The Malbunka Stage Descriptions

The courses for the April vs the August events are quite similar: Stage 1 and 2 are the same but stages 3 and 4 are different. The description of both events is detailed below.

APRIL 2022: Malbunka Stages – Long Course Summary:

  • Stage 1: 20km around Alice Springs > to the Old Telegraph Station
  • Stage 2: 41km from Simpson’s Gap > to Standley Chasm
  • Stage 3: 31km from Birthday Waterhole turn off > to Standley Chasm.
  • Stage 4: 32km from Ochre Pits > to Ellery Creek Water Hole.


AUGUST 2022: Malbunka Stages – Long Course Summary:

Entries to the August event have SOLD OUT – entry wait list enacted.

August event incorporates a stay at the Glen Helen Outback Lodge for Day 3 and 4

  • Stage 1: 20km around Alice Springs > to the Old Telegraph Station.
  • Stage 2: 41km from Simpson’s gap > to Standley Chasm.
  • Stage 3: 30.5km Ochre Pits > to Ormiston Gorge (stay at Glen Helen)
  • Stage 446km Redbank Gorge (via Mt Sonder) > to Glen Helen (stay at Glen Helen)

The Malbunka – STAGE 1 – April AND August

Date:APRIL: Friday 22 April, 2022
AUGUST: Friday 12 August, 2022
Start location: Botanical Gardens
Finish location:The Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs
Length:20km. Elevation: 220m up and 220m down.
Race start time:17:30
Water points:Approx 12km pt
Cut off times:Start time 2hrs at the water point (12km 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 follows a scenic route around the perimeter of Alice Springs on some of the running and MTB trails that surround the town, and finishes in the grass parklands of the Old Telegraph Station where the finish chute it lined by hisoric Ghost Gums.

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 making for an easy transfer back to your hotel (warm down jog?).


Please note, Stage 1 of the Malbunka and the Namatjira are not on much of the actual Larapinta Trail but alternative trails that provide a terrific introduction close to Alice Springs.  .


The Malbunka – STAGE 2 – April AND August

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

DateAPRIL: Saturday 23 April, 2022
AUGUST: Saturday 13 August, 2022
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:06:45
Water point:WP1 at 16km point at Mulga Camp
WP2 at 28km point 2kms south of Jay Creek.
Runners must depart WP2 with a minimum of 3lt water with you
Cut off timesStart Time + 6hr15min at Fish Hole water point (28km 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 25km point is quite flat and fast, providing comfortable running through open country and nice scenery.

The second half from the 28km 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 spectacularfrom 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.

This stage uses Larapinta Trail section numbers 2 and 3:


  • Alternate Stage 2 Map View in JPEG – Map A – Click Here
  • Alternate Stage 2 Map View in JPEG – Map B – Click Here
  • Alternate Stage 2 Map View in Google Earth – Click Here

The Malbunka – STAGE 3 – APRIL only

This is a new stage that was first raced in April 2021. It covers a very rugged and spectacular section of the Larapinta Trail, in some ways similar to stage 2 (but a little bit easier).

DateAPRIL only: Sunday 24 April, 2022
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. 870m up and 760m down.
Race start time:07:30
Water point:WP1 at 14km point at Birthday Waterhole
Runners must depart WP1 with a minimum of 3lt water with you
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

April Stage 3 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 and the water point. 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.


  • Alternate Stage 3 APRIL Map View in JPEG – Click Here

The Malbunka – STAGE 4 – APRIL only

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

Date APRIL only: Monday 25 April, 2022
Start location:Ochre Pits – 1hr10mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Ellery Creek Waterhole – 1hr drive from Alice Springs
Length:34km. Elevation: 830m up and 910m down
Race start time:08:00am tbc
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 – it can get hot during the later stages

Stage 4 (April event) 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 the now 2022 Run Larapinta in April. It will be a finish line to remember!


  • Alternate Stage 4 APRIL Map View in JPEG – Click Here

The Malbunka – STAGE 3 – AUGUST only

Stage 3 August provides a great sense of journey as runners complete a very linear run through long sections of the Heavitree Range from the historic Ochre Pits to the dazzling Ormiston Gorge.

Competitors are bused to the Start Line. The race moves HQ to Glen Helen.

DateAUGUST only: Sunday 14 August, 2022
Start location:Ochre Pits car park – 1 hour 10mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Ormiston Gorge car park – 20mins from Glen Helen or 1 hour 25mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:30.5km – elevation 860m up, 940m down
Race start time:07:30
Water point:WP1 at 19.5km point (water is flown in by helicopter)
Runners must start Stage 3 with a minimum of 3lt of hydration
Cut off timesThere are no cut off times because there are no exit routes for this course. If you strart you must finish under your own steam.
Difficulty rating:Medium / hard difficulty and technical

August Stage 3 starts in the Ochre Pits and straight after starting runners pass through ancient ochre pits used by Aboriginals for their rock paintings and body art. Continue on the trail for 4km to Inarlunga Pass and the main Larapinta Trail where runners turn left to continue through the spectacular pass (with its impressive cycads and lush growth) before emerging in some long, U-shaped valleys lined with cliffs and rocky ridge lines above. Watch the heat in these valleys as it can get hot in here.

Continue through Waterfall Gorge (dry – no water) where the trail turns for the sky and climbs up a zig zag route to the top of the Heavitree Range for a magnificent view across the Red Centre. Note: there is phone reception at the top of this climb.

Run west along the ridge top and at the far (western end) is the emergency water point and marshal (19.5km) where you may collect a maximum of 1lt of water per person. Descend from the water pt but watch your footing as it gets rockier towards the bottom and then continue along the trail on a fairly featureless 9km stretch through to the Ormiston Gorge visitor centre. Follow the Rapid Ascent arrows and course markings through to the finish line in the western part of the car park.


  • Alternate Stage 3 AUGUST Map View in JPEG – Map A – Click Here
  • Alternate Stage 3 AUGUST Map View in JPEG – Map B – Click Here

The Malbunka – STAGE 4 – AUGUST only

The final stage in August 2022 is the longest and the highest of all the stages and provides a fitting end to a fantastic few days of running. Based out of Glen Helen.

Date AUGUST only: Monday 15 August, 2022
Start location:Redbank Gorge (via Mt Sonder) – 25mins from Glen Helen or 1hr45mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Glen Helen outback lodge – 1hr 20mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:46km – elevation: 1,400m up and 1460m down
Race start time:06:00am
Water points:WP1 Mt Sonder base 17km pt
WP2 Rocky Bar Gap at 28km pt
Runners must start with min 1lt hydration; and must depart WP2 with min 3lt hydration.
Cut off timesStart time + 5hr 45 at WP2 at Rocky Bar Gap
Difficulty rating:Hard – Large elevation gains plus some mildly technical terrain

Stage 4 (August 2022) starts in the dark so must have a head torch with you. The stage starts with an out and back run to the summit of Mt Sonder – the Northern Territory’s 4th highest mountain at 1,380m above sea level (680m climb). The climb is quite steep to ‘The Saddle’ at the 3.5km pt before levelling out to a gradual climb to the summit at the 9km mark. This upper section is quite runnable and provides increasingly beautiful views the higher up you go. Make sure the marshal at the top records your number and then return back down the same route.

WP1 is at the base of Mt Sonder so refill your bladders / bottles after the descent and then turn left to continue in an easterly direction along the Larapinta Trail. The trail skirts the south flank of Mt Sonder and makes for good running through to WP2 at Rocky Bar Gap (29km pt) where we will have a marshal, water and vehicle.

Approximately 3km after WP2 is a sharp climb up to ‘Hilltop Lookout’ for more views of the spectacular surroundings. After the summit is a steep switch-back descent back to the plains along a pretty flat and sometimes sandy trail heading south east. At the Glen Helen Junction at the 41km point runners turn right to follow the marked trail to the sealed Namatjira Drive and then follow the Rapid Ascent course arrows down the sealed road to Glen Helen and then around the front of the lodges to the finish line in front of the Glen Helen homestead on the banks of the Finke River.

Cross the finish line and collapse after an incredible 4 days of running or head to the water hole for a swim or to the bar for very well earned drink! Either way, you’ve just completed the August 2022 Run Larapinta Stage Race – CONGRATULATIONS!


  • Alternate Stage 4 AUGUST Map View in JPEG – Click Here


  • CLICK HERE to download a GPS file for all courses that you can import into your own device. Please note the Malbunka Stage is shown in red.
  • This link downloads a KMZ file to your phone / computer that can be used to help navigate the course during racing. It can be used on your GPS watch or mapping app on your phone (CLICK HERE for instructions how to download this to your phone and use it on the free mapping app MapsMe – our recommended app!).


UTMB qualifying race

2021: 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 2021 is with the UTMB as an official qualifying race for the UTMB World Series with a value of 3 points and is also awarded 3 ITRA points. For further information on UTMB click here.