THE SOUP BOYS ULTIMATE GUIDE: FALLS CREEK
For those of you who have never experienced autumn in any form up in Victoria’s High Country, we immediately recommend that you add it to your bucket list. It was only the earliest breaths of the season, but nestled deep in the Kiewa Valley, the early morning autumn sun was putting on a show.
Prepare yourselves, this Ultimate Guide is significant. The riding on offer coupled with the sunlight coupled with some banging photos from Adrian, Kip, Harry and Aaron helped document a special morning to wrap up our series of rides.
Rocky Valley Bikes took over coffee duties for the morning leaving us with a free hand to land high fives and shake the hands of the guests of our last hosted ride for the summer, and a free mouth to indulge in a hot, freshly brewed bev, all the while taking in the incredibly atmospheric sunrise that was going on behind Mount Bogong.
It wouldn’t be too long before we’d emerge from the shadows of Victoria’s highest mountain to take on one of the country’s most iconic roads, the sun rising as we would. With 40 or so guests joining us in their respective forms – first timers, 11 year old whipper snappers, Australia’s best cyclocross talent – it was shaping up to be one hell of a morning.
A quick official Ride High Country welcome from the team, and a brief blessing from Adrian and we were off, timed perfectly as the sun shot across the top of Mount Beauty, its holy glow shining down upon the Big Hill Mountain Bike Park in particular as we began making our way up the Bogong High Plains Rd and to the top of this very special climb.
FACTS & FIGURES
There’s a strong argument to be made about Falls Creek being “the perfect climb” and the best possible way to wrap up this magical series of rides. Looking at the facts & figures it might seem like a kick in the guts, but as far as 30km climbs go, you’ll do well to find one as nice, and as easy going as this one. Go ahead, scour the globe.
• • •
Think of Falls Creek as your ideal lazy Sunday. You know the type of day that rolls around every so often, that one you constantly look forward to. The first 15km is such an undulating joy that by the time you’ve arrived at the Bogong Village you’ve got the same sense of fulfilment that you get after spending an entire morning sitting at a cafe sipping on batch brews. Trust us on that.
HOSTED RIDE STATS
Start: Rocky Valley Bikes, Tawonga South
Finish: Village Bike Cafe, Falls Creek
Vertical Gain: +1164m
Max Elevation: +1513m
PLACES OF NOTE:
Clover Dam (10.9km)
Bogong Village (14.4km)
Junction Spur (17.5km)
Turnback Corner (24.1km)
Howmans Gap (25.5km)
The Vending Machine (25.7km)
Orbit Corner (27.7km)
This isn’t us discrediting the difficulty of the climb, what with its near 30km worth of riding and 1164 metres worth of elevation gain, it’s no suburban speed hump. What Falls Creek is is a climb that is only as hard as you want to make it, and as seen on a stunning morning like this one, many of who were climbing it for the first time, it’s a climb that will keep rewarding you for every kilometre ticked off towards the top.
Mount Beauty. Compared to Bright it’s perhaps lesser known to a general audience, but it’s a small town that is just as stunning, and dammit just as bike mad as its “sister town” over the other side of Tawonga Gap. Take a look at the Australian mountain bike scene and you’ll find it awash with top riders hailing from the High Country, and a very special and wildly talented bunch of them specifically from Mount Beauty.
Rolling around town it’s not hard to see why. The mountain bike park literally watches over the town, while you’re throwing shakes to kids of all shapes and sizes shredding the nature strips, gutters and paths through the middle of town. Bike friendly amenities all over the place, this is how you truly foster a community spirit of shredding.
While things on the road have boomed as much as the off road vibes, you immediately recognise why this area, and the climb up to Falls Creek is one frequented by the pro, semi-pro and keen amateur riders when looking at big and tough training blocks.
Take December for example when the day before our Mount Hotham ride, Will and Aaron cooked themselves up Falls Creek trying to chase the then national champion Alex Edmondson to the top, only to completely capitulate a few kilometres from the top.
But here we are, at the bottom of the climb once again, for what must be the umpteenth time since we formed the SBC in an official capacity. Rolling through ~that~ roundabout in Mount Beauty and onto the start of the climb, it was time to write the latest chapter in this ongoing love story.
• • •
We hit the early bends past the golf course right as the sun showed itself proper, rudely hitting us in the face as if our mothers had just opened the blinds on our sleepy selves.
These early sunlit and kangaroo filled kilometres were spectacular for everybody outside of the faster group, the opening few kilometres staying rather consistent before you hit the first of a series of short and steady descents spread across the first half of this climb.
Yep, free kilometres. It’s what makes this climb so joyous, and as we said before – “only as hard as you make it”. The handful of these little descents let the time and kilometres left to the top fly by. Even for those on our ride with a little less experience, the halfway point of the stunning Bogong Village would arrive before they even knew it.
**Imagine yourself. There, being. You turn a corner and all of a sudden you’re face to face with the most Swiss looking Australian village you could have possibly imagined. You can hear the sound of yodelling, the taste of Swiss chocolate swirls in your mouth, you feel instantly richer. You’ll drop everything for this drop dead gorgeous village. You’ll churn butter, you’ll make cheese. You’ll sneak a few highland cows down the steep, narrow and probably very Swiss streets down towards the lake. It will be perfect.**
Snap out of it!
You’ve passed the village, a tear rolling down your cheek as you wave goodbye to the beautiful Swiss-Australian life that could have been, but not too long you’re treated with another banger of a descent.
Once you pass the village however, things get a little tougher. Not too long after you’re treated with another beautiful descent past the Fainter Falls trail, and you’ll take a bridge across the earliest, most upstream sighting of the Kiewa River. After you make the crossing know that it’s all uphill from there, but a steady kind of uphill that flattens out just the right amount in some parts to give you a nice break.
Not that you need the flatter sections to feel some kind of reward and respite. As demonstrated on a stunning morning like ours, the cool, shaded conditions of the second half of the Falls Creek climb meant the views – ferns and forest on one side and vistas up to the mountains on the other remained stunning, and the onroad temperatures – slightly chilled, would be constant and pleasant.
Occasionally the road and the forest truly opens up, providing you with some full on natural amphitheatres as you can look back on other riders on the road and take in the stunning views.
It’s this second half where lushness takes hold. You’ve got ferns, you’ve got towering trees. You can hear lyrebirds and magpies and an assortment of other birds. In the morning the sunlight peeks through the trees, it flickers on the road and on you. You take a turn and end up in one of many natural amphitheatres that gift you with their presence as you climb towards the top, the road slowly snaking its way along the contours of the mountain, occasionally switching back on itself to allow you stunning views back down onto the road.
Eventually you get to Turnback Corner, the sun casting its almighty spotlight upon the apex, letting you know you’ll be getting tossed into full blown sunlight not too far from now. Even on a warm morning this is a good thing, as from that moment of complete, unadulterated sunlight right up until the pearly gates of the Falls Creek Alpine Village; that is where you’ll find the hardest section of the entire climb.
A GUIDE TO A RIDE GUIDES RIDE
These climbs are challenging enough on their own, let alone ensuring the safety and enjoyment of a whole host of others AND putting together Ultimate Ride Guides™.
What are the chosen tools of the trade? What is the steed of choice. On this particular day, a day where Adrian was rudely required to host the fast bunch, we present to you his Ride High Country specced BMC.
Coming in at a casual 7 kilograms, this bike not only has two very working wheels, but a whole bunch of gears that made light work of all 4 climbs from this series (50x34 & 11-28 for anyone playing at home). A saddle bag for spares came in handy for no one during this series – a single snapped chain the only noted mishap, while up front stashed under the bars are the necessities: a patch kit, an extra tube, some sunscreen, gauze, a bandage, a baby bottle of disinfectant, alcohol wipes, bandaids and more often than not: AirBnb keys.
The pre-ride coffees being slung out of the idyllic Rocky Valley Bikes had everyones legs turnt like they were full to the brim with E85. Up on the climb a couple of Kangaroos were the only ones quicker than the fast group, who were truly making gains while the sun shone. As they reached the first of the descents on their way to the top, some of the groups came together, everybody basking in the sunlight as stunning views opened up over your left shoulder.
Onwards charged the fast group, initially a group of just over 10 had whittled its way down to just a handful. Taking inspiration from the absent Jonesy, Adrian channeled his notorious secret alpine power that only seems to kick in when more than 800 metres above sea level.
Chasing Strava cups and ticking riders off his “dropped” list he reached the Bogong Village with three other riders heaving, pulling off to the side for snaps and snacks. His work was done, time to spend the rest of the morning hanging out and snapping pics.
Keeping warm in the banging sunshine, part of the SBC contingent hung out in the middle of the road outside the Bogong Village to wave riders through in their ones and twos, offering up sunscreen for those out on the road, a bidon refill and a chat before it was time to hit the road again.
From the front of the ride, Adrian joined the lantern rouge gang out of Bogong, slowly working his way back up through our guests all strung out along the road, experiencing the climb in all its splendour.
In the middle of all this was young Eddy, 11 years old and looking fly in his now considered vintage 7 Peaks jersey. With his dad alongside him he was bossing it towards the top, leaving us to feel a little embarrassed thinking back to what we were all doing as 11 year olds (sweet FA). Cool, calm and collected, it was like he had no idea the climb had begun, yet there he was bossing it around Junction Spur.
Even among the chill fest that was the Lantern Rouge party, the crew were fiending hard for a Cheeky Tin™. Fortunately the beloved vending machine we honoured with a t-shirt design was only too happy to oblige us with the freshest, most thirst quenching can of saving grace.
With a clear blue sky and a pretty intense sun about to belt down as our ride hit the last few kilometres, every opportunity to stay on top of fluids, sugars and ~vibes~ was taken. There would be plenty of opportunity to top up at the Village Bike Cafe in twenty minutes.
Roughly 19 minutes later there we were, those last few hundred metres of the climb beckoning. Harry was perched atop the Village entrance snapping pics of us passing the all too tempting, freezing cold aqueduct pond at the entrance, but the thought of a coffee and muffin further up the hill was too good to pass up.
We’ve got such a special relationship with this climb we actually feel like authorities on the matter, experts if you will – on the journey from Mount Beauty to Falls Creek. It was the first alpine climb we took on following the official formation of the SBC, and a climb where we’ve chaperoned many first timers to the top. We’ve raced each other up its slopes, raced the Herald Sun Tour most of the way up, savoured in the gold coin cans at the vending machine, and explored the village rain hail or shine.
Let us provide you with our expert insight and advice for reaching the lofty heights of this Bogong High Plains Road, whether aiming for a PB or just looking to make it to the top.
As we’ve already mentioned, the first half of this climb is scattered with some wonderful little descents. In fact, by the time you reach the Bogong Village, you’re not all that much higher up from sea level than you ought to be. Make the most of these descents, especially if its your first time out there or if you’re lacking a little bit of confidence. These descents aren’t counteracted by steeper sections afterwards, so take the opportunity to rest up and freewheel your way down to the next section of climbing, making sure to always take in the views. If you’re chasing a KOM or PB, this is where you’ll make up the most time. Smash out these descents with a decent amount of verve and you’ll do well in making time up as you get towards the top an inevitably bonk at Orbit Corner.
At a shade short of 30km long, you can expect to be climbing for at least 90 minutes (as proven by our fast bunch). Pacing on a climb like this is important as there are plenty of stories from riders who have been a few kilometres from the top and completely flatted out, grimly crawling their way to the top. The fact that the gradient is constantly changing also makes it a little difficult to manage correct pacing, but let all the information in this Ultimate Guide ~guide~ you to the top. Let it help you establish visual and topographic markers, and adjust your cadence, heart rate and/or power to such markers. If you’re just starting out we’ll definitely say its worthwhile keeping things pretty chilled until at least Turnback Corner where the gradient will increase just slightly, but fatigue of the 20km of climbing already in your legs begins to kick in.
3. Stay Hydrated
Taking on such a long climb during summer requires you to take some precautions. Don’t end up like some of us on the side of the road heaving and begging Poseidon to leave the land awash with liquid H2O. Make sure you’ve got 2 bidons for this one, as even on a cooler morning, you’ll still end up sucking back a decent amount of liquids. There’s a refill option if you’re willing to drop down into the Bogong Village, while a roadside stream on the outside of the famous Turnback Corner hairpin is flowing and drinkable. It’s rescued us plenty of times amid climbing on 40º days and we’re still here to tell the tale, so let us be the proof. If you’re after something a little sweeter and you happen to have some spare change on you, suss out the iconic vending machines a little further up the road, a can of your chosen poison will bring you back to life and will guide you to the top no troubles.
4. Go Visit Wales
The climb itself is spectacular, and the vibe around the Falls Creek village is second to none no matter the time of year, but don’t that that’s all there is. Now; we haven’t been to Wales, or Scotland, or any other random far corner of the northern hemisphere, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say the following. If you make it up to Falls Creek, please Please PLEASE head up past the village and onto the Bogong High Plains, an area of Victoria that can only be described as a “Drop In Wales". It’s only a kilometre past the village, and you get to ride around the gleaming Rocky Valley Dam, but these expansive plains forged with such deep Game of Thrones vibes will leave you breathless. The road is a little heavier, and more often that not you’ll be dealing with at least a slight amount of wind, but just a few kilometres along these alpine plains are truly stunning. You won’t get any more Ride High Country than this.
5. Get Stamped
First of all make sure you have your chosen bicycle computer switched on and recording when you leave Mount Beauty. The segment for the climb starts right at the roundabout, and finishes up at the entry to the village, so you really can’t miss the finish line. Climbing for well over an hour deserves a reward, and don’t let yourself stop at just coffee and donuts and life-changing sausage rolls at the top be all there is. Download the 7 Peaks app, sync it up with Strava and grab yourself a well deserved digital stamp on your 7 Peaks passport. Just think, the riding you’ve put in over a single day could win you a trip to the Tour de France. Now go fill the rest of ‘em!
Up top things were tip top. The vibe at Falls Creek during the summer, no matter where you look is truly hard to beat. With such a wonderland for on and off road cycling, and plenty of hiking options close by, the place is always a buzz of excitement.
For the last few years Village Bike Cafe has been the go to for when you hit the top, partly because it requires minimum fuss and searching as you roll into the village in a dazed mess. A bunch of shipping containers, fire pits, chairs and umbrellas have been strategically thrown together to create a resort like vibe in the middle of what is normally the Slalom carpark. The coffee is bang on, there’s plenty of other sweets on offer, and the sausage rolls they be serving up are so life changing you’ll still be talking about them while you’re in line a week later for a Lune croissant.
This lil’ carpark resort is surrounded by plenty of bike parking, and arrive any time after mid morning, and there will be plenty of other cyclists around. We were helped along by the fact there were tens of other riders joining us out on the road, but definitely use the opportunity to connect with those shredding the trails up top, or those who have also taken the same journey up from Mount Beauty. Hell if there’s an 11 year old who has clocked the climb stop to chat and grab their autograph.
With a gentle breeze, sun shining down and those pleasant temperatures Victoria’s High Country seems to have in spades over the summer, take it all in before you head back down the mountain.
Ohhhhh the descent...
If you thought the climb was something special, just wait til you get to make your way back down to Mount Beauty. The opening few kilometres of the descent are by far quicker than the rest, but the smoothly snaking corners will make it such a joy as you pass the tollbooth gates.
As some of the last to head back down, the SBC gathered in full formation behind none other than Benno. Conducting something of a descending masterclass on his new Bombtrack, Benno played host to episode 3 of the Benno Show, nailing every corner with minimal fuss. Disc or rim brakes, after Turnback Corner you should barely need them. The road is nice and smooth, the corners open and flowing, and theres the occasional zero-ing out of the gradient that allows you to chill out, and get some movement back in your legs.
Because you’re going to need it. By the time you pass Bogong Village on the way back down, your mind and body will be excited, but your legs may be a little sleepy. They’ve hardly had to pedal in any anger for the last twenty minutes or so. All those little descents you loved on your way up the climb are back to bite you in the ass on your way back down. Let the adrenaline take a hold and blast up these little climbs one by one, or just chill up them amongst friends and fam.
Minimise cramps, maximise fun.
Once you’re back in Mount Beauty you’ll be chomping at the bit for another feed, that’s where the towns bakery has you covered. With bike parking outside, this high ceiling glass cube is an air-conditioned haven during the summer, serving up some mighty fine Allpress, icy cold Kiewa milks and a brilliant selection of sweet and savoury pastries. It gets the SBC official gastronomic stamp of approval.
For one last time we had our bump out, in the street outside our Tawonga South AirBnb. Casual clothes replaced kits, and slides in our chosen forms were donned in the name of comfort ahead of our drive back to Melbourne. If only we had the chance to stick around for the rest of the weekend, where options of bonus climbs like Tawonga Gap, some super scenic roads down on the floor of the Kiewa Valley, or a spot of mountain biking called our names longingly.
This series has been great fun to be a part of, and working alongside Ride High Country has been such a joy. The only downside is that the reluctant feeling one experiences while packing the car ahead of a drive back to Melbourne just completely overcomes your entire being. You simply don’t want to leave.
As we crested Rosewhite Gap and began road-training it down through Happy Valley we were reminded of where this series started back in November, with a Sunday morning ride up Mount Buffalo.
It’s been an amazing Alpine Summer, may there be plenty more.
THE 7 PEAKS ULTIMATE GUIDES
It’s been mega fun taking on four iconic climbs in Victoria’s High Country this summer. If you’re looking to grab some truly unique and undoubtedly useful information on any of the climbs we’ve ridden, check out our series of guides below. While it’s only 4 of the 7 Peaks…for now, go check out the other 3 and a whole host of amazing ride options in the region over on the Ride High Country website.