> 2010 race reports
19/02/11 Avalanche Peak Race - from John Duff (photos from John)

I rounded off a recent holiday in New Zealand by running the Avalanche Peak Race.  It is held at Arthurs Pass in the Southern Alps.  I had run the race 2 years previously, but on that occasion poor weather meant that the race was cut short.  This time the clouds were high, the day cool, and the rivers low: so conditions were perfect for the race.

The race starts with a quick lap around the village.  Last time I had dawdled round the lap, and paid the price by getting stuck in queuing runners on the climb.  So this time I pushed on, and was rewarded by a steady unencumbered climb up the steep track ascending Avalanche Peak.  The climb is 1,100 metres in total and takes circa 1 hour to complete.  Half way up we emerged from the bushline and the views over the surrounding peaks began to unfold.  The top of Avalanche Peak is a scrambly ridge rising to the summit at 1,833 metres.  The views were fantastic with Mount Rolleston and the Crow Glacier clearly visible.

From the summit the race descends to a ridge at the back of Avalanche Peak, before plunging down a 500 metre scree descent to the Crow Valley.  This was similar to the screes on Ben Nevis, except it was more runnable.  The main hazard was overtaking slower runner and trampers [walkers] who had started earlier.  I had a good descent here, and made up numerous places.

The run down the Crow Valley was remote and beautiful.  After some initial boulder hopping, a track of sorts developed though it was very rough in places.  Eventually we turned into the Waimakiriri Valley and were on the home straight – or so I thought.  Initially the grassy valley flats gave good running.  But they soon petered out, and runners were left to pick their way over the wide and very stony flats alongside the river.  There was no track, innumerable river crossings, and for good measure a head wind picked up.  All of a sudden the Carey Burn on the Chevy Chase seemed easy in comparison.  I managed to reel in a couple more runners here, mainly because they were starting to suffer from cramp and had to keep stopping to stretch. 

Eventually the finish at the Bealey Hotel hove into view.  But even this wasn’t easily obtained.  It was on top of a small rise with a distinctly uphill finish.  This reduced me to a walk, before I was forced into a run by the announcer proudly proclaiming “and here’s one of our international competitors....”  If anyone had visions of a Kenyan sprinting to the line, they would have been disappointed by the sight of a knackered runner in an NFR vest stumbling over the finish.

I finished in 3 hours 17 minutes in 27th place out of circa 160 runners.  The race was billed as 22 km, though it felt much longer.  I did manage to beat the first lady home, but was some way behind the winner Jacob Roberts who ran it in 2 hours 28 mins.   The good news was that there was a bar at the hotel, it was serving cheap beer, and I wasn’t driving.  So I had a couple of drinks to aid the re-hydration process.   Everyone was very friendly and it was good to chat to my fellow competitors who were by and large Kiwis.

The race was held on Saturday 19th February.  On the Sunday I headed to Christchurch, stood in the square for a while admiring the cathedral, then caught the plane home in the afternoon.  On Monday lunchtime Christchurch suffered the devastating earthquake.   Many of the Avalanche Peak runners were from Christchurch.  So this rather put matters in perspective.  Next time I’m having a hard time in a fellrace, I’ll remember that I’m lucky just to be out running.

more of John's photos from the race.

John Duff

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