"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A 46k 13 hour Epic Training Day

On Friday, Rolf and I flew Juliet (the Fuji) down to the Stirling Range to join 4 others for the Ridge Top Walk. The Stirlings is a small mountain range in southern WA. The Ridge Top Walk is, according to the guidebook, a "gruelling walk...traversing the most rugged mountain terrain that Western Australia has to offer. It takes two to three days to complete."

That's 2 days if you are only doing the 19 km point-to-point section over the ridges - it doesn't account for the extra mileage (the 3rd day) getting to and from the ridges, if you don't arrange a shuttle.

We were set to join the ranks of those who do it in a day. Naturally, my group of running mates suggested we'd not be content with just the 19k over the ridges, but would instead make the route 40km+, by making it a loop, starting and ending at the caravan park.

So, starting at 5.30 AM Saturday in the dark, Rolf and I ran with full packs carrying 4.5 ltrs of water, 14 hours of food, and various bits of potentially useful gear to make our packs even heavier: thermal tops, rain jackets, a space blanket, an EPIRB, cameras, a flint, a compass, knife....Other gear included my lovely Inov8 Roclites, Injinjis, the DirtyGirl gaiters, my UD Bandita pack, and Montane Venture waterproof jacket (a blessing with the wind up there!)

The route was:

Caravan Park to Bluff Knoll carpark - 8.5 kms uphill on bitumen
From the carpark, up the Knoll, across several peak to Ellen Peak, and down to the fire road - supposed to be 19 kms
Fire trail/boundary road back to caravan park - 14.3 kms

The 19 kms was actually recorded as 23.2 by my GPS. We definitely took a few unplanned detours along the way, while trying to find the "right" route. There are several caves like this along the way that the multi-day'ers camp in:
In true Australian style, most of the peaks carried aboriginal names: Moongoongoonderup Hill, Isongerup Peak, Mirlpunda (Three Arrows), Pyungoorup Peak....

We ran the 8.5k in and the 14.3k out, but the ridge tops themselves were probably 90% unrunnable. There was a surprising amount of bouldering required with some pretty remarkable drops, should you have lost your footing.

We were very lucky with the weather - some unnerving wind gusts at times while negotiating cliff edges, but dry and mostly sunny.

The peaks are known to often be covered in fog and as I discovered after seeing the route for myself, it would have been impossible to navigate up there in a white-out using a compass. We benefited from going out with a few guys who had been on the ridges several times (successful in their attempts at the entire end-to-ender about 50% of the time).

The finish was brilliant, running due west in the dark by headlamp, straight towards the crescent moon with Venus above. A stop at the cafe next to the caravan park for a Guinness for Health and a chaser of water ended a fantastic day.

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