A hors categorie (or “above category”) climb is the highest ranking a climb can be given in races like the Tour de France. On Strava, a HC climb is defined as one for which multiplying the length of the climb (in metres) by its average gradient yields a product of 80,000 or more.
For example, a 20km climb at an average of 4% gives us 80,000 (20,000 x 4) so that would be a HC climb. If that 20km climb instead had an average gradient of 3% it wouldn’t be a HC climb (20,000 x 3.5 = 70,000).
Here then are the top 10 HC climbs in Australia. These climbs, like the previous 20, are ordered in terms of difficulty but, of course, this difficulty can be subjective.
10. Mt. Kaputar (NSW)
The first 5km of this climb are currently unsealed, but plans are afoot to seal the whole length of the road leading to the summit. At the top of this climb, more than 10% of the state of NSW can reportedly be seen on a clear day.
9. Falls Creek (Mt Beauty side) (Victoria)
This long, variable climb has a lumpy first half followed by a very consistent second half of continuous climbing. The ascent to Falls from Mt. Beauty is tough work and owing to the total vertical gain it well and truly deserves its place in the top 10.
8. Mt. William (Victoria)
The last 2km of this climb, up the narrow access track to the radio tower, is where this climb really hurts. This section the difference between a Cat 2 climb (to the carpark) and a climb that scrapes into the HC bracket. Given the toughness of those last 2km, this climb certainly deserves its spot inside the top 10.
The views from most of the climbs in the Grampians National Park are something to marvel at, but given the extra height ascended to the peak of Mt. William, the views here are all the more special.
7. Col De Tooma (Swampy Plains Creek Rd) (NSW)
This is a very lumpy up-and-down affair with much more climbing than descending. The ascent up towards Cabramurra from the south is on a very quiet and at times almost bleak road; a road that is closed off during the winter months. The other side of this climb is a sharp rise up from the Tumut Pond reservoir.
6. Snowy Creek to Dead Horse Gap (NSW)
A tough opening, a slight downhill, then the last 10km at 5%. A very tough climb through a remote region of NSW, but with incredible scenery to enjoy as you make your way up the climb.
The other side towards Jindabyne is a much flatter road and it becomes much wider after you pass the Thredbo Ski Resort.
Click here to read more about and see a video from this climb.
5. Mt. Hotham (Victoria)
The largest elevation gain of any climb in Australia. This is a long, tough and very exposed climb that can be divided into three distinct sections. The first is roughly 11km long with a nice steady gradient (apart from a couple steep ramps); the second is a nice false flat of roughly 9km; and the third is an often steep and sometimes downhill section exposed to the elements.
This challenging climb features every year in the Tour of Bright and is respected if not feared by all that have attempted it.
4. Mt Wellington (Huon Rd) (Tasmania)
There are several different ways to approach the summit of Mt. Wellington, an imposing peak that looms over the Tasmanian city of Hobart. The route chosen here is the one used in the Tour of Tasmania on a regular basis; a route that has become so famous in the career of Cadel Evans.
Click here to read more about this climb at the TCC Wiki.
3. Falls Creek (Omeo Side)
The unrelenting first 10km of this climb make it one of the hardest in the country. After that it is a gradual climb up past Trapyard Gap and then undulating to the ski resort of Falls Creek. This is a climb made famous by the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek ride (formerly the 3 Peaks Challenge); a ride that sees participants hit this nasty climb with 200km already in their legs.
2. Dargo (Victoria)
The annual Stratford to Dargo race serves up this beast as the finale and thus makes for one of the toughest one-day amateur races on the Victorian calendar. Just finishing the race is a tough task thanks to a very steep final ramp and the whole climb being a very tough one to begin with.
The climb as listed here goes to the highest point on the sealed road – about 4km past the race finish point.
Click here to read more about this climb at the TCC Wiki.
1. Mt Baw Baw (Victoria)
The first few kilometres of this climb are easy enough, but the finale is, we’d argue, the toughest stretch of sealed road in Australia. For nearly 7km the road is tilted up at above 10% with several points that reach 20% or steeper.
Mt. Baw Baw features as the final challenge in the Mt. Baw Baw Classic, a local amateur race held in early April, and it is feared by racers and recreational riders alike.
The full list
- Hawksbury Heights to Katoomba (NSW)
- Mt Tomah (NSW)
- Thredbo River to Charlotte Pass (NSW)
- Pailing Yards to Mt Canobolas (NSW)
- Tooma to Nurenmerenmong (NSW)
- Lake Mountain, Reefton side (Victoria)
- Head Rd – Spring Creek Rd (Carneys Creek side) (Queensland)
- Mt Spec Rd – Paluma (Queensland)
- Best of All lookout (Robina side) (Queensland)
- Poatina Rd (Tasmania)
- Gwydir Hwy (Gibraltar Range) (NSW)
- Omeo Hwy (Mitta Mitta side) (Victoria)
- Highland Lakes Rd (Tasmania)
- Lake Mountain (Marysville side) (Victoria)
- Mt. Donna Buang (Victoria)
- Mt. Buller (Victoria)
- Mt Buffalo (Victoria)
- Goat Ridge Rd to Cabramurra Radio Tower (NSW)
- Thunderbolts Way (Nowendoc) (NSW)
- Mt. Hotham (Omeo side) (Victoria)
- Mt. Kaputar (NSW)
- Falls Creek (Mt Beauty side) (Victoria)
- Mt. William (Victoria)
- Col De Tooma (Swampy Plains Creek Rd) (NSW)
- Snowy Creek to Dead Horse Gap (NSW)
- Mt. Hotham (Victoria)
- Mt. Wellington (Huon Rd) (Tasmania)
- Falls Creek (Omeo Side) (Victoria)
- Dargo (Victoria)
- Mt Baw Baw (Victoria)
What do you think? Would you have ordered things differently? And is there a climb that we’ve missed that short have been in the top 30?