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13 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

I copied this from the CRCA email list. I'm wondering if Hank Schiffman and friends are familiar with this climb?

Just curious with this talk of climbs what climbs in the east people have
found to be the most punishing. In 20+ years riding in the catskills my vote
is not the Devils Kitchin but a brutal little road rising 1700 vertical feet
in about 1.5 miles. Thats around 17% average gradient with 25% sections.
It's called Furmans Glade Hill and is in Sullivan County NY.

Anonymous's picture
Paul Spraos (not verified)

It is indeed a very tough climb. However, the CRCA's fact checker must be on vacation because the actual stats are 1.9 miles long and 1250 vertical feet.

There have been club rides there in the past, although none yet this year.

It's located in the southern Catskills a few miles east of Grahamsville. It's about a 100 mile round trip from P'keepsie train station:
X Hudson
R 9W
L 44/55
L 209
R 55
R 55A
R Sundown (Rt 153/46/42)
L Sugar Loaf
L Glade Hill

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

Glade Hill has a bite, but if you can get past the farm house, its not too bad after that. Gearing is everything. A moderately strong ride with a 39X27 will have no trouble with Glade Hill. I have also climbed it with a 39X25, no problem. A 23 or less, needless suffering. For most, a triple would be ideal.

Anonymous's picture
Peter Hochstein (not verified)
Steep climbs

"I don't deny the brutality of any of the climbs listed here, but if you ever get to the West Coast, I have a few others to recommend, for slightly different reasons.

The road up Mount Diablo (you pick it up in a town called Danville) gets you up some 4,000 feet in 11 miles. If you're good at this sort of thing, you now have enough info to figure the grade. It's probably nowhere near as steep as some East Coast roads, but the thing about it is, it goes on...and on...and on...and on...without relief. Think of it as about 16 Churchills in a row, nonstop.

Since the road winds and switchbacks around a mountain quite a few times, you get breathtaking scenery and changes of climate, depending which face of the mountain you're on. When you start, you can sometimes see deer at eye level and hawks making those ""lazy circles in the sky."" By the time you get to the top, the deer are long gone and the hawks are circling below you.

The weather starts out temperate. Then, as you come around toward the Livermore Valley, you get hot air blasts off the desert. Another third of a turn or so and you get cool damp blasts off San Francisco Bay and from some spots, a glimpse of the water around Antioch. Then you're perpendicular to the San Ramon Valley and the weather's temperate again. And then back to the hot blast of Livermore...and so on.

Alas, the top of the mountain, while it offers spectacular vistas, is decorated with a parking lot and a phone booth. But don't try to get away from it all too fast. If you attempt an unbraked, 11 mile, switchback downhill, you'll soon pick up enough momentum to go flying out of control off the side of the mountain. (No guard rails!)

But if you keep your hands on your brakes, after a few miles your rims will grow so hot that your inner tubes will explode. So go a mile or so feathering the brakes until you come to a nice piece of scenery. You should then have a drink, wait for the rims to cool down a bit, and then continue. I'm a slow climber. As I recall, the 11 very steep uphill miles took me about three hours. But the descent, which theoretically should have been a piece of cake, took an agonizing hour and a half.

I've always wanted to try the grandaddy of all bicycle climbs in California — Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, birthplace and birthroad of Bikeus Mountainous Americanus. Unfortunately, when you get there, there's so much automotive tourist traffic, including cars and trucks lugging wide, road-hogging house trailers, that I lost heart and settled for the automobiile ride.

But even in a car, it looks like one mean mother of a climb.

Alpe de Huez, anybody?"

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
West Coast Climbs

I have not done Mt. Diablo, although there is an outside chance I may participate in this year's race in October. Its not quite 4000 vertical feet gain (the summit is 3800 feet, base 800, gain about 3000). A long climb, but an easy grade, about 50 minutes to get to the top. I have climbed Mt. Tam, on a mountain bike. I agree, the views are stunning.

Speaking of Alpe d'Huez, Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks has the exact same distance and average grade as Alpe d'Huez. Several of us took part in this year's race. These climbs are not as long as Mt. Diablo (about 8.3 miles), but the average grade is 8%.

Then there is New Hampshire's Mount Washington. Yes, there are longer climbs. Yes, there are climbs with more vertical gain. However, no climb I can think of anywhere matches its grade (12%) for this long of a distance (7.5 miles). Very, very strong rides use interesting gear combinations to manage this brutal climb.

Anonymous's picture
richard rosenthal (not verified)
Likely even harder than Mt. Washington, but not in America.


Mt. Washington has worse weather than other mountains of equal and greater difficulty but, for one, the Mortirolo more than matches the steepness, over approx. the same length. It is near the Aprica Pass, half way between the town of Bormio (which is at the bottom of the Stelvio Pass--the side you want to descend to) and the northern reach of Lake Como. Should I add, that's in Italy? Also in Italy, the Zoncolan and in Spain the Angliru.

But my helmet's off to you who did/do the Mt. Wash. climb.


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Not Quite

Close, but the Mortirolo does not match Mt. Washington's steepness-distance. Both are the same length, but Mortirolo only averages 10.5%. About 3 miles of it are in the 12% range, the rest more pedestrian. It also lacks the really brutal sections Mt Washington has. Angliru is also about the same length as Mt. Washington and Mortirolo, but actually averages less than 10% -- 9.9% to be exact; despite its reputation, only about 3 miles of it are really tough (13.7%). Zoncolan is 6.5 miles and averages 11.5%, close to Mt Washington in grade but a mile shorter. Zoncolan has a very steep section (14.4%) about 3 miles long, the rest averages less than 8%. Overall, none of these are harder than Mount Washington.

Anonymous's picture
Timothy McCarthy (not verified)
Mt. Diablo

"As I hail from the Bay Area I know both Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tam well--have climbed each many times. Each offers wonderful cycling--beautiful vistas as you say. Mt. Diablo has a huge spread out bulk and there are no other comparable mountains in its vicinity so it has this monolithic significance in the region. However, in California the climbs of Mt Diablo and Mt Tam are not considered frightfully hard. The real grandaddies of climbs in California exist in the Sierra Nevada. There are also some horrifically tough climbs on the costal ranges. I've also never found Mt. Tam a problem traffic-wise. Try climbing Mt. Tam starting from Fairfax taking the Fairfax Bolinas Road.

You neglected to mention how at the the very top of Mt. Diablo, the last few hundred yards is a ramp of about 17 percent grade--a significant kick in the teeth that sets many cyclists walking. Other than that the climb is just a sustained slog, comparable to the approach to Perkins.

The descent off Mt. Diablo will delight those that love to descend. I've never blown a tire, never stopped to cool my rims. I've frozen my butt off at times. If it's overcast and cold Mt Diablo can prove one miserable descent for, as you mention, it goes on a long way.

I have pictures with a narative to share of a Mt Diablo ride I did with my brother a few years ago: Mt. Diablo"

Anonymous's picture
Mordecai Silver (not verified)
Steepest climb

"The steepest paved road in the world is in New Zealand, at 38 percent gradient. Take a look at the picture at http://scasagrande.tripod.com/NZ3b/."

Anonymous's picture
peter (not verified)
Drove it, sort of..

10 years ago was in NZ and rented an economy car with three others. We got 2/3 of way to top of that hill, and the car just crapped out. We had to get out, and turn the car around and go back. I'd love to try to ride that one...

Anonymous's picture
Russ Berman (not verified)
Is that degrees or percent?

The link supplied shows a very steep road indeed, but the text indicates the climb is 38 degrees rather than 38 percent. In all the only dimly understood exchanges I've overheard about steepness, I was recently told that the maximum grade of 100% is equivalent to 45 degrees--this is not a proposition I advance but rather what I vaguely understood from a pronouncement by someone who sounded knowledgeable. One way or another, I infer that 38 degrees is (or could be) much steeper than 38 percent--or is a totally independent measure, since percent reflects vertical rise in relation to horizontal distance and could include any number of degree variants over a given distance. What do the gurus say about this? Mordecai? John? Hank? Anyone else?

Anonymous's picture
Mordecai Silver (not verified)
Should be percent

"If the Baldwin St. hill were 38 degrees, the grade would be 78%. Such a steep hill couldn't be climbed on a bicycle. I found another website, which shows that 1:1.266 is a mistake for 1:2.666. This gives a grade of 37.5%, and 20.6 degrees. (Grade, or gradient, is the tangent of the angle.)

The maximum grade need not be 100% at 45 degrees. A steeper slope would theoretically have a grade of over 100%. A vertical wall would have an infinite grade, since for a given rise (or ""y""), run (or ""x"") is 0."

Anonymous's picture
Peter Hochstein (not verified)
Mt. Diablo pix and comments

Thanks for the pictures and the added commentary. I'd forgotten about that sudden steep increase in grade near the top. I don't remember it being quite so long, but it's been ten years, and my memory may be playing tricks on me.

I did the ride on a rented mountain bike in 1993 and again in 1994. I'm now in my 60s, was never a very good hill climber, and I'm uncertain whether I'll ever get to do it again, even at my snail's pace in a mountain bike granny gear.

The pictures are great, and recall sections of the road as I remember them. I do wish you had a shot of the hawks circling below camera level, and of the view out toward the Antioch bridge.

I must, however, beg to disagree about the road up Mount Tamalpais. Maybe, because whenever I'm there I'm a tourist, I've done it at peak touring hours. But I can clearly recall several climbs and descents of Tam by automobile when I had my heart in my mouth, coming around curves and not knowing when suddenly some big monster of a housetrailer would come swinging through the curve from the opposite direction. On a bike? I admire your courage, as well as your climbing strength and lung capacity. To me, some stretches of the road look awesomely steep. I accept that the High Sierra can be worse. But I ain't never been there. I have been up Mount Tam many times, and that's as steep as I care to get.

Anonymous's picture
Pieter (not verified)
38% climb in the alps

Here's a 38% climb in the Alps.


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