The Routeburn Classic begins from 500m back towards Te Anau on SH 94. This has the effect of spreading the field before you reach the narrow single track. If you are puffing by the time you enter the single track, you need to slow down. The 3km climb to Key Summit junction has an average gradient of 11%, and the vast majority of the field should be walk-jogging the climb. It is going to be a very long day if you go into the red zone on the first climb.
From Key Summit junction you have an all to brief respite as you plummet down to Howden Hut, in the process losing half of the elevation that you have just gained. No sooner than you start enjoying yourself you will reach Howden Hut, and start the climb to Earland Falls. The climb to Earland Falls is a little over 3km at just shy of 10%. Again, remember that is early days.
Regardless of how stunning the weather might be, the rocks underfoot at Earland Falls are always treacherously slippery, so take your time, and of course, don’t forget to pause briefly to admire the 174m Earland Falls.