The top 30 HC climbs in Australia: 10 to 1

Australia has no shortage of impressive cycling climbs, from the Victorian Alps to the rugged hills of Tasmania to the Gold Coast hinterland and beyond. In this three-part series, David Blom counts down the top 30 “hors categorie” climbs in Australia, concluding today with the top 10. You can find part one, on climbs #30 to #21, here, and part two, on climbs #20 to #11, here.

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)

17.7km @ 5.7%

Image embedded via Panoramio user navfree

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)

31.8km @ 4.0%

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)

11.5km @ 7.1%

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)

38.9km @ 3.3%

Image embedded via Panoramio user Thomas Prinz.

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)

17.8km @ 6%

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)

30.8km @ 4.2%

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)

17.6km @ 6.9%

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)

23.4km @ 4.2%

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)

14km @ 7.1%

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)

12.1km @ 8.1%

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

  1. Hawksbury Heights to Katoomba (NSW)
  2. Mt Tomah (NSW)
  3. Thredbo River to Charlotte Pass (NSW)
  4. Pailing Yards to Mt Canobolas (NSW)
  5. Tooma to Nurenmerenmong (NSW)
  6. Lake Mountain, Reefton side (Victoria)
  7. Head Rd – Spring Creek Rd (Carneys Creek side) (Queensland)
  8. Mt Spec Rd – Paluma (Queensland)
  9. Best of All lookout (Robina side) (Queensland)
  10. Poatina Rd (Tasmania)
  11. Gwydir Hwy (Gibraltar Range) (NSW)
  12. Omeo Hwy (Mitta Mitta side) (Victoria)
  13. Highland Lakes Rd (Tasmania)
  14. Lake Mountain (Marysville side) (Victoria)
  15. Mt. Donna Buang (Victoria)
  16. Mt. Buller (Victoria)
  17. Mt Buffalo (Victoria)
  18. Goat Ridge Rd to Cabramurra Radio Tower (NSW)
  19. Thunderbolts Way (Nowendoc) (NSW)
  20. Mt. Hotham (Omeo side) (Victoria)
  21. Mt. Kaputar (NSW)
  22. Falls Creek (Mt Beauty side) (Victoria)
  23. Mt. William (Victoria)
  24. Col De Tooma (Swampy Plains Creek Rd) (NSW)
  25. Snowy Creek to Dead Horse Gap (NSW)
  26. Mt. Hotham (Victoria)
  27. Mt. Wellington (Huon Rd) (Tasmania)
  28. Falls Creek (Omeo Side) (Victoria)
  29. Dargo (Victoria)
  30. 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?

38 Replies to “The top 30 HC climbs in Australia: 10 to 1”

  1. Back of falls is a beast with some 200km in your legs. Would like to see how it is doing a warm up from Omeo. Did Galibier last year and rated back of falls harder.

  2. Surely Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria rates a mention?
    Yes, it’s only 3.5km but has plenty of sections over 10% gradient and is not so far from Melbourne.

  3. Just did Lake Mountain and Donna Buang today. Having done Buffalo twice before, once fresh and once tired, I really think Donna Buang is a much tougher climb. Just look at the stats. DB has more elevation over a shorter distance. Both climbs are fairly consistent aside from the top of Buffalo. Surprised that DB was only 1 position higher then Lake Mountain. LM does have a tough first 4-5km with the last 10km pretty easy. Great write ups on the climbs. Love ’em

    1. This climb is much tougher than many other rides up the list. This would have to be one of the most perfect decents.

  4. Jamberoo Pass from base to Robinson Pie Shop and Fountaindale Rd Jamberoo from base all the way to Car Park is in my opinion the hardest climb I have ridden.

  5. Jamberoo Pass, Jamberoo Mtn Rd, Jamberoo NSW. Only 6.4 Klms the actual climb but at avg 9% with sections @ 24%. check it out on strava.

  6. I’m the Secretary of the Wellington Cycling Club; our small club hosted the Stratford to Dargo Classic which featured the No. 2 HC climb on your top 30 list. To see our part of Victoria referenced in this list of classic climbs, let alone come in at No 2, is amazing! Thanks for including this climb, and our former race, in the list. Central Gippsland and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range has many great climbs including that final kick to what was the finish of the S2D race. For those wondering what happened to the Stratford to Dargo race, sadly our small club had to put it in to recess due increasing costs and a lack of sponsorship to ensure we could continue to offer a safe race experience with strong rider support, and healthy prize money, that would continue to attract and reward those who wanted to take on the second toughest HC climb, as rated by TCC. Thanks again for including Dargo in your list and if anyone plans to come down to Gippsland and take on this climb, or others in the general area, check out our club website and feel free to get in touch if you need any info. Thanks again, we’re chuffed to see Dargo make the grade!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Allan! This is great feedback. It’s a real shame the race is in recess — I know many riders that looked forward to it every year (despite how hard it was!)

      This page at the TCC Wiki might be of interest:

      If there’s further info that you feel people should know about the climb, please feel free to add it!

  7. Best of All Lookout from the Numinbah Valley side is much harder than the Robina side. Having done many of the rides on the list, I’d place it top 10 for sure.

  8. Recently did Healsville to Donna Buang Via Ben Cairn was an good climb, half the road is gated off in the winter months so traffic free. gravel yes but the road is in perfect condition and smoother then many sealed roads. from healsville to the summit it was 1200m climbed 25kms long. it got me wondering what are the biggest climbs in Aus? which while researching brought me here, looking I can see 2 which are marginally bigger Hotham and Col de Tooma but they are much longer in distance. what do you guys know?

    1. The back of Donna climb will get you almost 1100m elevation:

      The climbs that have more elevation gain are.
      1. Mt Hotham
      2. Mt Wellington
      3. Mt Hotham (from Omeo)
      4. Thunderbolts Way
      5. Armidale-Grafton Rd (76.3km @ 1.75%)

      If you wish to go on dirt roads, then with Falls Creek, you can go up to the summit of Mt McKay – highest road in Australia accessible by car or Mt Kosciusko to Rawsons Pass – highest accessible by bike…

  9. Brilliant 3 articles Matt, fills up the cycle bucket list very nicely. I did the falls creek OMEO side but walked for 15-20 minutes so I guess it doesn’t count 🙁

    PS would love to see the reverse ie which climbs provide the best downhill after climbing, it would be hard to beat Falls Creek to Mt Beauty.

  10. Great list: I’ve done two, and am looking forward to doing a few more in the next 12 months.

    note to authors: suggest you re-number ‘the full list’ to match the numbers in the articles.

    1. Hi Peter,

      What do you mean by “re-number ‘the full list’ to match the numbers in the articles”? They’re in the same order as in the three articles …?

      1. Your full list has the hardest numbered 30 – I’m guessing it would be more logical to number it 1 in the context of the article.

  11. Thanks for a Great list, perfect for a bucket list. Outside the high country, Mt William stands out as a cracker as nothing high around it, awesome views and seriously steep at the end.
    But! Baw Baw. Yep, you can ride up it, but personally, my memory was riding down it, mid 1980’s, gravel (hugely corrugated), queens birthday, snowing, on a Supermax CroMo, bmx gloves and diacompe 2 finger brakes! A memorable and scary descent!
    Ride on

  12. It’s true CJ, Adelaide has some awesome cycling but the harder climbs are generally short and punchy. Yes, the TDU is hosted there but that event features a lot of riding in rolling regional areas. Let’s be honest you’re lucky it’s hosted there thanks to Mike Turter who was running UCI Oceana when it got established. Highly recommend you get out of your home town and check out some of these awesome climbs. I’m sure you’d really enjoy. Thanks Dave & Matt for the summary – great list!

  13. I guess rankings like this ae all pretty personal. I haven’t done a lot of these but I am surprised Buffalo is ranked harder than Donna Buang, clearly just due to length. Anyway that’s just me. A very entertaining list Matt. Well done.

  14. Have to disagree with some comments. In my opinion Baw Baw is much harder than Hotham.

    Mt. Hotham is long, but all together not that difficult, it is almost flat in the middle; where as Baw Baw is relentless, as is the top of Dargo and the Omeo side of Falls is heartbreaking (especially given you’ve usually got either Hotham or the front of Falls already in your legs.)

    1. I agree with Jimmy, I don’t even know how its remotely close between baw baw and hotham. The only thing that could possibly make hotham more difficult would be the crosswinds and windchill.

    2. Baw Baw is over quickly. Hotham just keeps going, and some of the steeper bits kick in near the top. I’ve climbed it a few times and I never fail to be disappointed by ‘another’ ramp I had convinced myself was behind me.

  15. Can’t agree with all those listing Hotham as tougher than Baw Baw, or for that matter Dargo. Just climbing Hotham isn’t that hard; just climbing Baw Baw has most recreational riders at their limits even on a 34/28.

    Maybe if you’re at Brendan Canty’s level and can spin up Baw Baw on a 34/28, Hotham is harder simply because it’s longer.

  16. Good to see the “Australian” part included the usual Victoria and NSW only exist. South Australia has Australia’s premier Cycling event and yet nothing on this. Pretty poor form

    1. CJ, I will be doing up lists of South Australian and Western Australian climbs at some point in the future or lists that will include them. There just aren’t any climbs that gain 800m elevation in those states on sealed roads.

      1. Corin Dam if you extend the climb out to Point Hut is Cat 1 (22km @ 3%). Elevation gain of about 650m, not 800m (required for HC). Yes a lovely climb to be sure.

  17. Excellent list and great reading.

    I’d certainly have Mt Hotham ahead of Mt Wellington. It is a beast. Toss up between Hotham and Baw Baw for number 1.

  18. Thanks David and Matt for putting this countdown together, it has been a great read even if it gave me jelly legs at each one I recognised. Now for the planning to knock a few more off.

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