The 2013 Avalanche Peak Challenge took place yesterday in Arthur’s Pass National Park, in near perfect conditions. If anything temps were a touch on the high side and the scree into the upper Crow in bad shape, even by its own standards, but the river levels were low and the Waimakariri River bed was in good running shape (as far as running a river bed goes….).
The women started off at 10am and pre race favourites Lara Prince and Helen Gillespie shot to the front of the pack. Gillespie, having done the Coast to Coast a week earlier, fell off the pace and Lara Prince was the first to summit Avalanche Peak. By the Waimakariri Prince had established the expected lead that she held to the finish, while Rose Pearson moved into 2nd place and Gillespie 3rd- which is how they finished.
The men, starting 30mins later, were lead off by defending champ Tane Cambridge, with 2010 winner Grant Guise right behind. Guise was quickly dropped and passed by UK fell runner Rhys Findlay-Robinson, who stormed up the 1100 meter scramble of Avalanche Peak to claim the “King of the Mountain” title in 50mins. Cambridge was next over the top, with adventure racing world champ Chris Forne on the hunt in 3rd. At the top of the scree slope into the Crow Cambridge reclaimed the lead, while Forne moved into 2nd down the Crow. Down the Waimakariri Forne was within 1 min of Cambridge, but that was how it stayed, with Tane Cambridge winning his 2nd Avalanche Peak title in 2hrs28min12sec, just 47sec ahead of Chris Forne! Grant Guise recovered somewhat, passing a fading Rhys Findlay-Robinson, who had gotten off course down the Crow- such is the nature of the APC.
A solid numbers of runners and “trampers” lined up in what is a unique and extremely mountainous race by New Zealand standards. While it wasn’t the turnout of over 300 that the event has experienced in the past, numbers were up on the previous 2 years. While “Sky Running” has been very popular in Europe for years and is currently gaining traction with new events and series’ being added, this style of race seems to be fading here in New Zealand. Avalanche Peak has to be the closest we have to a “Sky Race” here in New Zealand and I certainly hope the steep climbing, technical running and truly hardy mountain runners keep turning out to support this great event.