Mt Baw Baw: Hardest Hill in Australia?
"Ranked the 2nd toughest climb in world cycling" - Michael Horan, Herald Sun 11/10/05
We recently made a road trip to melbourne and along the way there did the Audax
. On the way back we visited Baw Baw National Park and I rode up
Mt. Baw Baw
which may be the 'hardest hill in Australia'.
The ASC National Talent Identification website
talks it up although the stats are a bit exaggerated
The listed length of the climb is 6.2km on the baw baw classic website, with an
elevation gain of 720 metres. This goes from the toll gate at the bottom to the
main carpark at the top.
This makes it an average gradient of 11.5% for over 6 km which is pretty
intense, especially given the last few km bring the average down. The maximum
gradient on the climb is only 20% which is pretty nasty but not as bad as i was
expecting. For those not numerically inclined, 5% gradient is a pretty typical
hill. 10% is generally considered a steep hill, and anything above 10% is
ridiculous. Anyone familiar with the road out of coogee towards bondi (Arden st)
which looks from the beach like a vertical wall - that averages about 13% for
the steepest sections.
[photo taken while driving down the hill]
Given the profile of the climb, I decided to ride my girlfriend's road bike
instead of mine because it had a compact crankset ( = easier gears). This was a
good decision, and I'd recommend 34/25 as the absolute minimum ratio for anyone
wanting to attempt mt. baw baw. Even with the compact, there were still sections
where I was standing on the pedals grinding down almost as hard as i could just
to plod along at 6km/hr. There were tough sections, but i wouldn't call it
unrelenting. None of the really steep sections were long enough that i felt
close to having to stop. It would have been a different story i'm sure if i was
riding with my regular road-bike gearing.
[photo taken while driving down the hill]
An added challenge was the temperature which at the base was about 39 degrees
(this was the second day of the victorian heat-wave). It was still 30 degrees at
the top which was becoming fairly sweaty going. The toughest part was towards
the end when i was being attacked and by a few persistent marsh flies. The
natural instinct was to ride faster to escape them, although this was a case of
riding at 11km/hr instead of 9km/hr so i don't know how much use all that extra
[photo taken looking up the hill]
I eventually (after about 43 minutes, average speed of 8.8km/hr) made it to the
top and rode through the main gate to one of the ski resort buildings for a cold
drink. I also got my '7 peaks' booklet stamped at the visitors' centre by some
staff who were pretty amused as they didn't get many tourists in summer (there
was only 1 other car apart from ours in the massive car park).
[view from the top - that's a ski slope in winter]
[post ride soft drink]
The drive to baw baw from melbourne is not that far (about 150km) but is very
slow going. Initially frustrating with many traffic lights until reaching the
dandenongs, and then hundreds of blind hairpin corners slow you down through the
rainforest near baw baw. The drive gets a bit tedious and I would definitely
recommend if you have time to instead ride to baw baw from at least 40km out. It
would make for a beautiful ride - just watch out for motorcycles and logging
It was hard, but the claim of the second hardest climb in the world i definitely
disagree with - I think this comment was partly based on erroneous data that the
average grade was 13%. I wouldn't say i'd toured europe extensively but I've
ridden at least 4 climbs in Italy that I'd say were tougher, most difficult
being passo mortirolo and passo fedaia. But, Baw Baw probably is the toughest
climb in australia...
Or does anyone have other suggestions for australia's toughest climb?
Other contenders for australia's toughest i'd mention are:
(fountaindale rd to lookout) in Kiama; over 10% average for
about 5km with several sections exceeding 20%, and the last 600m average over
(heading away from berry) - about 6km all up, but with a very
long stretch at about 13% gradient.
Jamberoo Mountain Pass
- The first 2 to 3 kilometres is very steep ramping from
13% to 17%
- Haven't ridden it but sounds similar to berry mountain
(Hobart) - especially if you start from sea level it's about
20km. The last 11km averages about 7.5% which is almost like Alpe D'Huez. The
cold weather at the top (even in summer) can provide an added challenge.
I've also read about a climb called 'Peppertree Hill
' in tasmania which is meant
to be horrific, but can't find any reference to it on the web. Anyone done it?
Others i can think of that are a good challenge, but not in quite the same
The Gog Range
(northern tasmania) - about 3km, but very steep
(ACT) - only about 3km, but average >10%.
The hill from Gowrie Park
up to Cradle Mountain (northern tasmania)
The sealed road up to Hassan's Walls
from Hartley Vale heading towards lithgow