Now a winter challenge normally requires me packing thermals and a beanie, however during last Septembers event, blue skies and sunshine created perfect conditions for racing. The course format was a stage event, which comprised running, kayaking, abseiling and mountain biking for approximately 8 hours on the Saturday and 6 hours on the Sunday, allowing teams to rest and recuperate and then front up to the start line on the Sunday morning – if they were still game!
Set within some of the recent fire affected parts of the northern Grampians, it was a great opportunity to support some of the local businesses that had suffered through national park closures and even loss of property during the fires. The caravan park owners where we stayed had lost their house and were still living out of one of the cabins. It was a great reminder to us that supporting fire affected communities by visiting is so important to keep the tourism industry alive.
The first day of competition saw the race start from Zumstein Picnic Ground with teams of four running along the MacKenzie Creek up to MacKenzie Falls and ending up at Wartook Reservoir where they then had to paddle the length of the lake to reach more checkpoints. Team ThoughtSports/Shotz nutrition lead from the start with an all star lineup including the likes of Rob Preston, Hugh Stodart, Josh Street and Kim Willocks. The sun broke through the clouds as Team Dynamite and Peak Adventure chased hard on their bikes north along the Mt Difficult Range using undulating fire trails and dirt roads. This section presented novice teams with the most problems from a navigation perspective with some “not so obvious” route choices to consider and also a couple of off track checkpoints requiring teams to abandon their bikes and head bush on foot. When they found their way to Mt Stapylton car park, teams made their way up the rocks to an abseiling location. Once all of the teams had safely descended the ropes, they then faced a long scrambling climb up to the Mount Stapylton summit. The final mountain bike involved finding their way to Laharum Grove along mostly flat, but occasionally sandy vehicle tracks.