The Malbunka Stage Descriptions

Listed below is a summary of the Malbunka stages for the 2021 event.

  • 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.

The Malbunka – STAGE 1

Date:APRIL EVENT: Wednesday 21 April 2021
AUGUST EVENT: Thursday 26 August 2021
Start location: The Mercure Alice Springs Resort
Finish location:The Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs
Length:20km. Elevation: 220m up and 220m down.
Race start time:17:00
Water points:Approx 12km pt
Cut off times:6:45pm 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

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

DateAPRIL EVENT: Thursday 22 April 2021
AUGUST EVENT: Friday 27 August 2021
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 times12:30pm 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 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:


The Malbunka – STAGE 3

This is a new stage over a very rugged and spectacular section of the Larapinta Trail, in some ways similar to stage 2 (but a little bit easier).

DateAPRIL EVENT: Friday 23 April
AUGUST EVENT: Saturday 28 August
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:31.2km. 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 times10:00am 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. 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.

The Malbunka – STAGE 4

This new Stage 4 covers some great terrain, visiting one of the MacDonnell Ranges’ favourite lookouts before finish at its favourite water hole for a swim.

DateAPRIL EVENT: Saturday 24th April
AUGUST EVENT: Sunday 29 August
Start location:Ochre Pits – 1hr10mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Ellery Creek Waterhole – 1hr drive from Alice Springs
Length:32km. 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 19km pt
Cut off times11:45am 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 ~19km and continues along the undulating trail below the ridgeline to the ultimate finish line at the Ellery Creek Waterhole.

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 2021 Run Larapinta. It will be a finish line to remember!


  • 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:

  • ITRA rating: 3 Endurance Points, 3 Mountain Points and Finisher Rating of 250.
  • UTMB points: 3 Points (new system).

For further information on what the ITRA points mean click here and for more information on the UTMB (Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc) click here.