Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mountain Madness at Christmas in the Aussie Alps

2016 was a big year; 3 massive projects that started with an ultra-marathon in the Australian Alps in Bright and then continued with two epic trips on the bike, firstly across Australia and then around New Zealand. As a married man, however, there are only so many of these you can responsibly do, so in 2017 I have scaled-back, but I haven't not stopped the bicycle touring.

I have had three trips so far this year, one back home in England for about a week, one here in Australia in the Snowy mountains, also about a week long, and a two-week tour of the North Island of New Zealand, finishing-off what I started in 2016.

For the last trip of 2017, I am heading back into the Australian Alps, for some more pain.  There were some serious climbs on my last trip up to Mount Kosciuszko, and I am expecting this to be just as hard, if not harder.

My wife is in Mexico over Christmas, so this is my first Christmas ever on my own, so why not suffer up some mountains?

I find that I just can't help myself with my bicycle tours.  I tell myself that I am going to take it a bit easier on my next one, and then I just can't resist turning it into a proper physical examination.  The next one is no different.  The original plan was to take the train out to Wodonga and do the very well-cycled route from there to Falls Creek and through to Bairnsdale and the train ride home. At just over 300Km, with a bit of hiking in between, this would have been a fairly leisurely ride over 5-6 days, despite climbing up the highest road in Australia (this is still my contingency route in case of poor weather).

However, I just couldn't help myself.  With work being quiet over the Christmas break, it seems an ideal opportunity to spend a little extra time in the mountains.  With my wife also being away, I have a nice little window.

The route snakes its way back to Melbourne, and at over 700Km it means that I have to average about 100Km a day.  This wouldn't really be an issue normally, but with huge climbs pretty much every day on the road, mounting up to over 12 000 metres over the whole trip, I am expecting a real challenge, especially as there will be unsealed sections also.

I really can't describe why I do this to myself, I just enjoy the physical workout as well as the traveling aspect of bicycle touring.  In New Zealand, on the longer trip, I took things easier, but I still had huge days there, especially towards the end of the trip.  The pain and suffering is almost addictive.

To get an idea how potentially exhausting this trip could be, my last trip to New Zealand was about 1000Km long and had a total ascent of just over 7000m.  This trip is just over 700Km long and has a total ascent of nearly 12,500m!

The route takes me up to some of the highest towns in Australia, and the most popular ski slopes in Winter, like Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.  I actually go up and down a number of times to over 1500m over the course of the trip.

The concern on this trip is not rain or cold, but heat.  You just never know at this time of year, it could actually be quite cold in places when I'm high up, but sometimes temperatures can soar to the mid-thirties or even over 40 degrees.  If it hits these highs, there is more concern than just heat exhaustion.  Forest fires are very common here in Australia, and you definitely don't want to be riding through one.

Of course the other concern - rather pain in the neck - will be the bush flies at this time of year.  Without doubt the worst thing about Australia, are these damn bush flies and I am expecting lots of them outside of the city.  I had a net to cover my face for my tour through Australia last year, but fortunately never had to use it, as it was winter.  I think I might have to this time, although a recent practice run in the ranges a little closer to home gave cause for optimism as there weren't that many flies around.

With any luck though, all I'll get is cooler temperatures up in the mountains and the opportunity to pack a bit lighter.  Not since the Northern Territory have I ridden in genuinely hot weather.  If anything, I have erred to the weather being wintry than summery (even in England in Summer).

It will be camping all the way on this trip, there aren't any hostels up there, just some over-priced hotels.  With any luck there will be the odd creek along the way so I can have a bath.  Should be a cracker, although I'm not sure my legs are going to appreciate it very much.