This was my first time doing a ride up Mount Hotham and I was nervous as all hell. On the drive up to the base of Mount Hotham, all I could do was stare skywards at the monster that lay ahead of me. I kept wondering how the hell I was going to climb that thing. All year I’ve been sick & injured, and all out of sorts. Definitely not in shape to take on one of Australia’s toughest climbs.
From Harrietville, I launched myself into the climb, and was baking in the hot sun. Curse you Melbourne weather! The start of Mount Hotham is quite steep with the gradient on the wrong side of 10%, and the heat was doing a number of me and my body was working overtime trying to keep cool. We came upon a road block 3km into the climb. There had been a landslide, and we were forced to wait for 15 minutes. I wasn’t enjoying the break. I was hyperventilating & sweat was pouring off me like a shower. I went through a full bottle of water, and given there was close to 28km of climbing ahead of me I was getting some serious alarm bells [wp-svg-icons icon=”alarm” wrap=”i”]
When we were finally let loose I kept reining myself in. Trying to slow down the pace, and kept dropping back through the group. I was struggling and had no idea how I was going to get up this climb. At the 10km mark the road flattens out to a false flat, and the relief of getting off the steeper lower slopes was immense. I dropped it in the big dog and my legs finally came alive. I dropped the hammer and started to crank out a decent tempo. At this stage, I only had less than half a bottle of fluid left, and needed to ration it up the remainder of the climb.
The last 10km of Mount Hotham is a rollercoaster of insane climbing & descending, with pinches moving up to 18% in gradient, and all I had was half a bottle of water left. When I hit the first really steep climb of the day I glided up it. I thought to myself. “Schweet”. I’ve got this in the bag, and pushed harder.
When I hit CRB hill, I started to struggle and no surprise that my Garmin told me I was sitting on an 15% gradient. That explained the lack of movement. I had only a sip of water left. I drank it, which left me 6km to ride without any water. I slowed down a bit on this climb, but still did well and was really optimistic.
The great thing about Mount Hotham are the views from up top. It was a feeling of being on top of the world, and nice to have something distract me from the pain my legs were feeling. Through much pain, I managed to crest CRB hill and I was one step closer to finishing my first climb up Mount Hotham. I only had about 150 metres of climbing to do.
How hard could it be?
I hit the last steep pinch which ramped up to 15% straight away. That sip that I had taken on the last climb, I suddenly dreamed of more. I reached for the bottles to see if there were any drops left, but they were empty. I had nothing to drink and my body was dehydrated, and with over 1km of incredibly steep climbing ahead of me, my body told me to get f*ked. I bonked and the lights went out. I’ve been to the pain cave more times than I can remember, and I was so, so close. All I had to do was pedal. I tried, believe me. Sweat was pouring off me, and I was heaving non-existing air into my lungs. I was no longer watching the scenery. My eyes were fixated on my front wheel. Wishing that every time that I looked up I would be at the peak of the climb.
Walking is never an option. Only suffering, and I kept at it. Ever so painfully. Just before reaching the peak one of the riders bridged the gap to me, and told him about running out of water. He said “no problem, give me your drink bottle. I’ve got plenty”. He gave me half a bottle of water and I sculled it. Water never tasted so good. The light switch was back on and I was able to unleash and flew all the way over the last pinch and caned it down through the famous Mount Hotham tunnel, which I had wanted to cross for years. I went and drank over 2 Litres to replenish the fluids, and slowly tried to work the shock out of the system.
I was on cloud nine. I gave myself no hope of climbing Mount Hotham and ended up being the third quickest up on the day. Riders that were drifting in looked equally shocked and dehydrated. It was very hot conditions to climb. We were enduring wintery conditions little over a week ago, and were now in a heatwave.
I completed not only Mount Hotham, but that was the last of the 7 Peaks that I needed to tick off my bucket list.
All I needed now was to get back to the car. I emptied the tank getting to the top, and left nothing for the 3 very steep and long climbs on the way back. I endured pain, suffering and anguish getting across those three climbs & the descent was a bit of a blur.
I was really glad to be able to have experienced this ride with a great bunch of rides, and if I was asked to describe Mount Hotham? The picture below sums it up pretty well.
This is the first ride of a cycling weekend that I am doing up at Bright. Tomorrow I will be driving up to Falls Creek as a support vehicle/course photographer and what is set to be yet another really hot day.
To be continued…….