control. The GPS track will be emailed to all participants on request at any time or in one of the regular newsletters before the race. Participants of the 22km, 30km, 44km, 88km & 100 miler races will not be allowed to start the race without a GPS unit.

The route does not have any reflective markers, thus the GPS track will need to be used especially during night.

Please note that the GPS track may change due to final route changes for whatever reason deemed necessary by the race organisers. In this case the latest GPS track will need to be loaded to your before the race starts.

A basic map with the route will also be allocated to each runner. This is part of the compulsory kit. This is an extreme mountain run and although the route is well marked, you will need to have navigational skills to avoid getting lost.

Marshals and checkpoints

Final arrangements regarding race marshals and checkpoints will be confirmed.

Seconding and refueling

The start / finish area is in the main parking lot at Grace Hill Farm.

Here you can offload / reload supplies. This is thus a seconding point for the 22km, 30km, 44km, 88km and 100 miler participants. There are ablutions here. If you don’t have a second to assist you, you may leave your kitbag at this area in a provided shade section. Seconding and refueling are only permitted at the start/finish area.

Compulsory gear

  1. Space blanket
  2. Whistle
  3. The route map
  4. Your race number
  5. Your race tag
  6. Waterproof jacket
  7. Your racing t-shirt / long-sleeve shirt
  8. Warm jacket or fleece top
  9. Cap
  10. Beanie
  11. Gloves
  12. Charged cell phone with the two race organisers’ cell number saved
  13. Basic hikers backpack containing at least 2 L of water in bottles / bladder
  14. Sufficient food / energy bars to last up to 5 hours
  15. First aid kit containing head ache tablets, rigid strapping, and knife/scissors.
  16. Trail running shoes or hiking boots that have sufficient grip. Road running shoes, sandals will not work in the mountains.

This is an extreme event in the mountains where so many things could go wrong and therefore we are strict regarding compulsory gear. Please so not enter this race if you don’t have these items:

  1. Space blanket
  2. Whistle
  3. The route map
  4. Your race number
  5. Your race tag
  6. Waterproof jacket
  7. Your racing t-shirt / long-sleeve shirt
  8. Long sleeve thermal top
  9. Cap
  10. Beanie
  11. Buff
  12. Gloves
  13. Charged cell phone with the two race organisers’ cell number saved
  14. GPS unit (incl. batteries) with the race track
  15. 1 x set spare batteries for GPS unit
  16. Hydration backpack containing a carrying capacity of minimum 2L water.
  17. Sufficient food / energy bars to last up to 5 hours
  18. First aid kit containing head ache tablets, rigid strapping & knife/scissors.
  19. Headlamp with spare batteries – for the 44km and 88km race
  20. Trail running shoes that have sufficient grip. Road running shoes will not work in the mountains.

Recommended gear

  1. Sunscreen – highly recommended
  2. Waterproof gloves
  3. Waterproof long pants
  4. Eye protection / sunglasses
  5. Gaiters
  6. Extra 500ml water bottle

Meals

  • Friday dinner – R220
  • Saturday breakfast – R100
  • Saturday dinner – R220
  • Sunday breakfast – R150
  • Under 2 years – Free
  • 2-12 years – Half price
Amanzi Empilo outside view of rondawel with pokers in flower
One accommodation option is Amanzi Empilo rondawel, here seen with pokers in bloom.

Accommodation

Please book your accommodation early with Hylton Dunn 072 5292747 or Sunelle Dunn 082 460 3151.

Email Hylton Dunn

There are other stay options on neighbouring farms or in the Rhodes village that can be booked directly with their owners. And check out things to do in the Eastern Cape.

There are various accommodation options available at the race venue, from camping to private chalets.

History of Heaven & Hell

Thanks to landowners

The race is run through private farms and we would like to thank the following landowners for allowing us to run through their farms:

  • Francois and Hannelie Nel
  • Stephanus and Melanie Naude
  • Robin and Leone Turnbill
  • Janbert, Caroline and James Reeders
  • Gerrit and Mariaan Henning

Please ensure that all fences are crossed over (not through) at the allocated fence crossings. Please do not damage any fences. There are no gates on the race route, however should you pass through a gate for whatever reason, please leave it open or closed, as you found it.

You need to stay on the marked route, failing which could lead to disqualification.

Any form of littering will not be tolerated and if found guilty, you will be disqualified. Litter is a real threat to farm animals and wildlife.

Good luck with your training, and have fun.

We look forward to hosting you at Alpine Swift Trails in September!

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