Seven Peaks Challenge: Baw Baw aborted

Today's plan was Baw Baw, the second in our plan for the Seven Peaks Challenge.

It was always going to be a tough ask, given that Simon Gerrans' advice for the climb includes the words "steep" and "complete stop".

Though things didn't go to plan, I'm not quite ready to say that my quest for the Seven Peaks Challenge is dust. Not just yet.

The drive from Melbourne was a couple of hours and the weather got progressively worse as we approached Tanjil Bren, where we planned to ride from. It was cool, misty, and we drove through short stints of very light rain.

I didn't dilly dally too long, just took this quick snap of the start point before getting on my bike.

There was a few ks of downhill before a nice gentle climb of a few percent gradient lead up to the start of the Baw Baw climb.

The official Baw Baw climb is only 6ks and change long, but has an average gradient of 13%. Some stretches are over 20%. This is not for the feint hearted. I was quite prepared to push my bikes up the 20% bits, and had hoped that the rest was manageable.

In this weather though, I'd rugged up with an undershirt, jersey, vest, arm warmers and rain jacket. Not long after I passed the beginning of the climb, and the real ramp commenced, I started getting warm.

Not only that, it was now very foggy, and I was worried that I hadn't turned my rear light on.

I found a place to stop where I felt I'd be able to get going again (relatively dry, and just after a corner to get a little bit of extra width in the road), to strip off a layer and turn on my rear light.

I chose badly.

I could take off and start pedaling OK but for the life of me - I could not click my other foot in to the pedal. By my fifth or so attempt I was well and truly off the dry patch of road and now my wheels were slipping too.

I retreated the hundred or so metres down to where I'd originally stopped and gave it another go. By this time I'd had a chance to really look at the view uphill

And the view down the hill

I wondered how, if I did manage to get up this god forsaken hill, how the hell I was ever going to descend into this?

I had a few more failed attempts to get going again. Hopeless. So many thoughts went through my head.

Me - "You want to be an ultra marathoner? You're going to have to toughen up a bit if this is your idea of danger."
Me - "Yeah, well if I had my running shoes on I'd bloody run up this hill. It's only 6ks and when I'm on my feet I've got a lot more grip than I've got on my 23mm slick tyre."

Me - "This is your only chance to ride Baw Baw. Your quest for the Seven Peaks will be over. Just do it."
Me - "I've got until the end of March to ride this stupid hill to complete the Challenge."

And while this is true, the likelihood of me getting back to Melbourne, let alone a two hour drive from Melbourne, with my bike, in the next few months, are probably slim to none.

I don't give up very often, but today I did. I was too scared to get back on my bike so instead of continuing my ride up Baw Baw I walked back down to where the steep part of the climb had started and it was flat enough for me to feel comfortable back on my bike.

I rolled back down the five ks or so, then back up the other five ks or so, and returned to the car contemplating my failure. Did I give up too easily? Could I have made the climb today?

Of course I'll never know the answer to the second question. It is a ridiculously hard climb and the weather and my not-so-hot bike fitness were against me. The answer to the first question, though, is, maybe. Maybe I did give up too easily. Sometimes, that happens. To all of us. (Even athletic powerhouses.)

There are any number of motivational quotes about how you can't really be successful without failing, about how mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn, and about the value in not giving up on the back of a failure. Even, in using failure to provide strength and hope for your next test.

So tomorrow will be Mt Buller as planned, and by the time we return home in a week's time, Baw Baw will be the only missing stamp in my Seven Peaks passport.

Who knows. If the opportunity arises, the Seven Peaks Challenge may be possible yet.


  1. I'll be looking that one up on the map so I avoid it like the plague. It would have been far worse a decision if you'd ploughed on against better judgement and then injured youself somehow. Then there would be even more stamps missing. It's not about giving up it's about trusting your instincts once you've evaluated the situation at hand and not being so pig headed you ignore them, despite a hit to your pride. Good luck with the next ones.

    1. I wouldn't worry too much about trying to avoid this one - it's a bit out of the way and you'd probably only find it if you went looking for it! With a few days thinking time, I'm fairly comfortable with my decision. I now have five of the seven stamps so am making good progress. :)