I lover riding over the winter months! There’s a certain appeal that gets me out of my nice warm bed to get out on the bike. I was invited by Brad Lyell to do a climb called Mount Riddell in Healesville. This was a climb that I knew nothing about and looked it up on Strava. The segment said that it was 6 km in length with an average gradient of 10%.
There wasn’t all that much information online about Mount Riddell. All I found out was that it’s a mountain within the Yarra Ranges National Park to the east of Healesville, and offered a number of challenging hiking trails. Sitting at an altitude of 815 meters above sea level.
We parked at Healesville Sanctuary and made our way across to Mount Riddell. I’ve done some pretty intimidating climbs over the years, and hate to admit that this one looked very scary.
When we hit the base of the climb, the road rose sharply in front of us. It just kept getting steeper and steeper and steeper. Finally peaking at 21%. Whilst this first pinch was only 400 meters in length. I was wondering what the next 5 km was going to be like.
At the top of the pinch, we came to a gate and had to pass our bikes over. We then enjoyed the briefest of descents. This was going to be the last respite we had until we hit the top.
The first part of the climb wasn’t too bad. The gradient generally sat between 8 – 10%, and we knew this was going to be tough. Trying to soft pedal as much as possible.
When we hit the second hairpin I screamed out “f#@k me”. A minute later Brad rounded the bend and heard him yell “oh crap!”.
The road went skywards and rarely dipped below 18% from here for the final 2 km. It peaked at a ridiculous 23% at one point. Every corner we came to we hoped for some respite. It never happened. I had brought along my SLR and a change of clothes for the wet weather up top. My backpack weighed close to 7kg & weighed me down heavily. My whole body was screaming and many times I wanted to jump off my bike and walk. I thought about the toughest climbs that I’ve ever done. Mast Gully Road. Terry’s Avenue. Mount Baw Baw. Mount Hotham. This was easily the most brutal. Grinding up such an incredibly steep gradient over such a sustained time on gravel would bring most riders to tears.
I couldn’t believe that I got up in one piece and almost collapsed in a heap. It was a bit disappointing that the climb didn’t come out at the peak. Finishing at a picnic area at 780 meters above sea level. There was no view, just a feeling of immense pain.
That was truly brutal!!!!!!
Being suckers for punishment we continued on and found some hiking tracks with the aim of getting up to Mount Donna Buang. The path we chose was pretty rough with a tonne of debris everywhere. We descended for about 4 km and boy was it cold.
We then started to climb and climb and climb. 10 km of undulating climbing all up with some incredibly steep pinches going up to 21%. We hit the mist, and the path was covered in lots of wet branches, bark and wet rocks. There was very little traction and I was screaming in pain climbing up extremely steep gradients. With a backpack which seemed to be getting heavier and heavier the further we climbed.
With the wet mist, it got and colder the closer we got to the peak of Donna. This was one of the most remarkable areas that I’ve ever ridden through, but I can’t remember much. I cracked big time and ended up walking several incredibly steep sections along the way.
We ended out on Don Road and in 25 km climbed a ridiculous 1,500 vertical, which included 7 km of descents, and took us almost four hours to do. Whilst I’ve done rides before with such crazy vertical. They’ve always been on the bitumen and there is no comparison to the difficulties we faced on this ride. We ended up riding less than 50 km.
Easily the hardest short ride that I’ve ever done.
The descent was just as hard. It was absolutely freezing and took all of my resolve ignoring the cold. Brad regretted bringing fingerless gloves. I wore two pairs of really warm gloves and my hands went numb. I can only imagine what he must have gone through.
This one hurt something chronic and I had to ask myself what is the Riddell of why we climb?
When I work out the answer I’ll let you know.
And no. The answer is not ‘42’.