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This Is How To Climb The Highest Peak In Each Australian State -- Really Fast

Every wanted to try the 'State 8'? This is one way to do it.

05/08/2017 2:31 PM AEST | Updated 05/08/2017 2:31 PM AEST
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Courtney running down from the summit of Mt Kosciuszko.

It's tough even at the best of times.

The "State Eight" are the highest peaks in each Australian state and territory. While plenty of people have tackled them, it's safe to say nobody has ever done it as fast as former Olympic triathlete turned trail runner extraordinaire Courtney Atkinson.

Well, he almost did them. Close enough, anyway. Seven out of eight peaks ain't bad. We'll get to the one Courtney missed, and the very good reason why, in a sec.

But first, know this. Courtney didn't just hike these peaks the way most people do. He ran them. That's right. In May this year, he sprinted up and down Australia's highest peaks in wildly diverse conditions -- from the stony to the snowy and everything in between.

But why? Why do this? Because Courtney is a Red Bull-sponsored athlete and Red Bull just LOVE concocting excellent adventures, that's why. But most of all because the mountains are there, people. Because the mountains are there.

HuffPost Australia sat down with Courtney to talk about his trip. He didn't make us feel inadequate at all. Not even a bit. Well OK, maybe just a smidge.

Mt Bartle Frere (1622m), Queensland
Courtney says:
"That is a prick of a bloody mountain. It's not that high. It tops out at just 1620 metres but you start at sea level, so it is a mile high in about seven kilometres and it's wet and damp with a big boulder field at the top. It was a jungle, like another planet in there and I got attacked by leeches. I had fun on the way down, though."
Courtney's time: An hour 48 to the top and a little quicker down. So about 3.5 hours all up.
It'll take you: The State8 website reckons it's about a 10-12 hour return journey for regular humans.

Nick Green via Getty Images
Photolibrary RM

Mt Bimberi (1913m), A.C.T.
Courtney says: "I camped out nearby, got up early and raced up Bimberi. The views were not great because it was foggy on top."
Courtney's time: An hour and ten up, a little less down.
It'll take you: A LOT longer. Some people do Bimberi as a strenuous 10 hour or so return day trip. This writer did it earlier this year as a gentle three day camping trip with his son. For the benefit of Courtney, the image above shows what that summit view looks like when it's clear. Views are gorgeously wild in three directions. This image shows the view to the east, but if you were to turn left, you'd just make out Canberra to the north.

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Mt Kosciuszko (2228m), NSW
Courtney says: "After Bimberi, we drove to Charlotte Pass [which is about two-and-a-half hours]. I ran Kossie quickly that evening which I think made it 40km for the day."
Courtney's time: Well under two hours for the 16km return trip from Charlotte Pass.
It'll take you: About three hours each way, or less if you take the delightful slob's option from the top of the chairlift at Thredbo.

RStelmach via Getty Images
Though it's the highest, Kossie isn't the most dramatic peak in Australia. That's it with the snow patches in a midsummer photo.

Mt Bogong (1986m), Victoria
Courtney says: "Bogong is a beast. It's a tough 1200 metre elevation gain over just six kilometres. I copped snow falling at the top, and a sprinkling on the ground."
Courtney's time: It was an hour 47 to run it, and about the same down.
It'll take you: It'll take you between eight and 12 hours, depending on which of two tracks you take. Even more than Koskiuszko, this is one seriously dangerous mountain. People often get lost when it's snow-covered so be sure to do it on a clear day or with someone who's climbed it before.

UIG via Getty Images
Mount Bogong in winter. Courtney did his run in May when the peak had just a dusting of snow on top, but it still made for tough running.

Mt Ossa (1617m), Tasmania
Courtney says: "After Bogong we drove to Melbourne and flew to Launceston. The run to Ossa was meant to be a 38km run, but a flood had knocked out some bridges and then a fallen tree blocked the road. So we ended up running an extra 10 kilometres which was the longest I'd run in one hit before. It was icy and snowy at the top too, which we didn't expect. Then we got locked din the forest because the National Park gates were locked. We had no tents, no food and no gear, but we ended up in a hut and nearly scared the crap out of the people in there. But they gave us a can of baked beans and a muffin!"
Courtney's time: Less than a day, which is ridiculous considering all his adventures.
It'll take you: How long is a piece of string? Depends which way you go and how many nights you camp out. Just be sure to read up on the hike, and to pack for anything.

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Yep, Courtney actually saw this little guy right near the fogbound summit of Mt Ossa.

Mt Meharry (1253m), Western Australia
Courtney says:
"The next morning it was a plane to Perth, then a plane to Newman. That's when the real fun started. Mt Meharry is close to a two hour hour drive out of Newman. It was pitch black by the time we got there. It's a five kilometre fire trail which is pretty steep. I love trying to run really fast on dodgy ground."
Courtney's time: The writer forgot to ask because he's such an outstanding media professional, but we bet it wasn't long.
It'll take you: About three hours return, but obviously a lot longer to get yourself in the general neighbourhood.

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Mt Zeil (1531m), Northern Territory
Courtney says:
"We flew back to Perth, then across to Alice Springs and then another big drive out of about three hours to Mt Ziel in the western MacDonnell Ranges. I'd been told a route to take but there was a mix up and I pretty much couldn't get through. I then ended up running into the property owner and he kicked us off his land. Eventually we got up Ziel and it wasn't much of a run because there's no trail and the spinifex is awful. I was pulling barbs out for weeks afterwards!"
Courtney's time: "I thought no matter how bad the terrain is, I would be looking at three or four hours max. I wasn't off that mountain for five or six hours. I had no water and no way to refill and I only took food for a three hour day, so it was an interesting old day."
It'll take you: A lot longer. And you should probably contact a bunch of different people.

Mt Woodroffe (1435m), South Australia

Courtney didn't climb South Australia's highest peak, which is located in the Musgrave Ranges near the NT border, because you need a permit from the indigenous owners, and he wasn't able to source one in time.

Here's a pic of what he missed.

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OK Courtney, so what did you learn?

"I learned that Australia doesn't have huge mountains, but because the majority start at a low altitude, the actual runs are bloody tough.

"I also learned about different climates you face, about the vastness of the terrain and above all, how remote these places are."

But can you enjoy the scenery when you're running as opposed to, say, hiking slowly?

"Absolutely you can enjoy the outdoors, when you're running. When hiking you'll be taking in a lot more things. The birds, the scenery, whatever. But when you're trail running you can cover so much ground so fast that how much you see is crazy."

And your favourite peak?

"They were all so diverse, but from my point of view it had to be Bartle Frere. The reason I love it so much is that it's ultimate challenge for a runner. It's so steep and unforgiving and those leeches were brutal."

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