The following article first appeared on Ultra168
Overcast skies promised rain at some time during the day as a small group of us gathered to collect our race numbers. Nervous greetings, handshakes and looming above us in the background was today’s challenge – Mount Cooroora.
Famous for the Pomona King of the Mountain festival held in July each year, the 439m high volcanic plug was today hosting a very different event. It wasn’t going to be a race for time, as we knew how long it would be. It was going to be a case of how many times could we scale the mountain and come back down again. No one really knew. Sure we had an idea but this was the inaugural event so everyone of us was taking a step into the unknown and that was part of the appeal.
The field was small enough that we could all introduce ourselves to each other before the start. It gave the entire day a familiar and friendly feel. Tony Jennings, the race organiser gave a short race briefing and with a low-key start we set off on our 8-hour adventure.
We started climbing immediately. Not the crawling and scrambling with hands stuff, no, that would come soon enough. For now it was hands on legs, back slightly bent and up we go.
The trail meanders a little and drops steeply downwards over a small timber bridge before climbing again over rocks, tree roots and boulders. It didn’t take too long before the trail delivered us to the base of the galvanised steel stairs. The field was mostly walking or hiking, a few had decided to run a little when possible. But here, at the base of the steps is where it really starts, the steep climb to the summit. There will be no more running from here. Within the first kilometre we had already climbed vertically over 260 metres, by the top that would increase to over 340 metres in just a bit over one kilometre.
From the base of the steps it just gets steeper. Stairs and chain provide help in the early stages and then its just the chain and finally, like a cruel twist, its a pure scramble up the rock face using hands and feet. This is a mountain that never gets easier. There is no flat section easing onto the summit. In fact the scramble tends to focus your attention onto hand positions and foot holds and suddenly the summit shows itself only when you’re already on the top.
The first 4 hours saw the rain constantly increasing and at times small waterfalls developed over the rock faces, adding to the challenge and in a way, to the beauty of the event. The mountain can be slippery even in the dry weather with light coatings of dust over the rock faces, but today the rain and flowing water washed the rock clean as we climbed upwards on each lap into the low-lying clouds.
Early in the race Justin Ryan, Jason Collet and Cheryl Davis would take the lead, with all three powering through the wet conditions. The lead would change between Justin and Jason a few times but the two of them would dominate the entire event. Each lap would see them pulling away from the rest of the field with Cheryl in hot pursuit. In fact Cheryl’s utter determination and grit would shine throughout the entire 8 hours.
Each lap was just over 2 km and by day’s end the the eventual winner, Justin Ryan would climb an astounding 4000 metres over a distance of only 25km, in which almost half of that is scrambling or sliding down in a somewhat controlled fashion. The real bonus however was that our race entry fees would benefit the lives of chronically sick kids and their families, through the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Humpty Dumpty Foundation. So not only is this a unique and absolutely challenging event, organised well with some of the most friendly volunteers you’ll ever come across, your hard earned cash is going to a great cause.
If 8 hours seems too long, worry not, as there is also a 4-hour event which was won by Trevor Allen, a five-time Coast to Kosiosko veteran.