As the weather starts to turn in our hemisphere and the cold begins to creep in, the misery of it all makes me smile. While some people love to run on fast, free-flowing course, others like to smash themselves on miserable, tough, quad-sapping courses that makes you question what the hell you’re doing in life – The Mount Difficulty Ascent is one of those courses.
One of those courses is the Mount Difficulty Ascent. Known for its stupidly steep climbs and spine-tingling descents, this race is the only one I know of that requires you to carry a spare pair of underpants as mandatory gear. (Don’t worry, you’ll find out why when you come down the first loop descent!)
In all seriousness, this isn’t race you should be doing if you’re not confident with extremely steep climbs and descents. There’s no two ways about it, it’s a tough cookie and deserves a lot of respect – Mount Difficulty Race Director Terry Davies is pretty adamant about it too, if you find that you’re freezing up a little (and not because of the cold), there’s no shame in coming back down the mountain.
But if you’re game, it’s one of the most challenging marathons you can ever run. So rather than me harp on about what a cracker of a run it is. I sought some opinion of those who’ve done it to share their own thoughts.
First up is Blue Mountains, mountain goat extraordinaire, Loughlinn Kennedy…
“This race is a proper skyrun, some fast farm trail running mixed with quad melting 45-50 degree descents. One of the descents has a fixed rope for safety… but I found myself flying down this descent with a few other guys, namely, Mat Cooper and Martin Kern. The climbs are super steep and follow the contours up very steep gullies riddled with matagouri thorn bushes which tore one of my soft flasks open.
“The course is very exposed and a nasty fall could result in pretty serious injuries. Terry Davis, race director says ‘don’t fall, as you may die’. After the last serious climb, which gains 1000m in 3km, you then follow more farm trail that is very runnable but hard after tired legs. There is also snow about and some high winds as you reach the summit.
“There’s more undulating farm trail that follows, which a few very punchy climbs just to drive a few more nails in the coffin. Then there’s 8km of fast down hill running towards the finish, putting the icing on the cake in terms of battering the legs! Then there’s a final 1-2 km of very windy single trail to the finish as you then run back down into the winery, where there was craft beer on tap and pizza – the perfect way to end a race.”
Lou Clifton, another Blue Mountains local has this to say about the race,
“I watched the videos on the Mount Difficulty website and was completely sold. This race has some serious scrambling which appealed to the rock climber in me. The race director Terry Davies also directed the Ultra Easy and I had loved the whole vibe of that event and the toughness of the course so that was it.
“Race day had a civilised start of 8am and although the sun had just come up it was light enough to start without a head torch. We knew the start would be fast as it was mostly flat to the first ascent. We ran through single trail past the vineyard and through the sluicings until the first big ascent of the race, which is around a 250m climb in 1km was the first of three that progressively got harder. The second ascent is around 500m of climbing and much more of a scramble than the first ascent and seemed a lot longer.
“The last climb is the beast of them all with 1020m of ascent in just 3kms. The wind is strong and icy as towards the top of the climb, but once you reach the top, there is some excellent downhill running on rough four-wheel drive track, not too steep to reward yourself on.
“If you like crazy courses with spectacular scenery and awesome people I can’t recommend this enough.”