Wild Earth Ascent – “Don’t be a Doofus”

First 6 "runners" walking up the first climb. Photo: Alastair Hanson

First 7 “runners” walking up the first climb.
Photo: Alastair Hanson

I’m not going to describe how or why this event came to being. I wasn’t even meant to be there, but I couldn’t ask for a better substitute for the event I was supposed to be at. The head cheese at BCR has been out on one Rogaine with me, he hates them, with a passion, but The Wild Earth Ascent is the very reason I like Rogaines. It takes you to places that very few people have been to, you’d never go to even you thought about it AND….. you get the opportunity to get lost.

With Heights of Winter cancelled due to storm damage and a birthday on Sunday, a day trip to Cromwell was a good option. Being just a bit excited saw little sleep and I was away from Dunedin at 4am for the 8am kick off. Terry was clear that he didn’t want anyone coming who couldn’t look after themselves. So what the field lacked in size it didn’t lack in depth and it was no surprise to find myself at the base of the first 1000m climb off the back of the pack that was a mix of ½ and Full Ascenters.

WAEThat first 1000m occurs in just 3km, with the last 100m being quite flat. There was no hiding, you were going straight up and managing heart, lactate, quads, calves and potentially fatal falls were the order of the day. Or just staying on course. I got into a nice rythym and climbed with Dean Hudson, the shepherd from Lake Mckay Station on which the Big Easy is run. He and I had spent a bit of time running that one together as well. Up through the inversion layer and into a stunning Central Otago Skyline. Another aspect of this run is that the number of photo’s taken/participant is quite high. It seemed like everyone made the most of the opportunity to explore and enjoy the surroundings.

Eventually we topped out at the Transmitter, 1000m climbed in 60 minutes (55 for the front bunch) with a 27 minute kilometer thrown in for good measure. The return on the first lap took us 6km down a good farm track through patches of snow drift to a spur with a direct line to the bottom. I ticked along down there at 4:00 min/km trying to take care of my legs for the 2nd half. The split from the track to the spur didn’t cause me any problem although it did for some others who may have run all the way to the bottom then joined the end of the 2nd lap. What caused me problem was following the spur and then coming to cliff straight ahead and to my left, so naturally I took the gentle open spur on the right only to have to re-climb it and find the notch in the cliff we were to go down. Oh well, 3 or 4 minutes wasn’t going to end my day. Then we got to the good stuff, straight down a rock face where catching a toe could see you pitch forward and freefall some distance to hopefully land in a patch of thyme rather than rock. Nigel from eyetoeye photography placed himself at the base and managed a few great shots of the scrambling required.

Matt getting ready to drop in. Photo- Eyetoeye-

Matt getting ready to drop in. Photo- Eyetoeye-

I bumped into Terry as I returned to the start/finish, “You’re a funny f…er Terry Davis”. He takes great pride it getting us to do things that others wouldn’t dream of putting on. I don’t think it concerns him at all that only 8 of us finished the full marathon. I think he’d be good at putting on a Barkley Marathons type event and try to break us one by one.

From the base we begin the 2nd climb that seems even steeper but eventually flattens out to only 25-30% instead of the 40-50% for the majority of it. Never have I been so happy to have a Suunto and watch the Altitude tick by in lots of 100m. This climb was the undoing of a few. I got off course at the top by good judgement had me follow the track knowing it would go to the Transmitter, but for our poor old English/Aussie/U168 mate it was the end of his day. Losing a heap of time he opted for the quad bike ride to the base so that he could get to Dunedin in time to watch the English lose to the AB’s. For me I got a time check to Grant half way up, it looked like he had 20+ minutes. At least I assumed it was Grant, it was just a person on the horizon. Turns out I lost 12 minutes on that climb but I’d expect that. 4km for that 1000m and with no one insight behind it was time for photo’s and a look around before the traverse across the tops and the long long run down to the Kawarau river. At which point Terry had clearly decided we’d seen enough track and pushed us across the side of a terrace with sore feet and through some lovely rosehip, thyme, matagouri and rock, all with a fast running finish just 50m away to right. So instead of 4:30/km I was reduced to 16-20 minute k’s.

I’m not sure that making the podium is much to claim when there are 8 finishers. But I’ll take it. I’m often told that by running in the hills I’m missing so much of their beauty. To that I say rubbish. By running in the hills I’ve been able to visit so many more places in the time I have available, especially with a young family. The 3:30am start was worth it, I got to see a great place and be home in time to enjoy Orienteering with Samantha who had dressed up like a Vampire.

An enormous thanks to Terry for giving us the opportunity to do something beyond the imagination of most. There was a great crew out on course, all very experienced themselves, making sure we got from A to B in some sort of order.

About Mouth of the South

Matt Bixley has written 24 .

Outspoken and opinionated- which is great cause we never have to guess what is on his mind. “The Mouth of the South” started his love of trail running with a 8hr+ Kepler in 2004. Since then he has run 220+km in 24hr while representing New Zealand and now has 5hr50, top 10 finish to his name. You can follow him HERE on his personal blog

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