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