Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs, #1: Mt Wellington (Fern Tree – Summit)

Mt Wellington — this view from Mt Rumney.

This is the final post of a series on some of the great road cycling climbs around Hobart. I’ll be posting a recap shortly but this is the final climb I’m planning to write about.  I hope you’ve been enjoying the descriptions and have felt motivated to go and ride all the lesser climbs so far…

Earlier in the series:

When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was sitting down at Salamanca Place enjoying a coffee as the sun burned off the early morning fog. I had the day off work and was going to watch Stage 1 of the Tour of Tasmania, a rather unique Team Time Trial up Mount Wellington. I planned to watch from three quarters of the way up the mountain at the Chalet, 1000m above sea level, at the end of the steepest section of this climb. I was keen to see how many of the teams were still together at this point. Read the full story of the TTT.

It’s pretty much a given that Wellington would be the top climb in my list.  It’s by far the biggest climb and the mountain dominates Hobart.  You really can’t call yourself a mad cyclist in Hobart until you’ve conquered the mountain.

However, no one should ever describe the Wellington climb as easy. Living as I do in the foothills, I’ve ridden up many times, and I still find myself wondering what on earth I’m doing when I’m half way up the steep sections of the climb. In this blog I’ve opted to describe the section between Fern Tree and the summit of Mt Wellington, as there are multiple approaches to Fern Tree that all converge on this 11 kilometre brutal slog.

As with all my longer climbs, I like to break Wellington down into sections; hence the Wellington climb can be split up at the Springs at 720m and the Chalet at 1000m. Each section has a markedly different feel.

The first section is a little deceptive, marked as “only” 6.8% on average. One might wonder then it is so hard to get a tempo rhythm up on this section of the climb. This is because the gradient on this section is actually mostly above 8%, with just the last kilometre at about 4% (which feels flat in comparison). It is characterised by tall forests and cool fern-shaded bends. It finishes at The Springs, a popular picnic area where there also used to be a hotel, before it was destroyed in the 1967 bushfires.

And now is where the pain really starts. The next section is steep with a constant average of about 9% and has a rough road surface which saps your energy with every turn of the pedals. The view to your right is often amazing but it is pretty hard to take it in! This steep stretch of road seems to go on forever, and at each corner you peer hopefully ahead for a glimpse of the Chalet at 1000m, but it’s always a corner or two more than you expect. I take heart when I pass a parking bay – it’s only 1km from there to the Chalet!

After the Chalet, the gradient eases off a bit, and a couple hundred metres later the road surface becomes slightly smoother, a welcome relief. You are now onto the final section of the climb, and having passed the Organ Pipes the road curves onto the plateau, with the summit clearly in view on your left. It’s a beautiful ride across the plateau, but the road is still deceptively steep in places. When I can see the summit, I get a boost in confidence and energy, and find myself going a little faster! Then the last kilometre just hurts: the summit is just there, but it’s such a long kilometre…

Once you make it, hot and sweating, you’ll pause for a minute. Congratulate yourself, it’s a tough climb! I can rarely stay long on the summit: there’s usually a brisk wind and the temperature is cold… The descent is long and cold – put on your full finger gloves and a wind jacket!

You should combine this climb with Longley to Neika, or Strickland Ave, or if you are a masochist, Waterworks Rd, for the full experience! Although you can approach this climb from the city via Huon Rd, this is not a particularly pleasant route due to traffic and I would recommend Strickland Ave over Huon Rd.

Your challenge: ride the mountain 3 times in one day. Nope, I haven’t done it; Cameron Wurf has.

And that’s the end of the series.  Next up will be a recap and summary, just for good measure…

Mt Wellington
Distance 11.2km
Category HC
Elevation 827m
Gradient 7.2%
Maximum Gradient 15%
Time from city 25 minutes
Traffic medium
Strava http://app.strava.com/segments/631819

How to get to the climb: Take the Strickland Ave climb, or the Commando Route to Longley. Turn onto Pillinger Drive in Fern Tree as signposted.

Beautiful morning for a climb up the mountain with Rob

A study in motion on the “easy” part of the climb

Pausing at the lookout just before the Springs

Take in the early morning view South at the Springs

The grind: 9-10% on a rough surface.  Just plug away until you get through it

The road seems to go on forever…

and ever…

Plenty of opportunities for fantastic views and scenery, here from near The Chalet

Onto the plateau.

On the plateau, the summit is in sight, but still nearly 4km away!

Glancing over the edge down to Hobart

Yes, that’s me, at the summit.  Looking altogether too pleased with myself…

Cold, foggy summit.  That’s probably more typical.  Didn’t hang around!

Another day. Bethany conquers the mountain … well, the last 2km anyway!  Still a massive effort!

Hannah and I followed her up

A grand day, Bethany takes in the view with a well earned break

Don’t forget to put the bike down for a moment to climb to the top of the rocks…

Yet another day; Barry descending on Big Bend

Fun bit of road for descending… if it’s dry!

Other posts in this series:

6 thoughts on “Hobart’s Top 10 Climbs, #1: Mt Wellington (Fern Tree – Summit)

  1. I’m moving from the Surrey Hills in England to just outside of Hobart in about a month so this beast will be on my list! I may have to work up to it though as the “hills” around here don’t even compare! Makes our famous 2012 Olympic Road Race Box Hill Climb look like a mere speed bump.

    1. Welcome to Tasmania! I’m sure you’ll do fine on Wellington; it’s a lovely climb, although by the time you arrive it may be a wee bit chilly; nothing worse than descending in the cold.

  2. Great article, I look forward to the ride. I am in Hobart on a work conference n October, and bringing a bike, so will definitely be having a go. Somewhat daunting though!

    1. Thanks for reading! It’s still a challenging climb for me even after doing it 30+ times. But it’s well worth the effort! Make sure you take the Macquarie St / Strickland Ave route from the city for the most pleasant approach.

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