6 Years. 6 Year’s of what? Being involved in the development of unicycling on the tip of the African continent. OddWheel has been approached a few times by numerous riders wanting to mark their names down in the history books for large-scale unicycle adventures. Desiring to be the first, to tackle whatever they choose, on a unicycle. I’ll always cock an ear to listen to all the ‘wonderbaar’ expeditions that could potentially excite myself and the community. Often is the case that these adventures don’t see more than the creation of a Facebook page and a sponsorship enquiry with OddWheel.
One day at one of our Park Play Sessions. Casually going about the play-to-play activities of an OddWheeler, I was in conversation with Jonathan Benjamin when he dropped the adventure on me.
He is going to attempt the highest descent on a unicycle. We all know that Lutz Eichholz rode down Mount Damavand in Iran and recently set the world record. The total descent was 5671m. Lutz faced challenges with high altitude (of course), team injuries and weather fluctuations between 40˚ and -7˚ Celsius. It is quite a feat that Lutz has accomplished. I’d be so proud of myself if I were he! Although Lutz’ trip is billed as a height record the actual highest mountain descent was attempted by Kris Holm on a volcano in Bolivia in 2006. The height of Licancabur is 5920m. Apparently riders have gone higher than Kris’ attempt but not as a mountain descent.
Where does Jono intend breaking the world record? It’s on the African continent and the only unicyclist I know that has been up there is Dave Walters. Funny one; Dave actually carried a 12” to the top of this peak with the intention of taking a photo of himself unicycling on top of the highest peak in Africa. Unfortunately Dave’s camera froze so there is no photographic proof that he did it. Bummer! I’ve walked the Annapurna Circuit and up to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and it’s flippen cold at those heights. Altitude sickness is no joke either, especially when it’s happening to you up there. Lot’s of garlic soup I say.
Kilimanjaro is 5895m high. That’s only 224m higher than Lutz just did… at altitude. Eish wena! Luckily for Jono he has a trusty sidekick, Ben Carlyle. Ben is more than a sidekick. Ben has been handling a lot of the logistics around preparing for the adventure and will be documenting the actual trip. They are a team and they call themselves ‘Kilimanjaro 2 by 1’. Why not hop onto their Facebook page to show your support – https://www.facebook.com/kilimanjaro2by1?fref=ts.
A classic formula for adventuring is to choose a cause to raise awareness and funds for. Jono and Ben have chosen Inclusive Education South Africa (IESA). They are an NPO that works with parents, teachers and school communities to provide support for children who have learning difficulties and learning barriers to overcome – http://www.included.org.za. They have setup a campaign on the crowd funding platform Back-a-buddy. If you’d like to donate to IESA or even show your admiration for this adventure then click here. I’m sure you’ll put a smile on Jono and Ben’s faces.
Let’s talk a little about Jono’s unicycling experience over the years. He is a damn good rider! What I like the most is that he is super sincere, humble and polite. Legend has it that Jono started riding at the age of 13. He pretty much got the basics and hit Tokai Forest. In 2012 he rode the Cape Cycle Tour and came first in the Uni category with a sub 7 finish. He is the youngest person to have completed the Cape Cycle Tour on a Uni. He was 15 at the time. After Argus Jono took a break from unicycling because of a knee injury. In January this year myself, Jono, Brent and Shaun Engelbrecht did the Oak Valley 24 Hour MTB Relay race. We were the only team on unicycles and surprisingly didn’t come last. Besides being well accomplished in Muni and Road he is still the only unicyclist in SA that can ride on a slackline. He also reminded me of his Trials skills at one of our Park Play Sessions. As you can see he is a well-rounded unicyclist.
Ben is a 19-year-old high school friend of Jono’s who apparently has a knack of persuading Jono to do crazy things. Being adventure buddies is familiar for the duo, as they have worked as river guides on the Orange River in Namibia. It was Ben’s original suggestion of a trip up Kilimanjaro that inspired Jono to undertake an attempt to ride down the mountain on a unicycle. Ben’s job on the mountain will be to support Jono and whisper words of encouragement in his ear. The parts that we are interested in are the photos and video footage, which Ben will undertake. Lugging the camera gear and hauling it out for those perfect shots.
The 2 by 1 duo has secured sponsorships with Wizardz Print & Design and Quiver Outdoor Gear. Obviously OddWheel is on board to ensure Jono has everything he needs for his descent of Kilimanjaro. Sir Ranulph Fiennes is backing the duo by “lending his name” to their venture and sending them a personal message.
It would be wonderful to see another SA Unicycle endeavor go down in the history books like Alan Read and Johnny Cronje’s Muni tour along the Freedom Challenge route.
I wish Jono and Ben all the best for this legal / illegal / official / unofficial world record attempt! They will be hopping on a plane to Kilimanjaro on the 2nd of September. That’s 7 days away!