The Malbunka Stage Descriptions

Malbunka Course Descriptions

Listed below is a summary of the Malbunka (long course) stages. Index:

  • Stage 1: 19.5km 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: 45km from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder and Glen Helen


The Malbunka - STAGE 1

The Run Larapinta Stage Race starts with a unique stage as run through sunset into a night time finish under lights. This is an incredible experience for all runners as you race through the desert with a million stars overhead and a beautiful trail under foot.

Date: Friday 16 August, 2019
Start location: The Mercure Alice Springs Resort
Finish location: The Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs
Length: 19.5km. Elevation: 200m up and 200m down.
Race start time: 17:00
Water points: Approx 12km pt
Course record: 1:19:02 Felix Webber and 1:29:39 Hanny Allston
Cut off times: All runners must pass the water point (12km pt) by 6:45pm
Difficulty rating:  Medium

Stage 1 commences at 5:00pm (allowing you to fly into Alice Springs that day and still race) and follows a scenic route around the perimeter of Alice Springs on some of the running and riding trails that surround the town. These trails are not overly technical, 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 race will also provide the incredible 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) that provides yet another spectacle as you see runners ahead and behind you weaving along the trail under the guide of their lights. This will be an incredible race experience.

The stage finishes in the grounds of the Old Telegraph Station where the finish chute is lined with silent Ghost Gums and the mighty Todd River (dry!), providing a memorable finale to the first stage of racing.

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 a great deal of the 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.

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 proove tough in the heat - so please come prepared to embrace all elements the course throws at you.

Date Saturday 17 August, 2019
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 and WP2 at 28km point 2kms south of Jay Creek. Runners must depart WP2 with a minumum of 3lt water with you
Course records:
4:23:58 Felix Webber and 4:53:34 Hanny Allston
Cut off times All runners must have departed the Fish Hole water point (28km pt) by 12:00 midday
Difficulty rating: Starts off easy and gradually increases in difficulty. Last 10km is very difficult and technical


The trail starts out quite flat and fast, making for comfortable running pretty much through to Jay Creek at the 25km point. Along the way it passes through a couple of picturesque water holes and small gorges, Spring Gap being a highlight with its stunning waterhole and reflections of the twisted gums and red cliffs flanking it’s edges.

After Jay Creek runners turn left and go through the Fish Hole gorge 400m after which you come to the 2nd water point at the 28km mark.This is the cut off location and runners must have left by 12:00pm and all runners must depart WP2 with a minumum of 3lt water with you.

The last third – or 14km is the crux of the stage (the most difficult), whilst also providing some of the most spectacular running of the entire race. Runners will pass through the Fish Hole gorge and then come to the 2nd water point (located 2kms south of Jay Ck). Approx 4km later runners turn right onto the ‘Alternate High Route’ that will take you to a magnificent ridge top section high in the Chewings Range. The climb to the ridge top is very hard being steep, rocky and hot, but once atop the ridge you’ll want to pause to take in the breath taking views in all directions.

Descending from the ridge is also quite challenging yet exciting as you scramble through Fig Spring down to the valley bottom. The trail from here through to the finish is also very rough and technical with several short scrambles up / over bounders and technical terrain - please be prepared as it includes a lot of rocky sections and is slow going for all competitors, making the finish line at adjacent the Standley Chasm cafe a very welcoming sight!.

This stage uses Larapinta Trail section numbers 2 and 3:






Stage 3 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. It is far more runnable than stage 2 but still includes some solid climbs and technical sections.

Date: Sunday 18 August, 2019
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: There is one small water pt at the 20km pt with water that we have helicoptered in - max 1lt per person at this water point. Runners need to start with a minimum of 3lt.
Mandatory gear All Malbunka runners must start stage 3 with a minimum of 3lt of hydration - we will check all runners at the start. No 3lt water = no start. (NOTE: there is no water at the Ochre Pits start line so please fill up in Alice Springs)
Course records:  
2:58:32 Felix Weber  and 3:19:45 Hanny Allston
Cut off times No cut off on this stage
Difficulty rating: Medium - Hard

Almost immediately after starting runners pass through ancient ochre pits used by aboriginals for their rock paintings and body art. Keep running and soon runners head through the impressive Inarlunga pass with its amazing cycads and lush growth acting as an oasis in the harsh rocky environment around it. Through the pass and the course moves through some long, wide valleys that are almost akin to an alpine landscape with its U-shaped bowls and rocky ridge lines high above – just watch the heat as it can get a bit hot in here.

Continue through Waterfall Gorge and the trail turns for the sky and climbs up to the top of the Heavitree Gap Range for yet more magnificent views of the centre of Australia with views extending in several hundred kilometres in all directions. Continue along the ridge line to the water point located at the western end of the ridge before descending to 'Base of Hill'. It is quite flat and featureless from here through to the finish at Ormiston Gorge that provides some great views of Mt Sonder (which you tackle tomorrow!).

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).






The final stage is certainly the longest and the highest of all the stages and provides a fitting end to a fantastic few days of running. It often gets hard, hot and thirsty in the closing stages so be prepared and pace yourself well.

Date Monday 19 August, 2019
Start location: Redbank Gorge – 1hr45mins drive from Alice Springs, 25mins from Glen Helen
Finish location: Glen Helen Homestead - 1hr20mins drive from Alice Springs
Length: 45km. Elevation: 1,365m up and 1,435m down
Race start time: 06:00am
Water points: Redbank Gorge at 15km point and Rocky Bar Gap at 27km point
Course records:  
4:18:09 Paul Munro and 4:51:26 Hanny Allston
Cut off times All runners must have departed the Rocky Bar Gap water point (28km pt) by 12:30pm
Difficulty rating: Hard – Large elevation gains plus some mildly technical terrain

The final stage of The Malbunka 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. 

The stage commence with an out and back run to the summit of Mt Sonder – the Northern Territory's 4th highest mountain at 1380m above sea level (the start is at 700m). The climb starts out quite steeply to ‘The saddle’ before levelling out a little into a gradual climb for 5km to the summit. This upper section is runnable for strong athletes (especially on the way down!) and provides increasingly beautiful views the higher up you go. High five the marshal at the top and then return back down the same route to then turn left and continue east on the Trail towards Glen Helen.

The trail then skirts the south flank of Mt Sonder and makes for good running as it’s flat and on good, non-technical crushed rock terrain. Pass through Rocky Bar Gap and be wowed by the panoramas along the next section that provides spectacular views of Mt Sonder’s east face (and revel in the fact that you “were just up there”!).

Soon after is a sharp climb up to ‘Hilltop Lookout’ for more views of the world around us and then down a knee knocking descent back to the plains. From here to the finish runners will be gunning for home along a flat, and sometimes sandy trail that leads you to the finish line at the Glen Helen Resort on the banks of the Finke River. It can get hot and hard across here as your legs start to feel-the-burn but the lure of the finish line draws you forward.

Cross the finish line and collapse after an incredible week or head to the water hole for a swim or to the bar for very well earned drink.

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

This stage uses Larapinta Trail section numbers 11 and 12:




UTMB qualifying race

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.



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)


For exclusive offers and updates

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign Up

© 2019 Rapid Ascent. All rights reserved.