FKT: Stephanie Todd - Australia's 15 Highest Peaks - 2023-12-16

Route variation
Australia's 16 Highest Peaks
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
10h 26m 0s

A few years back I adopted a tradition of climbing a mountain on my birthday. This year I got not one, but 16 birthday mountains!

My dad dropped me at the carpark at Charlotte's Pass. I hugged him goodbye and set off just after 6:30am. The sun was already up but low on the horizon and glinting prettily through the trees. It was cold and windy. So windy I was getting blown over and the gusts made it hard to run. Luckily, I had brought two buffs so I could use one to keep my hair out on my face and keep my head and ears warm and the other I could use around my neck and face. I even ran in my polypro thermal top the whole time, and raincoat most of the time. I carried two 500ml bottles which I refilled from the numerous creeks and tarns, using a salomon filter on one and puritabs in the other so I could add hydralyte to it.

I enjoyed running the main range track out to Mt Twynam, moving through the landscape I had visited only four months earlier in winter, and noticing the contrast between the seasons. The snow was mostly melted now and the alpine wildflowers were blooming.

I was wearing a new pair of saucony peregrines that had aggressive lugs, which were great and grippy on steep rocky terrain but too aggressive for grass and boardwalks that constituted most of this route. I had an accident just before Mt Lee, at around 9am, when they caught on the grid of the metal boardwalk tripping me up. I was distracted for a moment checking my watch and mustn't have picked my feed up properly. I tripped and fell hard, and next thing I knew I was being 'cheese grated' across the boardwalk. I banged my knees and gauged some flesh out of my hands, hip and legs, and had a boardwalk-patterned striped graze up my thigh. After the initial pain subsided I tentatively got up and was thankfully still able to continue. I was relieved my injuries were just surface. It's amazing what an analgesic running can be!

The FKT route description said the new (i.e. 16 highest peaks) route was all trails. But this is incorrect. Apart from the main range and Kosciuszko tracks it was pretty much all off track. There were a few very faint goat tracks occasionally, usually around the summits. But mostly nothing. Whilst I love the adventure of off track, it does make running more challenging especially trying to run on grass. Grass is energy sapping, ankle rolling and slowww. For this reason I think I power hiked more than ran most of the way. I loved the rock scramble sections to summit some of the peaks e.g. Mt Townsend and Rams Head North and the feeling of summiting with those views is hard to beat. 

My track zig-zagged a bit, deviating from the route accidentally in places, which added about 4k extra distance by the end (I was trying to minimize map checks on my phone, which I already felt like was taking up way too much time). I summited the peaks in order, except for Mt Townsend, which I summited before heading out to Alice Rawson Peak and then passed just below Mt Townsend on the way back. 

Even though the previous female FKT holder had warned about this in her trip report, I was still surprised how far it felt out to Rams Head after Kosci. Kosciuszko is the 13th peak but was only 32.5 kms into a 49k run so only roughly 2/3 of the distance. Etheridge Ridge was fine, and you get some boardwalk on the way to Rams Head North, but then it felt so far from Rams Head North to Rams Head, also because I was getting tired by this point. There is a summit marker on the peak before Rams Head that made me mistake it for Rams Head, only to discover it was further still!

On the way back you pass through some really cool scenic rock formations and a tarn at Signature Hill. The route joins a xc ski trail halfway back to Charlotte's pass, just after crossing over the boardwalk to Thredbo. The track unfortunately was only one shoe width wide and so a bit awkward to run on, but at least navigation was easy. Then once I rejoined the Kosciusko fire road it was four kilometers of smooth, gently downward sloping bliss back to Charlotte's pass!

I expected to finish in about 8-9 hours, 2 hours faster than the previous female FKT, but it took me 10hrs 26mins in the end, only beating the FKT by 27 mins. This is was the longest run by time that ive ever done The terrain and weather humbled me, but all in all it was an excellent route and one I'd like to repeat some day.