A brute of a ride, the ‘Back of Falls’ climb is not for the faint hearted. Accessed from Omeo, more than a five hour drive from Melbourne, it’s a long way to travel for a great deal of pain. Like its alternative route, from Mount Beauty, the heat is always a factor, especially during an event like the Audax Alpine Classic Extreme, when you’re likely to be heading up the road throughout the hottest part of the day.
|What you see is what you get|
Officially, the climb begins at the intersection of the Omeo Highway (C543) and the Bogong High Plains Road. The journey from Omeo involves another 40 kilometres of riding, but given the road, the terrain and the scenery, it’s a far more pleasant experience than reaching the bottom of the climb up to Dead Horse Gap (from Khancoban). The worst is three kilometres at 4%, a small price to pay for the seemingly endless looping road around Anglers Rest.
With a sharp turn to the left, reluctantly leaving the Big River behind, you’re now on the Bogong High Plains Road. And there’s no wasting of time, or distance, letting you know it. The first switchback fills the horizon and before it, you’re contemplating one hundred metres of very steep road. There’s no illusions about what’s around the next corner, but once the road straightens, it gets even tougher.
The most difficult section of the climb is the next eight and a half kilometres of essentially straight road. Averaging 7.7%, with little to no bends, there’s virtually no opportunity to ease off the pedals. A bit like having your brake blocks rubbing on your wheel, it’s just one grinding rotation after another.
|The near-summit of Col du Galibier. The landscape might|
look different but not the steepness of the road.
Thankfully, a climb of two halves, the incessant steepness eases off after nine excruciating kilometres - at Trapyard Gap boom gate. Though not nearly as long as its northern side from St. Michel-de-Maurienne, it’s probably worth mentioning that the road up the Col du Galibier travels a distance of 8.5 kilometres from its southern side, at an average gradient of 6.9%. Australian climbs mightn’t receive the kudos of their Tour de France counterparts, but they’re steep just the same.
Once past Trapyard Gap, there is a much-longed for short downhill section, before the road rises again. It’s here, approximately 12 kilometres into the climb that it momentarily reaches its steepest gradient, 11.6%, but fortunately it doesn’t last for long. Nothing compares to the steepness already encountered; just a few steep uphills and a few down, but nothing worse than 5 or 7%, for the rest of the climb.
|Bogong High Plains. Not the best time of year for cycling.|
Technically finishing at a noticeable crest in the road, the remainder of the ride towards Falls Creek ski resort, is quite stunning. Signs to Wallace and Cope Hut tracks, and a little further on, Rocky Valley Dam, are a welcome indication that you’re presently travelling through one of the most beautiful parts of the Victorian Alps. With still approximately 12 kilometres to travel, you have sufficient time to enjoy it.
Books by Mark Krieger:
‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia and other online bookstores.
‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books
Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante
“Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”