We speak with Ian Michelson that took on all the peaks in the ‘7 Peaks’ Challenge in under 24 hours. 172km of riding, 8,139 vertical metres of climbing and over 700km of driving...
Interview - Brendan Edwards
The 7 Peaks ride is an ‘at your own pace’ challenge. Riders need to tackle 7 Peaks between October to March each year including:
- Mt Baw Baw
- Mt Buffalo
- Mt Buller
- Dinner Plain
- Falls Creek
- Hotham; and
- Lake Mountain.
Riders that are able to climb all 7 Peaks during each yearly period receive the 7 Peaks Jersey, a prestigious item that identifies you as a committed and pretty good climber.
Just the logistics of how far it is to travel to all 7 Peaks mean this is not an easy challenge to complete even before you get on your bike.
Ian Michelson amazingly completed all 7 Peaks in under 24 hours. That’s a staggering 172km of riding, 8,139 vertical metres of climbing & well over 700km of driving in-between. Before you say, 'I'm not a lightweight climber... I could never do this....' Ian comes in at 6 foot 2 and 95kg so no excuses.
Tell us a bit about your ride?
It was an adventure for sure, and it didn’t all go to plan… but we pulled it off.
We originally planned to do it from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday, but my car burst a water hose 20km from Mt Beauty and overheated and blew a head gasket. We limped it into town and started pulling the motor apart as Robin Carbery and Natalee Pearson drove up a new head gasket from Melbourne! By 2:45am Saturday morning the car ready to go again and decided to get some rest.
This was not the ideal start, but we decided to press on and kicked off at 9am on Saturday morning. The idea was to do the climbs as efficiently as possible, high cadence, low gear and low heart rate.
This worked well, I finished most of the climbs feeling good and ahead of schedule.
I started with Falls Creek, then Dinner Plain, Mt Hotham, Mt Buffalo, Mt Buller, Lake Mountain then finished with Mt Baw Baw.
The first big four I managed to tap out during the daylight. Then taking on Buller and Lake Mountain in the dark. It actually made the time pass quicker as I didn’t really know how far into the climb I was.
Dawn broke as I was in the final kilometre of Lake Mountain… I smiled as I watched it getting lighter, knowing I’s already finished six climbs.
Then came Baw Baw. It was always going to be hard, but I put it at the end as I did not want to put myself into the red too early in the challenge.
A quick time calculation gave be 1 hout 10 minutes, my Dad decided to ride with me for the final climb.
I finished the climb to be greeted by my Dad, sister, Nat (my partner) Andrew and Eli, I had 13 minutes to spare.
Where did the inspiration come from to complete 7 Peaks in 24 hours?
Partly from the original Hells500 crew who did it as fast as they could in 2009 and 2010 but with sleep. Also from my brother in-law Eli who after i said lets do it over a weekend crunched some numbers and thought I’d be able to do it in 24hrs.
So I thought - why not? We decided to tackle it in the same way as the Hells500 crew did - get dropped at the bottom of the climb and picked up at the top then move onto the next mountain. Although I changed the route to what I thought would be faster and play to my strengths.
Just climbing 7 Peaks in 24 hours alone is hard enough, but what was the travel like in between? How far did you travel between all of the climbs?
We covered over 700k’s of driving between the climbs. All that time was spent eating, rolling out my legs and navigating as my mate didn’t know where to go… which kind of eliminated any sleep except for on the freeway where I managed to grab almost 2 hours.
What sort of support did you have along the way?
I had a few key people. Andrew who did all the driving and Eli did all the number crunching and joined me for the first 3 climbs before cramping too much to continue on Mt Buller.
Nat helped me prep and pack and my mate Robin who drove up to Mt Beauty the night before with parts to fix my car.
How did you keep yourself sane?
I think that was fairly easy, I had a really clear focus - get to the top quickly but comfortably. That made me just concentrate on the cadence and my effort up the climb, then as soon as I got in the car I would eat, try and recover and think about the next climb.
You must have had a number of times where you were digging deep. What would have been your toughest moment?
Mt Baw Baw for sure, my Dad came out and joined me for it but left me for dead early on and i couldn’t see him or chase him!
I just knew I had to beat the clock. Baw Baw is a tough climb on the best of days and I was going through hell to finish it this time. I could barely sit down as my but was killing me and my legs couldn’t handle the grind… but I couldn’t stand up either as my back and arms were giving way.
I had to change positions every 10-20 seconds. About 3/4 of the way up I was suffering the most. My partner Nat drove passed while cheering me, I really needed her encouragement but I could only manage a grunt, speaking wasn’t an option.
That was truly my most painful experience on a bike.
Did you have a nutrition plan?
Yes I did, but after 9 hrs in it failed, I had horrible diarrhoea. After that I ate anything that I felt like, including Maccas between Mt Buffalo and Mt Buller. But I was still going to the toilet immediately before and after each climb!
Mount Baw Baw was the last climb of your epic ride. What was the feeling like when you got to the top?
Total euphoria. Of all the mountains in the challenge I think Baw Baw has the best finish, it is really clear cut unlike some of the other climbs (Mt Buffalo).
I love the feeling when you round the last bend, shift up a few gears and you can sprint to the line where the curved brick walls are and you know that the job is done. To arrive at the top with my friends and family cheering me on was something really special.
Which is your favourite climb?
That’s a tough one, I like them all for different reasons but I think Falls Creek has a special place in my heart… Especially after Everesting it.
If anyone else out there was game enough to try this ride, what advice would you give them?
Go for it. Get a crew together to support you, plan it out and give it a crack. There’s not much more to it.
Would you do it again?
Some facts from the ride
8,139m of elevation
12:39:26 time on the bike
11:07:34 time spent driving
9:00am Saturday 14th Dec. - 8:47am Sunday 15th Dec.
Bike - Trek Madone 2.3 Aluminium / Sram Apex / Dura Ace C24 Wheels / 8.5kg
Rider - 6'2 / 95kg