Who Got The Vert? The Top Five Steepest Climbs in Australian and New Zealand Races

Everyone loves a good ‘list’, well not everyone… lists annoy the hell out of some people as the trolls and keyboard warriors do battle to show you who can shout the loudest. Meanwhile, I grab the popcorn and take a front row seat.

Despite some contentious lists in the past, this one is quite tame in comparison and is one for the mountain goats among us, the top five steepest climbs in either an Australian or New Zealand race. Note the word ‘race’ thrown into the equation here. There will be far steeper climbs that exist in both our fair countries, but the qualification for this list is that it has to be in a race i.e. one that you an entry fee for, and for the needy in particular, you receive a medal to show your mates how amazing you are too.

Now, as all great things start, this one began as a conversation on the book of Faces as a bunch of sad old men started swinging their willies about, proclaiming to know the steepest climb – I include myself in that discussion.

When drafting a list such as this, there’s not really much debate to be had as the facts sit there for themselves, but the trouble is, I may have missed a climb or two. So if I have, feel free to berate my lack of knowledge and put me right. I have taken to my trusty Strava files to make sure I get my measurements right. However, Strava is also not the most reliable and measurements can differ from one person to the next, so while these are a guide, they’re not absolute rock solid measurements as done by proper scientists and all that.

So here goes, your top five steepest climbs in Australian and New Zealand races. Feature image credit: Mount Difficulty – EyetoEye Photos

#1 Pomona King of the Mountain ascent – 343m of ascent per km

For once, the Aussies can celebrate something over the Kiwis. This is the Daddy of all climbs standing at just a measly 0.9kms but with a whopping 309m of ascent, which when averaged out over the full kilometre (if it was that long!), would be an average of 343m of climbing per kilometre. And the really stupid thing is that for the first 0.4kms, you could call this climb ‘flat’. The current Strava King of the Mountain is Scotty Weir, with an average pace of 14:40m per km on this beauty.

Pomona King of the Mountain – where the final push averages at 59% gradient. We’re now in stupid mode.

#2 The first climb in the Mount Difficulty Ascent – 286m of ascent per km

This one, in places borders on ‘rope territory’ as in you need a rope to get up. Terry Davies and his team of merry men push things to the limits here with some gradients that hit 49.5% in parts. The climb is 3.8kms in length and you will rise 1,088m, giving us a total of 286m of climbing per kilometre. This is proper hands and knees stuff, grabbing onto tussocks wherever possible to ensure you don’t start falling back down the mountain. I’ve done this one and I would seriously advise that a spare pair of underwear be added to the compulsory kit list. That brown colour you see on most people’s shorts isn’t from sliding down the mountain.

The Mount Difficulty ‘Wall’

#3 Mick’s Track – Buffalo Stampede – 256m of ascent per km

I remember when race director Sean Greenhill was putting together the course for the Buffalo Stampede and there were many a discussion about how much of a bastard to make this race. Well Mick’s Track, the second climb on this course is the epitome of that bastard. At just 2.1kms long and with 539m of climbing, you get an average of 256m of ascent per kilometre. What makes this a double bastard is that you have to come back down this ‘hill’ with 65kms in your legs around 6-8 hours after you’ve just climbed it.

#4 Kawerau King of the Mountain – 245m of ascent per km

This one might not be the most accurate as we’re going off the descent for this one, but still with 713m of climbing over 2.9kms, you grab an ass-busting 245m of climbing per kilometre. The crazy thing about this climb however is the final 1km where you’re scrambling at an average of 54% gradient and in parts its hitting nearly 75% – that is just crazy crazy crazy.

Kawerau King of the Mountain final climb – check out that gradient!!!

#5 Hounslow Classic – 226m of ascent per km

I haven’t quite got the name of this climb as I’m going off Strava files, but there’s a climb in this one where you’re stacking 226m of climbing per kilometre. The thing with this race is that pretty much all the climbs and descents are like this one, which is what makes this Australia’s toughest race. So while the steepness of the climbs isn’t the same as some of our leading ones like Pomona, the relentless nature of doing these over and over again is the killer here.

Final word

While this list is about having fun and most of us have a brain, it kind of goes without saying that if you’re not experienced on mountains with stupid gradients and you’re thinking of heading off and doing one of these on your own – don’t. It’s stupid. End of.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

12 thoughts on “Who Got The Vert? The Top Five Steepest Climbs in Australian and New Zealand Races

  1. Hounslow climb is probably the one up to Perry’s Lookdown. Although Govett’s Leap is also pretty climby.

    Also: The climb of Mt Cooroora for Pomona King of the Mountain, is now also the location of the 4hr and 8hr enduro events of Mt Cooroora Endurance Challenge. Greg Hardwick contributed a guest post about it after the inaugural event, in September just gone.

      1. I’m going to revise the article once we have some more in. I knew this would happen. As much as I try to keep across things, I can’t know everything… fail fast hey and revise? 🙂

  2. The Mt Roland Face Track section of the Triple Top Mountain Run in Tas does 367m over 0.7km. Unfortunately it’s a descent, not a climb…

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