At 7:03am on the dot on Saturday 12 March, Rurik Symon and I (Simon Duke) set out from Mt Zero campground at the Grampians Peaks Trail northern trailhead to see if it was possible to:
1. Complete the trail in one push (otherwise we would try split it in half) or
2. Maybe give the supported FKT a nudge, inspired by Julian Bowring and Julie Brock.
Little did we know just how ‘beautifully brutal’ it would be. Everything felt great for the first 50kms between the trailhead and Halls Gap with some flowy, well groomed and very scenic trail and a good ascent completed. Some hints of potential cramps on the way down into Halls Gap but nothing that escalated. Had seen barely anyone and then Halls Gap and Visitor Centre buzzing with tourists and many people enjoying the Pinnacles. Day was definitely warming up by now with heat from above and reflected heat from below off the rocks but legs strong and spirits high.
Mt Rosea - tick, second major peak done. Got into Borough Huts at the base of Redman Bluff climb around 7pm, which enabled a good chunk of the ascent to happen in daylight. Getting through form Borough Huts to Duwul on Redman Bluff was a roughly a 3hr project due to technical nature of terrain on the ridge but also the scale of the mountain. Kieran joined us for this section which was great. The final push for Mt William summit from Duwul was surprisingly on bitumen (but was also welcome at that point). Not too long after we also passed by Durd Durd summit rock cairn.
Was surprised to hear and see a massive rave going on below - not what we expected but all good for adding to the uniqueness of the experience. Speaking of unique, the trail from where it crosses Jimmy Creek Rd through to Yarrum Campsite has to be experienced to be believed. 3 words - actually - still speechless. Easily the worst section of trail for about 10km - maybe the scenery is amazing but we were doing it in the dark just focusing on not rolling ankles or tumbling down the side of the mountain.
About 5:30am we reached Yarrum Gap Rd where we were expecting to connect with Kieran and Loz again after around 6hrs self supported but a lack of phone reception and our delirious state meant we missed seeing them even though they were camped only 100m from where the trail crosses the road. We flagged down some soda water from an unsuspecting driver and pushed on - reconnecting with the support crew at Cassidys Gap Rd.
The day was growing warm again and had the last kms to complete which still involves a climb up Signal Peak, Mt Abrupt and Mt Sturgeon - a nice sting the tail with so many steps up and down. Pushed hard for the last 5-6kms on the descent from Mt Sturgeon into Dunkeld finding whatever little was left in the legs to finish at the Dunkeld Visitor Centre on Sunday 13 March at 2:36pm (and 12 seconds)
Rough estimates of some stats from the memories of 2 sleep deprived humans
'Groomed' trail - 30ish kms
Natural rock - 60ish kms
Technical trail - 50ish kms
Rock stairs - thousands
Bitumen - 3ish kms
Fire Trail - 5ish kms
Ankle breaking mine fields - 15ish kms
Mesh boardwalks - 3ish kms Trees over trail 20ish
Spider webs in face - 10ish
Sleep - 0 minutes
Near stacks - plenty
Actual stacks - 1
Amazing Views - countless
Memories - priceless
The 'rules' we applied - As per Julian’s route to establish the FKT and consistent with Julie's recent female supported FKT we starting from the North and travelled South all the way into the Dunkeld Visitor Centre where we stopped the clock. We made sure we went into Halls Gap township and Visitor Centre (thank you Stephen Redfern for clarifying this for us), and followed the yellow markers along the trail which meant bypassing some campsites as well as not detouring up some out and back summit/lookout tracks (the Picaninny, Mt William, Mt Rosea, Mt Difficult).
Tips - don't rely on water tanks, check in with Visitor Information Centre beforehand, be patient, check what roads are open or not, we had great conditions - would be much more challenging in wet conditions.
Massive thanks and kudos to Julian and Julie who went before us and also to Kieran, Lauren and Isla for being an amazing support crew - feeding, encouraging, navigating and sharing some very memorable kms and happy trail vibes with us.