For a little while, Melissa and I had been looking for a fun adventure to do together, of around 100k in distance, where we could set a female FKT together on a scenic course somewhere between where we both live, being Melbourne and Sydney. When we saw Stephen Redfern created this loop earlier this year, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. We were fortunate enough to be supported by Scott Beams, who joined us for the whole loop (on the back of having also done Tarawera Miler and Hut2Hut 100k within the previous 3 weeks!!)
Following Stephen's plan, we started the loop from Sawpit Creek at 3:41am in the morning to get most of the climb up Perisher Road to Charlottes Pass done in the dark. As the sun started to rise, we appreciated the morning mist and beautiful alpine scenery, and we made good time up to the turnoff onto the trail at Charlottes Pass.
From here, we hiked along the new Illawong track extension, taking care on the metal walkways (aka the "cheese grater") and filling up our water bottles at one of the many river crossings on the way to the Guthega Pondage. In hindsight, we should have filled up a bit more here, as after leaving Guthega, whilst there were still spots to get water, it was less plentiful and not as fast flowing as it was on the from Charlottes Pass to Guthega.
After Guthega, the pace slowed a bit as we followed some faint single trail or generally just hiking through the alpine terrain without any trail to follow to get to the main range where we joined the old AAWT trail along the tops of the all the peaks to Kosciusko. This was the most beautiful section with spectacular views in all directions, beautiful wildflowers, and even glimpses of some remaining snow on the mountains. We were lucky enough to have perfect weather the whole day long, however the warm sunshine and only filling up some of our water carrying capacity earlier in the day did mean a short deviation downhill at one point to fill up our water in a less than ideal spot, but it added to the adventure, and every time after that point we saw better quality water closer to the trail, it did give us something to laugh about.
We soon reached the top of Merritt's Nature Track, which marked the end of the alpine mountain tops and a steep downhill into Thredbo, where we had booked accomodation in case we had wanted to split the run over two days. We used the accomodation to boil some water and have a dinner of 2-minute noodles, soup and coffee, and to fix up the tape on our feet to continue the home stretch.
After an hour's break in Thredbo, we set off again just before 8pm. At this point we had completed 72km and thought we had just 38km remaining. We bumped into a group as we left Thredbo, who seemed a bit surprised to hear us say just 38km remaining. we explained we were covering 110km so it did seem like the home stretch to us. On hearing that, though, they seemed even more surprised to see Scott so chipper, given the distance we had covered, but they wished us all the very best for the rest of our adventure and told us we were amazing!
The next section, if it had been on fresh legs, would have been the easiest and most fun running, as it was gentle downhill along nice smooth flowing trail. We travelled well for the first 9km, but then for all three of us, the energy of our dinner must have come to an end at the precisely the same time, and we realised that around 30km was still actually a long way to cover. From here it was very slow going, as I started to feel a bit ill. Scott and Mel did a great job of keeping me moving forward as best I could, but in the next 3 hours we only managed to cover 6km, and we also had the threat of lightning storms forecast for 5am that morning. However, eventually things came good for me, and we finished off what turned out to measure 115km for us, with the long tired trek down to Gadded Trout Hatchery followed by 4km of uphill back to Sawpit Creek for an elapsed time of 27 hours and 16 minutes.
Would highly recommend the loop and I am immensely proud to have completed the full course with two amazing people.