In May 2017, Red Bull endurance athlete and dual Olympian, Courtney Atkinson, set out to complete one of the craziest running adventures around Australia.
AN AUSTRALIAN RUNNING PROJECT
Inspired by the ‘State 8’ – a hiking challenge that involves summiting Australia’s highest peak in each state or territory in the course of a person’s lifetime – Courtney wanted to see how many of the State 8 ascent records he could break in just 7 days. Hiking up them? NO, he wanted to race!
So that’s exactly what he did.
25 hours of running in 7 days
7 Ascents: Australia’s Highest Peak in every State or Territory
72km of that running UPHILL at RACING pace
7.7km of vertical gain
Fastest known times (FKT) up multiple mountains
Mount Kosciuszko was the only climb Courtney had seen before this project. The ascents were navigated using Polar Route Guidence with GPS mountains having no trails or limited tracks.
A runners stat – you could say my total running hours equate to a 300km+ running week if the 25hrs were run along flat roads at jogging pace (app. 5mins/km). But think, Courtney, attacked the climbs at racing heart rate equivalent of him running a 30-31min 10km
11 flights – 23hrs15mins – 13,023km equal to flying Sydney – Dubai
Driving 2265 km about half the distance across Australia
Across jungle, snow, and desert. In both day & night
Crew = Two. Courtney and travel/film companion Shane Barrie.
Courtney ran the mountains ALONE. Shane would stay at base, for safety, and help film the journey.
Carrying everything in a 120L Kathmandu Tanker Duffel weighing only 20kg. Being self-sufficient for the whole trip. Kathmandu supplied all top of range lightweight camping gear.
Eating was on the go. Breaky in the car. Usually muesli. Quick snack from Qantas Clubs while rushing through airports each day. Otherwise, quick trips into Coles for hot chook and bread rolls when out camping at the base of mountains.
“90% of time I was running alone without mobile reception. I carried a sat phone on the bigger remote climbs but that’s no help if you’re knocked out.”
MOUNT BARTLE FRERE
Location: Sugar Cane Region of Northern Queensland
Access: 60min drive out of Cairns, Queensland. Carpark at Trail Head. At the entry to Josephine Falls.
Sleep: Camped out on private property in Babinda
Terrain: 100% trail, very steep, very rooty, slippery and damp. Leeches. The Big boulder field near the top was the highlight. Clouded in at the summit.
Location: (ACT) Australian Capital Territory, at the northern end of the Snowy Mountains
Access: 3.5hr drive from Canberra finishing down a 32km unsealed road. Start at the gate across Pocket Saddle Rd.
Sleep: Camped 1km from start at Old Camp Access Track
Terrain: Undulating Fire Roads until the last 3km which was off track following rock cairns up steeper rocky ground. Clouded in at the top. Check out Oldfields Hut. Great spot to camp.
Location: Top of Australia, New South Wales
Access: Drive up the mountain range from Jindabyne, past Perisher Ski Resort onto Charlotte’s Pass carpark. The trail starts here.
Sleep: Nil – This was the 2nd run of the day after Bimberi. The two runs nearly combine to make a marathon 42km.
Terrain: Well signed, easy to follow fire roads all the way to top. Although the highest point in Australia, it’s the easiest summit too reach. But still, hard yakka if racing the 9km to the top. Can be covered in snow.
Location: Close to the towns of Mt Beauty and Bright in Victoria.
Access: Start at the base of Staircase Spur Summit Walk. A drive down a 4×4 track after leaving the sealed road. Close to 5hrs driving all the way south from Charlotte’s Pass.
Sleep: Hotel in snowy mountains. There is the option to camp at Mountain Creek Campground at the base of Bogong.
Terrain: Easy to follow single track trail all the way to the top. Great running trail. First 30mins or so very steep, hence the staircase name I assume. Then opens up towards the final ascent after a few false summits. Unexpected SNOW at the top! HARD ascent, 1 hr of pain.
Location: Access via the famous “Overland Track” hiking trail near Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania.
Access: Fly into Launceston and drive out 2.15hrs through Mersey Forest to Arm’s River Track Trail Head (last section of drive is on unsealed forestry roads)
*This is where our first major hiccup for the week occurred. Due to recent flooding, the bridges were swept away. Derooted trees across road forced an early stop 5km away from Trail Head. Adding another 10km running to a planned 38km return trip.
Sleep: In Launceston ready for a 6am flight to Perth.
Terrain: Amazing run taking in a section of the ‘Overland Track’. Arms River Track is technical, hard, surprisingly hilly. Has a bit of every terrain. Overland is boggy, rooty, muddy. But once you turn right onto the climb up towards Ossa’s summit it’s a great track. Some duckboards but with the snow, at the top, the climbing and navigation became a bit of a challenge. Epic trail run!
“I wanted to know how far I could push my body running the highest and harshest conditions in Australia in a limited time.”
Location: Karijini National Park in the Pilbara region Western Australia.
Access: From Perth, it’s a flight into the mining town, Newman. 4×4 out 160km to the mountain’s base. The final 16km was on good quality unsealed road before deteriorating into harsh 4×4 tracks close to the bottom of the mountain.
Sleep: Good old bush camping
Terrain: Rough 4×4 track right to the top. Watch out for the snakes.
“7 climbs, 7 days and I saw a couple on Bimberi, 2 people on Kozi, a group of backpackers on Overland track at the base of Ossa and a whole lot of emptiness. Australia’s a remote landscapes.
Location: Western MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory.
Access: Varies. 4×4 drive from Alice Springs of around 225km starting on bitumen then onto unsealed roads and paddocks.
Sleep: Good old bush camping
Terrain: No track. No running! Loose rock, razor spinifex grass, no water. Wear good gaiters and protective shoes. Running shoes are painful!
“Didn’t really give much thought into just how much hard running I would be doing in 7 days. They were big runs at that pace. Super taxing days by anyone’s standard – biggest running week of my life”