Sky Waka Vertical Challenge


Sky Waka Vertical Challenge - Ruapehu Trail Festival
Sky Waka Vertical Challenge Course Map

(Click map to enlarge)
Elevation Each Loop: 400m up, 10m down.


Come and run where the mountains meet the sky.
Take on Aotearoa’s unique sky-running challenge at Whakapapa Ski Area, Mount Ruapehu, where athletes attempt to ascend the highest mountains from the seven continents of the world. A New Zealand first, presented by Victory Events and Mt Ruapehu, the Sky Waka Vertical Challenge sees individuals, pairs, and teams of 3 knock off as much mountain elevation as possible in four hours!

Participants (or as we like to call them, legends), use pure leg, core, and willpower to ascend the mountain on the Waterfalls Descent Track. They will then be rewarded with a much-deserved ride on the Sky Waka Gondola to bring them back down to the event base/transition area where they can either do it all over again, or for teams of 3, tag in a teammate!

Expect a super-charged atmosphere with music, live commentary, and supporters cheering on their favourite athletes as they rack up the metres to their target peak. Will they be gunning for the Mt Ruapehu Peak (2797m), the Mount Elbrus Peak (5,642m), or the big guy, the Mount Everest Peak (8,850m)?

Are you more of a speed demon? Take on the Sky Waka Vertical Challenge 400m Dash where you have one shot at recording the fastest time to scale the 400m of mountain elevation across the 2.5km course.

And a bonus for everyone involved, a portion of your entry fee will go toward supporting the Taupo Greenlea Rescue Helicopter!



This is an event that puts individuals, pairs, and teams of 3 on a mountain mission to ‘knock off’ as much mountain elevation as possible by completing multiple laps in the allocated time of 4 hours. Participants will ascend the Waterfalls Descent Track, and descend on the Sky Waka Gondola back to the event base/transition area.

The event course is a sky-running beast and a well-marked 2.5km loop course. The lowest elevation point on the loop is 1610m (Bruce Road roundabout), and the highest elevation point is 2010m (top of the Sky Waka).

Each lap completed sees 400m of mountain elevation added to your score.

Every 100m of climbing absolutely counts.  Timing mats will be placed at the 100m, 200m, 300m, and 400m marks on the loop, so every time a timing mat is crossed, your score increases by 100m! When the course cut-off time is reached, the winners of each respective category will be the individuals, pairs, or teams of 3 with the highest score (which is essentilly the total elevation metres banked).

Your Score – How You Stack Up Against The Mighty Mountains

  • 1600m. The “Mountain Mile”
  • 2300m. Mount Kosciuszko Peak – highest peak in Australia – 2228m
  • 2800m. Mt Ruapehu Peak – 2797m
  • 3200m. The “Double Mountain Mile”
  • 3800m. Aoraki / Mount Cook – highest peak in New Zealand – 3724m

    For the serious players, here are the highest peaks in each continent to aim for.
  • 4900m. Jaya Peak (Mount Carstensz) – Australia/Oceania – 4884m
  • 4900m. Vinson Massif Peak – Antarctica – 4,892m
  • 5700m. Mount Elbrus Peak – Europe – 5,642m
  • 5900m. Kilimanjaro Peak – Africa – 5,895m
  • 6200m. Denali Peak – North America – 6,190m
  • 7000m. Mount Aconcagua Peak – South America – 6,962m
  • 8900m. Mount Everest Peak – Asia – 8,850m

Additional Vertical Inspiration:

Here’s An Example Score for “Team Victory Events” (a team of 3)
Team Member 1: 5 Laps completed (2000m)
Team Member 2: 5 Laps completed + 200m timing mat reached on lap 6 (2200m)
Team Member 3: 4 Laps completed + 100m timing mat reached on lap 5 (1700m)
Team Total Score / Metres 5900m.

The collective climbing metres that Sky Waka Vertical Challenge entrants attain will be mind-blowing!  The overall results will show how many successful summits of Mount Ruapehu have been achieved by entrants, and also how many times the highest peaks in each continent have been successfully summited.

Category Options:
Indviduals: leave nothing in the tank. Climb up > Sky Waka down > Climb up > Sky Waka down > rinse and repeat.
Pairs: you must stay together at all times. Rest when you need, punish yourself at all other times.
Teams of 3: a touch more social with a strategic edge. Only 2 team members can be on the event course at any one time – 1 team member must remain at the event base at all times. Who tags who? What pace do team members run? Well, that’s all up to you.


The 400m Dash is a separate event held on the same morning as the 4-hour laps event, that simply sees individual entrants have one shot at recording the fastest time to scale the 400m of mountain elevation, on the 2.5km course.

Ascend the Waterfalls Descent Track.
Descend on the Sky Waka Gondola.


Please be advised: Pricing will be confirmed AFTER the draft event day schedule (shown above) receives its final alteration in the coming weeks. Pricing for all categories will be available to view prior to entries opening.

If you are entered in an Tussock Traverse or Ring of Fire event, ask us for a 10% discount code which can be applied to your entry.


Please be advised:  The draft schedule below is subject to minor alterations in the coming weeks but should provide a good overview of how the day might look.

6.40am: Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 4 Hour Laps Event Race Briefing (top of Bruce Road)
6.41am: Civil Twilight
7.00am – 7.10am: Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 4 Hour Laps Event (Individual Category START in waves)
7.10am – 7.20am: Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 4 Hour Laps Event (Pairs Category START in waves)
7.11am: sunrise
7.20am – 7.30am: Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 4 Hour Laps Event (Teams of 3 Category START in waves)
8.00am – 10.15am: Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 400m Dash Event (Individuals START in waves)
11.00am – 11.30am: course cut-off times apply to respective events
12.00pm – 1.00pm: prizegiving

2.00pm: registration opens for the Ring of Fire and Tussock Traverse distance options at the Chateau Tongariro


Team Details

  • Your 3-person team for the Sky Waka Vertical Challenge may well be the same as your Ring of Fire Relay team
  • Your 2 or 3-person team can be mixed, male or female – you choose
  • The age category for your team will be based on your oldest team member

NO Friday Registration
Thursday evening pre event registration between 5.15pm and 7.15pm is compulsory for all Sky Waka Vertical Challenge entrants. There is no opportunity for pre event registration on race day.

Minimum Age
Entrants must be 16 years on event day unless an exemption (based on previous performances) is granted by the Race Management team. Requests can be emailed to

Compulsory Gear
Information coming soon.

Entry Qualification
This event is a beast and you must be fully prepared to take on this distance and level of elevation change, high up in the mountains.  Our safety management plan is comprehensive and is resourced to respond to both well prepared entrants “having a bad day” and the usual spills an event like this usually has.  It is however critical that underprepared entrants in any specific distance are shifted to an alternate distance – one in which they feel fully prepared to meet the challenge ahead.  There is no prerequisite qualifying time for the Sky Waka Vertical Challenge events as such (that may come in future years) but you will be asked to submit answers to some simple questions (shown below) during the online registration process.

In accordance with our Safety Management documentation and upon reviewing your supplied info, our course team reserves the right to:
– Request additional/updated information/evidence of preparedness from you.
– Downgrade your entry to a shorter distance (appropriate refunds will be made in these scenerios)


Tracks & Terrain Used
All entrants start the event outside the Sky Waka gondola platform at the top of Bruce Road.  They then run approx. 100m down BruceRoad, then turn anti clockwise around the roundabout, before heading 100m back up Bruce Road.  Entrants then follow the Waterfalls Descent Track right up to the entry point of the Sky Waka Gondola at Knoll Ridge. Once back down, another loop begins by heading down Bruce Road towards the roundabout…. 


Course Cut-Off Times
All Sky Waka Vertical Challenge – 4 Hour Laps Events (suprise suprise) have 4 hours on course after the start gun goes off for their wave.  Depending on the course location of entrants once the 4 hours is complete will determine how entrants need to make their own way back to event base (more information on this coming soon) for the midday prizegiving. 

All Sky Waka Vertical Challenge 400m Dash Events must complete the 2.5km course and reach the Sky Waka Gondola at Knoll Ridge within 1 hour after the start gun goes for their wave.  

Aid Station
It’s strongly recommended all entrants are 100% self sufficient on course.  There will be one aid station on course just prior to entrants heading up the Waterfalls Descent Track – meaning entrants will see an aid station after every 2.5km they complete.  The station will have medical support, food, shelter and drinks available to entrants.  More specific details on this coming soon.

Time Spent In The Dark
Due to the early morning start (sunrise not being until 7.11am) entrants and supporters are encouraged to be armed with headlamps when moving from the carparking areas, up to the race briefing/start area in the morning.  As Civil Twilight is at 6.41am and the first runners are on course at 7.00am there should be no need for headlamps on the event course as such. 

A Cupless Event
We are not providing cups at the Aid Stations because we are trying to minimise the waste created from the event. Please bring your own cup or cups.  There are some very good silicone cups for sale in NZ.

Drop Bag Service
Anytime during the Thursday event registration, entrants have the opportunity to provide our crew with specific gear/food/drink that they would like available to them at Aid Station at the bottom of the Waterfalls Descent Track. All gear must be in your own bags (ideally super recognisable to you).  Make sure your bags are sealed, compact and have your name on them.   Drop bags will need to be collected by entrants prior to the end of the event prizegiving.

Parking and Transport Info
There will be plenty of parking made available near the top of Bruce Road for your early morning start line adventure.  As the event starts and finishes at the top of Bruce Road there is no bus transport associated with this event. 

Thank you to our sponsors!