The 7 Peaks Rides

I’m having a crack at Victoria’s 7 Peaks Rides.

The rides take you to the top of Victoria’s alpine destinations – Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, Lake Mountain, Mt Buller and Mt Baw Baw.

So far I’ve done five of the seven and have until the end of April to tick off the last two – Dinner Plain and Mt Baw Baw.

It’s a fantastic, ride at your own pace and time, challenge that gets you out of the city and into some of Victoria’s beautiful countryside.

I recently did Falls, Hotham and Buffalo over two days, camping overnight at The Park, a riverside caravan park at Mt Beauty, a small town about a four hour drive from Melbourne. (Highly recommended, with a craft brewery across the road.)

Falls Creek – great ride with great views to Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain, at the start. It didn’t feel like a particularly remote ride as there were power transmission lines and towers for much of the way. The start and middle section is pretty undulating and not too steep until you pass over a bridge over a pretty creek about two thirds of the way. That’s when the climbing really starts. At the resort there were quite a few mountain bike riders around and a café in a shipping container set up in a car park where I had a coffee and pie. The ride back down was fast and exhilarating.

Mt Hotham – this was a testing ride. It was warm, humid and raining when I set off early in the morning from Harrietville, the small town at the start. The climb out of Harrietville was steep but the grade levelled out a bit after a few kilometres. This was a nicer ride in terms of scenery because there was little in the way of buildings or other infrastructure to see. Just forest, valleys and mountains. It got steep again towards the top and there were a couple of disheartening downhills – when you’re pedalling up and only want to get up, you really don’t want to lose any altitude! There was bugger all open at the resort when I reached it. The nearest café was another 1.5km down the road and by that point I couldn’t be bothered. The descent was fun but had to be careful as storms were approaching and there was a bit of rain. I also caught up to a couple of 4WDs towing horse floats that I couldn’t get past near the bottom so I coasted down with them.

Mt Buffalo – I thought I’d be stuffed by the time I got back to Harrietville but to my surprise I was pumped to go on and tackle Buffalo. Drove to the start point at the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area and set off. The weather had cleared and it was warm and humid again. This ride was a steady climb through beautiful forest with views of towering granite cliffs – not too steep, little undulation. I didn’t ride down this one as I was getting a bit nervous about my front brake so the friend who came with me drove the car to the top to meet me. Back at the bottom the creek was a lovely spot to stop, rest and have a wash before the long drive back to Melbourne.

With Lake Mountain and Mt Buller already done, next up are Baw Baw and Dinner Plain. I’ve done Baw Baw a couple of times and it’s HARD. Short but very steep. I know what to expect there. Dinner Plain is the longest ride and also the furthest to reach the start point – the town of Omeo, a five hour drive from Melbourne.

But all going well in terms of juggling family time and the car, it should be doable!

 

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A bushwalker’s lament – organising a walk in Tasmania

Ah, the frustrations of being a solo hiker and trying to organise a bushwalk in Tasmania.

As much as I love Tassie, it still drives me nuts how difficult and expensive it is if you want to do some solo hiking in some of the less well known (ie not over run by tourists) wilderness areas.

Getting to the start of trails in areas like the South-West is impossible without a car. There’s no public transport or regular bushwalker service during the summer “on” season. Your only options are hiring a car or getting a lift from somewhere.

Hiring a car seems like a waste though as the car will be left parked for however long you’re going to be walking for. There are some bushwalker tour companies but they only service the popular walks – like the Overland Track.

I had thought I could catch a bus from Hobart south to a small town called Geeveston and then try one of the taxi services in the area. This is what I did when I did my Precipitous Bluff walk – bus to Geeveston, lift to the start of the track, lift from my finish at Cockle Creek back to Geeveston, bus back to Hobart.

But when I called to enquire I learned the taxi service (sole driver) I used had retired and there was just one other left based in another nearby town – Huonville.

After a bit of Googling, the Parks Tasmania website listed a bloke who provided transport for walkers but when I called him he said he’d also stopped doing it. But he referred me to Par Avion, a tour company that flies tourists and walkers to Melaleuca, an airstrip and popular starting/finishing point for walks in the South-West.

Par Avion gave me the names and numbers of two people who offer transport to walkers (Dallas – 0429 168 905 and Jemma – 0447 250 979). I called them in November and their diaries were already starting to fill up with bushwalker trips. So I guess I’m not the only one in this situation.

Unfortunately, because I’m hiking solo, I have to cover the whole cost of the lift – which is more than the cost of my flights to Tassie. Thankfully, I’m in the fortunate position to be able to afford this. But wow, it’s a hefty hit.

Anyway, hopefully the weather gods will be kind to me and the walk will be worth it.

 

 

Federation Peak

I am in awe of the climbers and film makers who have made a movie about scaling Federation Peak in Tasmania during the wettest winter on record.

Some friends and I did it in summer and it was hard. For these guys to do it in winter, in the wet, is incredible.

Federation Peak is regarded by many as Australia’s hardest hike. Just getting to the base of the peak is a very tough slog and then climbing up the tower to the top via the usual route is basically rock climbing without ropes. People have fallen and died.

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The conditions the guys making the movie faced look atrocious. And they were going up a scary looking route called The Blade. I can imagine the thought “why are we doing this!?” must have gone through their heads many times.

When we did it about seven years ago we had some pretty off weather too. It rained constantly as we clawed and crawled our way up Moss Ridge. Moss Ridge is basically a short cut to get to Federation. But it’s also a steep, densely forested tangle of fallen trees and roots that made it feel like we were scrambling through a jungle gym – with heavy packs.

It was cold and rainy when we got to the Becherviase Plateau, at the base of the peak, and we hurriedly threw up the tent and dived in to get dry and warm. We were tent bound all the next day because of the weather until it finally started clearing in the evening. The next day it dawned blue sky and still – perfect conditions to climb.

Only two of us went up as our other friend stayed at the camp (he was afraid of heights!). We met a group going up who’d come from a different direction and tagged along with them. The climb is a grippy scramble edging along and up a rock wall. There’s a tricky (and scary) section where you clamber over a ledge and you’re dangling in empty air. We were lucky that coming down we encountered another group who were on the way up and had set up ropes on this section which we shared to get over. The exposure on the rock is incredible, with a sheer drop hundreds of metres down to Lake Geeves.

Anyway, we made it safely back to camp and the feeling of relief and achievement was incredible. We spent the rest of the day lounging around in the sun, drying stuff out and getting organised to head back out.

The next day the weather started to come in again and we realised how lucky we were to have that one day of sunshine to climb Federation.

When did gear get so expensive?

As much as I love shopping for outdoorsy stuff, I am always surprised by how expensive it can be.

I went looking for new hiking boots the other day. I’m planning on doing a multi-day walk in south west Tasmania early next year and needed new boots after my old Scarpas finally gave up after years of wear. They’d served me well and it was sad dropping them into a Geeveston bin after I’d finished my last big walk – Precipitous Bluff.

boots

New boots!

My new boots are full leather Asolo TPS 535s. They’re tough and sturdy, which is what you need when walking in Tasmania. But the cost! $389. And these weren’t the most expensive available (the Gore-Tex version were $469).  I suppose you do get what you pay for and, hopefully, a premium price equates to a premium product. Especially if it’s something you’ll be relying on to get into and out of a wilderness area safely.

But it makes me wonder if the cost of hiking gear discourages people from taking up camping and hiking. Especially when starting out. Tents are hundreds of dollars, sleeping bags are hundreds of dollars, backpacks are hundreds of dollars. But I suppose you buy this stuff once and it should last you a long time. (A good example of that is my tent. It’s the only one I’ve ever bought and it’s lasted me … I forget how many years … many.) And I guess you can always hire or buy second hand.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. You don’t always NEED to buy the latest and shiniest gear for walking. And I suppose a lot depends on the kind of hiking you’ll do. You don’t need much if you’re only doing day walks in fine weather, as opposed to multi-day hikes in remote and rough terrain.

Maybe I’m just getting old and want to complain about how expensive everything is these days. First world problems.

Anyway, I should just be grateful that I’m in the fortunate position to be able to buy the occasional expensive item so I should just shut up and enjoy it.  And start breaking in these new boots.

A cyclist’s lament

I commute to work in Melbourne’s CBD almost every day. My route takes me along St Kilda Rd, where there’s a dedicated bike lane. And increasingly I’m seeing motorcyclists using this lane to get around traffic. It’s annoying me more and more. It’s illegal and dangerous.

And this week I saw the inevitable clash.

A few bike riders were stopped and shouting and a motorbike rider was getting off his bike. I didn’t stop as the lane was getting congested and whatever had happened appeared to be getting sorted out by who was already there. I didn’t see anyone on the ground so assumed whatever had happened there weren’t any serious injuries.

When I was further up the road and stopped at a red light, I asked a rider who was there what had happened.

The motorbike rider was riding in the bike lane, turned left without looking, and took out a cyclist. Awful and a depressingly familiar story – a vehicle turns left without looking and hits a bike rider. As the guy I was talking to said, just getting to work each day on a bike is becoming a matter of survival.

Which is obviously a shame. If all road users would just respect the rules and each other, it wouldn’t be this way.

Anyway, here are the rules that explicitly state that motorbikes aren’t allowed to ride in bike lanes.

https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/a-to-z-of-road-rules/motorcycles

Plus, page 12 of the Victorian motorbike rider handbook.

If you want to ride in the bicycle lane – get a bike!

Riding up Mt Baw Baw

Just keep pedalling. That’s the main thing on my mind as I tackle what’s billed as one of the toughest bike climbs in Australia – Mt Baw Baw.

From the signposted start of the serious climbing – called The Gantry – to the Baw Baw village, it’s a steep, leg burning, lung busting six kilometre slog up a lightly trafficked road through magnificent tall gum tree forest.

There are helpful (some may say unhelpful) signs along the way counting down the distance to the top – and the gradient of the road.

It’s mostly in the teens. But there’s one section where it hits over 20 degrees. At that point my legs are almost too tired to get out of the saddle. At that point I just put my head down, breathed hard, and my toddler’s favourite song, The Wheels on The Bus, came into my head. It got me through.

This was the second time I’ve done this ride. A mate came along this time and I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet.

But the relief at reaching the top makes all the pain worthwhile. Plus the café with its coffee and muffins to refuel and the big glass windows with the view down into Victoria’s Gippsland region.

The ride down is a challenge too. You’re hard on the brakes all the way as the bike feels like it wants to surge away and throw you off.

This climb is one of Victoria’s annual Seven Peaks cycling challenge. It’s something I’m very keen on tackling next year.

Baw Baw ride