For the past month or so, Gerry and I have been scouting trails and routes in the Tararuas for an Ultra event. Yep, we want to add another distance to the 25km North Range Traverse and 12.5km Hall Block Humdinger. A 50km Ultra, we thought, would nicely round off the offering.
It was suggested to us after last years event (thanks Michael), that we could maybe add South Range Road to North Range Road and some, to make an Ultra. We were very keen to get to the 50km mark and with South Range Road only about 14km long, and Sledge Track at about 3km from bottom to top, it meant we needed roughly 8-10km to get to 50. We tried from Scott’s Road side and from Kahuterawa, adding the Back Track etc, but nothing really added up to the right distance, or otherwise proved too difficult to access by bus, or too far to drive, to drop off participants.
But finally, we managed to solve the puzzle, and all the scouting these last few of months, from both sides of the mountain, finally paid off. Adding up the bits and pieces, I’m super stoked to announce that we’ve managed to find a fantastic 50km ultra course!
Starting at the Wairarapa side of the Tararuas (same side that the other courses start and finish), participants will be dropped off at the start of Naenae Road and make their way down the 2.85km gravel road to warm up and spread out the field a bit. After crossing a stream (about ankle to calf deep), the next 600m is mainly on farmland, which is very muddy and will no doubt be a mudfest in winter. Following the valley going up the mountain, the next 400m runs up the creek, zig-zagging through the water. It is a beautiful little gorge with numerous wee waterfalls, ferns and native forest. And then the big climb starts. For the next kilometre or so, you scramble up the new track (thanks to Ian Argyle!) that links the Wairarapa and Manawatu, until you reach the top of the mountain. This is a very technical, steep and difficult section. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure!
Once you reach the Otangane loop, you turn left to follow the loop track clockwise. This is an undulating stretch on top of the Tararuas with lovely views in all directions in the clearings. If you feel up to a couple of minutes detour, you could even make your way up Nipple Peak for a 360 degree view of the Manawatu and Wairarapa. After about 3km, you reach the connection track that takes you through to the Toe Toe loop track. Following the Toe Toe loop anti-clockwise for roughly 1.8km, you reach a side-track that takes you all the way to South Range Road. This marks the end of the most difficult and challenging section of the Ultra course. With the first few kilometres along Naenae Road on gravel road, and everything else from here also on gravel road, the terrain is for the most part very run-able, with the exception of the roughly 9km in the first quarter of the course.
Running on top of the Tararuas next to the water catchment area on South Range Road and then through the windfarm on North Range Road, makes for a beautifully scenic run. The stunning vistas and easy terrain underfoot for the last 39km, should add up to a very enjoyable Ultra.
Needless to say, adding an Ultra to our event offering is not something we take lightly. It will not be suitable to all abilities, mainly due to the very challenging section scurrying up the mountain. Being the middle of winter, could potentially also up the degree of difficulty a notch or two. But, we’ve found trail runners to be a staunch bunch and usually up for a challenge.
Currently we are thinking of having a drop-bag point at the first link up with South Range Road, where participants can change into dry shoes/socks/clothes for the remainder of the course. This will also double up as a aid station with portaloo.
Still a lot of detail to work out, but the course is set and that’s the main concern. It’s beautiful, totally do-able, a bit tough in sections, and maybe a bit exposed on the mountain, depending on the weather. A combination of trails and off-road. Should be a fun day out!