Alpine Quest

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Epic and Alpine Battle at Omeo Valley

Press Release / 17.11.2022See All Event Posts Follow Event
Racing Alpine Quest
Racing Alpine Quest / ©

The first two teams finished within 1 minute of each other at the end of a 200 km course in this weekend’s adventure race, Alpine Quest.

Over 11-13 November, teams of four packrafted, trekked and mountain biked their way through Australia’s toughest 48 hour course, set in the mountainous Omeo region of East Gippsland. 

Head to Head to the Finish

Defending champions Alpine Avengers (Liz Dornom, Klayten Smith, Angus Rodwell and Jarad Kohlar) and Epic Medllers – all girls team (Kathryn Preston, Shelley Bambrook, Eibhlin Fletcher and Deanna Blegg) were chasing each other for more than 30 hours, before taking the last checkpoint together and sprinting to the finish line to determine the winner of Alpine Quest 2022.

There was everything even the pickiest adventure racer might want in an adventure race; spectacular and steep mountains, fast- flowing rivers, challenging navigation, breathtaking panoramic views, competitive spirit, comradeship, and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the finish line glory.  

Challenges for the Race Organisers

On top of recent fires and the pandemic, there were floods and landslides last month that caused major course changes at the last minute. The weather forecasts predicted approaching thunderstorms and all sorts of disasters to go with it. Nevertheless, the race went ahead despite it all and, except for some teams with feet issues, everyone finished safe and happy.

The Start

The race started with a beautiful sunrise in historical Omeo town. The HQ choice was selected for its close proximity to all the natural attractions required by adventure racing format - Alpine National Park, with a unique fast-flowing river system and, of course, mountains.

The first leg was a fast-paced rogaining loop set in the historic Oriental Claims area just off the town centre. There were 8 CPs to collect in any order and teams took different routes to get them. It was team Adventure Junkies and the all-ladies team, Epic Meddlers led by elite orienteerer Kathryn Preston, who came first in this leg to quickly pick the mountain bike gear and proceed to the second MTB leg.

The second leg took teams for a ride across the Splitters Ranges State Forest. Relatively basic navigation was complemented by a few steep hills to negotiate. The defending champions Alpine Avengers took the lead by the end of this leg.

MTB Omeo Valley

Quickly they changed into their trekking gear and took off to the following leg - foot rogaine called Three Sisters (rogaine was set up on the range called Three Sisters). However, their lead was not long held after spending 15 minutes looking for a first checkpoint in the wrong spur, the girls’ team then jumped in front again gaining a significant advantage by the end of the leg after immaculate, spot-on navigation.

With all checkpoints placed off-road, the race organisers designed this leg as a major navigational highlight that would allow teams with outstanding navigators to gain some advantage. All checkpoints were optional and a 1 hour bonus was awarded for each of them.

Teams took different strategies during this leg. Some took a conservative approach, risking the potential of getting into a dark zone for the river paddle later on. Others pushed it hard to the limit, like Peak Adventure Allies, getting as much done as possible and arriving to the river just in time.

After the rogaine teams then had a quick but spectacular ride across the valley to the start of the paddle.

The Paddle Leg

The start of the paddling leg was at Hinnomunjie Bridge, another historic highlight of the course. It is historically significant as being one of the five known existing timber truss bridges in Victoria, and one of only two multiple trusses.

The 20 km paddling section on Mitta Mitta River was another the course highlight in the current, near flood conditions. The fast flowing water of the 1+ and 2 grade rapids delivered a lot of thrills. Although, this river leg was still only an introduction to what was ahead the next day.

All teams were required to be off the water by 8:30 and they successfully completed the paddle.

Alpine Voyage  

The Epic Meddlers were the first to start the gruelling trekking section, Alpine Voyage. This leg was both physically and mentally the most demanding in this course. While the majority of the section teams walked along the tracks, the checkpoints were mainly set off-road, with some route options to choose from and some navigational challenges to overcome.

Now it was Alpine Avengers turn to shine, as their route choice in the first section appeared to be faster when they went on a major off-road crossing instead of following the trail option as the Epic Meddlers did.

Then both teams were together again and trekked as a team of 8 all the way to the Big River.

While the leading teams were trekking for around 12 hours, it took 20 hours for the less experienced teams to complete this leg.  Wet conditions and long hours put a lot of pressure on feet and there were a few teams who lost members closer to the end of the leg.  

Mitta Mitta is Australia's Classic River  

The two leading teams took advantage of the dark zone rest of 1 hour 15 minutes. The race restarted for these teams at 5:15, when they received packraft bags and the gear box. At 6:00 they set off to what was described as the most amazing downriver paddle section. River levels were high and water was flowing fast. 15km of constant grade 1 rapids were split by two major rapids – the Jocker 2+ and the Pinball - grade 3. Both rapids were advised to be portaged, however leading teams made a choice to paddle down. 

It took the two leading teams 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the section, while the rest of the pack were starting from the Big River camp ground throughout the day until 18:00pm. The final team that made cut off to the paddle section was Peak Adventure Allies. Their journey was supported by professional kayaker Daniel Sherwin - and lucky it was.

The first double, Ed and Taryn made it down the Pinball, however the second double, John and Gavin, were pinned to a large rock at the entry and kayakers swapped the whole grade 3 section down along with their paddles, backpacks and the packraft. A successful rescue pulled together by Daniel, Ed and Taryn had everyone back in place 10 minutes later, albeit with one paddle. The group successfully navigated the final 3km of the river to the TA.

To the Finish

The last two legs were trekking to the spectacular mountain top and riding through sections of Alpine National Park and some farmlands.

Avengers took off first for the last leg but another navigational mistake threw them back behind the girls again. After another recovery there they were at the top of the hill’s second last checkpoint, but while looking for it, Epic Meddlers came and instantly took it. Crazy downhill riding had teams still together at the last checkpoint. The bikes were thrown over the fence when both teams went where they were not supposed to go (the area was not marked out of bounds) and then sprinted to the finish line. Avengers put the hammer down and got first to the finish line, making it there with no mistakes, across the town’s street to the race HQ at the historical park.

It's not over till it's over

While the first teams completed the race by the lunchtime in the sunshine, there were teams battling it through the following night in the pouring rain and thunderstorms.

The very last team to finish was team Lost in Chafe. The Team showed incredible determination and grit, making it almost to the finish when they were cut off by the flash flooding at Livingstone creek just 2 km before the finish line. They had to be driven around for 1.5 hours to get across the flooded creek but they did not give up and finished their epic journey. Everyone was cheering them on at the finish line when they opened their well-deserved champagne and celebrated their incredible racing. 

See All Stories On This Race

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