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1985 Race reports

BOGONG - HOTHAM RUN by Robin Rishworth January 1986

The terrain between the two peaks of Mt. Bogong and Mt. Hotham is often frequented by ski tourers and bushwalkers.  Over the years the more adventurous have combined this into a continuous trip of several days, while those more intent on torturing themselves have attempted it in a single day, covering over 60 kilometres, climbing 3250 metres and descending 1930 metres.

Charles Derrick an excellent cross country skier is one person who failed to complete the journey, he died of exposure when he encountered a blizzard near Mt. Hotham.  Even on a fine sunny day the  weather can change very quickly and visibility be reduced down to only a few metres.

Several runners have attempted the journey over the years with varying success.  Danny Flynn and Clive Vogel completed the distance in 8 hours 15 minutes.  This record stood for over ten years up until Neil Hooper slashed this record on the first official race conducted in December 1984 which attracted five starters.  Only two completed the tough course, three runners withdrew pretty well exhausted.  Neil ran the distance an amazing hour quicker than the previous record in 7 hours 14 minutes.

Following the success of the '84 run, enough interest was aroused for another run at the same time of the year in 1985.  Several months planning resulted in increased safety measures:  three manned check points were established at Ropers hut, Watchbed Creek and Pole 333 and a tough 5 hour time limit was set at Watchbed Creek for those wishing to continue, so if any difficulty was encountered the runners could be accounted for.  Runners were also encouraged to carry a jumper and some food.

On the 28th of December 1985 at 6.30 a.m. six fool hardy rooftop runners were set on their way by race co-ordinator Russell Bulman, from Mountain Creek car park at 590 metres on the second Bogong - Hotham run.  Jim Ingham sprinted to the front but it didn't take long for Neil Hooper to overtake him.

The run followed Mountain Creek for two kilometres and six creek crossings, then a 1300 metre climb up the Staircase spur to the summit of Victoria's highest mountain, Mt. Bogong at 1986 metres.  The views were magnificent, Neil and Robin Rishworth passed over the summit in 1 hour 16 minutes.  While Julian Van Leer who had completed the journey many times before was next over in 1 hour 26 minutes, followed by three runners Jim, Steve Miller and Allan Davis a renown downhill runner.

It was a chance to rest those weary muscles and strain some different ones.  Neil rocketed downhill just as if the run had just begun, this was a 1010 metre descent to the Big River far below, great care had to be taken not to loose the track and stay on two feet.   At least ten bushwalkers had to scamper from the track.

The swift flowing Big River was crossed knee deep with aid of a chain, a 900 metre climb up the Dunne spur through tall mountain forests.  Sections of this spur had to be walked.  A large tiger snake laid across the track and refused to move.

Neil made such good progress that after 3 hours he had beaten the first support party to Ropers Hut.  The five other runners were more fortunate, they passed momentarily for a drink and to hear words of encouragement.   The toughest section of the run had been completed and there was only 40km to run, most of it being high altitude running between 1800 - 1600 metres on the treeless Bogong high plains.

The snow poles were followed over the shoulder of Mt. Nelse at 1860 metres downhill to the major check point at Watchbed Creek 32km from the start.  This was the only drop out point, the runners that ventured beyond were committed to finishing at Mt. Hotham a further 30km off.  This was an opportunity to eat some food, Neil Hooper was first through in 3 hours 41 minutes followed by

2. Robin Rishworth         4 hours 7 minutes
3. Julian Van Leer         4 hours 19 minutes
4. Allan Davis         4 hours 22 minutes
5. Jim Ingham and Steve Miller 4 hours 37 minutes

A luxury for 2km a descent trail, the main high plains road but then its back onto the rough Alpine Walking track.  A head wind doesn't help, either does the numerous cattle which roamed freely across the high plains and weren't too willing to move off the track for a weary runner, they have also made sections of the track muddy.  Other parts of the trail are extremely rocky.

Many more bushwalkers were passed along the run, some were impressed, others not amused at our antics.  On Pole 333 another manned check point and Mt. Hotham loomed on the horizon.  Only the Cobungra River separates the runners from this peak.  However your legs don't feel too good after six hours running to encounter a 500m descent.

The Cobungra river was crossed on a slippery log and it was hard to maintain balance.  Then its up the even more demanding Swindlers Spur, a 500m climb, sections are walked and snakes avoided.  Derrick Hut is passed and it's easier running.  Mt. Loch car park is passed and only a kilometre to go.  A scramble to the trig on the summit of Mt. Hotham.

Neil had increased his pace with his sight set on becoming the first person to complete the distance in under 7 hours, a further 50 minutes and the other rooftop runners start completing the course.  Steve Miller had made his move recording the second fastest second half just failing to catch Julian.


1. Neil Hooper         6 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds (Record)
2. Robin Rishworth         7 hours 46 minutes 8 seconds
3. Julian Van Leeson 8 hours 8 minutes 2 seconds
4. Steven Miller         8 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds
5. Alan Davis         8 hours 24 minutes 38 seconds
6. Jim Ingham         8 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds


December 28, 1985

by Russell Bulman

The sun was just rising as the second Rooftop Runners' Bogong to Hotham run began at Mountain Creek near Mount Beauty.  A field of six hardy individuals set out to tackle Victoria's hardest run.  The route climbs over Mt. Bogong, the highest peak in the state, then follows the Alpine Walking Track across the high plains to the summit of Mt. Hotham.  In a distance of 60 kilometres, the runners climbed over 9000 feet.

Possibly due to the mild weather, all six runners finished the event in better times than they expected.   Neil Hooper, three times winner of the Mount Beauty Marathon, led by 20 minutes at the halfway point and went on to break his own record by 16 minutes.  With his face and arms smothered in zinc cream he was an unusual sight as he trotted across the Bogong High Plains.


1. Neil Hooper                 6 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds (Record)
2. Robin Rishworth         7 hours 46 minutes 8 seconds
3. Julian Van Leeson     8 hours 8 minutes 2 seconds
4. Steven Miller               8 hours 12 minutes 40 seconds
5. Alan Davis                   8 hours 24 minutes 38 seconds
6. Jim Ingham                  8 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds