Taking on the 13 peaks challenge

2019-05-14 06:00
Garth Loots and JJ De Villiers.

Garth Loots and JJ De Villiers.

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A Hout Bay resident recently completed the Ryan Sandes 13 Peaks challenge and he feels awesome.

Known to many in Hout Bay as a super-hero crime-fighter, JJ de Villiers proved he is a champion in the mountains too, after he completed the challenge with his hiking friend, Garth Loots, also from Hout Bay.

De Villiers and Loots completed the 126km route in six days earning their Multi-Day 13 Peaks Badge. De Villiers works full time in security in the valley and for him to be able to take in these challenges, he says it is amazing

“When you are a bit on the bigger side, sporting challenges like this are generally not aimed at guys like myself,” explains De Villiers.

“So it is really awesome that someone like Ryan Sandes, set up a challenge open to all to do.”

In his youth, De Villiers was a professional rugby player, but after a number of serious injuries to his knee, his career was cut short. Fast forward to getting married, having children, and taking up a 24/7 job of protecting the Hout Bay community, before he knew it he was weighing in at 182kg.

“With always being on the road and at work one always eats on the go. With eating like that one can never get to eat very healthy,” he says.

“A year ago I realised I needed to do something if I wanted to live long enough to see my kids grow up, so I took up hiking,” he explains. “I started with short routes that got a bit longer and then longer still. I really started enjoying my time in the mountain, I started losing weight (I’m now down to 135kg) and it really helped with my head space,” he says.

When De Villiers saw Sandes’ post on social media about his 13 Peaks Challenge, he knew this was something that he could attempt. “I called Ryan and asked him if the challenge was just for trail running, racing snakes or could an average Joe like me also try to hike it? To have finished this challenge is really quite an accomplishment, especially for someone my size!”

De Villiers adds that he is grateful to his wife and family that have been so supportive. As gruelling as the challenge was, he is also grateful to his friend Loots who kept him going. “We had to push each other. Taking my weight up the mountain is not an easy task but we did it,” he says

“It was a very emotional thing for me, it still is. We finished it, we weren’t the quickest, the fastest or the prettiest, but it was an amazing adventure. Thanks Ryan for setting this challenge and letting me challenge myself,” he says.

“I am not planning on stopping this adventure. Garth and I are already planning more extreme hikes. 13 Peaks has opened up my mind to what we can and are able to do. With the work that I do, being in the mountains was really awesome and we will be doing more of this.”

In his mission to spread his love of moving through the mountains with the rest of the world, ultra-distance trail runner, Sandes, created a 13 Peak Challenge around Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula.

The just over 100km route starts at Signal Hill goes all the way through to Muizenberg Peak before heading back to Signal Hill for the finish.

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