I like to have climbed hills on my bike. Note the precise verb tense, please. I don’t enjoy the actual climbing bit. That’s nine parts pain and one part misery. Still, we’ve been to Mount Coot-tha (you’re still pronouncing it wrong) for the last few weekends, and I hadn’t actually bagged it. This state of affairs clearly could not continue. The bikes were in the car from yesterday’s jaunt, so after a hearty breakfast we pootled over to the botanical gardens at the foot of the mountain. In the interest of honesty, I feel compelled to point out that Mount Coot-tha rises to a prominence of 287 meters. In many other areas this would barely amount to a hill. That’s what a billion years of continuous erosion does for you. But, it’s called Mount Coot-tha and that’s good enough for me.
The photographer dropped me at the Botanical Gardens with hearty best wishes and promises of ice cream later. I pointed my awesome bike at the hill and started turning the pedals. Grind, grind, grind.The weather was fairly cool – about 30 degrees, and I had three liters of water in the Camelbak. The climb is not very steep, but is is relentless. You can always see the next few hundred meters to a curve. The top has to be around this one. No? Surely this one then….
It’s a long time since I did a reasonable climb. After fifteen minutes I was getting in to the zone – that weird place where all that has ever been, all that there is, and all that ever will be is the pain, the road, and the next turn of the crank. Nose down, brain off, keep making circles. Then the top arrived. Eighteen minutes 46 seconds, just to keep me honest for the future.
I spent a few minutes at the top, upsetting tourists with my thousand-yard stare and body odour before pottering off again. Remarkably, I was still feeling pretty good, so rather than plummeting straight back the same way, I continued on round the rest of the circuit. One little detail had eluded me. ‘Peak Lookout’ does not necessarily mean ‘Summit’ in the strict gravitational sense. More up, then. Followed by some level. And some down! To a local minimum, succeeded by – guess what! – more up. I think I climbed over 500m in total before the tight- twisty 3km descent. I would like the record to show that I did not at any time overtake any cars on the way down. Scared a few, though. Also, I did not at any time reach insane illegal speeds over 70kph. That would be silly.
Back at the car 45 minutes after departing, 12kms, 15 kph average. Tiny bit on the smelly side. Clean t-shirt on, potter around the gardens for a while, eating ice cream and letting the endorphins ebb away. Then back home to get the third t-shirt, number two having absorbed a little more of my bodily exudations than would be acceptable in a pub environment. Which kind of gives away where we spent the rest of the afternoon, undoing all the good work.
When I weigh up the feeling of smugness I have after a climb like this against how it feels at the time, I find that the balance is tipped by the amount of beer I’ve had. Anyway, pictures!