Running the Major Mitchell Plateau

Distance: 20km (approx)
Duration: 3-4 hours running
Grade: Difficult
Type: Point to point. (Car drop-off recommended)
Start: Mt William Carpark
End: Jimmy Creek Campground
Location: Grampians National Park

Back in March 2016 Tom and I hiked the Major Mitchell Plateau. Little did I know that 2 1/2 years later I would be back, but running it.

I have had (crazy) ultra friends that have run it before, so I knew it was doable.  Yet it wasn’t until earlier this year when my friend Kayleen and her husband Mark ran it, that I thought “yeah I think I can do that too”.

On to the running bucket list, it went, thinking I would do it in 2019, little did I know that on the Melbourne Cup long weekend my trail training run saw me cross this one off the list.

With Goldfields Trail Run only a few weeks away, I took my long runs on the trails.  On this particular day, I had planned on doing the track I had done the week prior, as it had a similar elevation to that of my event.

While packing my kit the night before, Tom suggested running from Zumstein to Halls Gap. This too is on my run bucket list.  On further discussion, we decided that I should do the Plateau instead.

I studied Kayleen’s workout log and had a rough idea that it would take me 3-3:30 hours or so. I just had to be at the Jimmy Creek campground no later than 12:30, as Kayla had a dance rehearsal at 1 pm and needed hair and makeup done.

Tom dropped me off at the Mt William car park and I started my journey.

Grampians Peaks Trail

It was quite fresh, but I knew I would warm up.  I had my jacket, EPIRB, and medical kit stashed in my bag along with water and fuel.

On top of Mt William, it was cold and windy, only stayed up there to take a few photos before continuing on.

Upon reflection, it would have been better if I had worn a long sleeve top, as my arms were quite cold for the majority of the trek.

The temperature at Mt William on the day was the following:

Minimum – 3.8 °
Maximum – 14.1°
Max Wind Gust – 57 km/ph
Temp at 9 am – 7°

I’ll know for future reference to cross-check the weather forecast for Mt William.  As I was more dressed for running in Halls Gap/Stawell, where the temperature was a max of 20.6°.

Knowing I had a windproof/waterproof jacket in my pack if needed, I pushed on.

The track into Boundary Gap is extremely eroded and contains many jagged rocks and tree roots. Making this section of the trail extremely technical.  While the distance isn’t long (5km), it took me an hour to get from Mt William to the first hiker camp.

Ascending from Boundary Gap to the Plateau is now a much more pleasant experience, with stone staircases and stepping stones.  While still hard work, it is much less of a scramble.

Once on top, the views are just wondrous.

With stunning views of the Serra Range, it really is special.

There were many hikers out on the track because of the long weekend.  While they weren’t expecting a runner (and female one at that), the one thing we all had in common was the enjoyment of the views.

It took me just under an hour to travel the 5-ish km along the top of the Plateau to Durd-Durd.

The descent into Stockyard Saddle while only 1-ish km long still took me about 15 minutes to traverse. Since running this, I’ve been informed this section of the track has been updated, but at the time it was very much rock hopping and looking out for track markers (or rock cairns) to navigate.

Looking at my watch I knew I was cutting it fine, having to travel the last 7km in 40 minutes to get Kayla on time for her rehearsal. With this section all downhill I knew while I would be pushing it to do it in 40 minutes, I was going to give it a red hot go.

Some serious investment has been made in this part of the walking track, with stone steps, metal walkways, and track grading.

By this stage my legs were tired, and I knew I was going to have some serious DOMS the next day, but I knew how important dance is to my girl, so I pushed hard home flying down the revamped track, surprising a few hikers along the way.

Plugging in my earphones, I pressed play on my favourite playlist and powered on home. While I only listened to music for the last 10 minutes, it was the distraction I needed to get me to end.

Tom picked me up where the track meets the road, cutting out the last 1km or so to the campground.

Was Kayla late?

Yes, she was, by 10 minutes.  I felt bad, as I had to rush her hair and makeup.  It was passable, but I would have rather not rush it.

I’d like to do this again but in reverse. And yes I have already added it to my run bucket list.

Whether you run or hike the Major Mitchell Plateau, you won’t be disappointed, with 360 views and the new improvements to the track, it really will become an incredible experience for any trail runner or hiker.

Whether you run this on your own or with friends, I recommend the following Mandatory Gear.

Mandatory Gear for Major Mitchell Plateau

  • Mobile phone
    • While you will lose reception in some places, you will get moderate coverage on the Plateau
  • Water
  • Fuel
  • Medical Kit
  • Thermal long-sleeve top
  • Space blanket
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Beanie/headscarf/hat

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