By Sebastian Jayne    Photography: Robert Conroy

The Victorian Alps are the go to destination for a fix of altitude and adventure in Australia. Massive mountain passes are scattered throughout the region, with each offering their own unique feel and challenge. The 7 Peaks ride is a self-paced cycling challenge that is run between October and April around the Victorian Alps region and takes in seven of the state’s best climbs. The challenge is all about adventure and not about how fast you can do the climbs, though if you want to go fast there is no-one stopping you! 

Once you have competed a peak, you receive a stamp of completion - either in person or in your digital passport. Your digital passport runs from the 7 Peaks phone app and links to your Strava account to register that you have done the climb. Once you have logged a climb, you will also go into a draw to win a major prize of a 15-day holiday around the beautiful French Alps, and get to see the Tour De France. The more climbs you do, the more entries into the draw you get. Check out the next few pages for our guide to all 7 Peaks and how best to tackle the challenge!

Mt Hotham

The Mountain

The Queen, likely the distant cousin of France’s vicious Mont Vonteux, takes riders to the highest point out of all 7 Peaks. The 1850m exposed summit of Mt Hotham is reached via a roller coaster trek from the alpine village of Harrietville down in the valley. Its gradient only averages 4%, but that should not really be taken at face value since the cruel ascents of the infamous CRB section and The Meg are both masked by fast descents and a false flat through the middle. 

The road acts as a key link between the alps, the coast and the Omeo farmlands, which sees cattle trucks negotiate the pass as tentatively as the riders climb. Every December though, the Hotham climb is attacked with a little more vigour by the country’s elite and amateur cyclists in the Tour of Bright that finishes atop the mountain. Its formidable reputation, which draws such a following, belays the beauty of the climb. The height of the peak offers stunning views of the surrounding Alpine National Park, which when combined with the fearsome challenge of the climb itself, should make it a bucket list adventure for any cyclist.   

The Climb

The threatening nature of the Mt Hotham climb starts at kilometre zero, which makes a warm-up vital. Starting the ride from Bright gives you a 25km warm-up on a relatively flat road alongside the Ovens River. The official 7 Peaks Strava segment starts from the Harrietville General Store, which is the last place to grab some water before the top. 

The initial 10km, up past the towering gums, is the steepest section of the climb. It ‘only’ averages 7%, although the first few hundred metres tips 10%, and then there is the infamous Meg section. This is a short section but another 10% makes it a gut buster. It puts you ‘in the box’ in no time at all though, and then you’re at the top and looking down at the snaking bitumen below that you just climbed. 

The middle false flat offers a chance to view the towering Razorback ridgeline across the valley that connects Mt Hotham to Victoria’s second highest mountain, Mt Feathertop. During the Tour of Bright, the average speed along the false flat can top 35km/h for the full 9km section. Don’t get too comfortable, though, as the exposed peak that you can view on the left is where the finish lies!

This exposure is where the previous comparison to France’s Mont Vonteux is made. The harsh exposed peaks and ridgelines of Mt Hotham are windswept and treacherous - with the gusts swirling to form headwinds, tailwinds or vicious crosswinds depending on specific conditions. These challenging elements are thrown in the mix with further leg-sapping gradients of the CRB hill and the last sting in the tail, Diamantina Hill. In between these sections are fast downhills where speeds of over 70km/h can be reached. 

These challenges are there to distract you from enjoying the beauty around. Up close, the exposed peaks are not rocky moon-like landscapes like Mont Vonteux but rather grassy meadows with snow gums and wildflowers. The distant views offer unparalleled vistas of the Alpine National Park and its many peaks and ridgelines. Even the mighty Mt Buffalo can be viewed in the distance. 

The final section is a sweeping descent into the Hotham village, which characterises the roller coaster journey you’ve just travelled. The climb’s mythical route makes it a fearsome challenge, although it is manageable and does offer the most amazing views of any climb in Australia. A true bucket list item.

When you should ride Mt Hotham

The exposed peak makes it very dependent on weather. It’s best to avoid the climb on very windy days or during storms but any other time through summer is great. The traffic doesn’t get overly busy so any time of the day is good.  

Where to stay

Staying in Bright is the best option with a wide range of accommodation options at various prices, with some catering to cyclists. Check for a full range. You can also stay at Harrietville or even on the mountain at Hotham or Dinner Plain and experience the true alpine adventure. Staying on top of the mountain can make it easier to add the Dinner Plain climb on the riding menu.

Where to eat

Stopping off at Harrietville to hit the café or general store on the way up and then the pub on the way back for a feed can make for a great day out.

Strava stats

Starting point – Harrietville General Store, Great Alpine Rd, Harrietville

Finishing point – ‘Hotham Heights’ sign past the Corral Day Carpark, Great Alpine Rd, Hotham

Distance – 32.4km

Height gained – 1347m

Average gradient – 4%

KOM – Brendan Canty 1:09:05

QOM – Justine Barrow 1:27:20

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Mt Hotham Transit Lounge – 28 Great Alpine Road (under the Resort Management Building)
Open 24 hours a day

Strava Tips

Pacing – It’s hard to pace Hotham as the vicious gradients can require all you have just to scale them. The varied nature also makes it tricky, but starting conservatively to have enough energy to tackle the last kicks is always a good plan. 

Food –  Stocking up with water and food at Harrietville is the best option.

Dinner Plain

The Mountain

Amongst the 7 Peaks climbs, the Omeo to Dinner Plain climb is unique in its length, characteristics and those all-important views. Omeo, the starting town’s name, is a term originating from the Aboriginal word for ‘mountains’. An appropriate starting position for a climb. The top of the ‘peak’, though it’s not a peak, is Dinner Plain and is so named as it has been used as a meeting place for generations from Aboriginal tribes to cattlemen and later tourists. It’s an equally appropriate place to end a climb and start refuelling with mates!

The climb travels along the Great Alpine Road, the same road that the Mt Hotham climb traverses. So, essentially the Dinner Plain climb ascends the same mountain but from the other side of range, though in a very different manner. The rolling farmland through the middle section is a distinct marker of the Dinner Plain climb. It’s a nice change from the solely alpine climbs of the other six peaks. But at 42km long and 943m of climbing (with a good majority above 1000m altitude), it is very much an alpine climb and deserving of the 7 Peaks label. 

The Climb

The starting point of the climb is down in Omeo, outside the Omeo Bakery - that might be a hint as to where you should fuel up pre-ride! The most dedicated section of the climb comes within the first 7km up out of Omeo. Under the eye of Mount Livingstone, you ascend at around 6% gradient, though there are a few sections that rise at a higher rate. 

The terrain is rugged Australian bush through this section, with views out over the valley and across the rolling farmlands of Omeo over your left shoulder, which are amazing. The exposed nature of the climb can leave you battling the wind, or dealing with a searing sun, which will make the ascent harder. But before long you’re at the top at over 1000m altitude, where it can get a bit cooler. 

Make sure to keep an eye out for the views of Mt Kosciusko or stop off at the lookout (8km in) for a photo opportunity or just a rest! If you choose to push on and keep the pace high, you are soon greeted with a much faster downhill section that takes you to the farmland and flatter middle section of the climb. 

The farmland is beautiful along this 10km stretch and the rolling road lets you keep the pace high and hopefully avoid the magpies that sit waiting in the clusters of trees along the way. But the climb doesn’t let you stay comfortable for too long as the road gets really grippy again soon enough, with a 4km section at 6% past the Cobungra Cattle station.

The station’s high altitude and pure air helps produce premium Wagyu beef from cattle with ‘great health, lung capacity and vigour’. You’ll possibly need the same to move out of the valley. But once at the top, you’ll be into familiar territory again as the alpine colours, views and sounds will appear to join you on the final 14km to Dinner Plain.

This final section is more swansong than gut buster as it averages only 2.3% and is a nice way to end the longest challenge of the 7 Peaks. From the outside, the Dinner Plain climb seems an odd inclusion to the 7 Peaks. It has the most isolated starting position, which makes it a logistical challenge from the beginning. The climb doesn’t ascend to a ‘peak’ but instead sweeps through rolling farmland across a high altitude plain. But once the challenge is tackled, the appreciation grows for the climb and you understand Dinner Plain’s place amongst the greats of the 7 Peaks Challenge.

When you should ride Dinner Plain

The isolated location of Dinner Plain means any time of day is a great day in terms of traffic. Its open nature means there is more room on the road for passing cars compared to other smaller alpine roads. The heat of the sun can concentrate down in Omeo, so a cooler day could be the better option. 

Where to stay

Staying at Dinner Plain or Mt Hotham means you can link both Hotham and Dinner Plain climbs from the one location. You can also stay off mountain in either Bright or Omeo. 

Where to eat

The ride starts at a bakery so that might be a good place to start eating! There are also other options around Omeo and up at Dinner Plain. The Mountain Kitchen on the left of the main square/circle at Dinner Plain offers a few life-saving snack options after the long climb. Hidden away on the outskirts of town is also the Blizzard Brewery Company. The country’s highest brewery, though maybe head there after your ride is done as opposed to before!

Strava stats

Starting point – Omeo Bakery, 194 Great Alpine Rd, Omeo

Finishing point – Dinner Plain Village Entrance, Great Alpine Rd, Dinner Plain

Distance – 42.7km

Height gained – 943m

Average gradient – 2%

KOM – Andrew Stalder 1:30:38 

QOM – Nusha Kerin 2:01:40

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Dinner Plain Hut, ppen 24 hours a day

Strava Tips

Pacing – It’s a long one, so splitting the climb into sections can help overcome the prolonged pain. The first section out of Omeo requires the most energy so aim to get to the top of that as fresh as possible so you can keep the momentum along the flatter sections around the farmland. The climb past Cobungra requires the next boost of energy but after that it gets easier although the concentration may wander. Keep focused on pedalling a smooth cadence in a gear that’s not too hard nor too light. Also focus on maintaining momentum off the small descents along the way.

Food – The Dinner Plain is very isolated for most of its 42km so aim to be self-sufficient for the whole length. 

Falls Creek

The Mountain

The journey to Falls Creek feels like a true adventure from the moment you leave the alpine town of Mt Beauty. The undulating pass beside the East Kiewa River traces the underground elements of the Kiewa Hydro-Electric Project. The network of races, dams and tunnels are collectively the second largest hydroelectricity scheme in Australia next to the Snowy mountains. The system works on gravity to pump the water down the line to the power stations for conversion to electricity. It also allows riders to stop and recharge with a hydroelectric drink before they tackle the 30km ascent to the Falls Creek village.

I think I might have skipped a lesson on how hydroelectricity works, but regardless, the trip up to the 1530m-high ski resort requires a lot of power. Unlike the underground water tunnels, the trip up is in the beautiful natural alpine bush. Along with being a beautiful ride, it’s also one of the few climbs in Australia you can complete and say: “Chris Froome has also ridden this.” That was in 2017, during stage 1 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, when Australia’s Damien Howson took the win. Epic history, amazing views and a worthy challenge - no wonder it is a part of the 7 Peaks! 

The Climb

The 30km climb from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek is best broken up into three distinct parts. The final third of 12.9km is considered the ‘real’ climb with the first two sections coming as an appetiser of sorts. These three sections each have their own personal characteristics that add something different to the ride.   

The official 7 Peaks Strava segment starts in front of the Mt Beauty visitor’s information centre. This is on the northern side of Mt Beauty out along the Kiewa Valley Highway. The initial Cranky Charlie climb out of Mt Beauty is a gentle 5% with sweeping bends and a great view back over Mt Beauty and down the Kiewa Valley. The climb takes you past the Mt Beauty Golf Club on the left and the Big Hill MTB Park on the right. 

After this gentle start, the terrain gets even easier with the next 12km of road featuring rolling climbs with an average gradient of only 1.4%. There are short climbs that are steeper than this though and small downhills along the way. This part is a beautiful section of road that is made even better with a tailwind! 

The natural forest through this section is amazing and you can look down to the left and view the East Kiewa River and small dam sections. Bogong village sits on the banks of one of these dams and lets you know you’re almost at the end of the ‘easy’ part. After around 17km of riding, you finally cross the East Kiewa River and start the climb proper.  

The terrain starts to have an alpine feel about it now as the road lines turn their distinct yellow colourway and the towering gums start reaching for the sky. Lush green ferns add to the undergrowth and are fed by small mountain streams. The road is heavily used during the winter months, so they do show their age, but the sweeping bends and snaking straights make up for this fact and somehow have flow - even at slow speeds.

The top sections present another change in outlook with ash white snow gums littering the mountain and a much cooler temperature hitting your chest. The gradients aren’t frighteningly steep, with the leaders in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour tackling the climb in the big chain ring for the most part - save for the final section up to the finish at the Visitors information centre. At over 30km long, and with an uneven gradient, the Falls Creek climb requires concentration and is a true test. But it isn’t enough of a leg smasher to distract you from the views on offer. 

When you should ride Falls Creek

Falls Creek is a great ride on hotter days as the first 17km aren’t too straining and by the time you start the climb proper you’re at a high enough altitude for it to be a tad cooler than in the valley. Traffic during December, January and February isn’t often a worry, which makes ‘Falls’ a great all summer climb. 

Where to stay

Both Mt Beauty and Falls Creek are great places to stay before tackling the climb, with plenty of accommodation options available. Mt Beauty offers some more riding options around the town while Falls Creek can be a lot cooler during the summer months.    

Where to eat

Hitting the Mt Beauty bakery is a great pre-ride fuel-up option or post-ride ‘recovery’!

Strava stats

Starting point – Mt Beauty Visitor Information Centre, 31 Bogong High Plains Road, Mt Beauty

Finishing point – Falls Creek Visitor Information Centre, 1 Slalom St, Falls Creek

Distance – 30.9km

Height gained – 1181m

Average gradient – 4%

KOM – Evan Franzke 1:08:00

QOM – Justine Barrow 1:31:35

Paper Passport Stamping Station

QT Resort – reception desk, Bogong High Plains Rd, open 24 hours

Strava Tips

Pacing – Aim to get to the 17km mark and start of the climb proper with good energy to tackle the steeper slopes. If you’re looking for a good time, make sure to hit the small climbs through the undulating section at a comfortable pace and power over the top and down the short descents as that’s where a lot of time can be lost.  

Food –  It’s best to fuel up at Falls Creek after your climb if you’re heading straight down as the ride back is undulating and can take up to one hour.

Mt Buller

The Mountain

Most of the 7 Peaks climbs have a friend nearby. Lake Mountain has Baw Baw, Hotham has Dinner Plain, but Mt Buller stands alone out beyond the western edge of the Alpine National Park. Out alone, the alpine mound has had to fend for itself and has done so by crafting a brilliant piece of flowing art up to its summit so it can be accessed by all during winter or summer. This piece of art is wide with a gentle gradient and little yellow lines that let you know what part of the world you’re ascending to.  

The Mt Buller climb is alone but well worth the trip out past the country town of Mansfield to the top of the world just a short climb away. The cycling pedigree of Mt Buller is well renowned, with mountain biking trails aplenty and the ‘Bike Buller’ slogan exemplifying the mountain’s desire to be a cycling destination. One could argue it’s already achieved that status, with all kinds of riders hitting the slopes over the summer months in search of the next epic adventure.  

The Climb

The good times of the Mt Buller climb begin just past the Mirimbah ticket office. The Mirimbah Park on the shores of the Delatite River is a great place from which to start your ride or you could head out from Mansfield and get a longer warm-up before the climbing starts. 

The warm-up is needed as the ascent starts in earnest right out of the gate. However, it’s not a gut-busting gradient, which is a key reason why the Mt Buller climb is such a favourite amongst riders. Leading affairs is the first 6.3km, which averages 6.3%. The sweeping road takes you above and away from the Delatite River - though it can still be glimpsed down below through gaps in the roadside bushland. 

There are well-signed distance markers along the way that let you know what altitude you’re at and how many kilometres are to go. This is a small but greatly appreciated feature of the climb and is an awesome carrot to chase as you tick off the distance remaining. There are multiple easy sections that include false flats on the way up that let you either pick up some speed or take it easy and recover before the next ‘steep’ section. The first comes after the initial 6.3km with a short 1km section of only 3% around a left-hand hairpin. 

Some of the hairpins on the way up feature alpine waterfalls and the easier gradients around the bends mean you can take the time to have a look. Waterfalls and epic views of the Australian bushland aren’t the only things to look at - keep an eye out for the ‘gnome house’ around the 3km mark. A few of the gnome residents can be seen adventuring along the climb’s route, though they’re very well hidden amongst the foliage.

The toughest part of the climb comes at the end, just past one of the most scenic sections. Three-quarters of the way up is a series of switchbacks that give riders a view back down the road that they just climbed and maybe a view of their mates they just dropped! Then you’re into a 1.8km section that averages 8% thrown in to remind you that you’re on an alpine ascent. This section is over quickly, though, and suddenly you’re at the village under the clock tower with time to bask over the ranges and appreciate the challenge you just conquered. 

When you should ride Mt Buller

Mt Buller hosts several events on its slopes during summer such as the Targa car rally. So, make sure the road is open when you want to ascend, though aside from this the rest of the summer is a great time to enjoy the ride. 

Where to stay

You can stay at Mansfield or up on the slopes of Mt Buller. 

Where to eat

Mansfield offers the most dining options with a pre-climb breakfast at The Produce Store, a great fuel-up stop with a nice range of fresh food options. If you have a support vehicle, grabbing a takeaway lunch from The Coffee Merchant can feed you up at the top before your descent down. 

Strava stats

Starting point – Mirimbah Park, Mt Buller Tourist Rd, Mirimbah

Finishing point – The clock tower at Mt Buller Village, off Mt Buller Tourist Rd

Distance – 15.3km

Height gained – 921m

Average gradient – 6%

KOM – Matt Clark 39:24

QOM – Lisa B 49:43

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Alpine Central. Weekdays 8:30am – 5pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am – 4pm

Strava Tips

Pacing – With an even gradient over its 15km length, a steady pacing strategy is best - although make sure you keep enough in the tank to tackle the final 1.8km steep section.

Food – There are plenty of food options either at the Mirimbah store down at the base or up at the Mt Buller village on the summit.

Mt Buffalo

The Mountain

The mountain rises from the valley floor as an imposing beast, which is likely why the explorers Hume and Hovell titled the expansive lump of rock Mt Buffalo. Its giant granite formations can be viewed from as far away as the Hume Highway and the Great Alpine Road that both bring visitors into the region. The mountain’s tough exterior hides the beauties that lie between the granite outcrops. Waterfalls descend from the plateau to feed raging rivers and swimming holes. Heading in the opposite direction, though, is what road cyclists dream of. A squiggly line of asphalt that makes sense of the towering madness to take those willing on a journey to the top of the beast’s back.   

The adventure is best begun from the Alpine town of Bright where there are plenty of accommodation options that cater to cyclists. Bright is a mecca for cycling, with vast numbers of riders using the town as the base for mountain bike as well as road cycling adventures. The ride can also be started from the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area that serves as the entrance and start of the Mt Buffalo National Park climb.       

The Climb

The ride from Bright to the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area and the start of the 21km climb is a good warm up for what’s to come. The road is undulating and takes you along the Ovens River to the natural gum forest of the National Park. There are toilets at the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area, which makes it a good place to pause briefly before the climb begins. 

The official 7 Peaks Strava segment starts just after the stone Mt Buffalo entry sign and from there, the climb starts its journey up alongside the Eurobin Creek. The opening section past the Eurobin Falls carpark features the only two frightening gradients of the climb. Though even they pale in comparison to the tough sections of the other 7 Peaks. 

This is a theme that makes the Mt Buffalo climb such a favourite with so many riders. Its gentle gradients of around 5% and 6% are manageable for most riders. Some will struggle, especially given its length and the constant effort required. But the challenge can be overcome, and it is the exertion that makes the end so rewarding after all.

By halfway, you will have passed the amazing vistas over the Ovens valley and climbed alongside the alternating natural gums and rainforest ferns to reach the false flat. This marks the crossover point from the natural forests to the granite faces you can see from afar. Up close, these mammoth slabs of rock are imposing but they also let you know that the top is not far off. The lack of tree cover allows more views - with almost the cream of the crop coming at Mackey’s lookout.         

The best view, though, is reserved for the very top. The climb ends after a short downhill and fast run to the Mt Buffalo Chalet, with the official end coming at the Chalet’s stairs - although it’s best to go up the road just a bit further to make sure the Strava KOM is triggered. Then you can come back to the carpark and enjoy the amazing view of the Gorge and Alpine region as you catch your breath!

If you need to get your 7 Peaks passport stamped in person, you’ll need to head out towards Lake Cantani and stop off at the Park Visitors Centre. If you have the energy, you can add on another 20km with the 10km rolling climb to The Horn. There is a bit of dirt to overcome but the 360 degree views are certain to wipe any pain away.

When you should ride Mt Buffalo

It’s best to hit the climb during quieter times if possible, such as mid-week or during non-holiday period weekends. If you are in the region during a holiday period, aim to climb before 10am to miss the traffic as the road can get very busy. 

Where to stay

Staying in Bright is the best option with a wide range of accommodation options at various price points. Check out Bright Escapes for cycle friendly accommodation options at:

Where to eat

The Rail Trail Café in Porepunkah is a great option for a coffee or food before the climb and the ‘Punkah’ Pub can be hit after the climb to replenish your fuel reserves for the next test!

Strava stats

Starting point – Eurobin Creek Picnic Area

Finishing point – Mt Buffalo Chalet Stairs

Distance – 20.4km

Height gained – 1015m

Average gradient – 5%

KOM – Brendan Canty 49:08

QOM – Nusha Kerin 1:02:59

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Park Visitors Centre - Mt Buffalo Road, Tuckerbox Corner. 9am to 5pm most days

Strava Tips

Pacing – The even gradient calls for a steady pacing strategy. Pro rider Brendan Canty’s KOM climb averaged 359 watts for the first 10 minutes and 362 watts for the last 10 minutes before the plateau. Controlling your effort for the opening section’s steep parts is key and will pay off towards the top.   

Food – You can fill up at The Gorge carpark in front of the Chalet from the food van or the Dingo Dell Café out towards The Horn.

Lake Mountain

The Mountain

For Melbourne locals (and also visitors), the Yarra Ranges is the front garden on the doorstep that holds endless possibilities for weekend adventures and alpine getaways. Mountain peaks rise up from the ranges and ask more of you than usually expected. They ask you to challenge yourself, by challenging them. And none stand as proud or as close to Melbourne as that of Lake Mountain. 

Named not after a lake but a man, the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort is a winter favourite for many cross-country skiers and family groups. During the summer months, the cooler air of the mountain is sought by riders and adventurers. The mountain suffered significant damage in 2009 by fires and the remnants can still be seen in the form of ghostly white gums standing tall along the ridgeline. Thankfully, a good majority of the fire damage was restored quickly and now the resort features top class facilities to make your climb to the top worthwhile. So how do you get to the resort? You climb!

The Climb

The official Lake Mountain climb starts on the outskirts of Marysville in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges. Cruising around the beautiful country town is a great warm up for the punchy gradients at the beginning of the climb and sneaking in for a caffeine hit at one of the local cafés gets the mind ready for what’s to come.   

The varying vistas along the journey up provide a brilliant comparison to the varying gradients of the ascent itself. Over its 21km length, the gradient averages just 4% - although the opening 4km along Robley Spur features steeper sections. The gradient is tough but not brutal and the trip along the spur offers excellent views across the town of Marysville and the surrounding rugged bushland. 

The further reaches of the spur offers a lusher outlook on terrain, with ferns and alpine streams starting to show themselves. The fleeting views of the Cathedral Range ahead provide glimpses of the terrible fires that passed through the region. Razor-thin, yet staggeringly tall gums sit perched atop the ridgeline and their ghostly white appearance descends an eerie presence on the landscape.  

Around this point the terrain gets easier, with flat riding and a fast descent leading riders to the base of the final section. It’s at this point that the route turns again with the return of well-fed fresh gums  and the iconic ‘yellow lines’ keeping you contained to the rising bitumen and guiding you to the top. 

This section sees a slinky and snaky road design being employed to navigate the maze of gullys and ridgelines of the range. Yellow direction arrows can be spotted through the trees above and 7 Peaks distance markers on the side of the road let you know the end is near. The finish can’t come quick enough, though, for yet another terrain change occurs. This time the granite rocks of the alps appear along with those Gandalf-figured gums you could see from afar.  

Depending on the weather conditions, you are greeted through this section either with vistas down across the Yarra Ranges or a blanket of thick fog covering everything in sight – each holding their own distinct character and appeal. The long vistas are amazing but the fog transfixes you in the now and lets you concentrate on your breathing, pedalling and the hum of your wheels. Each to their own.

When you should ride Lake Mountain

An early morning trip will beat the summer traffic, though you may then encounter a bit of fog at the top. If you’re after the vistas, it may be worth a late-in-the-day ascent depending on the weather. 

Where to stay

The climb of Lake Mountain starts on the edge of idyllic Marysville, in Victoria’s beautiful Yarra Valley. The town’s proximity makes it a perfect choice to stay before tackling the climb and can also act as a base to tackle the Baw Baw climb, which is not too far away. Vibe Hotel Marysville is a great option, with its central location and less than 500m distance to the start of the climb. 

Where to eat

The dining options at Vibe Hotel include breakfast and dinner at the Radius Café and the Radius Bar and Grill, making it the perfect pre-climb stop over. The name ‘Radius’ comes from the fact that 85 per cent of the restaurant’s produce comes from within a 100km radius of Marysville itself.

Strava stats

Starting point – Marysville Lake Mountain Visitor Information Centre, 11 Murchison St

Finishing point – Lake Mountain Resort Village, Lake Mountain Rd

Distance – 20.7km

Height gained – 932m

Average gradient – 4%

KOM – Brendan Canty 47:51

QOM – Penny Brown 1:02:54

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Lake Mountain Café and Administration. Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm

Strava Tips

Pacing – Splitting the climb in two is the best way to tackle Lake Mountain. The opening section of Robley Spur requires the most energy, but the short downhill after halfway is a good chance to recover. Keeping an eye on the 7 Peaks distance markers is a good way to tick off the kilometres and make sure you have enough in the tank for the end. 

Food – Food options range from Marysville’s café’s at the base of the climb, along with the Lake Mountain café on the summit. 

Mt Baw Baw

The Mountain

The fearsome Mt Baw Baw climb is tucked away out on the Baw Baw plateau around 120km east of Melbourne. The adventure out to the climb is as much of an experience as the ascent itself. The tight and twisting Mt Baw Baw Tourist Rd brings you in from the west, through the lush forest of the southern Victorian Alps. The drive is relatively long over its short distance but that just serves to build the anticipation of what’s to come. 

Hidden amongst the foliage is the road up to the 1567m high ski resort. This height is reached in short fashion by a narrow winding road that shoots straight up to the sky. This imitates one of Baw Baw’s most famous flowering plants, the Eucalyptus regnans. It’s the tallest flowering plant in the world and the second highest tree after the Californian Redwood. It is an apt plant to be growing beside the steepest challenge amongst the 7 Peaks climbs!

The Climb 

The infamous ascent of Mt Baw Baw grips you from the moment your tyres roll over the first few metres. The climb itself has an even gradient over its length, although the fact that gradient comes in at 11% means you won’t be focusing on much more than just trying to survive! The start of the climb is rather inconspicuous as the undulating Mt Baw Baw Tourist Rd and South Face Rd from Noojee, if you choose to start your ride from there, makes you feel like you have been climbing for quite a while.

Hidden in the lush grass is the start sign, almost as if the mountain wants you to miss it, so it can slap you in the face with the surprise of its vicious gradient moments later. If you can spare a look away from your stem, the opening 1.5km along the South Face Rd provides beautiful views through the southern valleys of the Victorian Alps. It’s more likely you’ll have your head down, though, with the opening section touching 12% in places.

It is also a big ‘if you can see the view’ as it is dependant on the inclement weather, which can turn any sight-seeing venture into disarray quickly. Thick fog can blanket the range, although rather than being a nuisance (save for the cold that will no doubt accompany it) the fog can add to the mystical nature of the suffering. The towering eucalypti tower out of sight above and you’re left alone with your thoughts.

Turning left off South Face Rd puts you back onto Mt Baw Baw Tourist Rd with the intersection providing a fleeting moment of respite. From there it’s a ‘pleasant’ (as in slightly less brutal than what’s about to come), cycle up to Winch corner. And this is where Baw Baw gets exciting. For now you face the maximum challenge, with over 20% gradient around a sweeping left - although the biggest challenge may not be tackling it but carrying on afterwards!

The gradient relinquishes control of your screaming quads for a fleeting moment around a hairpin before it’s back to a stem chewing 11%+ to the top. This largely relentless assault on your body is what makes the Baw Baw climb such a brute. You don’t have a chance to cruise a section and recover the energy before the next steep section, like other climbs among the 7 Peaks. It’s ‘only’ 6.5km but it should be treated with as much respect as a full 30km climb like Hotham or Falls Creek. But the challenge is there for a reason, the 7 Peaks is an achievement to be sought out and conquered… not just gifted on a platter.

When you should ride Mt Baw Baw

Picking a window of good weather may prove difficult, but given the surface of the road isn’t great it’s best to be tackled in the dry if possible. The isolated location means the traffic, such as cars and motorbikes, isn’t terrible during peak periods but the road is narrow so picking a quiet day with good weather can pay off. 

Where to stay

Basing yourself out of Marysville or Healesville means that you can link the Mt Baw Baw climb with the Lake Mountain climb for a great weekend away. Vibe Hotel Marysville gives you the option of lunch and dinner at the hotel, which makes for a great base, whereas Healesville is bigger with more options for food. 

Where to eat

The isolated location of Mt Baw Baw means you’re best to be as self-sufficient as possible. Taking a packed lunch to put in a support car, if that is available, or carrying enough to eat is best. 

Strava stats

Starting point – The Gantry, Mt Baw Baw Tourist Road

Finishing point – Mt Baw Baw Village Entry Gates, Mt Baw Baw Tourist Road

Distance – 6.4km

Height gained – 741m

Average gradient – 11%

KOM – Matt Clark 27:04

QOM – Lizzie Williams 35:34

Paper Passport Stamping Station

Village Central Restaurant. Open 9am to 5pm with 24-hour stamp access

Strava Tips

Pacing – The steep gradient of Mt Baw Baw requires a nice and even pacing strategy. The moment you get carried away could be your undoing. Keeping things contained and the ticking over of the pedals will get you to the top.

Top bike set-up tips for the 7 Peaks ride


Gearing – The steep sections of the 7 Peaks climbs, especially on Mt Baw Baw and Mt Hotham, require a very small gear to ride ‘comfortably’. Choosing a compact or even ‘super’ compact front chain ring with a 34t or 32t small ring will help you tackle the steep sections and keep your cadence high enough to not be grinding your knees apart. Pairing the compact front with a 28t+ rear cassette should get you over most climbs.

Brake pads – There will be massive climbs in the 7 Peaks, which means massive descents. So, make sure you have enough brake pad left to tackle the downhill sections and check your brake tracks on your rims for excessive wear before you go. If you’re running disc brakes, make sure your pads can handle the heat build-up on brake-heavy descents like Mt Baw Baw.

Position – The 7 Peaks are very demanding on bike and body so make sure the two are working well together. If you have had a bike fit recently, make sure the new position works for you before slugging it out up a one-hour climb. Any small niggles at the bottom can become major pains by the top. If you have not had a bike fit, it may be worth your time and money to get one now to make sure you can make it through all 7 Peaks injury free.

Car support

The isolated location of some climbs lend themselves to a support vehicle to help with water, food or mechanical needs. Most of the climbs have patchy phone reception, which also encourages the use of a support vehicle. We were loaned an Isuzu D-Max and put a set of Yakima racks above the tray which made the trip home at the end of some long days much more comfortable!