Mount Donna Snowuang

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“where we’re going, we don’t need any roads”
-Doc Brown; “Back to the Future”


Mount Donna Buang experienced over 30 cm of snow during the week.  I was keen on riding up to the summit to check it out.  Conditions would be bad.  We had no idea what shape the road would be in.  And knew that there was a high chance that the road  leading up to the summit may be blocked by snow.  Just to make it difficult the descent was guaranteed to be dangerous.

How could I pass up such a golden opportunity for adventure.

It rained non-stop overnight, and when I awoke there were large rain clouds covering all over Melbourne.  Conditions were atrocious but I had arranged to meet Geert at 7:00 am in Woori Yallock & I don’t do late.  There was a downpour across the Dandenong’s and had serious doubts about being able to ride.

Thankfully there was no rain at Woori, & we pushed off.  We headed down the Lilydale-Warburton Trail up to the Don Valley.  The great thing about the climb up the rear side of Mount Donna Buang via Don Road is that there’s a 13 km stretch of road which is sealed to traffic over the  winter months.  This is one of Victoria’s longest Mountain climbs with 28 km of climbing to get to the summit.  With a lazy 1,200 vertical in-between.

Much of the climb is dirt and the road was soft from the heavy rains during the week.  It took a little extra work to get up.  Neither of us were in good shape and were happy to cruise and chat. We started to see little bits of ice to the side of the road 500 meters into the climb.  It was cold and perfect conditions for snow.

Snow

Very soon with about 6 km of climbing to the summit we hit the snow.  The whole path in front of us was covered in a layer of white.  I was running 28 mm slicks on my Road bike.  Having reservations about being able to ride across snow.  There was only one way to find out and I just rolled slowly at first.  My tyres would sink into the snow and there was hardly any resistance at all.

I found it easy to keep a riding line easily enough and could change direction without any troubles.  Expecting it to be slippery, but was far from it.  We weren’t able to ride overly quickly but we could ride.  I turned to Geert and mentioned that it was lucky it was warm and he said “you realise its minus 2 degrees?”.  You know you brought the right kit when it’s that cold and you feel warm.

We were constantly stopping to take some photos.  This was magical & really wanted to soak up the experience, and I was naively thinking that this was going to be breeze.  The best laid plans of mice and men…………..

Fun in thesnow

It started to snow.  This was magical, but my bike started to go on strike.  My bike was getting coated in ice.  My chain was frozen.  What was most concerning was that my brakes were completely frozen solid and covered in ice.  If I had to brake I would have been screwed.  On top of that my cleats froze solid.  I was no longer able to clip into to ride and had to balance our shoes over the top of the pedals.  My shoes kept slipping all over the place.

The snow became thicker and thicker until we were riding in up to 6 inches of snow.  When you were moving was ok.  When you stopped it got harder & harder to get rolling.  From a standing start you would just get wheel spin.  You had to try and roll the bike a little forward.  Then get the wheels turning before they span which having shoes that wouldn’t clip in I found frekin hard.

It was fun while it lasted

Ultimately we came to a point where I couldn’t find any grip and could ride no further.  Geert had a CX and was breezing it but was happy to get off and walk.  We had no idea how far it would be to walk to the tourist road, and what shape that would be.  We had two options:

  1. Turn round & descend down that snow which we would thought would be hell, or;
  2. Get off and push our bikes uphill which we thought would be hell

We chose the hell route & started to push our bikes ever so slowly up to the tourist road.  Every step our feet sinking deeper into the snow.  This was much harder than the climb up to this point.  Huffing & puffing, my legs were on fire.  I had brought my SLR & had a heavy backpack which progressively felt heavier and heavier.  As we were grinding our way up the Don, and needed constant breaks.  I was delighted when a rider came flying up the road and I knew him.  We were in no man’s land in the middle of nowhere & to scream out “yo Dylan!” was great.  Behind him was close to a dozen riders.  Including a number Hells 500 riders all with frozen grins on their faces.  Most were still grinding their way through the snow, but many of them had started to push their bikes uphill.

Salvation

It was such a relief to eventually make it to the tourist road.  And delighted to see that the road had recently been snow plowed & looked ok to descend.  Sadly me & Geert were running extremely late & didn’t have the time to climb the final km to the summit of Mount Donna Buang.  We wished all of the guys luck & hit the descent.  My bike was frozen and covered in ice.  I couldn’t get all of it off my bike, and was forced to descend with some ice covering the brakes.  There were small patches of ice that we had to dodge, and had the hands heavily on the brakes.  Snow began to fall.  I found myself blinded and was very relieved that I know this descent so well that I could still descend it with very little visability.

Some ice dropped from the trees above smacking me in the face.  Which not only hurt but blinded me as well.  Considering how dangerous the descent could have been following 3 days of heavy snow.  We had a dream run down. Except for some frostbite which a change of gloves at Cement Creek solved we were down before we knew it.

The return

Both of us were wrecked & still 15km from our cars.  We had nothing in the tank but nothing gets you riding faster than the fear of the wife.  Our leave passes are precious and showing up late is something you just don’t do.  We raced back to the cars and collapsed in a heap.

Some may think we were crazy to do a ride like this.  It wasn’t that bad.  Most of the ride it was sub-zero temperatures but had the right kit on and felt warm most of the ride.  The hardest part was showing home late.  My silent treatment felt colder than the top of Mount Donna.

This is easily one of my favorite rides for the year.  If you love a sense of adventure why not give it a go.  There should be snow up at Mount Donna Buang over the rest of winter.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

 

Thankfully a nice soft fall
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4 thoughts on “Mount Donna Snowuang

    Chris Balis said:
    June 26, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Great article on your adventure up Donna!!

    Dave said:
    June 27, 2016 at 10:34 am

    That looks like huge fun but I wouldn’t fancy that descent in sub-zero temperatures!

    admin responded:
    June 28, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Dave, if you want to do a snow ride with a safer descent, you could ride up to the top of Mount Toolewebong via Panton Gap which is south of Healesville. There’s about 3km of dirt to ride up which last time I rode was great to ride a road bike on.
    https://www.strava.com/segments/7798901
    Hoping to do this one myself again over the coming month.

    admin responded:
    June 28, 2016 at 5:15 am

    Chris, do you reckon you could talk Aaron into organizing a snow ride?

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