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

Pittwater time lapse

Getting a bit braver with exploring the GoPro features. This time, time lapse.

Last Christmas/New Year we were with the inlaws at their place at Pittwater, north of Sydney. I’ve done a couple of posts about Pittwater (here and here) and how special a place it is.

This time lapse is of the tide coming in and early evening. I should have let it run until dark. The boats off shore would have turned their lights on and the lights of houses across the other side of Pittwater would appear.

Anyway, something to try again the next time we’re up there.

Major Mitchell Plateau hike

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I did the Major Mitchell Plateau three day circuit walk in the Grampians National Park recently.

A three hour drive west of Melbourne, The Grampians have been a destination I’ve been wanting to visit for a while.

An unexpected week off from work gave me the opportunity to throw on the backpack and see somewhere new. After more than a year since my last overnight hike (a new baby don’t give you much opportunity for camping) I wondered whether I still knew what to do.

I started out at Sheep Hills Carpark and quickly fell into the steady rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other.

The track was obvious and rose steadily to Mt William. Unfortunately the day I set out was grey and rainy and the views of bush and surrounding mountain ranges were intermittent.

The final climb along the road to the top of Mt William was steep and hard on the feet. There was no reward at the summit as it was completely clouded in. It was cold and windy so I didn’t bother spending much time up there and set out for the First Wannon campsite.

The track got rougher but was still easy to follow. It descended steeply into Boundary Gap and then climbed just as steeply again up and onto the plateau. There was a bit of careful rock scrambling near the top which I wasn’t ready for. After about five hours of hiking up and down through the rain I was feeling pretty shagged and keen to set up camp and get dry and warm.

It was a nice campsite with a drop toilet and a small creek running through it.

Day two for the walk across the plateau dawned much nicer, with puffy white clouds and plenty of blue sky. This was the day I got all the views across the Grampians and the surrounding farmland below.

It made enduring the weather of the day before worthwhile.

The walk off the plateau is steep, followed by a long steady descent to Jimmy Creek Campground.

Again, I was pretty happy to get to the campsite so I could relax, even though it meant leaving behind the feeling of being remote and away from everything.

The third day back to the car was pretty boring – an undulating fire trail with little in the way of views.

Back at the car I headed to Halls Gap, the tourist town in the middle of the Grampians, where I stayed at one of the caravan parks for the night before heading home. I liked Halls Gap; a pleasant spot where you could base yourself for day walks around the area.

Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle return walk

For a great day walk with ups and downs to stretch the legs, about an hour out of Melbourne, the walk from Fernshaw to Dom Dom Saddle and back in the Yarra Ranges is well worth a look.

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Starting at the Fernshaw picnic ground beside the Watts River just outside Healesville on the way to Marysville, the track is well trodden and easy to follow. Although in some places large trees have come down across it after what must have been a massive blow so there’s a bit of scrambling required to get over them and through tangles of smashed limbs and branches.

The first part of the walk is pretty flat and winds through tree ferns and tall, straight mountain ash. You can hear the river somewhere amongst the trees. You then climb up and down a couple of steep, forested ridges to reach Dom Dom Saddle, another nice picnic area on the way to Marysville.

At about 20km long, the walk is a decent one for some huffing and puffing exercise and time out among the trees.

And we made it back to the car in time to stop off at Tarra Warra winery for some wine tasting on the way home. That’s one of the best bits about walking in the Yarra Ranges, the cellar doors to visit in the Yarra Valley on the way home.

Mt Dom Dom walk

Mt Dom Dom is really a blip of a hill in the Yarra Ranges, east of Melbourne. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about it but I’d come across a walk description of it so thought I’d give it a crack.

We started at the carpark of the Dom Dom saddle picnic area, between Healesville and Marysville, and followed some dirt logging roads east for a bit, looking for what according to the walk notes was a path to the summit on our left. We came across a vague dirt vehicle track about where we thought we should be heading up and followed it. It was slippery and steep  and when we cleared some low scrub there were nice views west over the ranges towards Healesville. The bush wasn’t that inspiring as it looked like we were walking through an old logging coupe.

The track we were following disappeared towards the top and we picked our way as far to the top as we could until the undergrowth became too thick to push through. It didn’t look like there would be much of a view from the top anyway with the dense scrub.

We made our way back down to the logging road and followed it around the base of the mountain until we reached a junction with a walking track. It was single track through native forest and a nice change from the road.  The track joined up with another logging road, which we followed back up to the picnic area.

All up it was nice to be out of the city but I wouldn’t go rushing back to do this walk. The wine tasting at some Yarra Valley cellar doors on the way home was good though – Warramunda Estate, Helen and Joey Estate and Punt Road. All very nice.

 

Paddling at Pittwater

Pittwater is the next harbour north of Sydney Harbour. I’ve written about it before. It’s where the Christmas Eve dog race between Scotland Island and Church Point is held.

It’s a wonderful part of the world. On its northern shores is Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and many small sheltered bays where boats and their owners drop anchor for weekends and holidays away.

My wife’s family have a house in one of the bays that’s only accessible by boat. It’s where we often go for holidays. And whenever we’re there, I usually spend a bit of time paddling about the bay, up its creek, and around the points, watching for wildlife like cormorants, sea eagles and cockatoos, jellyfish and stingrays.

 

 

Up and down Lake Mountain

I like climbing. All kinds – rock climbing, hiking up mountains and while riding road and mountain bikes.

With rock climbing it’s as much the mental challenge as physical one of getting to the top of a wall using the right holds and moves.

With hiking it’s the slow, methodical plodding of putting one foot in front of the other with a pack on. That and the desire to see what’s on the other side.

With riding, it’s the rhythmic grind of keeping the pedals turning.

Lately I’ve been on the road bike doing a few climbs out of Melbourne.

Mt Donna Buang is a favourite, as is Lake Mountain.

A friend and I recently did Lake Mountain, on the outskirts of Marysville, a town that was almost completely wiped out by bushfires in 2009.

While the town has been rebuilt, the landscape around it still bears the scars of the fire. The forest is slowly regenerating but the dead, charred trunks of trees stand like tall matchsticks across the hillsides. It’s a sad sight because the forest pre fires must have been spectacular.

It’s nice ride to the top of Lake Mountain, where there’s a café and other facilities for winter when it snows. The road is a steep climb out of Marysville before it levels off to a relatively gentle gradient.

The fun part is going down and hitting some pretty impressive, probably stupid, speeds, as this screen grab from my activity app shows – 79.8km/h.IMG_1541

Anyway, here’s to hill climbs, and the way back down.