Womxn's Flashpacking Marysville 2024

Womxn's Flashpacking Marysville 2024

Written by Sarah Hammond
Photos by riders.

We have taken many groups out to Marysville to ride over the years. Our three day flashpacking trip is one of the tougher adventures we host every year, with the total riding sitting at roughly 370 km and 8000 m of climbing. We recently put the call out for a February trip, and had a huge response from a large part of our Thursday morning womxns crew. After some hurdles with covid taking staff out we postponed the ride, however the Thursday crew decided to still head out.
The group consisted of experienced riders, new to gravel, and many that have never done close to the vert expected in this trip. There were plenty of nerves within the group over 'if' this trip would be too bigger challenge, but that just made the idea more desirable. In order to prepare we gave the riders some 'homework' to help build some strength, and endurance, plus learning how to ride longer days with minimal stops.
Most weekends in the lead up, this tough group of womxn were out knocking off big gravel rides of more than 100 km / 2000 vm. Through the week, it was hill repeats and speedy laps on velodromes.So the weekend arrived and we ventured out as a group of 11 for one of the best weekends I have had in sometime. Everything was in our favour, the weather was perfect, and the winds behind us. Day one was the longest push, we departed Eltham at 6 am with the goal to reach Marysville before dinner. The route was 130 km with a tough 3400 m of climbing. We rolled out in the dark, and warmed up pretty quickly on endless rollers towards Yarra Glen. From here we enjoyed the gravel climb up Old Toolangi Road and then onto the top of Mount St Leonard where we parked for a lunch break near the lookout. The riding until this point is fairly easy as far as well conditioned gravel roads.
The next haul on Monda Road through to Narbethong gets pretty rough, with long descents on rocky littered tracks that had arms working hard to hold the handlebar. It is also very scenic with loads of super tall trees and winding tracks that always have people stopping for photos. A quick detour to the service station for water and we were into the last big climb for the day, up Feiglan Road taking us 1100 m high in elevation. This stretch is pretty with the tall white ghost gums you see often in the alpine region.
After a few rollers, the last of the climbing was done and we were rewarded with a fast descent down Yellow Dog Road and then through giant ferns of Tree Fern Gully Track into Marysville. Arriving into town was met with excitement for what many of these womxn had just done. Many had not even come close to a 3000 vm ride, and to add almost 500 more to that total was a huge ask. You couldn't wipe the smiles off faces, and we still had two days to go.
We shopped for supplies, had dinner at the pub and most people were ready for any early night.After raiding the Marysville bakery for fresh hot cross buns and coffee, the group headed out for the second day of riding. This time a shorter route, at 85 km with 2000 vm, and consisting of two climbs. The first is straight out of town, Lady Talbot Drive. This beautiful gravel road is almost 20 km in length and follows the Taggerty River through rainforest surrounds along the western side of Lake Mountain and to the top of Mount Margaret Gap. Over the top it undulates and then a fast polished gravel descent awaits down Blue Range Road, taking riders towards Taggerty for a resupply at the Taggerty store. The store is ran by a fellow we affectionately named the Wizard based on his appearance. The Wizard is always up for a chat, and to offer local knowledge on surrounding roads.
Fuelled up we pushed onto the second climb up into the Cathedral Ranges . The steepest climb for the weekend. Just shy of 10 km it consists of a gradual climb along Little River Road and then a very steep loose 3.5 km ramp from Jawbone carpark up Cerberus Road. These ramps push close to 15% and can be dusty, and heavily rutted. It is 100 percent traction devotion to the top. The climb finishes at Sugarloaf carpark. We all rode our own pace up here, with the MTB riders taking the charge due to their bike handling skills. You couldn't wipe the smiles from faces over the feat of getting up this climb. We regrouped, high fived and enjoyed the descent back into Marysville. The afternoon was then spent relaxing, sitting in the river to cool off, followed by dinner around a camp fire.
One more day to go!The final morning came, more hot cross buns were eaten, then it was back to Melbourne. We rolled downhill out of town enjoying the easy start before another long climb back up on Ure Road. Although more tired today, the energy and conversation was constant. We continued to regroup and keep puching each other along. The stretch that followed is countless forest tracks and big tress through the Toolangi National Park. The riding is not as rough as day one, and you will encounter a few motorists and campers on route. The temperatures were forecast for 30+ degrees, so these long shady sections were welcomed. 
With Kinglake almost in sight, we safely darted over Melba HWY (you must be careful here) and the group then POWERED up the sealed Glenburn Road climb. Some even chose to race each other to the top for a coke. The resupply in town consisted of a billion cold drinks, half a watermelon and good coffee.
The route starts to speed up here, rocketing down Bowden Spur with the city scape in sight, towards Hurstbridge via quiet undulating backroads.
We said goodbye to a the first riders here, then more at Eltham while the remaining few headed back into Northcote.I arrived home, tired but couldn't stop singing the praises of how hard this group worked to my partner, Jesse. Watching many of these womxn struggle up a singletrack climb 1.5 years ago on my Thursday morning ride, to knocking out a three day monster adventure was incredible and humbling to watch. The dynamic of this group over the weekend was so easy, supportive and full of laughs. I'm thankful and grateful for these womxn and their friendship. 
My thanks to April who helped run this trip alongside me, and to the awesome womxn that joined - Lori, Bron, Anna, Alex, Sophie, Claire, Tracy, Mel, Kim and Jo.
You can ride this route anytime, all the ride files are below:


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    1 comment

    This is so amazing. My heart sings for these humans.


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