The Malbunka Stage Descriptions

Listed below is a summary of the Malbunka (long course) stages for both April and August events. NOTE that stage 3 and 4 are different for each race.

APRIL EVENT course index:

  • 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 EVENT course index:

  • 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 from Ochre Pits to Ormiston Gorge
  • Stage 4: 46km from Redbank Gorge Ridge Campsite to Mt Sonder and Glen Helen

The Malbunka – STAGE 1 – April and August

This stage is the same for both April and August events.

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.  .

STAGE 1 MAP – CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED GOOGLE EARTH MAP

  

The Malbunka – STAGE 2 – April and August.

This stage is the same for both April and August events.

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:07:00
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 times12:00pm 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:

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED GOOGLE EARTH MAP

The Malbunka – STAGE 3 – April.

The details below summarise the Stage 3 course for the APRIL EVENT.

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 2021
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:07:00 – tbc
Water point:WP1 at 14km point at Birthday Waterhole
Runners must depart WP1 with a minimum of 3lt water with you
Cut off times9:00am at Birthday Waterhole (14km pt) – tbc
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 3 – August

The details below summarise the Stage 3 course for the AUGUST EVENT.

Stage 3 is easier and more runnable than stage 2 and provides a great sense of journey through the Heavitree Range.

Date:AUGUST EVENT: Saturday 28 August 2021
Start location:Ochre Pits – 1hr10mins drive from Alice Springs
Finish location:Ormiston Gorge Car Park – 1hr25mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:30.5km. Elevation: 860m up and 940m down
Race start time:07:30
Water point:One emergency water pt at 20km pt – max 1lt per person at this water point. Runners need to start with a minimum of 3lt.
Mandatory gearAll runners must start with a minimum of 3lt of hydration.
Cut off timesNo cut off on this stage
Difficulty rating:Medium – Hard

Stage 3 (August event) starts at the ancient Ochre Pits used by aboriginals as a quarry for their rock paintings and body art. Once under way the first 15km follows undulating terrain as you run through some large, U shapes valleys lined by cliffs on either side that provides some scenic but non-technical running.

At the 15km point the course climbs to the top of the ridge line for more expansive views across the Red Centre  and some remarkable running over rough ground, past a remote water point at the 20km mark. Once you’ve descended from the water point the course follows more undulating terrain, that can be hot if the sun is out, through open bushland through to the finish.

The terrain is very different to stage 2 and entire stages provides a great journey down the range.

  • This stage uses Larapinta Trail section number 9 (plus a bit at the start).
  • See the Section 9 details on the Larapinta Trail website (including maps, trail notes and more).

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED GOOGLE EARTH MAP  

The Malbunka – STAGE 4 – April

The details below summarise the Stage 4 course for the APRIL EVENT.

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, 2021
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:07:00am tbc
Water points:WP1 at Serpentine Chalet Dam 6km pt.
WP2 at Serpentine Gorge 19km pt
Cut off times11:00am at Serpentine Gorge – tbc
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!

The Malbunka – STAGE 4 – August

The details below summarise the Stage 4 course for the AUGUST EVENT.

The final stage is the longest and the highest of all the stages and provides a fitting end to a fantastic few days of running.

DateAUGUST EVENT: Sunday 29th August, 2021
Start location:Redbank Gorge Ridge Campsite – 1hr45mins drive from Alice Springs, 25mins from Glen Helen
Finish location:Glen Helen Homestead – 1hr20mins drive from Alice Springs
Length:46km. Elevation: 1,365m up and 1,435m down
Race start time:06:00am
Water points: WP1 Redbank Gorge at 16km point and Rocky Bar Gap at 28km point. Runners must depart Rocky Bar Gap with a minimum of 3L of water.
Cut off times11:45am at Rocky Bar Gap water point (28km pt)
Difficulty rating:Hard – Large elevation gains plus some mildly technical terrain

The final stage starts in darkness at 6:00am to avoid the heat in the middle of the day and to provide the breathtaking experience of being out for sunrise in the desert sky. 

Runners commence with an out and back ascent of Mt Sonder – the NT’s 4th highest mountain. Its an 8km and 700m climb from the start to the summit with the steepest terrain at the start before a flatter section to the top.

Once descended, runners turn left and head along the Larapinta Trail towards Glen Helen, skirting the south flank of Mt Sonder with the trail providing some good running over non-technical terrain.

The course through to the finish includes numerous highlights, including Rocky Bar Gap and the water point and more lofty views from ‘Hilltop Lookout’ before a flat / hot section across the plains to the finish at the Finke River water hole at Glen Helen for a well-earned swim and a drink from the bar.

Congratulations, you’ve just completed The Malbunka at the Run Larapinta Stage Race!

This stage uses Larapinta Trail section numbers 11 and 12:

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILED GOOGLE EARTH MAP

 

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.


GPS Course file – RECOMMENDED FOR ALL COMPETITORS

CLICK HERE to download a GPS file for all courses that you can import into your own device.

This link downloads a KML 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!).