Starting in the Village Square of Mt Buller Ski Resort – the Great Southern Endurance Run will pit runners against some of the best mountain trails in Australia on their way to a finish in the idyllic township of Bright, Victoria.
Leg One: Mt Buller Village Square to Davon’s Flat
The Great Southern Endurance Run will start in the Village Square of Mt Buller Ski Resort, with sweeping views of the mountains and forests to the north. Runners will assemble in front of the big clock tower on the corner of Mt Buller Road, New Summit Road and Chamois Close, before the start gun sends them running just over 2km up New Summit Road to the Buller summit plinth and tower at over 1800m elevation. Commanding views can be had in all directions- you’re on the highest peak for quite some distance in any direction.
From the summit, descend the Summit ski run off the peak and make their way down a dirt road that, in winter, is the Family Run at the resort. At Zwier’s Zig Zag, the start of Four Mile Spur begins.
Four Mile Spur is a rocky, rugged path that descends steeply to the Howqua River as you lose 1400m of elevation to Gardiner’s Hut. From Gardiners Hut runners climb up to Brock’s Road, cross over and take a smooth single trail for 2km to the first checkpoint- Davon’s Flat campground.
Aid Station 1: Davon’s Flat
Leg Two: Davon’s Flat to Upper Howqua Campground
From Davon’s Flat, runners take the signposted trail to Eagles Peaks. A rocky climb from 450m to over 1440m in 10km now commences. Runners traverse several summits before topping out and commencing a 2.5km descent to Eight Mile Gap, where a basic aid station will be. From there, runners follow the dirt Bluff Link Road for 5km to Refrigerator Gap, from where the climb up to the massive summit ridge of The Bluff starts. In 2.3km, runners ascend 600 metres, first on a vehicle track and then on a walking track.
The summit of The Bluff is a vast treeless plateau with grand views. Runners proceed north east to Bluff Hut and then descend, again reaching Bluff Link Road which they take for over 11km to the Howqua River and Upper Howqua Campground, a checkpoint with crew access. Runners have just run a vast anti clockwise arc through some stunning alpine terrain.
Aid Station 2: Upper Howqua Campground
Leg Three: Upper Howqua Campground to Mt Speculation
From Upper Howqua checkpoint, runners cross the Howqua River and take a footpad alongside the water for 4km, crossing and recrossing the creek several times. This is a pleasant, easy section, before the climb up Howitt Spur begins.
It’s steep at first, eases off a bit, is rocky underfoot and then there’s a final steep shove over West Howitt to the main summit of Mt Howitt, another broad, treeless area with views. This is a climb from around 950 metres elevation to 1742 in just over 6 kilometres.
Runners now follow the Australian Alps Walking Trail north along the most scenic section of the whole GSER100 course, over the rocky Crosscut Saw, a climb to the memorably named Mt Buggery, a descent to the equally well named Horrible Gap and then climbing again to the excellent views of Mt Speculation. There are some rocky, scrambly sections along here but nothing taxing. Wild terrain surrounds runners on all sides. This is alpine running.
Aid Station 3: Mt Speculation Campground
Leg Four: Mt Speculation to Buckland Gap
From Speculation summit, runners descend for a kilometre to Speculation campground, which will have a basic checkpoint. Then backtrack slightly and follow the AAWT. These next 15 kilometres are slow going over rocky ground with a faint trail to follow, over Mt Despair, then the rocky slabs of the Viking, before descending through the Viking’s cliffs to meet a vehicle track at Barry Saddle campsite, leaving the difficult ground behind. A small water tank is passed just before the campsite if water is truly running short.
The trail now follows the AAWT across the Barry Mountains via a mix of footpad and vehicle track. Just over 10km from Barry Saddle, and 25km from Mt Speculation campround, is the next (non crew) checkpoint, East Buffalo Road.
Aid Station 4: East Buffalo Road
From here runners continue north east along Selwyn Track. There are many side tracks in this section but the course will be well marked with both event markers and AAWT markers. From a faint footpad, climb to South Selwyn, then cross the summit of 1424m Mt Selwyn. In another five kilometres, runners reach the next (non crew) checkpoint, Selwyn Creek Road.
Aid Station 5: Selwyn Creek Road
From here, it is 13km by a mix of vehicle track and faint footpad to the Twins (1703m elevation), and from there 3km to Mt St Bernard with its hut and old ski tows.
From St Bernard, runners follow the marked trail to Hotham Road at Buckland Gap, where runners can see meet their crews before continuing.
Aid Station 6: Buckland Gap
Leg Five: Buckland Gap to Harrietville
From Buckland Gap, runners climb to Mt Sugarloaf (1506m) before taking the Old Coach Road, for 12km down into Harrietville. The Old Coach Road keeps very close to the sealed Hotham Road for much of its length, before crossing the Hotham Road a few km before Harrietville and descending to the Bon Accord Track, which runners follow briefly along the Ovens River, into Tavare Park, where the checkpoint is.
Aid Station 7: Tavare Park
Leg Six: Harrietville to Wandiligong
Runners head north for 4km along a sealed bike path next to the Great Alpine Road(GAR), then cross the GAR at Cemetery Road and start climbing again. Over the next 9km the course climbs from 500m elevation to over 1200m elevation, with quite a few extra bumps along the way. Runners follow Wet Gully Ridge track over rises and falls before descending the steep Hillsborough Track to emerge on Growler’s Creek Road in Wandiligong, not far from the Wandiligong Hotel.
To the left of the Hotel, a stile climbs over a fence and takes the Diggings Walk across a paddock to Morses Creek, and along Morses Creek to Alpine Park, where the final checkpoint is.
Aid Station 8: Alpine Park – Wandiligong
Leg Seven: Wandiligong to Bright
From Alpine Park, runners head up a quiet road into the pine plantation that covers this side of the valley. By a mix of old firebreak and MTB track, runners climb 500m to the hang glider launch pad on Mystic Hill, where commanding views of the finish line in Bright are right in front of them. From the launch pad they descend a single mtb track down White Star Ridge, cross under Coronation Avenue, then follow the trail along Morses Creek for three kilometres into Bright, where the welcoming committee of excited spectators, family and friends at Howitt Park awaits!