The Malbunka Stage Descriptions

Covering longer distances each day and being more immersed in the landscape – the Malbunka is a more substantial journey appropriate for more experience (or more determined!) trail runners.

Stage summary:

  • Stage 1: 20km around Alice Springs > From the Old Telegraph Station to the Mercure
  • Stage 2: 41km from Simpson’s Gap > to Standley Chasm
  • Stage 3: 33km from Birthday Waterhole turn off > to Standley Chasm.
  • Stage 434km from Ochre Pits > to Ellery Creek Water Hole.

The Malbunka – STAGE 1

NEW STAGE for 2024 (“the reverse direction” of the Stage 1 from previous years).

Date:16 August 2024
Start location: The Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs
Finish location:The Mercure Hotel
Length:19.5km. Elevation: 202m up and 209m down.
Race start time:17:30
Water points:Approx 13.5km pt
Runners must start with a minimum of 750ml hydration with you
Cut off times:Start time + 2hrs 15min at the water point (13.5km pt)
Difficulty rating: Medium

Runners start just before sunset and then run through twilight and into darkness for the unique experience of running through the desert at night time, under a universe of stars and the outback world around you. All runners must start with a head torch that you can turn on when darkness descends (at 6:15pm).

The course starts amidst the ghost gums and the original Alice Spring at the Old Telegraph Station north of the township. The course follows a scenic route on some of the running and MTB trails that surround the town, including many spectacular sections providing views over the surroundings ranges as they are illuminated by the sunset light. Continuing into darkness, the stage finishes on the grass inside the Mercure Hotel.

These trails are not overly technical (with the exception of a couple of short sections), but they do have a great sense of ‘flow’ and will provide a terrific introduction to the Central Australian terrain you’ll enjoy over days to come.

The Telegraph Station is just 5km from the centre of Alice Springs and a shuttle bus will operate to the start line.

PUT THE MAPS ON YOUR PHONE: Scan the QR Code above (or CLICK HERE) to download the terrific CAPRA mapping app and receive the stage 1 map on your phone. (Follow the prompts to create an account and you’ll find the map in the app’s ‘Library’).


The Malbunka – STAGE 2

A very challenging but incredibly scenic run that links two of the MacDonnell Range’s most popular (and impressive) landmarks.

Date17 August, 2024
Start location:Simpsons Gap – 25mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Standley Chasm – 45mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:41km. 1,300m up and 1,075m down.
Race start time:06:40am
Water point:Runners must start with a minimum of 2lt hydration.
WP1 at 16km pt at Mulga Camp.
WP2 at 26km pt at the Jay Creek shelter. Runners must depart with a minimum of 3lt hydration
WP3 at the 34km pt at the western end of the on the ‘High Route’ ridgeline on. WP3 should be considered as an emergency water pt only, maximin 1lt per runner.
Cut off timesStart Time + 5hr45min at Jay Creek water point (26km pt)
Difficulty rating:Starts off easy and gradually increases in difficulty. Last 10km is very difficult and technical

Stage 2 starts on the dry river bed at picturesque Simpsons Gap. The course can basically be split into two halves, the first half through to water point 2 at the 26km point is quite flat and fast, providing comfortable running through open country and nice scenery.

The second half from the 26km point to the finish is a lot harder with some very technical running over rough ground and is significantly slower going than the first half. The course climbs to the top of the Chewings Range ridge line – providing some incredible views across Central Australia – before descending into a rough and scrambly valley that ultimately leads to the finish at the Standley Chasm café. The last 10km at least are very hard and provide slow going for even the strongest athletes.

The landscape, the views and the terrain are all absolutely spectacular from start to finish – this is the jewel stage for many runners.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Competitors please note this is the hardest stage of the event with long rocky sections providing slow going and many climbs and ascents that can prove tough in the heat – so please come prepared to embrace all elements the course throws at you.

PUT THE MAPS ON YOUR PHONE: Scan the QR Code above (or CLICK HERE) to download receive the stage 2 map into the Capra app.

This stage uses Larapinta Trail section numbers 2 and 3:

The Malbunka – STAGE 3

A spectacular stage that was first raced in 2021 and is often a highlight for many runners. It covers a very rugged and remote section of the Larapinta Trail, in some ways similar to Stage 2 (but a little bit easier).

Competitors are bused to the Start Line. The race moves HQ to Discovery parks Alice Springs.

Date18 August, 2024
Start location:Birthday Waterhole track / Red Centre Way road junction – 40mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Standley Chasm – 45mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:33km – elevation 870m up, 760m down
Race start time:7:20 am
Water point:WP1 at 14km point at Birthday Waterhole
Runners must depart WP1 with a minimum of 3lt of hydration
Cut off timesStart Time + 2hr30min at Birthday Waterhole (14km pt)
Difficulty rating:Starts off easy then has a steep climb in the middle. Medium / hard difficulty and technical

Runners commence at the Birthday Waterhole Track / Red Centre Way road junction and run for approx. 14km along the undulating 4WD track as it winds its way across the flats and crosses a few dry creeks before arriving at Birthday Creek Waterhole. This section is very runnable and rewarding as you make your way towards the ranges.

Past the water point the course picks up the Larapinta Trail and skirts the base of some ridges before a very steep and tough climb up to the iconic Brinkley Bluff – the course climbing 550m in just 3km as it zig-zags its way up the side of this steep ridge, passing many false summits and steep drops in the process. The views from the top make it well worth it as you are high up in the Chewings Ranges with views across the continent.

From the summit it is largely ‘all downhill’ for 10km to the finish line at the Standley Chasm café although the highly technical terrain and loose rock remains that makes it a taxing descent through Reveal Saddle and finish arch.

PUT THE MAPS ON YOUR PHONE: Scan the QR Code above (or CLICK HERE) to download receive the stage 3 map into the Capra app.

The Malbunka – STAGE 4

A scenic stage that was first raced in 2021, visiting one of the MacDonnell Ranges’ favourite lookouts before finish at its favourite water hole for a swim.

Date19 August, 2024
Start location:Ochre Pits – 1hr10mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Ellery Creek Waterhole – 1hr drive from Alice Springs
Length:34km – elevation: 1,000m up and 910m down
Race start time:7:00am
Water points:WP1 at Serpentine Chalet Dam 6km pt.
WP2 at Serpentine Gorge 21km pt
All runners must depart each water point with a minimum of 2lt water / hydration.
Cut off timesStart time + 4hr45min at WP2 at Serpentine Gorge
Difficulty rating:Medium – the last 10km is very technical and can be hot

The starts at the ancient Ochre Pits used by aboriginals as a quarry for their rock paintings and body art. Heading north for 3.5km runners then turn right (east) on the Larapinta Trail and continue along the undulating terrain as it flanks the ridges to go past Serpentine Chalet Dam at 6km mark. At the 9km the trail makes a sharp turn up as you climb to the spectacular Counts Point lookout on the ridgeline (runners complete a short 700m out and back to visit the lookout and get their name ticked off.)

The spectacular running continues along the ridgeline and then drops down to water point at Serpentine Gorge at 21km and continues along the undulating trail below the ridgeline to the ultimate finish line at the Ellery Creek Waterhole. This last section from WP2 to the finish is very harsh, sharp and rocky so you must keep concentrating all the way to the finish.

We will have a ‘beach party’ style set up at the waterhole with chairs, shade, music, food and drinks – and of course the magnificent waterhole to swim in – to help celebrate the end of Run Larapinta. It will be a finish line to remember!

PUT THE MAPS ON YOUR PHONE: Scan the QR Code above (or CLICK HERE) to download receive the stage 4 map into the Capra app.



All competitors MUST have the map for ALL 4 STAGES loaded into a mapping app on their phone. We recommend runners use the excellent CAPRA MAPS maps app that makes it easy to download the maps to your phone. Follow these steps:

  1. Download the CAPRA maps app and follow the prompts to create an account.
  2. Scan the QR code with your phone’s camera or search ‘Run Larapinta’ in the app and tap the event logo to open the collection.
  3. SAVE FOR OFF-LINE USAGE: Tap the Stage 1 you are running (eg. Malbunka or Namatjira) to open the info screen for that stage, then tap the 3 dots ‘…’ at the bottom right of the info screen, tap ‘Save for offline’
  4. Tap the ‘View Map Details’ button for that stage so you can see the map. Exit back out of this screen.
  5. Repeat point 3 and 4 for each stage you are running (ie. you need to save tap ‘Save for offline’ and open the map for each stage you are running).

NOTE the following regarding mandatory maps on your phone:

  • All stages must be saved for offline and visible as ‘Offline maps’ in your Profile at bottom right to pass mandatory gear check during registration.
  • We strongly recommend the Capra mapping app for all competitors, however we will also accept the courses being saved to other apps provided those apps work when out of phone reception (eg. Maps.ME, Guru and Gaia GPS). Having the courses saved solely on your watch is not sufficient.
  • You can also download the GPX files for each stage from Capra so you can import them into other mapping apps.


The Malbunka – Entry Qualifications

To be able to participate in any or all stages of the Malbunka, runners must have completed any one of the following between August 2022 and the 2024 race:

  1. A 50km trail running race OR
  2. A 100km trail running race OR
  3. A marathon in a time of under 4.5 hours (this may be a road or trail marathon on flat terrain)
  4. Previously completed the Malbunka at Run Larapinta 2018, 2019, 2021 or April/August 2022, August 2023

We have set in place these requirements to help ensure runners have the required skills and experience to complete the Malbunka stages safely and within the cut off times. You will be asked to provide a URL link to your race result as evidence of your satisfaction of these requirements during the online entry process (so have it handy when entering). If you have not yet completed these requirements but intend to do so before the Run Larapinta you can enter TBA in the field whilst entering and advise us at a later date.

UTMB qualifying race

2024: The Run Larapinta Stage Race – Malbunka is registered with the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) and will provide successful runners with ITRA points (to help runners qualify for large international races), and UTMB points as an official qualifying race for this iconic event:

Malbunka – 4 stage finishers receive:

The Malbunka course (4 stages) of Run Larapinta 2024 is with the UTMB as Index Race with a value of 3 points and is also awarded 3 ITRA points. For further information on UTMB click here.