The X-Berg Challenge is an annual event taking place in South Africa’s beautiful Drakensberg mountains. This unique race can be done by paraglider, by foot or by mountain bike.
The challenge is to fly, run or cycle along a pre-set route across the Drakensberg mountains. The length of the route is approximately 90 – 180 km in straight line distance. The aim of the race is to finish as quickly as possible travelling only by paraglider, foot or bicycle. Teams have to self-navigate through pre-determined ‘turn points’ (virtual GPS co-ordinates) defined by the race committee. The athlete who completes the route and reaches the finish first is declared the winner of the race.
The race was started in 2013 as a fund-raising event for Pierre Carter and James Braid to compete in Europe in a prestigious paragliding event. Following the success of the 2013 event and those that followed, the event is now a regular date in the racing calendar. In 2018 the race invested in SPOT satellite tracking devices. SPOT satellite technology provided huge improvement over previous GSM trackers as the event takes place in areas largely beyond cellular coverage. With the SPOT devices, live update data was more accurate and the messaging and SOS capability of the device gave organisers and athletes added ‘peace of mind’ in case of an emergency.
The 9^th^ edition of the X-Berg Challenge took place 17-22 March 2021. On Friday 20 March 2021, Pierre Carter (Race Meet Director) received a phone call from GEOS (Global Emergency Operating Systems) Headquarters in USA following an activation of the SOS button by one of the participants. Immediately Pierre established contact with the event’s live tracking & admin team, Linda Willemse & Alistair Stuart, to assist. Within 2 minutes the local team knew all the personal details and location of the athlete in distress. A local rescue team was in the air within 10 minutes of the call with helicopter pilot Colin Barrow, Pierre Carter and rescue support team, Ben Arnold, to locate the athlete and assist. A ground rescue unit was on standby awaiting instructions. Within 30 minutes the athlete was found and returned to base a little bit cold & shook up but unharmed. SPOT GEOS USA team followed up with the event organisers to ensure all was well and check if their international rescue team’s assistance was required.
"We are thankful for the efficiency of the SPOT device on the day as well as the coordination from SPOT GEOS in the USA to ensure a rescue had been dispatched. Together with our local team’s incredibly fast response and great handling of the situation, all was well. This is exactly the reason why we feel that every outdoor adventurer should be equipped with a SPOT tracking device as you never know when you will need it!" - Linda Willemse, X-Berg Challenge