With the festive season barely digested the big Victorian alpine circuit suddenly loomed. I’m a huge fan this loop; its stunning climbs, descents and transitioning quiet valleys. I also like the fact it's an all-in commitment (no shortcuts), even though it can be pretty tough in places. The main issue with the January date is always the heat, and a hot one was, indeed, predicted. But the 4 am start largely oblates much of the nastiness. The last climb in the sun is always going to be ugly, but I’d choose Tawonga over the “Back of Falls” any day.
Fantastic pizza at Bastoni (Myrtleford) had us off to bed early for (in my case at least) a solid snooze, naturally waking just before the alarm at 2:50. With the temp at 20 C it was clear that undershirts, arm warmers and rain capes could be left in the hotel; an antidote to bulging pockets.
Ham, Anita and I were soon cruising under lights within a sizable group whose draft we surfed to the base of Harrietville, whence the 30 km climb up Mt Hotham began. No full moon this year – pitch black but for the conga line of lights and tinkling of stars above, before the sky gradually lightened on the horseshoe, lending ethereal perspectives on a dramatic landscape below. Is there any place you’d rather be as the sun pops over the horizon?
Ham and I regrouped with Anita (and Wendy) at Dinner Plain, before a fast run in cool air towards Omeo, which we gained with the clock at 8:40. Frosty Fruits and salad rolls were woofed down before a 9 am rollout, with the temperature still only 22 C. Come the base of the Back of Falls the intensity of the sun was making itself known, although the temp had only managed to climb to 26 C.
Come Trapyard Gap, with the worst of the climb dispensed with, the gain in altitude had whittled the mercury back to 22 C, with fierce crosswinds proving the main barrier between us and the lamingtons, watermelon, sandwiches and cans of coke awaiting at the Falls Creek feed. In at 1 pm, out at 1:30.
It was only the experience of descending into a hairdryer that confirmed the meteorologists had got it right – a wilting 34 C at Mt Beauty – although at least a little breeze kept the Tawonga climb sane….just. But nothing so unpleasant that couldn’t be quenched by ice blocks, beer, a dip in the river, and the carnival atmosphere that was in full swing upon our rolling home just before 4 pm. So good. Somehow I think I’ve a got a few more of these in me yet. Thanks to Ham and Lisa for the big job of chauffeuring us on the long drive down and back.