Night challenges are not new in the world of 4×4 adventuring, and the Superwinch 4×4 Night Challenge (which took place on Saturday, 1 September 2018, at Rust de Winter) was right up there for calling on the endurance reserves of all the participants − competitors and organisers alike.
With over 400km of trails to choose from at Rust de Winter, the participants were in for a night to remember. Because of the degree of difficulty, the number of participants was limited to 12 vehicles. All types of vehicles were present: from stock standard, to those which had been heavily modified but were still road-legal.
The event kicked off with a briefing from Peter Claassens and Fritz Gregor, the very capable and experienced organisers from the 4×4 ATV Club, who explained the aim of the event. This was to test participants by means of various challenging obstacles right throughout the night − from 6pm to 6am. This was not just a night challenge, but also an endurance challenge.
The participants’ levels of skill and experience varied; in addition, their skills would be tested in the dark in an unknown environment, with only their vehicle’s lights to illuminate obstacles.
All of six waterfalls had to be negotiated, along with a narrow bridge and various obstacles that the guides had come up with to fill the early hours of the morning. Most obstacles were negotiated with guidance from the navigators, but misfortune did strike, and the vehicle of one participant landed on its side. Luckily, no-one was injured, and this did remind everyone that accidents happen quickly and that no chances should be taken; also, the process of righting the vehicle gave everyone a lesson in the correct way to use a winch, and how to identify the right fastening points in this situation.
At midnight, everyone enjoyed a well-deserved break with a braai, before continuing with the next obstacles. The camaraderie remained high right through the night, with participants assisting one another wherever possible. In some cases, people literally had to hang onto the sides of their vehicle to make sure that it stayed on four wheels.
We felt like true pioneers in the African bush as new trails were uncovered, and old trails rediscovered. On some occasions, the convoy had to look for the road and make sure that we got to our next challenge. Strangely, at night the road seems easier − perhaps because you can’t see the surrounding rugged terrain in the pitch dark.
The event started off slowly, then speeded up a bit as drivers and navigators got to grips with the dark, and gathered confidence. Towards the end of the event, all teams and their vehicles were on top form and handling each new challenge with military precision. Still, negotiating the bridge crossing presented a challenge, as the guides lost their way and took some time to find the trail… not easy to do, with a small torch, in the dark.
Exhausted eyes and bodies greeted the sunrise, but we had survived the challenge! Back at the base camp, the 4×4 ATV Club had organised a champagne breakfast for all participants, which was most welcome.
Congratulations go to Jan de Jager, who won the Superwinch 10 000lb winch.
The Superwinch 4×4 Night Challenge is certainly one of those bucket-list adventures, and the 2019 event promises to be even bigger and better.
Superwinch in South Africa is distributed by Black Diamond Vehicle Components. For more information on Superwinch, or to become a distributor, contact Leonard Chester using the form below.