The CMC has a long tradition of running the Three Passes route. The earliest account was by Eric Pilgrim in the 1949 CMC Mountaineer Journal, documenting the route from Bealey pub to the Styx road end. Other notable crossings include a 1948 solo run by Geoff Harrow where he took 2hrs 1min of the previous road to road record. In 1974 Mike Spink ran East to West in 9hr 55min, while 11hrs by Rod Hibbard and John Jacoby was the fastest recorded club time from West to East.

In 2021, the club re-initiated the event with a modern take of the Three Passes Marathon. The spark for revamping this old tradition came after club members Rose, Alastair, and Reg were stuck in St Winifred’s hut for 5 days by high rivers in September 2020 with little to read aside from past CMC Mountaineer Journals. The event was held on February 27-28th 2021.

Kennedy Lodge is used as a meeting point Friday might, before the event begins on Saturday with one-dayers running solo or in pairs from West to East, while two-dayers travel from East to West in groups. The Three Passes is a serious route with memorials to four drowning victims along the way including the CMC members Cloft, Park and Morpeth. In order to avoid a repeat this ill-fated end to past members, there are certain restrictions in place for the modern Three Passes Marathon.

1. Only those who have done the Three Passes route before can do the one-day solo. This begins at 7am form the Styx road end.

2. Those other one-dayers must have sufficient experience (i.e. navigation over untracked mountain passes) and fitness (i.e. can run 50km in the mountains) to complete the route in a day, and must remain paired up for the entire duration of the route. This begins at 6am from the Styx road end.

3. Those preferring a two day trip and with sufficient experience, must remain grouped by car load.

The route is serious and long, so all participants must be prepared for an unplanned night out with sufficient clothing and food. The route involves the crossings of several rivers and participants must be prepared for chest-deep river crossings, and navigation across untracked mountain passes. The Whitehorn glacier is now a remnant snow-patch, and participants must be prepared to travel across it. Finally, participants must be prepared for several hours of navigation in the dark. Aside from this normal tramping / mountain rules apply: carry out all rubbish and leave no trace.

All participants must carry a PLB or InReach/Spot and sign in at the following huts en-route: Grassy Flats, Harmen, Park-Morpeth and Carrington huts, noting the time of their arrival. If travelling past the Mid-Styx or Anti-crow Huts they must also sign-in. This is an important safety requirement.

A course description and up-to-date GPX file of the course (West to East) can be found here.

2021 participants

NameTypeTime
Ben ManganSolo one-day9:37
Alastair McDowellSolo one-day9:42
Dan ParkinsonSolo one-day13:23
Rose PearsonGroup one-day13:45
Jarrod CookGroup one-day13:45
Nelson PearsonGroup one-day16:08
Christine BorlandGroup one-day16:08
Seb GrayGroup one-day20:40
Tom KingGroup one-day20:40
Clem GrizzliTwo-day
Seb QuinageTwo-day
Wako TanakaTwo-day
Peter MarinelliTwo-day
Harang KimWaimakariri Day trip

A few highlights from 2021 are shown below.

Styx road-end early morning for the one-dayer start

Styx road-end early morning for the one-dayer start

One-dayers at Browning Pass

One-dayers at Browning Pass – Nelson Pearson, Christine Borland and Jarrod Cook.

Two-dayers start from Klondyke corner

Two-dayers at Harman Pass

Two-dayers at Harman Pass

One and Two-dayers meet just below Whithorn pass.

Smiles all round as the one and two-day teams meet just below Whitehorn Pass.