Yes, Lake Mountain, the last of the 7 Peaks, and the end of a six month personal campaign. How was I feeling, and what were my thoughts on a very wet and cold wintry day in Australia.
It was Sunday and we had a two hour journey to Marysville, a beautiful town north of Melbourne. Quiet and sleepy at this time of year it’s surrounded by trees for miles on the approach. But with a sad history I’m told by everyone I speak to.
In 2009, during an extremely hot summer with temperatures reaching 40 degrees, a faulty electrical line caused one of the greatest and most destructive bush fires in the history of the State of Victoria. Eighty people lost their lives, unable to reach the safety of a lake or to get out before the raging fire. There are some horrific individual stories which I won’t go into here.
Two buildings remained, one being the motel and bakery where we had our morning coffee. Most of the others were rebuilt and give the town a noticeably more modern and different look than those surrounding it. Despite the rain and very reduced temperatures there were a few other cyclists milling around. It will be nice to have company unlike the other rides. Everyone is chatty and it’s all very similar to our sportives in Ireland. No entry fee, just like-minded people going in the same direction and exchanging the madness.
My accent instigates many questions and conversation, as does the stripes on my West Cork Cycling Crew top. It is rather distinct, and with many second or third generation Irish here they all seem intrigued that I actually didn’t steal it but in fact travelled here to complete the 7 peaks. To my surprise not many had done all seven and were shocked by the fact that I went for it over the course of six days. Apparently most stretch it out between October and March.
The climb starts out hard with the first four and a half kilometers being the toughest. Once I’m over that, I’m told, it’s all downhill from there… well not quite!
The ascent itself wasn’t as bad as anticipated but the weather proved to be the real challenge. Man, was it cold as we climbed. The summit is always 10 to 15 degrees colder than the bottom, and it never stopped raining from start to end. Combine that with high winds and freezing temperatures and it made for a pretty miserable ride. Definitely not what I expected from an Australian springtime, and a total contrast to the previous two days. I hadn’t prepared for winter cycling, no rain gear or long leggings, just shorts in my suitcase!
Some riders carried backpacks with dry clothes and others gave a dry pack to the organisers for the summit. Being so used to Irish weather I hadn’t seen it as a problem, I was toughened to this type of weather, I thought. Alas, how wrong could I be? I was wet and cold to the core and needed a strong hot coffee at the top to try and get some circulation back into my extremities. I had never experienced cold like this.
A quick turn around and I prepared for the descent. The poo hit the fan on the way down! It was 20km to descend but with the hypothermic conditions it felt like it took forever. Other cyclists literally flew past wearing gear that looked like they were heading for the Antarctic, but at least they could feel their extremities and they weren’t getting speed wobbles like I was. I was not in full control and had never experienced anything like this before.
I have certainly learned about climates and conditions over the 7 climbs. Each one presented new experiences for me. More importantly I learned a lot about my own resilience. That Sunday it took at least an hour to heat up after dismounting from my bike, and I was actually happy to get a break from it all for the coming week. I carefully dismantled the bike and prepared for the next part of my journey, the plane home.
In-between, a few days relaxation and enjoyment with family members in Melbourne. It was great to catch up with them all on the other side of the world 🙂
So what to do next? Scottish Highlands in the summer months maybe? Food for thought!