“The trekking leg was like a mini Godzone ” said Leo Theoharis from team Thunderbolt at the finish line, while Kim Beckinsdale’s first phrase was: “This is the hardest course I have ever done”.
The inaugural edition of Alpine Quest finished yesterday and participants faced the extreme weather conditions only possible in the Australian Alps: 35 degrees temperature on the first day with teams trying to keep cool and hydrated turned into +5 and pouring rain on the second day with teams struggling to keep warm.
The epic 140 km course took teams on a journey from the Omeo Valley over the Bogong high plains into the Falls Creek resort with 5200m of elevation gain.
After a 2 hour bus drive descent to the start at the historical Hinnomunjie bridge teams took off 30 seconds apart to negotiate rapids of the famous Mitta Mitta river. The Alpine Avengers took an early lead followed by Tasmanian Wild Earth Tiger adventure team and a tight bunch of teams all hungry for a podium finish. The low water levels, rocky river bed and finding the lines through the river would prove a challenge.
The river inflicted many bruises and claimed a few broken paddles whilst delivering some stunning scenery and fun low grade rapids bringing smiles to the teams faces. Approaching transition area at Taylors Crossing picnic area was a welcome relief after the 20kms of paddling and 3-6 hours spent in and out of the boat.
The Wild Earth team, known for their outstanding mountain bike abilities, rushed through the first transition area and headed out 180 degrees in the wrong direction. This mistake cost them an hour in the extreme heat of the day forcing them to chase hard to make up the time back up on the steep climbs. This proved to be detrimental to their race having to withdraw early on the next leg taking refuge in Cleve Cole hut for the night to be picked up the next morning.
Even though the mountain bike leg was “only” 30 km the elevation gain of 1500 meters in temperatures over 35 degrees caused a lot of damage to 70% of the field. The race became a survival for a few and hell ride for all.
The look of the transition area at the end of the hell ride was like a battle field full of wounded warriors with teams trying to recover from the ride in any shade they could find before contemplating the next gruelling 45km trekking leg with 2100 m of elevation gain and 2800 m elevation loss as well which potentially caused even more pain to the already suffering legs of participants.
Exiting transition area and heading for the summit of Mount Wills was a tough decision for some but making it to the top with the amazing 360 degree views was well worth it in the end.
Liam St Pierre of Rogue Adventure, a seasoned adventure racer, was one of those who fell victim the conditions Alpine Quest received. Liam made it to the top of Mount Wills but returned to transition with the team to carry on unranked. Rogue made the risky decision to head down to the Big River earlier than all other teams which proved to be a faster route choice than all other teams on the hike leg.
During the hiking leg teams would confront sections of off-road hiking through the abandoned walking tracks, river beds and rough 4wd trails. The sunset was a welcome sight for all teams remaining on course with the temperature becoming more bearable. Little did we know what was to come. The weather dramatically changed through the night and the heat got replaced with unrelenting rain, wind penetrating down to river canyons and treating teams with near hypothermic conditions. Teams were very grateful having the compulsory jacket and thermal top with them but wish they had a few more layers.
“We were just struggling to keep warm and had to hid in one of the huts for a bit” said Simon from team Wild Goose Chasers, and decided to follow Short course.
After battling the cold river conditions and finally reaching the second river checkpoint at Survey hut the teams had to negotiate a bushy over grown track at times up to mount Arthur (1640m), the final hike checkpoint, and onto Lake Guy in Bogong Village, Transition area 3 for the short orienteering and SUP stage.
The last mountain bike ride to the finish line was no walk in the park. Starting at 650m and climbing up the zigzagging hydro roads up to the highest driveable peak in Australia of 1842m before the final decent to the finish line in Falls Creek resort, this ride via Mount McKay is quite daunting with fresh legs.
Team Adventurejunkie.com.au arrived to Lake Guy and noticed Team Wild Yaks getting onto their bikes for this final leg giving them about 40 mins to catch up.
Josh from Adventurejunkie.com.au recounts the last leg “We noticed the other team leaving transition and we had to go on the paddle board so we knew they were gone, we got back and made the bikes up and just pushed, pushed and pushed all the way. We saw them coming down off Mount McKay and then it was ‘go time’. Didn’t see them anywhere else so thought we would just coast up to McKay instead we are bolting the last few hundred meters to the top and bombing back down, racing to the finish line. Paid off in the end. Made it exciting I hope. I’m well busted. I’m going to bed.”
At 9:29 Sunday morning Alpine Avengers crossed the finish line shivering but very happy to be spraying champagne everywhere after over 25 hours of punishment.
“Very challenging course, we learnt to expect it from Adventure Junkie, we knew what we get ourselves in for. The course had a bit of everything, I really enjoyed the trek”- Dave Schloss, team Alpine Avengers.
Thunderbolt cruised in at 11:57 very pleased to get second place in such tough a tough race.
Hugh Stodart: “Long, hard, really nice course. We loved the trek, it was fun, we got to the finish, which is more than most of people did”
Team Wild Yaks raced in at 4:21 after a broken hanger costing them lots of time with Adventurejunkie.com.au just 3mins behind them and with their great result on Friday's prologue meant they snuck onto the podium in third place.
Nothing is as satisfying as reaching the finish line together with all your comrades after completing a challenge like the Alpine Quest Adventure Race. Smiles, tears and words of the teams proved that this race will be talked about for years to come.
“Typically Russian brutal. This is what we expected”- John Evans, Bare Grills.
- Full results with detailed splits>>
- GPS replay Day 1>>
- GPS replay Day 2>>
- Day 1 video wrap up>>
- Day 2 video wrap up>>
- Day 1 on Sleepmonsters>>
- Day Two on Sleepmonsters>>
- Event wrap up on Sportzhub>>
- Day 1 course fly over>>
- Day 2 course fly over>>
- Collection of Photos >>.
- Thunderbolt team race report>>
- AQ FB page with plenty of other links>>