Ring of Fire Relay

Ring of Fire Relay

(Click map to enlarge)
Total Elevation: 3555 up, 3555 down.
See individual leg elevation info below.

2023 Event Update – 15 February 2023

Due to insufficient entries in the Ring of Fire Relay event on the 11th March 2023, we have had to make the call to cancel the relay category for 2023, and to review its inclusion at the Ruapehu Trail Festival moving forward. ALL Relay entrants should have received communication from us by now, if you have not, and wish to explore your options, please email entries@ruapehutrailfestival.co.nz. 


Choosing your Relay Team

  • Your relay team must have 3 team members assigned to run 1 of the 3 legs each (no runners can run 2 legs).
  • Your team can be mixed, male or female – you choose.
  • Your age category will be based upon your oldest team member.

NO Saturday Registration
Friday pre event registration is compulsory for all Ring of Fire relay entrants.
There is no opportunity for pre event registration on race day.

Minimum Age
Entrants must be 18 years on event day unless an exemption (based on previous performances) is granted by the Race Management team. Requests can be emailed to info@ruapehutrailfestival.co.nz

Compulsory Gear
Each team member of the relay requires the absolute full list of compulsory gear and that is the same gear as the Ring of Fire 50km and 73km solo entrants.  Please download this file Comp Gear 73km and 50km for details on exactly what is required so you are prepared.

Check out our sponsors, True Fleece Merino for your base layer long sleeve and beanie!

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.

However, it is important that you have physically prepared yourself for the challenges of the Ruapehu mountain running environment.
Please do your best not to overestimate your current ability by simply using your local training run times and distances to determine your
expected finish time for this event.

For this reason, it is critical that knowingly underprepared entrants in any specific distance shift to an alternate distance – one in which they feel fully prepared to meet the challenge ahead.  There is no prerequisite qualifying time for the event 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

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
The event is held on the Ruapehu Around the Mountain Track.  The Ring of Fire 73km solo event starts and finishes at the Chateau Tongariro (on Bruce Road) and will consist of three legs as described at the bottom of this page.


Renowned as ‘The Original Goat’ course, this leg in Ring of Fire will be a modified version of The Original Goat route travelling up the Silica Rapids track onto the Whakapapaiti Track branching onto the Round the Mountain track.

  • Distance: 24km
  • Start/Finish: kick off the Relay from the Chateau Tongariro (Bruce Road) and finish at the changeover point 400m past the driveway to the MUAC Hut (on Ohakune Mountain Road)
  • Elevation: +1444m, -1139m
  • Summary: Technical – elevated, exposed.

Description: This is the most technical leg and you start well and truely in the dark.  The course is a rough trail with stones, creek crossings, uneven ground, rock scrambles and many small but cumulative elevation changes.

Click map to enlarge


We will refer to as ‘The Missing Link for the middle leg of the Ring of Fire Relay.

  • Distance: 33km (25km of the “Ring of Fire” + 8km of the Downhill section of Tukino Access Road)
  • Start/Finish: begin 400m lower than the MUAC Hut (on Ohakune Mountain Road) and finish at the Tussock Traverse 32km start line (near the beginning of Tukino Access Road)
  • Elevation: +1271m, -1629m
  • Summary: technical, big valleys, climbing, long, exposed in sections

Description: This leg starts with the Ohakune Mountain Road descent, then enters native bush trails. It breaks into open boulder fields and includes the crossing of the Wahianoa River (there is a swing bridge) and then into the sand, tussock and rocky terrain at the top of the Rangipo Desert. From the Tukino Aid Station, you head down down down the Tukino Access Road to the 32km start line (see more about Tukino Access Road in the “Tukino Connection” section below).

Click map to enlarge


Renowned as ‘The Tussock Traverse’ leg.

  • Distance: 32km (8km of the Uphill section of Tukino Access Road, followed by 24km of the “Ring of Fire”)
  • Start/Finish: start at the Tussock Traverse 32km start line and finish outside the Chateau Tongariro
  • Elevation: +0591m, -0874m
  • Summary: true desert landscape features wind-sculptured sands and volcanic rock to Waihohonu stream climbing to the Tama Saddle before descending homeward on well-formed tracks

Description: the easiest leg of the race – the track surface is excellent and the elevation is quite gentle.  The Waihohonu Hut is the only hut on this section.  Highlights include passing between Mount Ruapehu on your left and Mount Ngauruhoe and Tongariro on your right.  The final 10km or so are a gentle downhill past the impressive Taranaki Falls and onto the finish line. Be sure to read more about Tukino Access Road in the “Tukino Connection” section below.

Click map to enlarge

Tukino Access Road will be known as a dynamic changeover area:
Once the leg 2 runner hits the timing mat at the Tukino Aid Station, the leg 3 runner will be told by our event crew they can set-off from the new changeover point (the 32km start line).  At this time the leg 2 runner will be running 8km down Tukino Access Road at the exact same time the leg 3 runner is running 8km up Tukino Access Road.  The runners will meet each other somewhere near the mid point on the Tukino road – they might high 5 each other, they might sit down for a nibble to eat, or they might simply nod to each other and continue on focussed on the job that still needs doing ahead.  This 16km (8km eahy way) is the added distance to the 2023 Relay distance.  The time taken on this 16km 100% matters!

How does the Tukino Connection section work from a race timing point of view?
Each team will see the following breakdown in their timing results
– the time spent on the 73km Ring of Fire course.
– the time spent on the 8km downhill section of Tukino Access Road (completed by leg 2 runner) and
– the time spent on the 8km uphill section of Tukino Access Road (completed by leg 3 runner).
The combined time to run the 89km Relay course will decide who wins the event.

Having the Tukino Connection makes for an improved relay event where the team and supporters can be self-sufficient.
The (where the leg 2 runner ends and the leg 3 runner begins) location is approx 100m off SH1 where, for the relay (due to it’s staggered nature), will be a location that team supporters can drive directly to. There will be toilets, a timing team and full event crew ready to look after you all there at a lower elevation. This removes the buses/shuttle element for teams as the changeover point from leg 1 runner to leg 2 runner (Ohakune Mountain Road) can be driven directly to as well.

Course Cut-Off Times
There are 4 course cut-off points to think about as shown below.

For the 2023 event the relay teams time limit is 18.75 hours.
The 73km solo entrants have 19 hours to complete the course.
While the relay course has 16km extra kilometres to be covered than the 73km solo event, the leg 2 runner and the leg 3 runner are running this 16km section at the same time as each other (i.e it’s really only an extra 8km distance time wise for the Relay event than the 73km solo, and the Relay gets to use 3x fresh individuals for the 3x legs of the Relay)

If you are concerned about the cut-off times, please remember the legs in the Relay are no easy undertaking.

10.30am.  Course Cut-Off for LEG 1 RUNNER to have finished AND LEG 2 RUNNER to have left the Ohakune Mountain Road transition area
4.30pm. Course Cut-Off for LEG 2 RUNNER to have passed through Tukino Aid Station (at which point LEG 3 RUNNER commences) and be on the 8km downhill stretch of Tukino Road down to the LEG 3 start area.
6.10pm. Course Cut-off for LEG 3 RUNNER to have completed the 8km uphill stretch of Tukino Road and have passed through Tukino Aid Station and into the Round The Mountain Track.
7.50pm. Course Cut-off for LEG 3 RUNNER to have left Waihohonu Hut.
11.00pm. Course Cut-off for LEG 3 RUNNER to have finished the relay

Aid Stations x2
It’s strongly recommended all teams entrants are 100% self sufficient on course.  Leg 2 and Leg 3 runners can absolutely take advantage of the drop bag service at Tukino Aid Station (8km to go for leg 2 runner, and 8km into the course for leg 3 runner).  At the Tukino Aid Station althletes will have the ability to fill up water supplies,  enjoy a cold cup of R-Line electrolyte or Coke, a hot cup of coffee/tea/tomato soup, and a quick snack on chips/lollies or a Peanut Butter/Jam Sammie – the station will have medical support, food, shelter and drinks available to entrants.

Time Spent In The Dark
In the morning leg 1 runners have a 4.10/4.15am start with sunrise not until 7.11am so leg 1 runners should prepare for close to 3 hours of darkness.

Leg 2 runners should not spend anytime in the dark unless something goes wrong but are still required to be prepared for the darkness.

Depending on the pace of your team, leg 3 runners may spend no time at all in the dark or more than 3 hours.  In the evening (if still on course) you have sunset at 7.45pm and a course cut-off of 11.00pm.

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 Friday event registration, leg 2 and leg 3 runners have the opportunity to provide our crew with specific gear/food/drink that they would like available to them at the Tukino Access Road Aid Station. 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. We will also provide ID stickers relevant to which aid station and ensure they are available to you at each aid station. There is no spectator access to the Tukino Access Road Aid Station, hence the drop bag service.  Drop bags will be returned to the finish area (exact location TBC) following the closure of the respective Aid Stations.   You will need your event number to pick up your drop bags at the finish area on Saturday.  Depending on timelines gear bags can also be collected Sunday morning from us.

Parking and Transport Info
There will be plenty of parking made available around the Chateau Tongariro for your early morning start line adventure.  As the event starts and finishes at the Chateau Tongariro there is no bus transport associated with this distance. The changeover locations are accessible by private vehicles for your team supporters.

Thank you to our sponsors!