KOSCIUSZKO CHALLENGE 6 MARCH 23
KOSCIUSZKO CHALLENGE – 6 MARCH 2023
Mount Kosciusko. The Southern Woodlands ascent. Feared and revered. An icon in Australian climbing folklore. Having survived the bunyip infested lakes that surround base camp, climbers then have to negotiate 2228 metres of vertical ascent. The tree lined lower slopes, home to a large and predatory colony of drop bears, as well as tiger snakes the size of pythons, are rock strewn with hidden pits and mini crevasses waiting to snatch the unwary. The bones of the careless and foolhardy lie mouldering in the gloom and damp, witnesses to vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’ other.
‘A climber climbs with their guts, their brain, their soul, and their feet,’ and never was this truer than on Monday when fifteen Albany Cycle Club riders set out to conquer the rarely attempted, and even less often achieved Southern summiting. Their efforts are to be lauded and written into the annals of history – or at very least, song and interpretive dance.
Despite the scheduled start of 7am from base camp, some more daring riders, Mike Staude, Brent Schoof, Simon Barrett and slightly later, Ian Donaldson (Wombat) had already disappeared into the gloom, braving their fortune against the flora, fauna and topography. Close encounters with fanged and clawed bears aside, the first three were on their way to 3000 metres plus of climbing; a grand day out in anyone’s books.
Others to leave the safety of plateau early were Liz Cooper and Shirley Thurston, both intent on summiting after coming close on previous attempts. The final group left on schedule making the hazardous trek across the lower slopes before the gradient ramped up and the climbing began in earnest. Camrin Maguire making it just that little bit harder by riding a mountain bike.
Climbing is hard work as Di Fry noted, but switching this year to a road bike, she improved her tally by three laps, proving, as she put it, that this year she is younger and fitter than last year. She also expressed her puzzlement, repeatedly, vociferously, that the ascent was longer than the descent? Brett Dal Pozzo might have proved this theory incorrect, shredding his way to the top to wrest the KOM from Craig Wiggins by some 10 seconds. Other riders, Steve Maguire, Pete Wilshaw noted the ‘choose your own adventure’ aspect of the ride and the increasing need for a couple of extra cogs at back as the laps ticked by. All lauded the camaraderie of the event and the friendly, if slightly breathless, chats on the way up followed by a ‘see you at the bottom.’ And, speaking of descents, Brent Schoof could find himself in hot water with the UCI when they review footage of his descending technique.
As is always the case in Alpine regions the weather played its part. After an encouragingly fine start, the clouds shrouded the upper slopes leaving the climbers damp and cold for the final stages. Had there been snow, a snow cave would have been the answer, but there was no option but to push on, pedal stroke after gruelling pedal stroke.
In the late the morning gloom, the riders started emerging from the enveloping mist. Simon Barrett was first having completed 20 ascents/3600m of elevation. A lap behind, Brent Schoof clocked up 3400m of climbing and not far behind him, Mike Staude arrived, slightly bedraggled, with 17 laps/3000m under his wheels, and from there the rest of the field trickled in and made a beeline for the rhubarb slice and the Afghan biscuits. They were both polished off in short order before riders repaired to Woodlands Distillery for further rejuvenation; a fitting end to a terrific day out.