Mt Baw Baw: Hardest Hill in Australia?

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
Alpine Classic
. 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
effort was.

[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:

Saddleback Mountain (fountaindale rd to lookout) in Kiama; over 10% average for
about 5km with several sections exceeding 20%, and the last 600m average over

Berry Mountain (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%

Cambewarra Mountain - Haven't ridden it but sounds similar to berry mountain

Mt. Wellington (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
category include:

The Gog Range (northern tasmania) - about 3km, but very steep

Fitz's Hill (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
(blue mountains)

The Sidling (near Launceston)

Mt. Keira (Wollongong)

Bald Hill (Stanwell Park)

Macquarie Pass (Albion Park)

Barrengary Mountain (Kangaroo Valley)

Black Mountain (ACT)

Mt. Ainslie (ACT)

Woodhill Mountain (Berry)

Mt. Buffalo (Bright, VIC)

Views: 14087

Comment by Josh on February 10, 2009 at 11:59am
Mt Keira is not that bad. A bit steep for the first 2 km, but after that it's fine. Bumble Hill is significantly tougher than Keira.
Comment by Neil Alexander on February 10, 2009 at 12:11pm
...And those wusses who ride the TdF make a big deal of the Col du Tourmalet (2115m) which has a maximum gradient (according to the roadside signs) of 10% just for the last km to the top (from the west; can't remember what it was from the east side). But then, the climb is about 24 km from each direction, as opposed to a mere 6.2 km for Baw Baw, and they have probably ridden two or three other major passes before getting there... but they don't have to carry camping gear and a touring load!!!.

What a great list of hills, Nick. We have ridden a lot of them -- particularly remembering the Gowrie Park, Tas., climb with the trailer bike in the heat of summer '05. And nearly crashing at >90km/h going down Fitz's. (Never want to do that ride again!)

You don't mention Mt Hotham, Vic. Does that rate? Reckon The Meg is a real bastard, not to mention the last 5 km down then up from the Mt St Bernard snow clearing station.
Comment by Neil Alexander on February 10, 2009 at 12:14pm
And have you seen this?
Comment by Nick on February 10, 2009 at 1:29pm
Hey Josh,

Yes, I agree Josh that Mt Keira isn't really a contender. Although it is a lot more challenging if you climb the last little bit on the bumpy road up to the lookout, this is very steep after 8km of climbing already past. I have heard bumble hill is tough, but have never ridden it.

Hi Neill,

I can't get that link to work, but maybe that's a temporary thing. I haven't ridden Mt. Hotham, but along with all the ski resort climbs (Mt Buller, Falls Creek, etc) it is probably quite a challenge due to the shear length of it, although they tend not to be too steep, usually about 5% average.
Comment by naomi on February 10, 2009 at 2:24pm
Comment by Dabba on February 10, 2009 at 2:42pm
Most of my hill climbing is done while touring and carrying 25kgs+ of gear, so usually anything over about 6% is a walk for me, but that's OK. It's a part of the enjoyment of touring. Gravel climbs tend to be walks sooner than bitumen ones.

For me by far the toughest walk was up Gentle Annie from Gowrie Park to Cradle Mountain in Tassie. It was 10.2% average for 4.2kms, which meant stops to catch my breath and have a rest very frequently. The other was on bitumen and was a 1.7km climb between Manilla and Bendemeer of 8.9% on a warm day. I was really glad to have a cold drink in Bendemeer 5 or so kms after the peak.
Comment by Dabba on February 10, 2009 at 2:45pm
Whoops - the climb to Bendemeer was on gravel, not bitumen.
Comment by Neil Alexander on February 10, 2009 at 5:59pm
"This" was this: but Climb by Bike seems to be on hiatus this arvo (worked this morning).
Comment by DamianM on February 10, 2009 at 7:41pm
Naomi's bike woulda been too big for you wouldn't it ? ;)
Comment by Nick on February 11, 2009 at 8:51am
Wow Neil - that Malga Palazzo is insane, sections of 45%! It makes you wonder historically why such a road was even built?

Ha ha Damien, no my bike is a bit bigger. Same frame size but i have my seat higher and handlebars further away! ;-)


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