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