re-sized Iron Will Charity Eco Challenge

An Iron Will Adventure Race in Zimbabwe

I returned yesterday from a fabulous wedding on a mountain top in the Chimanimani Mountains, Zimbabwe – just as competitors head up to those very same mountains for an adventure race which begins tomorrow. The wedding preparations were so complicated that I couldn’t even take time off to go view the projected course… such a pity!

Location of the Iron Will in Zimbabwe

The Chimanimani mountains form a massive natural barrier of ancient and jagged crystalline rock between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This is an area of great natural beauty where you can hike, rock climb, camp in caves among the sparkling waterfalls and natural swimming pools – or just enjoy some perfect serenity.

But not if you’re entering the Iron Will! There is unlikely to be a serene moment…

Zimbabwe’s Iron Will is a multi-day, multi-stage, multi-discipline Team event which offers two catagories: the ‘Sport’ catagory which is an easier format allowing all levels of participants and the ‘Ultra’ catagory which will be a much tougher event for which you will need to be extremely fit. The minimum age for the Sport category is 13, and 18 for the Ultra. This race will test your mountain biking skills, and your hiking, orienteering and GPS navigational skills plus some other little surprises along the way such as tubing down the rapids, kloofing and abseiling.

Abseiling down a Chimanimani Waterfall

Abseiling at the Iron Will, Chimanimani Mountains, Zimbabwe

The teams can be made up of two, three or four people, either mixed or single-sex. Regardless of categories, all team members must complete the entire course together. As a previous competitor in this race says: “Iron Will taught us about many things. In those difficult situations when you feel like giving in. When your body is aching and feel like you can’t go on, you learn about courage, perseverance and inner strength. We learnt the value of teamwork. When you or your team mates are down and out, you are there to pick them up and keep them going. You encourage all the time to keep the team’s morale up and to communicate effectively with each other. Most importantly, we learnt more about ourselves. What we are we made of, what are our strengths, what our weaknesses are and most importantly, what we can be.”

A fine testament to this fine endurance event.

The event begins tomorrow, 6th April and ends on the 9th.

Hiking over the Chimani mountains

Iron Will Zimbabwe

The primary objectives of the event are to raise much needed money for nominated Zimbabwe charities – and the money does go to the Charities… Zimbabwe has much wrong with it still, but it is an amazing country, a beautiful country, full of wonderful people, and… this may sound odd, but it is probably a whole lot safer than many other countries around the world, including yours!

A little extra weight!

Mountain Biking at the Iron Will Zimbabwe

The other aim of the IronWill competition is to introduce the endurance experience to promote environmental awareness in an adventure race.

As well as this event, competition organisers Ironwill hold the Blue Cross event in Zimbabwe. You can do this event in one of 3 ways:-

  • Walk: either Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry or Relay. Complete the event in 10 Stages varying from 42Km to 55Km/day. This will be over 13 days of which 3 are rest days. (Projected dates are 27th July – 9th August, 2012.)
  • Traditional: Road & MTB bike in Solo or Team or Relay. Complete the event in 4 Stages varying from 160Km to 70Km/day. This will be over 4 days with no rest day. (6th – 9th August)
  • MTB: MTB Off Road in Solo or Team or Relay. Complete the event in 5 Stages varying from 130Km to 80Km/day. This will be over 5 days with no rest day. (5th – 9th August)

It will take you from one of the lowest points in Zimbabwe (Lowveld, 150m – 250m) to the highest point (Mt Nyangani 2,592m). The event is not a race and completion awards are made not on event places but on the amount of money raised by means of Gold, Silver & Bronze Medals. However, the daily times are recorded, cumulated & overall places are published. The money raised goes to Zimbabwe National Society Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA). The Blue Cross is held in August. Note: August is also a wonderful time to visit the country as the grass is low (it’s winter there) and game viewing is at it’s best so if you want to take part in this event, you might as well make a holiday of it!

The Iron Will in Zimbabwe is based on the philosophy that interaction with the environment requires both knowledge of & respect for the terrain through which the event travels. Each event is designed to have minimum impact on the land & encourages a “leave no trace” philosophy. It is the ultimate adventure and is Zimbabwe’s toughest event at the moment.

For anyone from overseas who wishes to take part in this event next year, I suggest you contact Iron Will directly at their website and remember my suggestion at the same time – if you’re going all that way you might as well make a holiday of it – Zimbabwe is a beautiful country with everything to offer apart from sea and snow, but the wealth of wild animals makes up for that! If you want any suggestions of what to do I can probably help you there…

All photos courtesy of IronWill, Zimbabwe

 

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