On 19 November 2014, ultra running veteran Jamie Smith and I set out to be the first to run an 82 kilometre ultra marathon through Australia’s Snowy Mountains whilst climbing its 21 highest mountains above 2,000 metres. Some 82.5 kilometres, 19 hours and 4,193 metres of elevation later, we succeeded!
By Kyle Williams, adventurer.
What were the best bits?
The start – The beauty of Charlotte Pass and darkness just before the dawn added something magical to proceedings. It was a good chance to reflect on my amazing 11-month running journey to get to this point; 11 months prior, I could not run more than 20 minutes without pain.
Making the climbs to every peak was also a highlight. Kosciuszko aside, nearly all required some major rock scrambling or deft navigating to find. Climbing mountains is a real metaphor for overcoming big struggles in life; if you just keep moving forward always, you will overcome.
What were the worst bits?
The unrelenting snow grass beat-down meant we had to trudge through a lot of ‘unrunnable’ sections during the adventure. For the uninitiated, there is no designated running trail in the Snowy Mountains. Instead, there are foot-pads: a mostly overgrown ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ undesignated walking trail about one foot in width. Miss the foot-pad and you end up smashing your way through snow grass. For the uninitiated, snow grass is spongy, densely tufted clumps of ankle to knee deep grass that is incredibly difficult to run on. It’s like running in beach sand – soft, unstable and draining – only worse.
What was it like to finish?
I collapsed on the ground from the sheer emotional and mental effort, as much as the physical. Spent and elated at once, the reality of becoming the first to knock off 21 of Australia’s highest peaks in one session of running was at the forefront of my thoughts. I had faced my fears, rooted as they were in a non-runner’s attempt to become a runner by setting a challenge that on paper was beyond me. Further, on the roof of Australia, I’d persevered to become an ‘ultra runner’.
What gear did you wear?
To keep my pack weight down, I only took minimal gear, pretty much made up of all I/O Merino! With temperatures ranging from 10 degrees down to minus 2 degrees, I wore an Altitude Tee and Altitude Crew as my base layers, layered with the Elemental Jacket when it got cold. My absolute go to piece though was my I/O Merino Necktube – wore it all day in various forms; bandana, neck tube, headband, and face covering – awesome piece of kit!