Photo credit: Rob Howard

Racing is underway at the world’s largest expedition-length adventure race and New Zealand’s premier adventure event, GODZone.

A powerful contingent of 52 adventure racing teams crossed the start line at Fantail Falls beside the famous Haast Pass Rd near Wanaka at 8 0 clock this morning.

Competitors jostled for position directly in front of the falls before they careened up stream and into a steep bush clad track towards Mt Brewster Hut. The first stage of the 560km adventure race is a mountaineering section where teams will traverse Mt Brewster Glacier in the north west of Mt Aspiring National Park before heading back down to Makarora River in the valley below.

The 22 km leg is expected to take the teams between seven and ten hours to complete and Race Director Warren Bates says it will be technically challenging for many of the competitors.

“  We have Whit Thurlow and his team from Mt Aspiring Guides managing the glacier trek today and some of the teams who have not spent much time on ice will find this section quite thrilling. Its a hugely spectacular mountainous area.”

The expedition length course was only unveiled to teams in the early hours of this morning at Lake Hawea hall where they got their first glimpse of what lies ahead over the next 4 – 7 days.

“ There are a total of nine stages starting with the trek over Mt Brewster, then a 22km paddle down the Makarora River, a 56km trek over the Albert Burn trek and then a 41km paddle and coasteering section on the Matukituki River,” says Bates.

From there, the teams will bike over the Criffel Range to Lake Wakatipu for a kayak to Kingston before trekking over the Garvie Mountain Range. A specialist orienteering course set up by leading orienteer Bruce McLeod has been set at Piano Flat near Waikaia that Bates says will be a significant mental challenge for the teams at this stage of the race.

The course then heads back towards Wanaka over the Old Man Range to finish with a paddle across Lake Wanaka to the finish line near the waterfront.

In a new twist teams only received half of their GODZone course maps with directions to mandatory checkpoints and transition areas for the first 150kms.

“ This adds another dimension because teams will have to bike into race HQ in downtown Wanaka at a certain point of the race to pick up the rest of their maps. For the top teams who have some of the worlds best navigators it might not mean much but for later teams it could be the crucial point affecting their pre planning.”
The first teams to cross the finish line are expected to take three to four days while the middle and back teams have until Saturday 7th March to complete the course.

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