A couple of weeks ago one of our runners took part in the 4 Peaks Alpine Challenge in Bright, Victoria. The name sums this one up perfectly, as you literally climb to the peak of 4 different mountains, 4 days in a row. With spectacular scenery, snow, rain, thunderstorms and maybe just a little sunshine, 4 Peaks is 4 seasons in 4 days and then some. Please enjoy Rebecca’s recap of this epic event…
Day 1 – Saturday 2 November – Mt Buffalo
Distance: 10.36km Elevation Gain: 1091m Total Elevation: 1348m Time: 2:18:57
The day starts with a meeting point at the base of Mount Buffalo in the National Park. Walkers start at 7am and runners at 8am. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I turned up at 6:30am and got my bib in 5 minutes – no crowds, no lines.
The walkers were called over for their briefing and a man is telling his story of running up and down Mt Buffalo twice a day since the 1st of October, getting ready for his run across the widest point of Australia for CHANGE. It isn’t long before the runners are called to the start line and we are off.
The run starts with a swing bridge and it is swaying. I ask the lady next to me if there is a
weight limit and she just laughs. Straight away the climbing starts and the runners are spreading along the path. It’s not long until we are marching, about 3 km in and there is the opportunity to run again, but this is Day 1 of 4 and I don’t want to push too hard, so I continue to march with few jogs along the way.
A couple of road crossings later and we are half way, then the fun begins – true trails, clambering over rocks and lovely single trail. Although still continuing to climb, the little bit of technical trail keeps your mind off it. My socks have slipped and although I try to pull them up I know I am trouble and stop to put some band aids on as the blister on one heal has already broken.
I continue on and it’s not long until I reach the top and runners are starting to make their way back down (either you return on foot or wait for the bus). A few more stairs and I’m there, crossing the finish line. The views are of cliffs and valleys. Day 1 is done and my trusty driver is there to shuttle me back down the hill.
Day 2 – Sunday 3 November – Mt Feathertop
Distance: 10.58km Elevation Gain: 1200m Total Elevation: 1703m Time: 2:13:06 Return Run: 10.58km
It’s Day 2 and I don’t arrive so early which is nice to have a sleep in and I’m trail side by 7:30am. The blisters are covered and in the shoes, so that is a start, no soreness in the legs. As usual, there’s a line up at the ladies’ prior to starting and after the briefing we are ready to go. We have been advised that due to bad weather the race will only be to the hut and not to the summit. No complaints here, that means less elevation and less distance.
The run starts on the road and then finally heads into the bush along a single track. The climb has started and the gradient reminds me of the climb out of Kedumba Valley in the Blue Mountains, NSW. The clouds are settling in and surrounding us, stealing the view. After living in the mountains for a couple of years I never got used to the clouds and it makes me feel dizzy and a little disorientated, so I take my time on the narrow tracks.
I decide to march my way up the hill – some places you are looking down the side of the mountain. It is beautiful as the wild flowers are out and you can smell the tea tree and honey suckle trees.
The clouds lift for a while and a little bit of running is doable. The last big climb is coming up and the front runners are heading back down. They all have their wet weather gear on as the weather is starting to close in and the clouds are back. I reach the top and down a banana sandwich, before doing the return descent that can only be done on foot. The organisers are urging us to get a move on and head back down due to the bad weather.
I leave the hut and its’ warm fireplace and big crack of thunder hits! I don’t want to run down as it will smash my legs. I am about 300m from the hut when there’s another clap of thunder and the heavens open, not only with rain but hail! I think my thighs went into shock and froze with the sudden change in temperature.
I find a tree for protection and then the storm is right above me. Lightening is all around and I am wondering if I should be using my poles. The track is now a river and I am grateful for the poles as they stop me from slipping on the rocks. I make it to the single track, put my poles away and start shuffling down the hill. I am wet from the waist down. The track looks different wet and I am glad when I make it back to the bottom.
Day 3 – Monday 4 November – Mount Hotham
Distance: 15.6km Elevation Gain: 1386 Total Elevation: 1762m Time: 3:37:51
Well I woke up and I can feel my legs, they are little stiff but okay. My second pair of trail shoes are wet from yesterday and I try to put on the third pair of trails that are an earlier version of the demon blister shoes but I can’t do them up – the blisters on the heels are just too sore. Roadies it is. At least I can walk in them and it’s not supposed to rain so they should be okay.
The starting point for today is the same as Day 2 and once again after lining up for a nervous wee and a briefing – we are off. It starts off with meandering single trails next to a full flowing river, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and I am loving the trail, my legs are a little heavy but the location helps. After we cross a bridge at a tranquil creek, the game changes!
The climb starts with an overgrown (but beautiful) path, you look for (and are relieved to see) the pink ribbon that marks the track. Counting to 100 over and over it stops that nattering in my head and time slips away (thanks for the tip coach). After the 6km climb there is a chance to run but I don’t trust my legs as it is cliff face on one side. I march and occasionally take a few running steps. My feet are tired and they have had to work hard in the road shoes.
I come to a clearing where there are a few runners and walkers eating and taking a break. It’s the last climb. I had no idea what I was in for. It is a slow climb – at times you can touch the ground with your hands and grab the bushes and grass to stop you from going backwards. We are now above the snow line and the trees are disappearing. The barren alpine fields are spreading across the landscape and you can see the snow on Mt Feathertop where they closed the run the day before. A few people are struggling and words of encouragement are shared.
I finally reach the top of Mt Hotham and there is a pint size snowman there. It makes my day and I cant help but smile. I cautiously start to make the 500m descent to the finish line with a shuffling jog. A couple of familiar faces are starting to make their way down the mountain (Matt and Nicole – they are amazing and look fresh). My trusty driver is waiting at the finish line and I cross it in 3 hours and 20 minutes. I am elated that it is done and Day 3 was another great climb.
Day 4 – Tuesday 5 November – Mystic Mountain
Distance: 12km Elevation Gain: 706m Total Elevation: 923m Time: 2:12:37
It’s the last day and the legs are heavy. I haven’t really looked at the map, but it is an 11km run and also, it’s Day 4! Surely it is just an undulating casual run through the pine forest after all the elevation. It is only 800m…
Starting with a run along the road, the legs weren’t even warm before we got to the first climb – a clay track. I pull out the poles for which I am now grateful that I went back to the car to get them. The climb continues and at one stage you use a rope to get up a small 90 degree vertical face and the incline continues straight up the side of a mountain.
Finally we reach a flat area, the launch pad for the hang gliders, but it is not the end of the climb. The clouds interrupt the view once gain. The jumpers are preparing their packs and I’m thinking they have the right idea!
We continue heading down the hill until we reach another climb along a fire trail. A pair of 11 year olds go running past with their parent’s trying to keep up – amazingly they have done all four days! Next the down hill begins and it is a slippery slope of clay and rubble.
At last, it is petering out and there is 4km to go on an easy fire trail. You know that it is going to smash the legs even more but it is the last day and a run that you thought was going to be shorter in time is now hitting 2 hours. At last it is done and I have crossed the finish line for the last time.
Completing the 4 days with no injuries, cramping or negative thoughts, or thinking I can’t do this on any of the days, I am chuffed! The worst part is the heel blisters from Day 1. With all four medals together and a sense of achievement, it has been a great time and although not much running, it was defiantly a challenge like I have never done and I love that feeling – a sense of growth, a challenge and knowing that we can do and achieve hard things.
When you find something that you want to do say it out loud and make it real, set a goal and just do it. Now onto looking for the next multi-day event…
4 Peaks Total Stats
Total Time: 10:22:32 Total Distance: 48.76km Total Elevation: 5736m
Add Day 2 Return Run: 58.72km Time: 11: 55:50
If you’re after a 4 day mountain running and climbing challenge in 2020, why not try the 4 Peaks Alpine Challenge? More info on this event can be found here – https://www.4peaks.com.au/