“A tour of Umukarikari, Waipakihi, and the Middle Range; this is possibly the best running in the Kaimanawas.
— Kerry Suter
If you like ridgeline running and open alpine terrain, this is a loop to rival Kepler. A few grunty climbs and constant rolling terrain will be taxing though, and this isn't one for the winter months or the inexperienced.
Be prepared for alpine conditions and changeable weather at any time of the year. There is no easy way out of the Kaimanawas. Fitness and preparation may dictate your survival in a crisis. THERE IS NO WATER ON MIDDLE RANGE. You'll need sufficient hydration for several hours running.
Around 3000m vert can be tough. Run this clockwise for predominantly harder ascents and runnable descents. The trail is generally in great shape and the ridges do not require specifically technical footwear however some of the descents will require reasonable grip.
Ascend the Umukarikari Track
and follow signage along the ridge to Waipakihi Track. Ascend to the hut for a break if needed. The climb up to middle range is roughly marked and starts opposite the Waipakihi river (true left). This is the hardest and sharpest of the climbs up to Middle Range. Middle Range is not marked however the trail obviously follows the true ridge south. Keep left on the ridge line and avoid taking branches on your right. Stay on Middle Range, always on the left-most ridge above the Rangitikei River, chasing the distant peaks of Thunderbolt and Motutere.
The marked trail will form between Thunderbolt and Motutere and can be followed off the ridge down the Thunderbolt Track
to the Waipakihi River. Cross the Waipakihi and follow it downstream on the true right for a little over 1km before picking up the trail and continuing up to Urchin. Ascend to Urchin then enjoy the last alpine section of the day before dropping gradually back to the Urchin car park. About 5km of gravel road between start and finish can be run to close this loop for a total 43km outing, or you can leave a second car at the Urchin car park to shuttle you back to the start.
Deer are common on Umukarikari and Middle Range. Where there are deer there are people who shoot deer. This is not a day for your novelty antlers hat.