Thursday, November 13, 2014

Running in Australia

Just finished up a two weeks visit back in Australia, aside from catching up with family and drinking a lot of coffee and beer, I was keen to get some training done. In particular I was eager to log some vertical in preparation for the upcoming winter of touring and also to revisit some of the mountains in the SE corner of Australia which were such an integral part of my upbringing.

Over the years I’ve found that most people (Australians included) are oblivious to the mountains of Australia, thinking that beyond the picturesque beaches lies a flat and arid interior. Whilst it is true that the climate in Australia is arid, the idea that it is all flat isn’t quite accurate. The area in the SE of Australia, including the Snowy Mountains (something of a misnomer) and the Victorian Alps comprise dozens of peaks with a respectable relief from the nearby valleys. True, mountain terrain is mostly quite gentle and benign with rounded “hills” rather than jagged spired dominating the skyline; and true, the snowline is usually quite high, but if you are keen there is some great trail running and some interesting ski touring to be had.

I enjoyed four standout trail runs while I was in the country:

Mt Bogong, up and down the Staircase (about 16km and 1450+ metres, 2:20)

The highest point in Victoria, and one of the first mountains I hiked up as a kid. I have many memories of this peak, such as sleeping on the summit without any water as a teenager on a summer hike over from Hotham, and on another occasion teaching myself how to self-arrest with an exceptionally long, old axe borrowed from a friend.

The run was nice, however I discovered that I’ve spent enough time out of Australia in the past years to have grown unaccustomed to reptiles and had a few frights encountering half a dozen blue tongued lizards which I instinctually thought to be snakes.

Mt Buffalo, up the Big Walk (about 11km and 1050+ metres, 1:30)

This was the first place I ever went skiing at the age of 5. Good to see it again.
Earlier this year this place hosted Australia's first ever event in the SkyRunning series.

Mt Feathertop, up the Bungalow Spur and along the Razorback Ridge (about 22km and 1700+ metres, 2:55)

The nicest mountain trail in Australia in my opinion; a perfect balance between being runnable and also steep sections which require more effort. Not much in the way of views whilst I was there though:

Mt Kozciusko and the Main Range Track from Thredbo (about 44km and 1800+ metres, 5:02)

I used to think that the Main Range track was the best trail in the Australian Alps, and it certainly does have some terrific views over the highest peaks in Australia. The trail has received an immense amount of upkeep in the past decade, to the point where a quad bike could now comfortably traverse most of the track. After a winter with heavy snowfall there was still quite a bit of it around for early November, I even saw one fellow skiing on Carruthers Peak

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