Braam Wannenburg: Everesting the Swartberg Pass

Braam Wannenburg

On Sunday, 10 March 2019 Braam Wannenburg successfully completed his second Everesting Challenge on the Swartberg Pass, north of the Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn, and had his name added alongside the best climbers in the world in the Hall of Fame.

The rules of an Everesting Challenge define that participants can choose a hill anywhere in the world and then cycle it repeatedly in one activity until they climb 8 848 metres – the equivalent height of Mount Everest.

Braam cycled 176,14 kilometres in 14 hours 17 minutes, climbing 8,960 metres (slightly higher than Mount Everest) in aid of the Cheetah Preservation Foundation (a non-profit organisation), raising R8,898 for the conservation of endangered species.

In October 2018 Braam made news with his first Everesting Challenge in loving memory of his friend Louis Lategan who died in a car accident in March 2018. Braam decided on Everesting the Swartberg Pass as it is a very special place for him.

While thousands of cyclists made their way to the Grand Parade in Cape Town for the start of the Cape Town Cycle Tour on 10 March, Braam took it upon himself once again to challenge the mighty Swartberg Pass. Running between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn the route offers spectacular views over the Little and Great Karoo, and is considered to be one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world.

Braam started his Everesting challenge at midnight using the Strava Segment “1/20th of Everest” which is a 4.69km ride with 444m of ascent at an average of a 9% gradient. Braam rode up and down this section of the Swartberg Pass 20 times.

“I knew I had a long day ahead of me. In my past experience while Everesting the south side of the pass. I had some idea of what is ahead of me. I knew that no metres gained will come for free. On the uphill I had to pedal for every centimetre because of a nasty headwind and the gradient. The ride was brutally honest – showing me where all my weaknesses are. Luckily I was able keep my head in the game,” Braam explained.

“I kept the mentality of – “Death before DNF”. I knew I had to do it. I had to finish it. Not because of the people I will let down if I had to give up, but I had to do it for myself. If I had to do it for 30 hours, so be it. My mind just kept on telling me to keep on going. The weather played in my favour with only a few rain showers cooling me down. Although the head wind made it difficult, it only made the victory sweeter,” Braam continued.

Braam Wannenburg
Photo credit: Marina Burger

Why did Braam take up this challenge?

Braam has lived in Oudtshoorn for the past 14 years. He saved some money and at the end of 2016 was able to buy his first bicycle. He started cycling in 2017 and in the same year began working as a bicycle mechanic at Ton’s Sport and Cycle, today known as Gearup Sport. Braam’s first race was the Leopard Crawl MTB in 2017, followed by the Attakwas in 2018, and in April the same year, he finished his first solo race at the 360NE Challenge.

Braam has a passion for cycling, especially riding in the Swartberg Mountain. He loved cycling with Louis Lategan and Hugo de Wit in the mountains where they laughed and shared their thoughts with each other. “There is just something about the Swartberg Mountain. Every time you ride up the mountain, it looks different. It is not only about beauty and scenery. Your emotion changes from pain, suffering, and finally – victory!”

To Braam, Louis Lategan was not only a friend, but also a mentor. He was a father, a man, and a special friend to many people in Oudtshoorn. “Louis taught me the art of overcoming suffering and always said: ‘If you are not able to cycle skilfully, you must suffer,’ and then smiled at me. Embedded in my mind, a smile and a man that I will never forget.”

The funds that was raised during Braam’s second Everesting campaign will be contributed to the well-being of 30 cheetahs at the Cango Wildlife Ranch currently under the care of The Cheetah Preservation Foundation.

“A man who has no imagination has no wings. That mountain changed my life. I learned a lot about myself. Limits are made up in your mind. Your mind is both your greatest enemy, yet your strongest weapon. It’s up to you how you’re going to use it.”

“An Everesting Challange like this will test you. It will break you physically, but if you keep your thoughts positive, you will overcome it mentally,” Braam concludes.