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Bike adventure – trois peaks de la wookie

It’s just over a month ago now – I’ve finally gotten some time to blog about another BIG bike adventure – before I forgot about it all !

This was a set of ‘hill climb’ rides, for the 7 Peaks challenge within Victoria.   The website promotes SEVEN hills to climb, over the summer period – and I’d ridden my first one in February – Lake Mountain.

The origin of the plan was in the concept of ‘Everesting’ – in which cyclists have been attempting to cycle the vertical metres equivalent of Mt.Everest – 8848m…!

Some buddies of mine in Albury had made plans to use the Mt.Buffalo hillclimb as the repeat-of-choice – needing close to TEN ascents.   The term ‘deci-buff’ was bandied about – ten buffalo’s…!

I decided to join up with my pals, with the thinking that I might ride TWO ascents – and just have a fun weekend with friends – and some nice riding in the high country.

As the days got nearer, I figured I could either drive up to Porepunkah (near Bright) after work – and then ride on the Saturday – OR – take the Friday off, and go for another ride on the Friday before.

So – my plan was simple – I’d drive on Friday to Mt.Beauty, and cycle up Falls Creek – before meeting my buddies afterwards on Friday night.

And THEN – I checked the maps for the drive – and noticed that I was driving through Mansfield – not far from Mt.Buller – and so, the mega-plan was hatched.

Bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew-plan :

Get up super-early in the morning – drive to the base of Mt.Buller, and cycle up/down. 

Then drive to Mt.Beauty – and cycle Falls Creek.  

Stay overnight, and be part of the ride for the lads doing ‘deci-buff’ – and ride Mt.Buffalo as well.    Phew !

And – to cut a long story short – or if you’re a TL;DR sort of person – that’s EXACTLY what I did…!

Mt.Buller

Early on a Friday morning – 4.15am to be exact – my alarm blasted me outta bed, and I dressed & loaded up, had some toast – and drove off – check the time !

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Quick stop to pick up some Red Bull cans, and then a nice cruisey drive into the dawn-of-the-day.   Lots of fog, and some rain (doh !) – and incredible light peeking over the horizon from about 6.30am.

I parked the car at a place called “Sawmill Settlement”, only 3-4km from the base of Mt.Buller – the alpine park gate, and the Mirimbah cafe stop.

It was 7.30am, or there abouts – 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne – I got ready to ride, and shook-my-head at myself for the craziness I was embarking upon.  

Bear in mind, I was doing this solo – just my own soul/spirit dragging me out to do silly-middle-age-man-pipe-dreams.

There was barely any traffic around, and so it was a nice easy roll for 10 mins, and then the UPHILL began.   I’ve driven up/down Mt.Buller about 10-15 times, and so I knew the road fairly well.

The climb itself is steady, but not severe – about 16km, ascending 900m or so.   Compared to my local 1-in-20 rides, it’s about three-of-them, back-to-back.

I just settled into a rhythm, with some music running through my head – I don’t use headphones, but prefer to listen to the silence, and wind in the trees – and chirping of birds. 

Was some great views over the valley, and the fog below, and flora and fauna waking up.    I didn’t stop to take any photos – but instead, was planning to (aiming to) ride the whole distance without a break (!).

The roads were a little wet, so it was slow going – uphill, of course – making sure to not slip/slide on wet leaves.

After close to an hour of riding, I passed the billboard hairpins (with a big Troy Brosnan downhill photo – Specialized advert) – and then rounded a corner and saw the summit (buildings) and the chairlifts, with the views off the right.

I knew of one tough section, know as ‘hells corner’ with a tight UP hairpin, this was about 3/4 of the way up, so I knew I needed to save some energy.   This was after the bus carpark, which seemed eerily quiet & empty.

It was end-of-March, and a Friday – I’d only seen a few cars !

Up-and-around Hells Corner – phew !     The last stretch was ~12% and gradually the welcome gates to Mt.Buller came in sight – I’d made it !

My bike computer was showing about 1hr 20mins – which I was pretty happy with !

I stopped into the visitor centre for my 7 peaks passport stamp, and rang my wife to let her know I was A-OK.   And, made my way over to the corner shop for a coffee.

After a nice long-black, and a chat to some folk at Jess Douglas’ Corner Store shop, I grabbed my bike for the ride back downhill to the car.   It started to sprinkle with rain, and so it was a very easy & steady descent – COLD too – and slippery.

The rain got heavier, and I was pretty drenched by 1/2 half down.   I stopped to chat to some other cyclists riding UP hill – glad to see I wasn’t the only crazy person.

I had squelchy socks by the time I got back to the car, and stripped off, and got into dry clothes, and loaded the bike – and was glad to get into the car !

Drive to Mt.Beauty

Now that Buller was done (!), the next phase was a looong drive to Mt.Beauty.  I’d arranged to meet some buddies (Scott+Matt), and so I had a schedule, but a fair amount of time.

Driving through Mansfield, I stopped into ALL-TERRAIN-CYCLES, and said a 5 min hello to Shannon Rademaker – he’d been our MTB bike tour guide at Buller a few years prior – that Buller ride was one of the key influences on re-igniting my love of mountain biking – honest !

I drove on, and aimed to stop at Wangaratta for a McLunch.   While I stuffed my hungry face, I grabbed my Windows Surface tablet, so that I could load up the bike ride stats from my Garmin – using the WiFi at McDonalds – LOL !

It looks like the rain messed up some of the descent – but a good set of numbers – with 37.5km, and over 1000m of climbing.   Click here to see my Buller ride.

I drove on, up and over the Tawonga Gap area – and had to stop a few times to soak in the scenery.   Photos don’t do it justice – it’s just an amazing area – I love the high country !

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I made it to Mt.Beauty on schedule – and had a coffee waiting for me !  

Was great to see my Albury buddies (Scott+Matt) – and we got prepped for a ride, while chatting & bullshitting about all manner of topics.

Falls Creek

The climb out of Mt.Beauty is a little up-and-down – literally – or so it seemed.   We talked and plugged along, and a little drizzle started and then a massive downpour…!

We all stopped, and wondered if we should go on or not.   The consensus was “well, we’re already wet – and we’re HERE” – so we rode on.

Scott & Matt had both ridden the climb before, and so they knew where the ‘real’ ascent began, with a change in the road lines – and the ‘gate’ entrance, after crossing the river.   

I was getting a little tired, and it was becoming hard work by now – especially after a ride in the morning – so I was doing my own (slow) pace.

Was foggy & hard to see the road winding ahead – Scott commented that it was a lovely ride during warmer months, and no rain/cloud.

When we spied the top of the mountain, we were all pretty cold & knackered – wasn’t a grand-arrival at the top – I even had a bit of a cramp in one leg, less than 100m from the finish !    

But – I’d made it, and got a stamp in the passport – yay !

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We fuelled up – coke, gel, muesli bar – and zipped up warmer jackets – it was going to be COLD heading downhill.

With wet clothes, the windchill happened as soon as we began downhill, and the road was wet, and so it was slow going.  

My teeth were chattering in the cold – and I had to stop a few times to shake my hands/arms to get warm.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold – it was REALLY hard work – but, no option, except to keep going.   Scott and I cruised along, Matt had taken off to get down the mountain, and get warm – but we stopped a few times.

It actually got a little warmer after about 1/3 of the way down, a little lower altitude perhaps ?   

We finally got back to the lower section, and anticipating a few minor uphills – which didn’t seem anywhere near as tough as I’d assumed – phew !

We got back to the car, and heard Matt clap & cheer – he was already dressed, packed – and had bought beers – nice…!

We relaxed, warmed up, chatted – and bade farewell to Scott, heading back to Albury – and I drove off, following Matt, on the way to meet our other buddies at the Bright brewery.

It was getting dark quickly – we’d taken a LONG time on the up/down of Falls Creek – a nice sunny day woulda made it much nicer…!

Bright / Porepunkah

Our other friends had already eaten dinner by the time we arrived – I devoured a big steak sandwich & chips – in about 4.5 minutes.    Hungry !

We followed the line of cars to the caravan park in Porepunkah, and showered up – we had a nice self-contained cabin – and I squeezed myself into the bunk, expecting to crash out asleep.

I had my Garmin data upload for the Falls Creek ride – when looking at Strava, it’s a fairly decent ride on it’s own – 60km / 1270m and almost 3.5 hours.

So, it was a big day of riding – I’d ridden almost 100km and nearly 2300m of climbing – as well as a big drive !

It took a while to unwind, and get to sleep – I can now understand how my kids can get ‘over-tired’ and not be able to sleep – c’mon, go to sleep !

The plan for the following morning – for the other Deci-Buff folk – was a 5am start, and to aim for 10x Mt.Buffalo – but I was going to “see how I feel”.

The next morning was fine & sunny – and so I didn’t want to skip a NICE mountain climb – after Mt.Buller and Falls Creek in the rain….!

It was about 7am, and so we devoured some toast & a cup-o-tea, and loaded up, and headed for the base of Mt.Buffalo…     Third climb in two days – eek !

Mt.Buffalo

It was just Matt and I for this climb, we pretty much started at the gatehouse, and so it was riding UP from the first pedal stroke.   It was cold & crisp, amazing fresh cold air, but a big blue sky above, and some cloud/fog through the trees.

As we rode up higher, we could see out into the valley below, with some incredible cloud patches – this was more like it !

We had to take off the warmer layers, it was getting hot with the sun beating down.

After the up-and-down of Falls Creek, this was a much nicer, steady climb, with no major surprises, and breath taking views.

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There were a few cars, being a Saturday – and lots of other cyclists.   We saw the DeciBuff guys zooming downhill, on their 3rd run (?!) – and pushed on.

The landscape at the top of the climb is a little eerie – lots of big rocks – with a winding road up to the derelict Mt.Buffalo chalet.

We stopped to check the view from the top platform – with some amazed on-lookers – old grey nomads who were surprised it only took 1.5 hours to cycle…

This view was well worth the effort !

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We didn’t delay, and headed back.  There was a ranger station near the turn-off, and so I got another stamp in the 7 peaks passport – I now had FOUR in total for the season – and THREE of them within 1.5 days…!

We turned to ride downhill – it’s always amazing to ride down, thinking “wow – did I really ride UP all this way !?”

I had to stop a few times, with tingling fingers from gripping on – I’m not a great descender, too cautious perhaps ?

When I got back to the car, I loaded up, and said goodbye to Matt – thanks dude !

And – then it was a tough drive home – feeling tired and “heavy eyes”.

Home at last

When I finally made it home – I was amazed at what a BIG adventure I’d had – over just two days !

The details on Strava (from Mt.Buffalo) showed over 42km, and 1125m – decent !     

I had been invited to a friend’s 40th birthday – but I ended up cancelling on plans, I was just too knackered – and was in bed about 7.30pm (on a Saturday night)….

Check these ‘totals’ :

  • 825km driving
  • 142 km cycling
  • 3300m climbing

My biggest bike adventure yet !  

In case you’re wondering, my buddies ended up doing 6x repeats of Mt.Buffalo – not quite the ‘everesting’ quota – but over 6000m of climbing in one day – amazing !

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One Response

  1. […] Earlier in the year, I did some of the “7 peaks challenge” and cycled up Lake Mountain with Nate – and then a few weeks later – cycled up Mt Buller, and Falls Creek (in the same day) – and then Mt.Buffalo, the next day !      (Three peaks in two days) […]

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