For a while I have been considering climbing Acklands Hill Road which is about an 8 percent climb out of Coromandel Valley to Cherry Gardens. Last time I cycled up this hill was 25 years ago when I was 20. Hard to believe it has been quarter of a century. Michael Warner mentioned it a few times and each time I was really did not want to try climbing it again as I know how tough it is to climb.
After hearing about Mark Fs successful ascent up the Corkscrew the thought of visiting Acklands Hill Road again after all these years seemed to be a challenge I had to do. Coromandel Valley is the place I grew up. Many times when I was young, after school I used to sit in a paddock across the valley on my way home from school and watch the school bus chug its way up Acklands Hill Road wondering if it was going to get to the top. Riding up that road on a bike never seemed possible to me as it was long and steep.
When I was 20 years old I played some football and wanted to keep my fitness so I rode my bike (a Malvern Star) up Acklands Hill Road. Yes, I did climb that hill, but the experience of the tiredness and the effort required was a memory I have never forgot. For a long time I have been avoiding climbing this hill but after all that has happened to me this year I thought no longer could I not do this challenge. I can understand the feeling Mark F had that was drawing him increasingly to take on the Corkscrew.
Today I happened to be in Coromandel Valley and had some time to kill. While in the valley the weather looked pretty grey and there was a light drizzle. I could have happily gone home and use the excuse that the weather was no good, but I decided to go up Acklands Hill Road anyway.
The climb up Acklands Hill Road at the start seems very mundane as you ride up a widened section of road that goes past a housing estate. I can remember there use to be a paddock on the right hand side where the houses now are which used to be the Watchmans property. They used to let their cows graze in the paddock and I can remember riding one of them.
As the line of houses ends, the road narrows and as it turns slightly left it begins to kick up and get steeper. It wasnt long ago when the paddocks on the left were just grazing land. Now the paddocks have been given over the revegetation. At the end of the houses there is now a tree line. I can remember when you could look over your shoulder and see the whole valley and see the Sturt River meander is way through it. The road surface itself has changed, I can remember it had a gravelly appearance, but now it is smooth as quite pleasant to ride on.
As you near the top of Acklands Hill Road it actually becomes steeper and the climbing more difficult as you cant see where the road finally flattens out. Just when you arrive at the flattened area near the top you think it must be the top but the road kicks up again steeply just to cause cyclists a little extra suffering.
Once you arrive at the top you are rewarded by a fairly flat run all the way to Cherry Gardens. Arrival at the the top was euphoric as the dull grey weather had given way to sunshine and warmth....how nice was that I thought! When you continue on to Ironbank, take the road to the right. The road has a short incline but it gives way to an amazing 20 percent descent that continues for about 2 km...I mention this descent as it is one that is not well known but it is amazing :)
Revisiting Acklands Hill Road after so long was an amazing experience. I rode my Vitus Carbone which is also about 25 years old. The ascent seemed very easy compared to what I last remembered. Maybe I didnt get the scenic view of the valley I wanted to photograph because the trees now block the view. The gravity of this achievement didnt really hit me until I got home and I have definitely feel a sense of achievement. It is hard to share this sense of achievement as only another cyclist can identify with meeting a challenge and defeating a nemesis :)