General Info/FAQ

There are plenty of buses from Queenstown Airport to Cromwell daily. Click there.

Or rental cars. Click there

Cut off times – 25k – 5hrs

44k – 9hrs.

Mt Difficulty 2018 TU01M Cobalt Charcoal v3
Men’s 2018 top
Mt Difficulty 2018 TU01W Turq Charcoal
Women’s 2018 Top










Mid June is WINTER in New Zealand and especially so in Central Otago where we get the coldest winters in the country. One of our special characteristics is our frosty mornings followed by crisp, clear calm days. So it could well be below freezing (-5’C) for the race start, you’ll soon warm up on the climbs…  Might get up to 12-16’C later in the morning… or it could be windy/rainy/snowy. Those last three are the least likely but boy you’ll be in for an adventure if it is!


If conditions are such that it would be foolish to send you to the top of the mountain we can still do the most awesome sections of the climbs, just to a lower altitude. Don’t worry – a) it is extremely unlikely we will cancel, b) if we put you on the ‘low altitude’ course you will not be disappointed.

The serious stuff on this course is off track. There may be some sheep tracks but you’ll be following bright orange/red wide trail marking tape – there will be plenty so no reason to get lost. Most of the ‘gentler’ sections are following high country 4WD tracks, these are still mostly quite technical to run and there could easily be snow across sections of them.

MAKE SURE your shoes have good grip on them. This is not the race for one last outing with a favourite old pair of shoes – this is a very good excuse to buy a new pair!

There will be some food, water and electrolyte around the course but you should take extra nutrition and fluids with you! You may not be sweating too much because of the air temperature but in the up-hills you will be sweating plenty due to the effort!

Mt Difficulty Ascent – 44k full course description.
The course will be very well marked with bright red tape tied to white standards, on fence and on bushes… (see pic’s)
Start 8am at Mt Difficulty Winery. First 5km relatively flat along Fulton Road verge, Bannockburn Suicings and vineyards. Then you have your first ‘warm up’ over Nipple Hill. 240m up (non tracked or sheep tracks) and 270m down in 2km. There’s a section of a couple of hundred meters where the course is very steep, there is no track except for the regular red tape marking the way. This is your first ‘cautionary’ area where you will have to take care over where you put your feet and maybe use your hands too… there are plenty of other area’s to race ‘hard out’ – the 4 ‘cautionary’ sections must be approached with care that you don’t fall AND that you don’t loose rocks on those below you. The majority of loose rocks have been removed. We have set the course in such a way that should a rock start rolling it will angle away from the line of competitors below it. Regardless – the standard rule in the mountains is DO NOT ROLL ROCKS down.
6.5km First aid station. Medic, Water, RLine Electrolyte, BlueBird potato chips,  There are NO CUPs at aid stations. Marshals will help you fill your water bottles/bladders.
Next two ks are relatively flat again (undulating) along a 4WD track following the Kawarau River up-stream. Now the fun really begins. In the next one km you will climb 500m – this is where the event get’s it’s name, it is this and the next (for the Marathoners) ascent that sets this race apart from other events. An average of 50% over 500m vertical is bloody steep!! There are some sheep/goat tracks but you will just be following the red tape on the Matagouri bushes (You will not be getting too badly scratched up).
At the top of this climb there will be a Marshal and a photographer – no aid station. There is a water-race with good drinking water in it for a self re-fill. From here you follow the water race and a 4WD track that runs adjacent to it around the face of the mountain. There could be boggy area’s or snow so expect to get wet feet at this point. You are then back onto a good 4WD road for some fast down-hill for a couple of kms before getting directed off the road and onto a ridge. Initially you follow the fence then cross over the fence and continue to follow the ridge as it gets sharper and steeper before you come down another couple of hundred meters of ‘cautionary’ very steep face. There may be climbing rope in this area as a hand rail… more to keep you on course, NO need to be harnessed up and clipped on! Now you are back at first Aid station.

close up
The fun stuff

16km Second aid station. Medic, Water, RLine Electrolyte, BlueBird potato chips,  There are NO CUPs at aid stations. Marshals will help you fill your water bottles/bladders.
At this point the Half Marathoners follow the red tape on the fence to their right back to the finish at Mt Difficulty Vineyard. Course is undulating and back-tracks through the vineyards but follows a different and interesting trail through the Bannockburn Sluicings to the finish. Warm bread, soup and Pizza for you at the finish! Half Prize Giving 1pm.
For the Marathoners you will again run up-river for a couple of ks before starting your second ascent up a different ridge. This ascent will see you climb 1020m in just 3km of travel. That’s a good honest climb people. I don’t need to tell you to take it slowly because at that gradient there is no other way. Think 30-40min kms – hard to imagine isn’t it. So awesome.
You will need to take care, you will probably need to use your hands and your feet.
At the top of Mount Difficulty (yes, that is the actual name of the mountain) will be your next aid station.
20.5km Third aid station. Medic, Hot Milo, Water, RLine Electrolyte, BlueBird potato chips, There are NO CUPs at aid stations. Marshals will help you fill your water bottles/bladders.
This is where the bliss begins – for the next 7.5km you are traversing a gentle downward undulation along the top of the mountain – stunning views in all directions (clouds permitting). Grass/rock 4WD track, possibly covered in snow.

28km Fourth Aid Station. ‘Slapjack Saddle’ Medic, Water, RLine Electrolyte, BlueBird potato chips. There are NO CUPs at aid stations. Marshals will help you fill your water bottles/bladders.
The bliss is over for the next couple of kms as you climb again up – not steep compared with what you’ve done previously but steep enough that you will be ‘displeased’ with the race director. Then some nice brief downs followed by more up’s and you will be finding that special place you get to in some races where you are really starting to hate the race director. Just when you start fantasising about nasty names you’d like to call me you will come to another marshal and the start of the BIG DOWNHILL! Wooowhooo! Grass/rock 4WD track, possibly covered in snow.
35km Fifth Aid Station. Water, BlueBird potato chips.
The bliss returns! (So long as you’re not in too much pain) the next 8km are all downhill, (grass/rock 4WD track) nothing too steep, finishing with an interesting wee track through the Bannockburn Sluicings.
43-44ish… km Boom! Finish. Warm bread roll, soup, pizza on finish. Emmerson’s craft beer on tap! Jubilation and satisfaction in generous amounts… Prize giving 5pm.

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