Average gradient: 7.7%
Elevation gain: 962m
Ranked among the hardest road climbs in Australia, the ascent of Mt. Baw Baw presents a challenge for cyclists of all abilities. The first half of the climb is friendly enough but at an average gradient of over 10%, the second half of this climb is not for the faint of heart!
The ascent of Mt. Baw Baw begins where the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Road (C426) crosses
Big Tree Creek the Tanjil River East Branch for the first time, around 3km south east of Tanjil Bren.
(February 2022 update: apparently the sign in the image below now reads “Tanjil River East Branch” rather than “Big Tree Creek”)
The Mt. Baw Baw climb concludes at the entrance to the Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort.
At a glance
- A seriously tough climb with one of the steepest, sustained sections of climbing in the state.
- The first 5.7km of climbing are quite gentle at an average gradient of 4.2%.
- From The Gantry to the summit it’s 6.5km at an average gradient of 11.5%.
- Take a left turn at the 7.5km mark to continue the climb.
- The steepest part of the climb is Winch Corner — a short 20% rise 8.3km from the start.
- After The Gantry, the gradient only drops below 5% at the left turn at 7.5km and at 9.6km.
- The final 700m of the climb are noticeably easier than the previous 6km.
A warning to recreational riders – this is a seriously challenging climb and one that should not be attempted unless climbs like Lake Mountain and Inverness Road can be completed without too many difficulties. Treat this climb with the respect that it deserves!
After crossing Big Tree Creek, the road remains flat for 200 metres before crossing the creek once again and it’s at this point that the climbing starts, settling into a comfortable gradient of around 5%. At the 500m mark the gradient increases slightly, sitting at around 7% before dropping back to 5% a short time later. A gradient of this intensity is maintained for most of the climb’s first half, acting as a mere appetiser for the epic second half.
After 1km of climbing the road bends sharply around to the left before heading back around to the right shortly after. At the 1.5km mark the gradient increases slightly again as the road bends around to the left and then sharply around to the right 100m later. Passing through a dense covering of native ferns and eucalypts, the road flattens out at the 2.4km mark as it bends into a right-hand hairpin.
After several kilometres spent winding through the lush beauty of the Baw Baw National Park, you’ll notice that the road increases in gradient at the 4.2km mark. By the 5.0km mark the road has flattened off quite noticeably and as you bends sharply around to the right, the road becomes completely flat. After returning to a gradient of 4% a few hundred metres later, the road continues to wind its way toward the business end of the climb.
After 5.7km of climbing you will notice a sign on the left of the road announcing that you’ve reached The Gantry. This point marks the end of the pedestrian climbing and the start of 6.8km of pain and suffering. As you bend around to the right and past the site of the old tollbooth, you’ll see the road disappearing skyward in front of you – a sight that continues to scare even the hardiest of cyclists.
From this point it’s all up, and not gently either. Straight away the road settles into a gradient in excess of 10% which is more or less maintained until the end of the climb. You’ll want to find a rhythm pretty early on here as it doesn’t get a whole lot easier from this point.
300m from the start of the steep section the gradient is still holding at above 10%. At the 6.2km mark the gradient increases even further to around 13% before bending sharply around to the left 100m later. Another 100m up the road and the gradient has eased to a comparatively casual 9% but it doesn’t last long with double-figure gradients being reached after another 100m.
At the 6.7km mark the road bends around to the left at a painfully steep incline but 200m later the pain eases slightly as the gradient drops below 10% again. At Neulynes Hill, 7.0km from the start of the climb, the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Road presents you with a painful 500m slog with the gradient hovering around 13%.
At the 7.5km mark, you’ll need to take a left-hand turn to follow the C426 toward the summit. As you turn the corner, you’ll noticed the road flattening out to comparatively pedestrian 4% for all of 50m before the road bends right and back towards gradients of greater than 10%.
After another 800m slog the climb reaches its steepest point, the aptly named Winch Corner, which reportedly maxes out at a gradient of 20%. It’s an incredibly steep left-hander that flattens out to around 14% as it straightens out briefly before bending toward the right and dropping further to around 10% gradient. At the 8.6km mark the gradient is up around the 15% mark again as the road bends left but then, 100m later, it flattens off to around 7%.
Over the next 300m the gradient increases gradually until, at the 9.0km mark, you’re in 10%-plus territory again. Over the next 600m the gradient fluctuates slightly, but never drops below around 8% as the road winds steadily toward the summit. At the 9.6km mark though, the road has flattened off completely and even heads downhill for all of 10m. No sooner has the false-flat started than the road is heading skyward again, in excess of 10%.
At the 10.3km mark the road flattens out briefly before kicking up again, hovering at around 10% gradient for the next 1.5km. At the 11.8km mark the road flattens out for the final time, passing a number of car parks and ski lodges on its way to the entrance to the Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort and the end of the climb, 700m later.
The Mt. Baw Baw Alpine Resort lies around 150km east of Melbourne and around 50km north east of the township of Noojee along the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Road (C426). Getting to Mt. Baw Baw from Melbourne can be achieved two ways, either by following the Princes Freeway (M1) past Pakenham and turning left just before Warragul or by taking the Maroondah Highway, the Warburton Highway and then the Yarra Junction-Noojee Road.
Mt. Baw Baw is not a climb that can be attemped without a suitable warm-up and good starting points include Icy Creek (~70km round trip) and Noojee (~100km round trip).
As if climbing this monster of a mountain wasn’t enough, there are those that feel the need to punish themselves further by racing against the clock.