Snow? Did I say snow?
Sorry, I meant there was a very real possibility of blue skies and crisp still air
What an awesome ride that was!
I wandered outside and sized up my target on Saturday night:
Yep, as predicted, the size appeared to be pretty big. Not sure how big - most references called it ~830m, but one map reckoned it was 1135m or so. Still also no certainty that there was any viable way to the top, nor what condition the roads/tracks to get there would be in. Failure is always an option.
"How long will you be?", asked the perpetually well-organised Mrs Barefoot.
"I honestly have no idea at all. Um... I'll be back for dinner, I guess".
And so I loaded up with bags full of tasty treats and supplies, and set off from my in-laws' old place, a few km outside of Maffra.
Straight on to the gravel road running direct toward Newry, and on to the sealed roads across the irrigated farmlands:
That highest peak on the right there is where I'm headed.
Finally to the start of the dirt, and the beginning of the rolling foothills.
Good smooth dirt roads, rolling upward and upward, getting steeper every roll.
Signs point to things getting interesting from here!
The "end of the road" was actually just crossing onto private property for a few km, but the road continued as a DSE-maintained firetrail up into the range.
Dropping from the first tier of hills, I knew I'd come to a river crossing. Some 4WDer trip reports I'd seen had mentioned this as being impassable when the river was up in Spring.
My fears of getting wet feet were unfounded.
Luckily, I wasn't relying on a water refill from the river.
From there, the track started to get steep. I'd fitted an 11-32 MTB cassette to my bike, and rarely found cause to shift out of the 34:32 bottom gear. Often found myself trying to shift to an even lower gear. I found I had just enough traction to stand and climb in second bottom gear, or sit and grind in first.
I usually position my saddle pointing slightly nose-up, putting me comfortably on the wide part of the saddle without having to push back with my hands. A couple of times on the way up, I considered getting off and tilting the saddle 10° nose-down, to help stop me sliding off the back of the damn thing.
Passing a few lower peaks (Mt Gog and Mt Magog), gaining elevation, occasionally catching views of Mt Ben Cruachan filling more and more of the horizon.
I eventually reached the junction, where Ben Cruachan Track turned off from Ben Cruachan Road. A few 4WDs had passed along the way, and I could hear the sounds of big diesel engines labouring above me, punctuated with the rattle of sizeable rocks being dislodged and rolling down the hill. Hmmm. Things are about to get interesting.
I only made it a couple of hundred metres before hitting the wall. The track was steep enough to be almost unrideable, even before hitting the back side of a big water-bar. And another. And another.
Twin wheel-slip marks from diff-locked 4WDs is a pretty good indication that it's steep
Once off the bike, there wasn't much option to get back on until the gradient relented... which didn't happen often, nor for long.
It wasn't even an easy walk! Strava reckons there were a few sections of sustained 40% gradient, with pinches peaking at 54%. For whatever accuracy you can believe from GPS elevation data. But at least the GPS had plenty of time to check and recheck its position - I wasn't moving very fast.
The best views back toward Maffra were from a saddle partway up:
From here was a short downhill, then back to the 40% climbs.
I stepped aside for one of the 4WD parties coming back down:
... then a lot more walking, a bit more riding, a bit more walking, and finally made my triumphant arrival at the summit. Much to the surprise and amusement of the 4WDers still up there, who shouted me a celebratory banana. A couple of them are riders, and they'd been a bit bewildered at seeing what appeared to be a road bike when they passed me down on the lower slopes. They didn't know where the crazy bike man was headed, but didn't imagine it would be up here
Three hours climb time from when I first hit the dirt.
There's not much of a view from the summit back toward the South-east whence I came:
(I applied a very artistic photoshop filter to that photo, called "Condensed arse sweat on phone camera lens")
...but it's a short walk from the end of the road to the lookout, where the view to the North, out into the main range and the Avon Wilderness, is to die for:
(except for that ugly bloke getting his head in the way of the camera).
The 4WDers headed back down, and when the sound of engine braking died away, I had a few minutes of tranquillity.
Heading back down again was a hoot.
It hadn't been rideable on the way up, but it was certainly ridden on the way back down
I had a bit of a brown-trouser moment when I saw the track levelling out ahead of me, and massively underestimated the slope I was on when I let the brakes off to roll out. Things got very fast, very quickly, before I managed to get a couple of fingers back onto each lever to pull her up.
Back on to the main firetrail, and down... down... down. Losing elevation is always lots of fun.
Brakes were nice and strong at the top, nice and strong at the bottom, nice and strong all the way down. I think I can claim they're well and truly bedded in now.
On the way up, I continually had the feeling that after every climb, I was losing all that hard-won elevation on a descent. On the way down, those descents - now climbs - were put into perspective. Yeah, there were a few climbs, some quite substantial, but... most of the time... weeeeeeeee!
3 hours up, 1hr 10 down. Still taking it easy because... you know... steep dirt and high speeds...
... but I was well impressed by how solid and composed my lovely custom Ti creation felt at speed on sketchy gravel. Love that bike.
The road slog back across the irrigation flats seemed to take forever. Those 35mm Smart Sam CX tyres are certainly comfortable on the road, but their rolling resistance makes the road miles a bit of a chore. Passed some time with a few gratuitous selfies.
There's my mountain again, sticking up above that first tier of hills
Only 81km for the day, about 6.5 hours door to door, 1440m climbing for a maximum altitude of 825m. All the meaningful parts of the ride were on dirt. Probably the toughest ride I've ever done, although I'm currently quite a bit fitter than I have been on lesser previous rides, so I pulled up pretty well afterwards.http://app.strava.com/activities/59153097
Lovely part of the world, with lots more exploring to be done. I won't be back as often once the in-laws move away next month, but when I do, I'll be bringing a bike.