Everything you need to know to conquer the hills of the Victorian Alps.
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 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!
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
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.