[edit 17/1] Minor correction, the name of my cycling buddy from last weekend is Dominic, not Domenic . My apologies for the mistake.This sums up the whole trip, I think. It was taken from Little Baldy Hill (elevation approx. 1700m) near the summit of Mt Hotham at about 8am on Saturday, looking west towards Mt Buffalo (in the centre background).4 Peaks in 2 Days(Finishing the 7 Peaks Challenge and preparing for the ACE 250)
On Friday 11th and Saturday 12th Jan, I went up to the Victorian Alps with another cyclist with a combined mission in mind: (a) prepare for the upcoming Alpine Classic Extreme 250 and (b) finish the 7 Peaks Challenge.
My preparation for the ACE 250 was coming along nicely, given the 18,000km and 260,000m+ of climbing I did last year, but this 2 day event let me see more of the ACE 250 route, so I've actually ridden most of it now, except for the bit between Omeo and Falls Creek. As for the 7 Peaks Challenge, I was a bit disappointed about not being able to make it to the Alps for the Hells 500 Crew's organised group rides, and so was very happy when Janine sent me a PM with a link to a Facebook event someone had created, titled "4 Peaks in 2 Days"
. I responded to this event using my very limited Facebook skills, and had shortly arranged to head up to the Alps with Dominic, a cyclist who lives in Williamstown. So thanks Janine, I really appreciate you finding the info and sending it to me!
.Getting there on Thursday afternoon
I arranged to have Friday off, not too difficult as I had plenty of annual leave accrued and it wasn't (yet) too busy at work. On Thursday afternoon at about 4pm, Dominic picked me up from home in Ringwood North, very generous of him as it's a bit out of his way (he even dropped me off there on his way home on late Saturday afternoon). He then drove us to Harrietville.
On the way there, the route went along Maroondah Hwy, then Victoria Rd, Macintyre Lane, Melba Hwy. At Yea, we turned onto Goulbourn Valley Hwy, then at Merton turned onto Euroa-Mansfield Rd, which we discovered was very hilly and twisty in the southern parts, and then straightens out further north. At Euroa, we turned onto the Hume Hwy and followed it to Wangaratta. We briefly stopped in Benalla to have dinner at a nice restaurant in the North Eastern Hotel - I recommend having a meal here: the food and service were great. From Wangaratta, we followed the Great Alpine Rd to Harrietville and got there just after it got dark.
We were staying 2 nights at the Harrietville caravan park, in a 2 bedroom cabin Dominic had booked. It was fairly well-equipped, with flywire on all windows, a ceiling fan in the living room, and even a TV (not that we watched it much, as the weekend's riding schedule didn't leave much time for that). We went to sleep at about 9:30pm.Harrietville Caravan Park.Day 1 (Friday): Falls Creek (morning) and Mt Buffalo (afternoon)
For today's rides, I was able to play tour guide, and give Dominic a rough idea of what to expect, as I'd ridden up to Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo during the 2011 Alpine Classic, when I did the Bright - Falls Creek - Bright - Mt Buffalo - Bright 200km option.
We got up at 5:15am (i.e. typical stupid-o'clock cycling time), then at 6am Dominic drove us to Mt Beauty, a 44km drive north up the Great Alpine Rd, east along Tawonga Gap Rd and then south along Kiewa Valley Hwy. On the way, we briefly stopped for a photo shoot at the lookout at the top of Tawonga Gap and Sullivan's Lookout a bit further down.Fri 06:33 - Looking east from the top of Tawonga Gap.Fri 06:37 - Looking east from Sullivan's Lookout.
We left the car at the Visitor Info Centre in Mt Beauty and then at about 7am started the bike ride up the Bogong High Plains Rd to Falls Creek. The ride lasted roughly 1 hour 50 minutes (elapsed, not moving, time), as neither of us were trying to beat any time limit, and although my endurance is good I'm just an average speed cyclist. As I found out over the next 2 days, Dominic is a stronger, faster climber and a faster descender than I, so he would climb ahead several km and then wait for me. But that's OK, one of us had to be the slower one
The ride was about 65.5km with 1600m climbing. The route link, summary and elevation profile are below, for those interested in any stats.Mt Beauty to Falls Creek return route
We had a few brief stops along the way, mainly at Bogong Village and Howman's Gap. At Falls Creek, by asking a local, we found the office where our 7 Peaks Passports were to be stamped to "prove" we'd done the ride. We then rode on up to Rocky Valley Dam to check out the view. The Falls Creek ride was the easiest part of the 2 days, as it was morning and so still reasonably cool, and it was also the shortest ride of the 3.Fri 07:45 - Bogong Village.Fri 08:31 - Howman's Gap.Fri 08:53, 08:55 - Falls Creek. Fri 09:19, 09:20 - Rocky Valley Dam.
We then rode back down to Mt Beauty. I recorded the descent from Rocky Valley Dam to Bogong Village using my GoPro HD Hero helmet camera. I fixed the askew mounting I'd noticed on some previous rides by adjusting the angle of the helmet mount, so the videos look level now, not like I'm tilting my head
. I haven't uploaded this video to Youtube, mainly because I already have one on there, recorded during the 2011 Alpine Classic. That previous video is here if anyone wants to see it: Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo montageFri 09:24, 09:25 (both from helmet camera) - Descent from Rocky Valley Dam to Falls Creek.
Once back at Mt Beauty, Dominic drove us the 31km to Bright, where we stopped for lunch and a drink. It was already getting hot by that time, so we stocked up on water before starting the ride to Mt Buffalo at about 12pm.
The ride was about 71.5km with 1400m climbing. The route link, summary and elevation profile are below, for those interested in any stats.Bright to Mt Buffalo return route
The forecast maximum for Bright on Friday was 39°C and we found out later that it was spot on. Roughly 30 minutes later, we got to the start sign and the start of the climb up to the summit.Fri 12:28 - Start sign.
The climb up to the summit was brutal
. The temperature according to my Garmin Edge 800 stayed in the low to mid-30s all the way up, in other words it wasn't much cooler at the summit than in Bright. Needless to say, we stopped at various points for short breaks. At one of these stops, just as we started moving again, I turned around and saw an inviting-looking waterfall by the side of the road, and suggested to Dominic that we use it. As we dunked our heads under the running water it actually felt cold! We both agreed it was the best thing since sliced bread and really deserved a signpost for passing hot cyclists
. For several km after, the cold water dripped off my face and the sweatband I was wearing, and made the heat much more bearable.Fri 13:55, 13:56, 13:56 - The Cold Shower.
Eventually, we reached the valley near the top of Mt Buffalo, and Lake Catani which unfortunately is set back too far from the road, or I would have been tempted to dunk my head into that also.Fri 14:30, 14:31 - Lake Catani.
Once at Dingo Dell, we entered the Visitors Centre there and bought a few drinks and enjoyed just sitting down for a little while and re-hydrating
. Not to mention also getting our 7 Peaks Passports stamped again.Fri 15:07, 15:08 - Dingo Dell.
On any other day but this stinking hot one, I would have been tempted to ride the extra 3km or so up the road to The Saddle, about another 100m higher than Dingo Dell, to see what (if any) panoramas were visible there. After our rest, we headed back down to Bright. I used the helmet camera again to record the descent down to the start sign, but it is no different to the video I recorded 2 years ago, so refer to the above Youtube link for that one.Fri 15:12 (helmet camera) - Leaving Dingo Dell.Fri 15:14 (helmet camera) - Heading to Lake Catani.Fri 15:20 (helmet camera) - Valley south of Lake Catani.Fri 15:27 (helmet camera) - McKinnon's Corner.Fri 15:33 (helmet camera) - Mackeys Lookout.
Dominic then drove us from Bright back to the caravan park in Harrietville (about a 24km drive), which we reached about 5pm. Our days riding would have finished earlier, but the 100km of driving must have added at least 1.5 hours. After freshening up, we headed to the Snowline Hotel for a pub meal and some cold drinks. I had trouble keeping my head off the table during that
, after 137km of riding with 3000m climbed for the day. After a walk along the main road through Harrietville, we headed back to the caravan park, and went to sleep around 9:30pm.Day 2 (Saturday): Harrietville to Omeo return
After getting up at stupid-o'clock again, i.e. 5:15am, we rolled out of Harrietville at 6am for the most challenging ride of the 2 days, which neither of us had ridden before. Today we had the advantage of not having to drive anywhere as the ride started and finished in Harrietville.
I was feeling particularly unmotivated for today's ride, as yesterday's rides, while not having particularly difficult grades, were tiring due to the heat. I had doubts about whether I'd handle today's ride all that well, but it turned out OK in the end, with the return trip involving (for me, at least) about 8 hours 10 minutes moving time and a bit over 2 hours stopped time. I think Dominic's moving time was at least 45 minutes less than mine, because he'd ride ahead of me and then wait.
This ride was about 171.5km with 4000m climbing, more than yesterday's 2 rides combined, and with some more challenging grades. The route link, summary and elevation profile are below, for those interested in any stats.Harrietville to Omeo return route
From the moment we left the caravan park and turned right onto the Great Alpine Rd, the climb began, and not particularly gently. The first 10km of the ride was one of the toughest sections for the day, but fortunately after that we reached the false flat where the grade is very gentle and the road tends to follow a ridge-line more closely, and I started to enjoy the ride a lot more. After following the road along the false flat for a while, we passed the intersection with the Dargo High Plains Rd, the end of the easiest part of the Mt Hotham climb.
It's a pity that Google Maps only shows the Great Alpine Rd in StreetView mode up to about 6km out of Harrietville, as this part of the ride, while tougher, is very beautiful. All I can think is that Mr Google Van Guy decided at one point "stuff this, it's too steep, I'm turning around and heading home"
.Sat 07:07 - In the false flat, at about 1260m elevation.Sat 07:24 - Traffic management building just west of the intersection with the Dargo High Plains Rd.
With the flatter bit behind us, the lumpy bit began, with even more spectacular and panoramic views than earlier in the ascent
. There is a short steep downhill section, followed by CRB Hill, which is a 1.1km section with about 10% average grade. After CRB Hill is Little Baldy Hill, followed by another short steep downhill section which then leads to The Diamantina, a 1.4km and average 9% section that leads to the summit (or at least, the highest part of the road next to the summit). At about 8:30am we rolled into Hotham Village.Sat 07:35 - before CRB Hill.Sat 07:47 - top of CRB Hill, looking back the way we came.Sat 08:01 - View from Little Baldy Hill. Sat 08:34, 08:36, 08:36, 08:37, 08:37 - Hotham Heights/Village.
Having got our 7 Peaks Passports stamped again, at the Hotham Village General Store and Pub, we refilled our bottles and started the long ride down to Dinner Plain and Omeo. I didn't take any more photos until we'd returned back to Dinner Plain on the way back. The ride down (and plenty of up) to Omeo is pleasant enough, but not nearly as spectacular as the 30km climb up the west side of Mt Hotham. It's about 13km from the summit of Mt Hotham to the Dinner Plain Village, then not much until Omeo about another 42km later. There are 2 "towns", Rundells and Cobungra, in which you might actually find people if you looked hard enough
, and between these is the Mt Hotham Airport.
The so-called "descent" from Mt Hotham to Omeo isn't a single descent but several of them separated by ascents, the main 2 ascents being just before the 9km descent to Omeo. On the first of these ascents, i.e. the western one, is where I got my top speed coming back, as it's a bit steep. The last ascent before Omeo is fairly hard work as it's about 2km long and moderately steep. We arrived in Omeo at 10:40am, had a quick lunch and a few cold drinks, refilled our bottles and started rolling again at 11:15am. We didn't think too much about the upcoming ascent out of Omeo, as we knew it would be difficult, particularly since the temperature was in the high-20s and the humidity was high (we even felt a few drops of rain during the ascent). This was the toughest climb of the day, in my opinion.
The rest of the ride back to Dinner Plain was straightforward enough. After the climb out of Omeo was done, we'd already ridden about 95km with a lot of climbing and so our legs were feeling it, and so the mostly gentle hills between Omeo and Dinner Plain were harder than they would have been if we'd just done a fresh start from Omeo. Also, riding west, with more climbing than descending, I noticed how rough the road surface is along these parts, which is possibly the source of my slow rear tyre leak which manifested itself in the final 5km of the descent into Harrietville.
We reached Dinner Plain at just after 2pm, and then discovered that the central booking office at the alpine village there had closed at 2pm, so no 7 Peaks Passport stamp to complete my collection
. We left a note under its door with our names, contact numbers and the time we arrived. Later that day, Dominic got a call from them (I guess they must have returned to the office for some reason), and we arranged for them to stamp another 7 Peaks Passport page with the Dinner Plain stamp and snail-mail it to us. Problem solved!
Having drunk more cold drinks at the general store / cafe in the village, and refilled our bottles yet again, we headed up to the summit of Mt Hotham again. By this time, I was noticing a definite decrease in temperature, as the promised cool change was finally arriving. The predicted maximum temperature in Omeo for today was 30°C (and I'm fairly sure it reached that), but as we headed west from Dinner Plain, it dropped and at the Mt Hotham summit my Garmin 800 showed a nice, cool 13°C
. I could see the summit of Mt Hotham and the village there from at least 8km off, which was encouraging to both of us.Sat 14:01 - Dinner Plain Alpine Village.
I had carried in a back jersey pocket a light, water-resistant jacket in case of inclement Mt Hotham weather, and I finally got to use it for the final 30km descent down to Harrietville. I also used the helmet camera for this descent, which took about 40 minutes.Sat 15:18 - Final look at Hotham Village before heading down to Harrietville.Sat 15:28 (helmet camera) - The Diamantina, heading down. Sat 15:41 (helmet camera) - Cresting the hill after CRB Hill, the final climb for the day! .
About 5km before we reached Harrietville, I noticed that my rear tyre was slipping as I rounded the bends
, and looking down realised that the rear tyre had a slow leak. Well, if I must get a punctured tube, what better spot than the final 5km (all descending) of a 170km+ ride?
. I then stood up more in the saddle, and slowed down a bit, and we rolled into Harrietville at 4:15pm, fairly close to our planned arrival time.
Once back in Harrietville, we freshened up, loaded the bikes, then started heading back to Melbourne, grabbing a quick takeaway dinner in Bright on the way. Dominic dropped me off at my place around 9pm then headed home to Williamstown.
As I mentioned, I recorded the 40 minute descent from the summit of Mt Hotham to Harrietville. It's split into 3 parts:Summary
So finished our 310km riding weekend with 7000m of climbing. Surprisingly enough, my commutes this week have been easier than usual, probably due to the hills on my commute seeming to be flatter than usual. I've now done just under 1000km on the new road bike. Having seen the road between Bright and Omeo, and having ridden most of it, I now feel a bit more confident that I can do the ACE 250 weekend after next.
Sorry this ride report is very wordy: just read the bits you want and skip the rest