Snow falling from the start of the 32.6km Routeburn Classic adventure run last weekend (Sat May 9) morning failed to deter more than 200 keen runners who lined up for the start of the epic event.
Far from it -- organiser Evan McWhirter of Good Times Events said they were "yahooing, whooping, skipping and dancing" as the starter"s gun sounded at The Divide, near Milford Sound, and snow started falling as if on cue.
In its sixth year, 205 hardy souls raced from one end to the other of the Routeburn Track, a high alpine track traversing Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park, one of New Zealand's World Heritage areas.
Last year's second place-getter Jacob Roberts, an experienced multisporter from Christchurch, shaved six minutes off last year's time to come in first overall in 2hrs 52mins 56sec to head the Peak Performers Men category, with Queenstown's Adrian Bailey second in 2:59:31. Auckland's Nick Hirschfeld came third in 3:02:24.
Roberts, 35, whose 'day job' is spent sitting in front of a computer at a Christchurch engineering company, said he was stoked to come in first.
"It's a fantastic race in a fantastic part of New Zealand," he said.
"The snow was all part of the adventure. Just being in the mountains, being in that remote part of New Zealand, is what it's all about."
Roberts said he and Queenstown runner Adrian Bailey ran the first 3km of the race together, but then he overtook him and didn't look back.
"Well I looked back quite a bit, actually, but I just kept going forwards!"
Multisport legend Richard Ussher, a previous four-time winner of the Routeburn Classic, pulled out of the event with just days to go, as did his wife Melina, last year's winner of the women's division.
That left the women's division wide open for the taking, leaving Kristina Crane of Auckland to come home in first place in a time of 3hrs 51 mins 01sec.
Louisa Davis of Queenstown was literally hot on her heels and home in a time of 3:51:58, followed by Laura Callahan from Invercargill in third in a time of 3:56:51.
Runners finished near Glenorchy with even the slowest competitors making the cut off and relatively few mishaps despite the conditions.
"The majority of the field would have 'sat down' at some point," said McWhirter. "At the top it was definitely cold, but there was no wind, and it was blue sky by the finish."
"We had a few sprained ankles, a few cuts and bruises, but everybody finished and everybody had a great time, that's why we're called Good Times Events! It's all about passion and enjoyment of the experience, and that includes the marshals on the course and the athletes."
"It's so rewarding when you have that sort of energy."
The Routeburn Classic is sponsored by sports apparel company 2XU (pronounced Two Times You), Outside Sports, Em's Power Cookies, Heritage Queenstown, Luxmore Hotel, Skyline Gondola, Restaurant and Luge, Rockgas, Speight's, Body Sanctum and Ultimate Hikes.
A prizegiving dinner at Skyline included a three-course dinner, live music and numerous spot prizes before the official prizegiving ceremony.
Queenstown competitor 'Podge' Cochrane and Greg Wilkinson of Cromwell were given Five Year Awards for successfully completing their fifth race.
Overall winner Jacob Roberts at the Harris Saddle. Picture: Magic Memories