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10 Hardest Climbs in the US

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

10 Hardest Climbs in the US

Old 08-23-19, 06:50 PM
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White Mountain climb is much harder when you include the dirt section.

Big Pine to White Mountain summit
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Old 08-23-19, 07:01 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
White Mountain climb is much harder when you include the dirt section.

Big Pine to White Mountain summit
Well, it does go up to 14K! I have not done it but friends have and it sounds brutal. Lots of people get nausea. It was hard enough for me just going to the end of the pavement. We got some great burritos in Big Pine afterward.
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Old 08-23-19, 08:42 PM
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Big John, Onyx Summit from the Mill Creek Visitor Center looks like a must do. Looks like Hwy 38 is cyclist friendly according to previous threads. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 08-23-19, 09:31 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
Well, it [White Mountain] does go up to 14K! I have not done it but friends have and it sounds brutal. Lots of people get nausea.
I did it on a cheap hardtail in 2005, but I turned around at about 13,500 feet (bonked earlier and ran out of daylight). The climb isn't terrible, the killer was the descent on washboard dirt road. My hips were sore, my ankles were swollen, and my feet were bleeding. I never rode a mountain bike again—until today in Whistler.
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Old 08-23-19, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Big John, Onyx Summit from the Mill Creek Visitor Center looks like a must do. Looks like Hwy 38 is cyclist friendly according to previous threads. Thanks for the suggestion.
It was cyclist friendly the 2 times I was there. There was a store 15 miles from the summit which changed hands, closed, reopened a couple times. Not sure if it's open now.
There are other good climbs in that area.
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Old 08-23-19, 10:12 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
I did it on a cheap hardtail in 2005, but I turned around at about 13,500 feet (bonked earlier and ran out of daylight). The climb isn't terrible, the killer was the descent on washboard dirt road. My hips were sore, my ankles were swollen, and my feet were bleeding. I never rode a mountain bike again—until today in Whistler.
You're in Whistler? Very cool. I want to go to Whistler.
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Old 08-23-19, 10:22 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Bike Jedi View Post
This is going to sound dumb, but how do I learn to recognize what the grades are, what I can personally do, and eventually get to a place so that if someone mentions numbers like this, I can visualize something and know what we are talking about?



OK...I think that I am a pretty fit cyclist, but I have no idea what these numbers truly mean. So how can I look at something on the computer, like a google maps equivalent for elevation, and then go look at roads I have ridden to see what numbers this will compare to that I bike?


But I have no idea what this looks like. I think I climb roads that are 13% now, but no way for that long that I am aware of. So how do I figure out the elevation of roads I now ride to compare?

These questions are for anyone.
Mostly by experience. If you don't have electronics on your bike you can look up climbs and ride loops you do and see what the numbers are, or ask people who have done those rides while measuring gain, grades, etc. After enough of it when someone tells you a grade is 10% or a climb gains 1000 feet in 5 miles, you know how your body handles it.

Where are you riding?
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Old 08-23-19, 10:43 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Bike Jedi View Post
This is going to sound dumb, but how do I learn to recognize what the grades are, what I can personally do, and eventually get to a place so that if someone mentions numbers like this, I can visualize something and know what we are talking about?
It's something you get a feel for once you get calibrated with some known grades. There's lots of ways to do this..... Google Maps/Earth have features to give you the elevations of any point (I think one or the other will even give you an elevation profile, but haven't used either for this lately), you can install an app on your phone to give your elevation and note it before/after a climb, most local cycling clubs have elevation profiles of common cycling routes or have lists of local climbs, I think Strada gives elevations, etc. But just as rules of thumb, most primary roads typically top out at 6-7% grades as some cars/trucks start to have serious poor weather traction issues when the road gets steeper. Secondary roads in hilly terrain may get steeper, but lengthy grades over 10% are rare in most parts of the US. Most recreational cyclists find anything over 5% or so pretty steep and anything over 10% as super tough. Above 15% and most start walking.

- Mark
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Old 08-23-19, 10:56 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
Mostly by experience. If you don't have electronics on your bike you can look up climbs and ride loops you do and see what the numbers are, or ask people who have done those rides while measuring gain, grades, etc. After enough of it when someone tells you a grade is 10% or a climb gains 1000 feet in 5 miles, you know how your body handles it.

Where are you riding?
Denver Colorado and foot hills. I am up and down all day. Just to get away from my house, I am usually immediately climbing short hills. I don't climb passes, but not because I won't or can't, just because I haven't gone to do it. I am pretty confident that I have climbed all different levels of vertical by now just based on where I live and the terrain I ride, I just don't know how to visualize the numbers yet. I know I-70 coming out of the mountains has a 12% grade if I remember correctly, it's been a while, and that's a long run. So I can visualize that, but outside of that, I am clueless. There are a couple of roads that are a quarter mile, half mile, etc...that are very severe and most people can't climb them at all, and I can without a problem, and I would be curious how to gauge some of those roads as to what the true "vertical" part of it is. I would venture to guess, once I get a couple of those down in my mind with matched numbers, I can then just visualize those roads and think "x" miles of this. That's what I am trying to figure out at least.

I have not climbed Lookout Mountain which is close to where I ride around all the time. I have jetted down it, but never climbed it. I know I can, and I know what that visual looks like, but I have no real understanding of the numbers around it. So I was just looking at this, and this says it's 5% grade is that correct? So that means it's a 5% vertical climb? I would of assumed that Lookout Mountain was like I-70 coming down, and more along the lines of over 10%. So it shows you how clueless I am. If lookout mountain is 5%, then I am not touching anywhere close to 12%, and I don't want too then either. I see a lot of road bike folks on Lookout mountain all the time, and that seems to be as difficult in many ways without getting up to major mountains and passes as it gets. Perhaps I am underestimating what Pikes Peak is really like then. It's been 20 years since I have been there even though I can see it out my window but in a far distance.

I am just trying to understand the numbers so I know what folks are talking about more, and also so I can plan routes ahead of time and instead of knowing the miles, I might know how much climbing or descending I have, can visualize it ahead of time, and plan appropriately. Currently, the best I can do is look at a map on Google and see the mileage. In Colorado depending on which direction you are heading, that can mean two drastic different types of riding.

Last edited by Bike Jedi; 08-23-19 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 08-23-19, 11:03 PM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Bike Jedi View Post
I know I-70 coming out of the mountains has a 12% grade if I remember correctly, it's been a while, and that's a long run.
I think I-70 going up to the Eisenhower Tunnel maxes out at 6% or so. There are some non-standard grades on interstates that are somewhat steeper, but interstate highways are generally engineered to stay under 6%. Some of the non-interstate paved passes in CO might go up to 8% or so.

- Mark
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Old 08-23-19, 11:20 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by markjenn View Post
I think I-70 going up to the Eisenhower Tunnel maxes out at 6% or so. There are some non-standard grades on interstates that are somewhat steeper, but interstate highways are generally engineered to stay under 6%. Some of the non-interstate paved passes in CO might go up to 8% or so.

- Mark
Actually, I am pretty sure you are correct, and it's been a while since I have been up the hill and seen the signs. That's kind of mind blowing that is only 6% and folks are talking about climbing twice that?? That's serious business that I wouldn't even attempt on my knees. I don't think I could climb that kind of grade, not 12% for long at all, if at all. I can't imagine what that is then. I am going to start paying attention more and looking into it more so I understand. Thanks for the clarity.
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Old 08-24-19, 04:18 AM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by Bike Jedi View Post
This is going to sound dumb, but how do I learn to recognize what the grades are, what I can personally do, and eventually get to a place so that if someone mentions numbers like this, I can visualize something and know what we are talking about?



OK...I think that I am a pretty fit cyclist, but I have no idea what these numbers truly mean. So how can I look at something on the computer, like a google maps equivalent for elevation, and then go look at roads I have ridden to see what numbers this will compare to that I bike?


But I have no idea what this looks like. I think I climb roads that are 13% now, but no way for that long that I am aware of. So how do I figure out the elevation of roads I now ride to compare?

These questions are for anyone.
Most people, in my experience, grossly overestimate slope percentage/degrees. This is true in cycling, and in skiing. I recently purchased a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS and it has % grade as one of the functions that can be displayed. Now I'm sure there are some issues with the way it measures, smooths, calculates, etc - that could cause a wonderful BF arguement, but at least it's a reasonable point to understand and get a feel for how much gradient you're actually riding.

Last week we did a 5 mile climb that averaged 6% (in the Catskills in New York). One section of 1.3 miles averaged 10.5%, and as I was climbing that looking at my GPS I saw it hit numbers of 17.5% to 18%. At those points I was down to under 4mph, and almost had to resort to criss-crossing the road to keep going.

I think I had a point here...haha. I guess it's that until you get out and ride and have some objective measurement in real time, it's very hard to go back later and correlate your ride to a map online. When someone tells me they rode an average 10% hill for a few miles, I take it with a grain of salt especially if they don't use a GPS for real time observations, and later have available mapping data (again, none of which is perfect/infallible). As a rule of thumb, if a cyclist tells you they rode 10% for 3 miles, assume they rode 5% for a mile. If a skier tells you they skied a 50% grade for 1000 vertical feet, assume it was 30% for 150 vertical feet (unless they have the cred to back it up).
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Old 08-24-19, 10:43 AM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
You're in Whistler? Very cool. I want to go to Whistler.
Whistler is great this time of year. The road cycling is pretty limited, but the trails are all very nice. And it hasn't been hot at all (I should have brought knee warmers).

Affordable, too. The exchange rate is in the US favor, Canadian dollar is at about $0.75 USD. Hotwire lodging deals are also really good right now.

Schools start up again after Labour Day (their spelling), so there's still an ideal quiet time in September before it starts getting too cold.
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Old 08-24-19, 08:35 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by Bike Jedi View Post
So if I go do Pikes Peak, does that make me a stud in the bicycle world in some way? Just curious.

If it is something I need to notch on my bicycle bed post since I am so close to it just for bragging rights, do I need to go do it now? I never had a huge desire to ride over it on my bicycle as is, but after seeing that it is arguably the 4th hardest climb in the world, wouldn't I need to go do it now "just" for braggin' rights?

I don't really process things well like the other humans, so I am wondering why I suddenly have this tug to go climb something I see every day out my window, when I had not had the desire to do so prior to reading this.

What do the other humans do in situations like these?

I wouldn't have guessed that Hawaii would contain half of the top ten, but that doesn't surprise me I guess. I would have thought for sure there is more climbs to pick from, but I am not familiar with that kind of stuff.

Does anyone know, would Pikes peak pretty much just be like climbing Lookout Mountain, but for much longer, or something similar to it? Anyone climbed both? What is it like to climb Pikes Peak versus say Lookout mountain in terms of a comparison of a vertical climb? If I could climb to the top of Lookout Mountain or climb to the top of the table tops, is it much more technical or harder than that? I am assuming it's just really long versions of that kind of stuff. Am I wrong? I know altitude is a factor, I am not thinking about that part of equation though. I am just curious about the terrain and how steep it really is. Wondering how much of a challenge or how hard it would really be for me too outside of altitude problems.
I've done it 4 times. Once last week.

It's unlike anything I've climbed anywhere else in the state. Gains more than Evans in much less distance. Gets as steep as old stage in Boulder, for miles. Take three Hardscrabble passes and that would be easier.

Some rides I am well aclimated, others I'm dizzy from the halfway point up. I've always theorized that I could climb the grade at lower elevation. Yet with a 34/30 granny I can barely keep my cadence over 40. It's hard. It's hard not to stop or turn around. It's awesome this year because the shuttles have greatly reduced traffic.

One of the best rides I've done.
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Old 08-24-19, 10:37 PM
  #40  
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After watching the Tour of Utah, I am surprised some of the climbs in that state didn’t make on the list. Guys were riding mid cage derailleurs and 34 tooth cassettes.
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